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Recruiting: Irish assistants hit the road during bye week

| Thursday, September 25, 2014

While Notre Dame students and players had the opportunity to recuperate during the bye week, the Irish coaching staff used the off week for a variety of recruiting trips.

“They definitely hit the road, hit it pretty hard,” Irish recruiting analyst Tom Loy said. “… It’s nice having that Notre Dame logo on your chest when you’re out recruiting, especially when you’re 3-0 and No. 8 or 9 in the country.”

Loy, who covers Notre Dame recruiting for Blue and Gold Illustrated, part of the 247Sports network, tracked the Irish assistants as they scattered around the country. Loy said the assistants — including defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks (Louisiana), offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock (Chicago), defensive line coach Mike Elston (Ohio, Indiana), defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder (Georgia), tight ends and special teams coach Scott Booker (D.C., Maryland and Virginia), running backs coach Tony Alford (Florida) and quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur (California) — traveled all over.

Jerry TilleryCourtesy of Blue and Gold Illustrated, 247Sports
Jerry Tillery

The coaches checked in on class of 2015 commitments, reconnected with 2015 and 2016 offered prospects and issued new offers, as well.

Loy said Cooks and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand stopped in Louisiana to visit class of 2015 offensive lineman commitment Jerry Tillery, the No. 77 player in the nation, per 247Sports. Tillery has been committed to Notre Dame since June 2013, but LSU remains a threat for the Shreveport, Louisiana, native.

“Notre Dame is doing their best to shut that down,” Loy said. “Right now I think he sticks [with Notre Dame], but there’s a whole lot of smoke about LSU being able to land him. So we’ll have to see what happens with that one.”

Booker paid a visit to class of 2015 defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, according to Loy. Wilkins slots as the 108th-best player in the country, per 247Sports.

“I expect him to take an official visit to Notre Dame at some point,” Loy said. “But right now, [Notre Dame is] behind a few schools there. He’s high on the academics and is really trying to find a good fit for him as a student-athlete.”

Out on the West coast, LaFleur watched class of 2016 quarterback Malik Henry (No. 4 overall) practice at Westlake High School, per Loy. 

“If they’re gonna spend the money and resources to go out there and watch you practice, obviously the relationship is close there and Notre Dame feels good about their chances,” Loy said.

Not surprisingly, Notre Dame utilized the bye week to dispense multiple offers. Somewhat surprisingly, in Loy’s opinion, the Irish offered class of 2015 defensive backs — an area the Irish were believed to be mostly done, barring commitments from some of the elite, already-offered prospects. According to Loy, Notre Dame offered safety Hunter Dale (Wednesday), safety Kahlil Haughton (Thursday) and cornerback Frank Buncom IV (Friday) during the bye week.

Class of 2015 cornerback Frank Buncom IV was one of a few recruits to receive offers from Notre Dame during the bye week, according to Irish recruiting anaylst Tom Loy.Photo courtesy of Blue & Gold Illustrated, 247Sports
Class of 2015 cornerback Frank Buncom IV was one of a few recruits to receive offers from Notre Dame during the bye week, according to Irish recruiting anaylst Tom Loy.

Loy said at least part of the reason behind those new offers might be attributed to Irish junior Nicky Baratti’s season-ending shoulder injury — the third such injury of his career.

Loy said Notre Dame also focused on new offers to recruits in the class of 2016 — including cornerback Kristian Fulton, receiver Binjimen Victor, athlete Ahmir Mitchell and offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux.

“They’re definitely trying to expand their net, cast a wider net,” Loy said. “… I think they’re casting a wider net because they don’t want to miss and have such a narrow focus like when [former Irish defensive coordinator] Bob Diaco was here.”

Following the bye week, Notre Dame embarks on a four-week stretch before its next off week. While Loy said there aren’t too many decision dates and key checkpoints to monitor right now, class of 2015 running back Soso Jamabo and class of 2015 linebacker Tevon Coney remain top targets with Notre Dame among their top options.

For more on Notre Dame recruiting, check out BlueAndGold.com. Email Andrew Owens at
[email protected] and tell him The Observer sent you.

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About Mike Monaco

Senior Sports Writer Mike Monaco is a senior majoring in Film, Television and Theatre with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy as well as Business Economics. The O’Neill Hall native hails from the Boston area and is an aspiring play-by-play broadcaster.

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