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Football Recruiting: Student can impact recruiting decisions

Ken Fowler | Saturday, October 7, 2006

There’s a new push in town – and it’s for getting the Notre Dame student body more involved in the recruiting process.

National recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said he has seen students at other schools – from Georgia and Ole Miss to Tennessee and Ohio State – work as active participants in the recruiting war.

“The one thing I could notice at other schools is that the fans could let the recruits know they’re there,” Lemming told The Observer Thursday. “A lot of the students [at other schools] know who these recruits are. But the Notre Dame’s student body, from what I noticed, are all on caffeine. They’re bouncing like crazy. And I think that energy could help a lot if they make more noise [towards the recruits].”

At least some students, though, are trying to change the perception Lemming put forward.

Notre Dame seniors Chris Castellan and Matt Wharton have started a group on Facebook.com, “ND Students Today for Continued Excellence Tomorrow,” that promotes what recruits are coming to campus each weekend and encourages students to recognize by name each recruit in cheers at pep rallies and games.

“I’ve always been a recruiting nut since I got here,” Castellan said. “What we’re trying to do is something that’s completely legal to get the Notre Dame fan base together.”

Lemming said this weekend is the perfect time for Notre Dame to make some noise with the recruits because of the quality of defensive prospects on official and unofficial visits.

“It’s probably Notre Dame’s most important weekend of recruiting,” Lemming said. “It’s some of the top defensive players in the country. It’s guys that it’s imperative to get.”

That’s not lost on Castellan.

“This week is a huge weekend,” Castellan said. “This weekend, especially, we have a really good shot at beating Stanford. With a win and a good experience – they see the crowd really into it – that could really help.”

Castellan said he’s tried to stay updated with NCAA regulations on contact with recruits so that his group doesn’t cost Notre Dame any prospects. As of Thursday night, he said the group had nearly 200 members.

Lemming said the Notre Dame coaching staff may have strategically set this weekend as a big recruiting period, hoping players who choose soon will lean towards Notre Dame after just visiting.

Linebacker Chris Donald of Huntingdon, Tenn., (Huntingdon High School) is “one of the top two” players at the position, and defensive back Harrison Smith of Knoxville, Tenn., could give the Irish much-needed depth in the secondary, Lemming said.

Both players have Notre Dame and Tennessee at the top of their lists at this point. Lemming said Smith’s visit will be unofficial, as the 6-foot-2, 205-pound recruit already made his official trip.

“[Smith] is one of the premier free safeties in the nation,” Lemming said. “He already came officially. It’s a good sign for Notre Dame that he’s coming back for this.”

What’s more, defensive end Ben Martin of Cincinnati (La Salle High School) and safety Mike Williams of Ventura, Calif. (St. Bonaventure High School) will be in attendance Saturday, Lemming said. Both are considered top-10 prospects at their position.

Lemming said Martin is choosing between Ohio State and Notre Dame.

But the recruits in town are not just limited to the defensive side of the ball.

Top-20 running back Armando Allen of Hialeah, Fla., (Hialeah High School) will be visiting Notre Dame this weekend, Lemming said.

A high-profile offensive recruit, though, isn’t out of the ordinary for Notre Dame, Lemming said.

More than five months after Westlake Village, Calif., quarterback Jimmy Clausen (Oaks Christian) committed to the Irish and coach Charlie Weis on national television, Lemming says some of Notre Dame’s best offensive recruiting tools are far off campus.

“Clausen himself has become one of Notre Dame’s best recruiters,” Lemming said. “But he calls the offensive kids mainly.”