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Recruiting: Two prospects commit to Irish

Allan Joseph | Thursday, September 22, 2011

Notre Dame added another playmaker to its recruiting class when South Carolina receiver Chris Brown committed to the Irish during his visit to campus during last weekend’s game against Michigan State. While Brown was not highly ranked by many recruiting services, Irish recruiting expert Mike Frank said Brown’s talent was evident from the intense interest he had drawn.

“It’s kind of strange,” said Frank, who runs the ESPN affiliate Irish Sports Daily. “Here’s a guy who has 25 legitimate Division I offers, and more importantly he has offers from everybody in his surrounding area … but for some reason he’s just ranked a three-star by a lot of the services.”

Frank said Brown’s playmaking ability was a good fit for the Irish.

“He can really, really run,” Frank said. “He’s a very, very explosive player who can bring some speed to the Notre Dame receiving corps. I personally think it’s a big pickup for Notre Dame. They need wide receivers.”

Notre Dame also added its first member of the class of 2013 this past weekend, picking up a verbal commitment from Michigan offensive lineman Steve Elmer.

“[Elmer] is probably the top offensive lineman in all of the Midwest next year,” Frank said. “This is a very, very big pickup for Notre Dame. He’s a very big guy already — 300 pounds, and it’s not fat. It’s real size and real strength. He can also move very, very well.”

Frank said Notre Dame’s focus on recruiting Elmer was indicative of the attitude Irish coach Brian Kelly had brought to the program in its second year.

“Brian Kelly has made it very clear … that the only way [he and his staff] are going to get this thing turned around is to make sure that they have dominating play on both sides of the line,” Frank said. “He’s shown by offensive line recruiting and defensive line recruiting that he means business. He knows they have to have elite players on both sides of the ball. All you have to do is watch the Michigan State game last week to see evidence of that.”

Ohio running back William Mahone also visited Notre Dame last weekend, and while he did not commit to the Irish, he is moving closer to a decision.

“I think he really, really liked his visit, and really felt like he fit in well,” Frank said. “He loved the way Notre Dame ran the ball, which is important for any running back.

“I think he’s going to go visit Pitt this weekend … and then after that, we could end up having a decision, or he could check out Michigan State. I think he’s getting close to pulling the trigger.”

Maryland cornerback Ronald Darby was on campus last weekend, and while Darby was committed to the Irish, he had talked about taking official visits to other schools. After this weekend, however, Darby may no longer take those visits, said Frank.

“Notre Dame did a really good job of talking to him,” Frank said. “I think he understands that [senior cornerbacks] R.J. Blanton and Gary Gray will be gone next year, so there’s going to be a great opportunity for anyone to come in and play … He just wants to go and have some fun on these trips. He has a good time going and seeing all these different places. I think Notre Dame would much rather him not go. As of earlier this week, it sounded like he was having a lot of second thoughts about those trips.”

Freshman defensive end Aaron Lynch excelled in last week’s victory over Michigan State, and Frank said the amount of playing time Lynch received sent a clear message to prospective recruits.

“Brian Kelly isn’t just going to play the senior or the older guy. If [a player] can help the team, [he] will get on the field at Notre Dame,” Frank said. “That’s really important to these kids. None of these guys have ever really sat … They want to play right away and make an impact for their team.”

While conference realignment continues to be a hot topic on the minds of college football fans, Frank said conference affiliation had little to do with recruiting.

“I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal whether a team’s in a conference, not in a conference [or] which conference you’re in,” Frank said. “You can get to the NFL no matter what conference you’re in so long as you perform. It hasn’t made an impact that I’ve seen so far.”

More important for Notre Dame’s recruiting is that it continues to earn victories.

“Whether [Notre Dame] is in a conference or not, I really don’t see much of a difference either way when it comes to recruiting,” Frank said. “Winning games is really what matters for Notre Dame recruiting right now.

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