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Irish Insider: Top prospects set to visit campus

Matt Gamber | Friday, October 2, 2009

Two big-time California prospects will visit Notre Dame for Saturday’s game against Washington, and while the Irish would love to have both Anthony Barr and Hayes Pullard, they aren’t sure where.

Both Barr and Pullard are listed as “athletes” in recruiting databases, and each is capable of playing at least three positions at the college level, said Irish recruiting expert Mike Frank, who runs the ESPN-affiliated site irishsportsdaily.com.

“Anthony’s one of the very top players in the country, and he can play a number of positions,” Frank said, including running back, linebacker and defensive end. “Notre Dame likes him for defense but I think he also might get a shot to look at tons of other positions.”

ESPN rates Barr as a four-star prospect and the No. 7 athlete in the country. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder suffered an injury that has limited him during his senior season, but Barr maintains major offers and a top-five of Notre Dame, USC, Michigan, UCLA and California.

“I know Notre Dame wants him a great deal,” Frank said. “He was one of their first offers and is just a tremendous talent.”

The Irish may have a leg up with Barr because of a family connection to the University. His father is former Notre Dame running back Tony Brooks, and Barr is also the nephew of former Irish running back Reggie Brooks. Barr’s mother also attended Saint Mary’s.

“They know what it can mean for him down the road, but my experience has been kids end up just going where they want to go,” Frank said. “The good news here is he has a strong interest and both [sides of the] family are in Notre Dame’s corner.”

The Irish are also after 6-foot-2, 220-pound Hayes Pullard. The Los Angeles product could play either running back or fullback, but Notre Dame seems most interested in Pullard as a linebacker at the next level.

“There really aren’t many slots left at linebacker or running back, but the fact they’re still bringing him in shows how much they really like the player,” Frank said. “I’m not sure they really need another linebacker, but when you get a chance to get a player of this caliber, you really bend over backwards to try to get him.”

Frank said the biggest question mark surrounding California prospects is usually how the specific players will fit in with the Irish team. He doesn’t foresee any issues with Pullard.

“I think he’s the type of kid that would fit in really well here personality-wise, and they like him a great deal,” Frank said. “Expect [Notre Dame] to roll out the red carpet for him because they think he’s going to be a heck of a player down the line.”

Defensive tackle Bruce Gaston will make an unofficial visit for Saturday’s game. By Frank’s count, it will be the fourth trip to Notre Dame for Gaston, who earned a scholarship offer following an Irish-run camp this summer.

“He’s a big interior guy who has some quickness and some strength,” Frank said. “Big defensive linemen are hard to find and hard to come by, especially guys that can qualify [academically]. Obviously, Gaston brings a lot to the table.”

Hailing from Chicago’s St. Rita, the same high school as Irish sophomore linebacker Darius Fleming, Gaston’s size would be an asset to the Notre Dame front four. He is listed at 6-foot-3, 309 pounds.

“I think so far, things are going very well there,” Frank said. “Notre Dame has been recruiting him pretty heavily and he has a strong interest. It sounds like he wants to take some official visits and check.”

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.