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Recruiting: Outside linebackers make visits

Matt Gamber | Thursday, October 7, 2010

A pair of coveted class of 2011 outside linebackers — one verbally committed to Notre Dame, one still undecided — will make official visits this weekend, Irish recruiting expert Mike Frank said.

Both current commit Ben Councell (Asheville, N.C.) and Christian French (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) have made several trips to campus in the past, via camps and unofficial visits, and are ready to take in the game day experience.

“[Councell is] a big-time recruit who has been really good this year, making lots of plays,” said Frank, who runs the ESPN-affiliate irishsportsdaily.com. “He can definitely run, has real good size and is a guy Notre Dame has liked for a very long time. This weekend should just solidify where he’s at with everything.”

Though French is listed as an “athlete” and Frank said he could play a number of positions for Notre Dame and several other schools, the Irish staff likes his potential as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 defensive scheme, Frank said.

“He’s one of the last guys still on [Notre Dame’s] list right now,” Frank said. “He’s mentioned he wanted to make an early decision before, so we’ll have to see if he will soon or if he’ll take his time. But there’s not a whole lot of slots left for 2011.”

The Irish currently have 20 verbal commitments — all of which they’ll try to hold on to. But that’s becoming increasingly difficult in the current climate of negative recruiting, Frank said.

“I had a coach once tell me that they kind of like it when kids commit, because it takes away a lot of the competition, and sometimes that’s when the real recruiting starts,” Frank said. “Then, there’s only a few schools after a kid — the ones that maybe finished second or third — still working hard behind the scenes.

“No commitment is safe anymore. A lot of kids go in with the best of intentions and think they’re going to end up at Notre Dame or wherever they’re committed, but I can’t even begin to tell you how much negative recruiting is out there.”

Frank said Notre Dame is not unique in the fact that schools try to negatively impact a recruit’s view of the University by suggesting, for example, that the academics are too tough or the social life is not robust enough.

And, in some regard, Frank said the fact that major programs are trying to lure Irish commits away is a good sign.

“It’s usually the big-time, elite guys who get pressure to go elsewhere. Aaron Lynch is one of those guys who is too good a player to leave alone,” said Frank, noting Lynch because there were rumors (since dispelled) earlier in the week that the Irish commit would take other visits. “That’s a good sign; if other teams aren’t going to let up and keep recruiting your guys, that means you’ve got the right guys.”

With only a few spots remaining in the class of 2011, the Irish staff will begin to take a look at prospects in the 2012 class. Wide receiver Amara Darboh, quarterback Patrick Powles and defensive end Tom Strobel are three such players who will visit this weekend, Frank said.

“Notre Dame’s going to have a number of juniors in, but I think right now it’s a situation where you’re trying to see who’s out there, and who are the legit prospects,” Frank said. “Right now, everybody says they’re ‘X’ height and ‘Y’ weight, and people come in and they’re quite a bit smaller, so the coaches want to see who those legit prospects are. They’ll probably bring some junior film with them, too, and that should give the coaches a pretty good idea of where they’re at.”