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Football Recruiting: Convincing win could help sway recruits

Lorenzo Reyes | Friday, September 12, 2008

If the Irish can pull off a convincing triumph this weekend against Michigan, those in attendance will see the program as one that is on the rise. None of these spectators will be more important than the 20 high school talents that are visiting campus for unofficial and official visits.

This Saturday could be a game that carries heavy implications as to the direction the program is headed, based on the quantity and quality of recruits that will be watching closely. Mike Frank, who covers Notre Dame for Scout.com, said he believes this could be a turning point for the Irish.

“I think it’s a very, very important game for Notre Dame,” Frank said. “It’s a rival game, so the atmosphere will be electric, and if the Irish could beat Michigan and go 2-0, they could go on a little roll. This is definitely a statement game. If they can beat Michigan, it will tell everyone, ‘We’re back.'”

That is precisely what the coaching staff intends on doing come Saturday. Of the 20 recruits coming into town, six of them have already verbally committed play for the Irish. These include cornerback E.J Banks from Pennsylvania, offensive guard Alex Bullard from Tennessee, tight end Jake Golic from Connecticut, tight end Tyler Eifert from Indiana, offensive tackle Zach Martin from Indiana and running back Theo Riddick from New Jersey.

Although all of these players have decided to play for Notre Dame, they still want to come back one final time to view the game day atmosphere and meet some of their future teammates.

“They’re just coming to check out Notre Dame one last time,” Frank said. “They want to see what the atmosphere is like during a Saturday and get closer to the team. They also want to get to know some of the players that they’ll be lining up against.”

For some of these recruits, it’s the first time they will have ever set foot on the Notre Dame campus. Becaus of this, the coaching staff will have to pull out all the stops to make an impression.

Four-star defensive end Davon Custis out of Columbus, Ohio, is a first-time visitor. The Saint Francis DeSales High School product liked the Irish early in the recruiting process, but later faded after some miscommunication with the Irish coaching staff. After the problem was solved, Custis is now on good terms with Notre Dame, and this visit could be what the Irish need to pick up another commitment.

“Custis has never been to Notre Dame, so this first impression will be crucial,” Frank said. “He’s a smart kid, came from a similar environment in a Catholic high school, so he could like the campus. He’s a big-time player that a lot of programs are after and could fit in nicely in this class.”

Another player that has yet to see Notre Dame is Nyshier Oliver, a safety from Jersey City, N.J. Oliver originally committed to Tennessee, but later reopened his recruitment and saw an Irish offer come rolling in the following morning. Frank said he thinks this could potentially be a case in which a visit went a long way to swaying the player.

“Nyshier hasn’t been either, but he has a strong interest in the Irish,” he said. “This is the first shot the coaching staff really has to impress him, and I think he’s seriously considering Notre Dame. He’s definitely going to take a serious look when he’s on campus.”

Chris Bonds is a defensive end from Richland Northeast High School in Columbia, S.C., who will also be in attendance. Bonds is hearing from most of the schools in the Southeastern Conference and will need to see some impressive features of the Irish program if Notre Dame is to stay in the race.

Not only will high school seniors considering the Irish be present against Michigan, but also juniors, who are beginning to receive their initial offers, will be there. For these recruits, it’s essentially the first time many of them will be taking visits.

A pair of Illinois blue-chippers, defensive end Chance Carter out of Loyola Academy and offensive lineman Christian Lombard from Fremd High School, are both visiting and stand in high regard in the coaching staff’s eyes. If Notre Dame can showcase its program well, these visits from juniors could give the Irish an advantage in landing both of them.

During these visits, the coaching staff will give the prospects a tour and field their questions.

“It’s not as intense as an unofficial visit,” Frank said. “Because the coaches have to worry about the game, they won’t have a lot of time to be around the recruits. They’ll probably take them around campus, show them the [Gugliemo Athletics complex,] and meet with some professors. For the 2010 kids, these first impressions are real important to put the program on the map.”