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Irish staff welcomes two official visitors

| Thursday, November 12, 2015

Irish head coach Brian Kelly and his staff made a bold statement the eve before Notre Dame’s game with Pittsburgh a week ago, bringing five coaches to watch four-star safety Damar Hamlin while in town — a rarity, according to Irish recruiting analyst Andrew Ivins

“I’ve been covering recruiting for a couple of years, and I’ve been to a lot of different high schools and I’ve never seen five coaches and a head coach in the same place,” Ivins, who covers Notre Dame recruiting for Rivals.com’s Blue and Gold Illustrated, said. “I think Notre Dame wanted to make a statement while they were in the area, show Damar he was a priority and they did just that.”

Ivins said Hamlin, a senior at Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic High School, might return to Notre Dame’s campus to make an unofficial visit — he made his official visit for the USC game in October.

Hamlin has many options in play, one of which is staying in his hometown and playing for Pitt — but Ivins said Notre Dame’s win a week ago likely had little impact on the four-star safety’s choice.

“It depends on what each school is selling,” Ivins said. “Right now, Pat Narduzzi, the [head] coach at Pitt, he’s at least selling to keep the local talent home and he can point at the guys on the field for Pitt and be like, ‘We’re a couple guys away.’”

This season has seen Notre Dame turn to freshmen at key moments — running back Josh Adams ran for 147 yards against Pitt, while defensive lineman Jerry Tillery has made two starts and been on the field regularly — and Kelly said Notre Dame gives its freshmen a chance to play.

“I would say that we created an environment where when we’re recruiting a young man, we’re really encouraging him to come here and we give them truly an opportunity to compete as a freshman,” the Irish head coach said.

Against Pitt, junior receiver Torii Hunter Jr. picked up snaps on the defensive side of the ball and Kelly said Notre Dame’s coaches typically make a decision on “two-way” athletes once they get on campus, like Tillery, who came in considered an offensive, not defensive, lineman.

“Within our general approach to recruiting, we have categories,” Kelly said. “We have big skill players and we have skilled players and we have power players. So within that general category, we’ll look at that skilled player and say, look, he’s a guy that can play on either side of the ball. Then we’ll figure it out when they get here.”

The final home game of the year against Wake Forest means Notre Dame has one last chance to impress recruits on game day this campaign, but Ivins said it is not a huge recruiting weekend, with only two official visitors on campus, both four-star California natives in the class of 2016: defensive end Wole Betiku and receiver Damian Alloway.

“Notre Dame seemed to really stack up the start of the year with Texas and USC,” Ivins said. “ … At this stage of the game most of the guys they wanted to get in for official visits during the season have already been.”

Ivins said a factor in the low numbers on campus is the standard November weather in South Bend.

“I think Notre Dame’s always very cautious of what the weather situation’s going to be like if you’re bringing in a kid from Florida or Southern California,” Ivins said. “I don’t think it’s going to be too cold this weekend, but that’s why they didn’t stack up this with official visitors.”

While there aren’t a high volume of official visitors, Ivins said he expects a fair number of players in the class of 2017 to be on campus for unofficial visits.

Moving to the next class out, this year has marked the earliest the Irish staff has pursued juniors, Ivins said, with Notre Dame recruiting kids on an “accelerated” process, according to Kelly. The Irish head coach said recent personnel turnover has brought a new approach to how Notre Dame targets recruits.

“We restructured our recruiting office about 15 months ago, and in that restructuring we had some personnel changes,” Kelly said. “I think those changes now over the last eight months, I think, have really taken hold and have allowed us to really gain the traction.”

Kelly said while satellite camps are becoming more popular, the Irish staff is still putting most of its efforts into “on the road” recruiting.

“I think we’re all pretty clear that the satellite camps are a hot button topic right now,” Kelly said. “It’s legislation that’s pending that will be a big topic of conversation. So we’re not — we’re not relying strictly on satellite camps as much as we’re out on the road, we’re across the country recruiting with an eye towards if we can get to a satellite camp that’s sanctioned, we’ll be there.”

For more on Notre Dame recruiting, check out BlueAndGold.com.
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About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.” At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer. A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa. When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

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