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Irish Insider: Huge group of elite prospects making visits

Michael Bryan | Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The biggest weekend on Notre Dame’s home schedule will also be the most important in recruiting, as more than 20 top high school seniors will make visits for the showdown with USC.

Among those recruits are seven Irish commits and several prospects also considering the Trojans. A close game and win over the Trojans could go a long way in luring many of these seniors to South Bend.

“I think that when these kids want to come in for a visit during the academic year, during their season, well they want to come in for a big game,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said. “What bigger game is there as far as buzz and everything else than this one?”

“This is probably the biggest recruiting weekend in Charlie Weis’ history at Notre Dame. He’s bringing in more talented and elite prospects than I can remember and some visitors from the class of 2011 as well,” said Mike Frank, a Notre Dame recruiting analyst who runs the ESPN-affiliated Web site irishsportsdaily.com. “The staff did a great job of gathering fantastic players from the classes of 2010 and 2011, and it will rival any weekend any other school has in terms of talent and elite players. If Notre Dame can play well it should give them a great chance with this year’s recruits and set a great foundation for the future.”

The prospects making official visits:

OT Seantrel Henderson, St. Paul, Minn.

The biggest visitor (both figuratively and literally) will be Henderson, rated a five-star prospect and top-five national recruit by virtually every recruiting service. The mammoth Minnesota native is listed at 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds as a high school senior and holds scholarship offers from more than 50 schools.

“He’s show solid interest in Notre Dame – they aren’t one of his top schools at this point, but he hasn’t spend time here either,” said Frank. “Until he gets on campus its hard to know his true interest, he comes from a school that has sent a lot of players to Notre Dame but until he spends time with the team and gets to know the coaches it’s hard to know what he will do.”

Also considering: Ohio State, Florida, Oklahoma, USC

CB Cody Riggs, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

An elite cornerback prospect from the nation’s top football program, St. Thomas Aquinas, Riggs has visited campus multiple times. His uncle Bobby Brown played receiver for the Irish, and Riggs is ranked as the No. 8 corner is his class by ESPN.

“Cody really likes Coach [Corwin] Brown a lot, they have a great relationship,” Frank said. “Florida is probably the team to beat, they’re the local school and No. 1 team in the country with two recent championships, and they have a lot to like. If anyone has a chance to beat Florida, it’s Notre Dame, I think he’ll fit in very well with the players and enjoy his experience.”

Also considering: Florida, Georgia, FSU, Tennessee

RB Giovanni Bernard, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Bernard is a teammate of Riggs at St. Thomas Aquinas but has never made the trip to South Bend. The 5-foot-9 back rushed for 1,371 yards and 16 touchdowns during his junior year and averaged 9.5 yards per carry. He has officially visited Tennessee and Oregon State, where his brother Yvenson was running back.

“I think Notre Dame has a lot better chance with him than a lot of people think,” Frank said. “He’s not the biggest guy, but if you watch him he’s a very good inside runner with great quickness and recognition, he’s a tremendous player.”

Also considering: FSU, Tennessee, Oregon St., Nebraska

WR Tai-ler Jones, Gainesville, Ga.

Jones is a current Stanford commitment, but is still considering the Irish and looking at a few other schools. Jones is the son of former Notre Dame player Andre Jones, and has been to campus several times.

“He likes Stanford a lot but I think he’s pretty intrigued with the Notre Dame offense,” Frank said. “Jones has seen the numbers Golden Tate and Michael Floyd have pt up and it’s no secret Charlie Weis likes to throw. He’s one of the most polished receivers in the country but I think it will come down to fitting in with Notre Dame’s players and the coaches making sure he knows he’s a top priority.”

Also considering: Stanford (verbal), Auburn, Alabama, Oregon

ATH Marquis Flowers, Goodyear, Ariz.

Flowers is another player making his first visit to Notre Dame, and the Irish are one of the only schools that appear to be recruiting Flowers as a running back. Flowers currently stars on both sides of the ball as a running back as well as safety and linebacker for his Millennium High School team.

“Flowers is one of the best athletes in the country and could play a number of positions, Frank said. “I have heard he might have to cancel his trip, but if he does I would expect him to schedule another visit, he seems to be very interested in Notre Dame.”

Also considering: USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona St.

S Dietrich Riley, La Canada, Calif.

Another two-way player in high school, Riley is being recruited by the Irish and most other schools as a safety. Riley has great instincts on the defensive side of the ball and great quickness.

“He’s already a fantastic player and is just scratching the surface of his potential,” Frank said. “He’s a great athlete that can play either safety or running back. I think Notre Dame could be really tough to beat after his visit.”

