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Recruiting: Two visit for final home game

Allan Joseph | Thursday, November 17, 2011

As the season draws to a close, so too does the weekly rush of visitors to campus. Only two prospective players will take official visits to campus this weekend. One is California tight end Taylor McNamara, who has verbally committed to Arizona. While McNamara is still ostensibly considering the Irish, not landing him would not be the end of the world for Notre Dame, according to Irish recruiting expert Mike Frank.

“I think with [freshman tight end] Ben Koyack they just felt like there was a guy who could play early and they probably didn’t need another tight end,” said Frank, who runs the ESPN affiliate Irish Sports Daily. “I think they’re looking for one guy possibly — if they didn’t get anybody it wasn’t that big of a deal. … If it isn’t coming this class, they’ll certainly take two next class. There aren’t a lot of great tight ends this year. McNamara’s the only guy they’re really interested in. I don’t think they’ll look at anybody else but they do really like him.”

Frank said recruits like McNamara notice the proud tradition of Notre Dame tight ends, a list that includes current NFL players Anthony Fasano, John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph.

“I just think that they do a really nice job of developing tight ends and then getting them the ball,” Frank said. “Tight ends have caught a lot of passes for Notre Dame over the last 10 years, and those guys notice that when they’re looking at where they’d like to play football.”

Frank considers tight ends coach Mike Denbrock to be one of the main reasons tight ends who have big aspirations look to commit to the Irish.

“They’ve got a really good run of tight ends and putting guys in the NFL and guys being really productive,” Frank said. “I think Mike Denbrock’s proven that he’s one of the best tight end coaches in the country.”

Iowa receiver Amara Darbow will also take his official visit to South Bend this weekend — but it will certainly not be the first time Darbow learns about Notre Dame.

“He’s been to Notre Dame six or seven times, coming to games, coming to camps, I believe [he has been to] spring practice,” Frank said. “He’s been around Notre Dame quite a bit. He knows a lot about the program [and] knows a lot about the coaches.

“I think [safeties coach] Chuck Martin’s done a very good job of recruiting him and he’s certainly been a guy that they’ve been high on for a long time.”

Frank said Darbow’s biggest asset is his pure athleticism.

“He’s just a fantastic athlete,” Frank said. “He’s maybe a little more raw than, say, [Notre Dame commit] Deontay Greenberry … but he’s got more downfield speed.

“Notre Dame needs guys that can stretch the field, and he’s certainly a guy that can do that.”

The Irish will be competing with two other storied programs for Darbow’s services.

“A lot of people think Michigan and Florida are the two other schools in this race,” Frank said. “I think it’s going to be important for Notre Dame to get him around players and get him to hang out with Notre Dame’s players. He’s got the type of personality that will fit in real well with Notre Dame’s players.”

Indiana quarterback Gunner Kiel, who recently backed off his commitment to Indiana, may also take an unofficial visit to South Bend this weekend. Kiel’s presence will be determined largely by the result of his playoff game Friday night, but Frank said if Kiel does visit, it will be another good sign that the Irish are the frontrunners in the race for the home-state gunslinger.

“I would say Notre Dame’s doing really well with Gunner Kiel,” Frank said. “I think Notre Dame can be very hard to beat in this race as long as they continue to impress on the field and show that they’re headed in the right direction team-wise. I think they’re going to be in pretty good shape when it all comes down to decision time. If he visits again this weekend, I think it’s another really good sign for Notre Dame.”

For more on Notre Dame recruiting, check out Mike Frank’s irishsportsdaily.com. Email Mike at mikefrank18@sbcglobal.net and tell him The Observer sent you.