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FOOTBALL: ND hosting “Junior Day”

Heather VanHoegarden | Friday, February 25, 2005

Less than a month removed from Signing Day, new head coach Charlie Weis and his coaching staff are recruiting hard for the class of 2010.Approximately 80 juniors will be on campus Sunday for a Junior Day, Weis said Wednesday. The players will meet with the coaching staff and attend the men’s basketball game against UCLA at 2 p.m. in the Joyce Center.”It’s a pretty large number,” Mike Frank of irisheyes.com said. “For something like this, it’s a pretty good-sized group of guys.”The key juniors will be cornerback Phillip Strozier out of Kansas City, Mo., and local product A.J. Edds, Frank said. Notre Dame will also be recruiting three quarterbacks – Demetrius Jones out of Chicago, Zach Frazer of Pennsylvania and Jason Burke, all of whom will be here Sunday.The high school juniors, hailing mostly from the Midwest, have to pay their own way to visit Notre Dame but were invited by the Irish coaching staff, Weis said. Frank said Sunday is a key part of the recruiting process.”I think it’s important, but probably more important is for some of these kids to get a chance to meet coach Weis and some of these assistant coaches and start forming relationships with them,” Frank said. “And probably just as important is the parents being there and meeting the coaches. I think that it’s more of a preliminary introduction – this is Notre Dame and this is what we can do. So, it’s an orientation, if anything. Obviously they’re going to try to get people excited about Notre Dame.”On Sunday, juniors and their families – or high school coaches, in some cases – will meet with the entire Irish coaching staff. From there, they will meet with individual coaches. Weis said each assistant coach is assigned an area of the country and that is how the juniors will be split up. The group then will have lunch and attend the men’s basketball game.Weis sees the game as an opportunity for both the men’s basketball team and Irish fans.”I happen to be a big fan of other sports,” he said. “I’m not selfish. I don’t look at this as just an opportunity for football. I’m looking as this as we can kill two birds with one stone on Sunday. Our basketball team’s on the bubble, and really for this game against UCLA, we need to win the game. So you would hope the student body would be going to the game anyway, and our basketball team would like the help of the student body because it makes a difference when they’re into the game.”I get a residual effect of this. When I’m sitting there, I get 80 juniors from across the Midwest, and this is their first live impression of Notre Dame.”Weis said this is the first step to improving recruiting, after Notre Dame has finished outside the top 10 the past two years.”The first opportunity for us to reshape the direction of our football program happens at that same event [Junior Day], because there’s only so many things the NCAA allows you to do,” he said. “This is one thing you can do – you can get them on campus.”Weis said this is just one of a few Junior Days that will happen this spring, all of which are important to recruiting for next season. He reiterated that the campus plays an important role.”You win and lose recruits a lot of time based on what kids on campus actually say when they’re there,” Weis said. “I never want anyone to mislead someone, but there was more than one time this year when a kid was out somewhere and someone would say ‘don’t come here.’ When they say that, those guys are saying, ‘hold it – their own students are saying don’t come here.’ “As for Sunday, Weis wants it to be a special experience for the 80-some juniors.”I’m trying to make Sunday as a day when you go into the place and it’s electric,” he said. “What I do know is in the selling of Notre Dame, truly pitching Notre Dame, it’s got to be a group effort. There’s plenty of people that love the place, but they might not be the people that they’re listening to. So what I’m trying to do is that the student body has to realize, that just as the football team is an extension of them, they’re an extension of the football team when it comes to recruiting.”