Also considering: USC, Florida, Tennessee

CB Joshua Shaw, Palmdale, Calif.

A prospect with offers from both Notre Dame and USC, Shaw is one of the top cornerback prospects in the nation. Shaw has visited Notre Dame once before, watching his brother play for San Diego State in 2008.

“I don’t know if you’ll find a better corner than Josh Shaw, and if there is his name is Cody Riggs,” Frank said. “They’re two outstanding players. Shaw is a little bigger and taller for a corner, and he likes Notre Dame a great deal. Both guys could go play a lot of places and want to play for a team that can challenge for a championship. As important as it is to feel good and fit in at a school they want to see progress and how Notre Dame stacks up against USC.”

Also considering: Ohio St., USC, Florida, Oklahoma

OT James Stone, Nashville, Tenn.

Stone will be making his second trip to South Bend and is a top offensive lineman. As a senior Stone has great size at 6-foot-5 and 297 pounds. He holds 21 scholarship offers and has the Irish among his favorites.

“He has as much talent as any offensive tackle in the country. He’s exactly what Notre Dame is looking for,” Frank said. “You have to like Notre Dame’s chances – a strong showing by the offensive line and spending time around Irish players will give Notre Dame a really good shot.”

Also considering: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Alabama

RB Jordon James, Corona, Calif.

James is one of the quickest and most talented running backs in his class and is making his first-ever trip to campus. As a junior James piled up 1,135 yards and 11 touchdowns in just five games before suffering a season-ending injury.

“I think he’s one of the best backs in the country, he has elite vision, size and speed,” Frank said. “I think he could get bit by the Notre Dame bug getting on campus, I see him fitting in well. There is some depth there at running back, but I don’t think he’s afraid of competition.”

Also considering: UCLA, Cal, Arizona, Washington

OT Brandon Linder, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Linder is another of the four St. Thomas Aquinas prospects visiting this weekend. Linder has been to South Bend a number of times and comes from the same high school as current players Sam Young, Dan Wenger and Jordan Cowart.

“He’s a big-time offensive lineman, and is a tremendous talent,” Frank said. “He can play a lot of different positions on the line, and has been very high on Notre Dame’s list for a long time.”

Also considering: Miami, Florida, Ohio State

CB Lamarcus Joyner, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Joyner is one of the fastest players in the nation and the final visitor from St. Thomas Aquinas. The 5-foot-8 corner is rated the No. 1 prospect at his position by ESPN and already made an official visit to Ohio State.

“He’s one of the fastest players in the country by far, and is a tremendous talent,” Frank said. “His visit is a little bit of a surprise, but he’s coming up with his teammates to check out Notre Dame. He’s a lockdown corner and has also been a great running back.”

Also considering: FSU, Ohio State, Florida, Georgia

WR/S Corey Cooper, Maywood, Ill.

Cooper is a versatile athlete that can play both wide receiver and safety with great ability. Currently a verbal commitment to Illinois, Cooper is still interested in Notre Dame and a great visit could go a long way as the Fighting Illini have struggled so far this year.

“He’s had a strong interest in Notre Dame for some time even though he committed to Illinois,” Frank said. “He’s a great athlete and another guy with the ability to play multiple positions. I think if anyone can pull his commitment from Illinois its Notre Dame.”

Also considering: Illinois (verbal), Michigan State, Stanford

Making an unofficial visit will be Cooper’s close friend Kyle Prater, a current USC commit and one of the top wide receivers in the nation.

“He’s always had an interest in Notre Dame, and I think this is a good sign,” Frank said. “He’s a big tall physical player, a lot like Michael Floyd, and a great prospect.”

Also making an unofficial visit will be defensive tackle Louis Nix, who made an official trip against Michigan State. Nix is currently committed to Miami but there is a solid chance he could switch to the Irish according to Frank.

“I wouldn’t be surprised in Notre Dame ended up landing him, coming back again shows really strong interest,” Frank said. “It’s rare to get such a big athletic guy who could come in and play right away, he certainly has the size and strength and lots of potential.”

Current Notre Dame verbal commitments safety Chris Badger, cornerback Spencer Boyd, defensive lineman Blake Lueders, linebacker Kendall Moore, cornerback Lo Wood and defensive ends Prince Shembo and Chris Martin will all also be in attendance this weekend encouraging their classmates to join them in 2010.

“The prospects they’re bringing in for this weekend, they’re coming this weekend because they want to play in big games like this one,” Frank said. “It’s one of the biggest home games Notre Dame has had in years and a win would go a long way with them.”

For more on Notre Dame recruiting, check out Mike Frank’s irishsportsdaily.com. E-mail Mike at [email protected] and tell him The Observer sent you.