Irish compete with Stanford for recruits
Zach Klonsinski | Friday, October 14, 2016
Five-star offensive lineman and Rivals.com’s third-rated recruit overall Foster Sarell headlines Notre Dame’s visit list for what is “the biggest game of the year for Notre Dame,” according to Blue and Gold Illustrated recruiting analyst Bryan Driskell.
Stanford and Notre Dame are two similar institutions that often compete over the same talent on the recruiting trail, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday.
“We’re competitive with Stanford in recruiting,” Kelly said. “There is no question that somebody fits the similar profile that would go to Stanford that would look at Notre Dame as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a slam dunk that we’re recruiting exactly the same player across the board, but there’s definitely a similar character kid that fits the profile of Notre Dame and Stanford.
“And, you know, they’re going to win some and we’ll win some on those. I would say more times than not, the fit there is good student, good character kid.”
This weekend is an important opportunity for the Irish to regain the upper hand in their rivalry with the Cardinal, not just on the gridiron — where Stanford has won five of the last seven installments — but also in the battle for recruits choosing between two extremely similar institutions, Driskell said. He added the Cardinal’s current advantage comes from three factors: a slightly higher academic ranking, a better geographic location and the program’s stronger performance over the last decade or so.
“The biggest reason to me is just look at the success Stanford’s had the last five or six years,” Driskell said. “They’ve been the better program. So you’re going to play in better weather, you’re going to win more football games, and you’re still going to go pro. So I think that’s what Stanford’s had over Notre Dame the last five years. [Cardinal head coach] David Shaw has won four Pac-12 titles, and then you look at what Jim Harbaugh did before he got there. They’ve beaten Notre Dame four of the last six times they’ve played.
“So that’s why I [said at the beginning of the season] the Stanford game was the biggest game of the year for Notre Dame. Still is, no matter what impact it has on the season because I think it can have a big impact on recruiting.”
Stanford’s recent control of the rivalry is a relatively new phenomenon, Driskell said.
“The reason Notre Dame always got all the recruits they wanted was because they were a far better football program,” Driskell said. “Notre Dame needs to get back to showing that, ‘Hey, we’re a better football program than Stanford,’ and beating them this season … would mean [the Irish] have won three out of five. Now all of a sudden you’re not only competitive with them, but now you’ve got the edge. And I think that could help sway some of the kids that are really torn between Notre Dame and Stanford, and there’s a few.”
Sarell, the 6-foot-6, 315-pound Graham, Washington, native, is one of those recruits.
“You look at Foster Sarell, for example, who’s visiting for [the] Stanford [game]. Notre Dame and Stanford are two of his three finalists. He’s also looking at Washington,” Driskell said. “Well, Washington just pounded Stanford, so if Notre Dame can come out offensively, for example, and run the ball well and look good doing it, that’s going to have an impact.”
Driskell said he thinks the geographic distance between Sarell’s home and Washington and Stanford as compared to Notre Dame would lead him to believe Sarell will stay on the West Coast, but he added a win for Notre Dame this weekend could convince the five star to head east.
“I wouldn’t want to say that going into the weekend Notre Dame’s third — they beat Stanford by 30, they get [Sarell],” Driskell said. “I don’t want to say that.
“But I think the weekend can affect the overall tone of the weekend for his visit. If that crowd’s going crazy and fired up and screaming the whole game because they’re just pounding Stanford or it’s a great game, I think that factors into that experience. I think then, with a win, going into the dorms and spending the night around the players, spending time Saturday night and then the next day Sunday with the players, the whole tone, the whole mood can change.
“And those are the things that when it comes down to a kid looking at three schools pretty equally, I think those things kind of can factor into where it’s going to be.”
Driskell also said a win this weekend will begin regaining respectability for the Irish for recruits deciding between Notre Dame and other programs it plays like Stanford, USC and Miami, especially on the defensive side.
“The defense really has to go show that ‘hey, Brian VanGorder was an issue,’” Driskell said. “‘We’ve fixed the issue. He’s gone. We’re back to playing defense the way Notre Dame is capable of playing defense.’ And I think that’s going to be a big thing to convince [players like four stars cornerback Thomas Graham and defensive lineman Josh Paschal] that Notre Dame is a team that you can come play championship-caliber defense for, which they really haven’t shown the last couple seasons.”