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Recruiting: Irish gain exposure through Shamrock Series

Mike Monaco | Thursday, October 3, 2013

For the fifth consecutive season, the Irish will play an off-site home game as part of the Shamrock Series. Saturday’s matchup in Dallas will be the second time the game is played in Texas, following the 2009 game in San Antonio.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly said the game enhances Notre Dame’s recruiting presence in the Lone Star State.

“I think it helps,” Kelly said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. “For example, we’ll be able to go down there on Friday and get out and see some [high-school] games with our coaches, so certainly being able to get down there will help us in that perspective.”

Per Irish Sports Daily, Notre Dame has offered scholarships to 20 Texas natives in the high-school class of 2014 and four more in the class of 2015. While the trip to Dallas affords Kelly and his staff the opportunity to get out and watch Friday’s games, the Shamrock Series also gives recruits another – and sometimes easier – chance to check out a Notre Dame game.

“Certainly, getting some recruits locally to come to the game, you know, we certainly can’t see them, but we can provide tickets; that helps in that respect,” Kelly said. “A bump would probably be a good word [to describe the impact]. Is it going to seal the deal for us in a lot of these instances? Probably not, but it certainly helps to have the kind of exposure there.”

Irish recruiting expert Mike Frank agreed the Shamrock Series, which has previously been held at Yankee Stadium in New York, FedEx Field in Maryland and Soldier Field in Chicago, in addition to San Antonio, continues to be beneficial.

“I think it’s a very, very valuable recruiting tool for Notre Dame,” said Frank, who runs the ESPN-affiliated Irish Sports Daily. “They’re able to be in an area, a hotbed of talent, and I think that has a lot to do with the reason they do this game because it allows them access to areas to showcase their program that they might not get into.”

Frank said another crucial impact of the game is the relative ease with which family members of a recruit can also watch Saturday’s contest and gain a better understanding of Notre Dame.

“A lot of these guys can’t get their families to come and check out Notre Dame and the game atmosphere and that type of thing because on an official visit you’re only allowed to pay for the prospect,” Frank said. “You’re not allowed to pay for a mom or a dad or a family member to travel with them. So sometimes kids just come by themselves because they simply cannot afford to pay for parents to visit five visits all across the country.”

This weekend, a pair of 2014 prospects from Dallas with Notre Dame offers will visit Saturday’s game at AT&T Stadium. Safety Payton Hendrix and cornerback Nick Watkins, who both attend nearby Bishop Dunne High School, are expected to make the half-hour trip over to watch the contest.

ESPN ranks Watkins as the 62nd-best player in the class of 2014 and the No. 9 cornerback overall. In addition to Notre Dame, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder holds offers from a host of schools, including Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Oregon and Stanford.

“He’s as good as you’re gonna find,” Frank said. “This guy is an elite, top-100 player. He has already visited Notre Dame [in] the spring. Really, really liked his visit to Notre Dame. Many people felt there was a chance he could end his [recruitment] and choose Notre Dame early, but I think he just wants to make sure he has a good understanding of all his opportunities and visit some more schools. But Notre Dame has been in great shape with him.”

Watkins’ secondary-mate Hendrix checks in as the No. 25 safety in the nation. By no means, Frank said, is Hendrix a package deal with Watkins.

“It’s not like they’re recruiting Hendrix just to get Watkins,” Frank said. “They’re recruiting Hendrix because they like him a lot as a top player. I think it would certainly help. It helps when these guys get an opportunity to play with people that they like and those types of things. But he has some big-time offers in his own right.”

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.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu