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Despite loss, Irish enjoy successful Georgia weekend on recruiting trail

| Friday, September 15, 2017

On the field, this past Saturday’s matchup with No. 13 Georgia ended in heartbreak for Notre Dame, as it suffered a 20-19 loss that ended with a turnover in the game’s closing minute.

But off the field and on the recruiting trail, the game was largely a massive success, according to Blue and Gold Illustrated recruiting analyst Bryan Driskell.

“From the conversations we’ve had so far with recruits, especially their top recruits, like [cornerback] Houston Griffith, [cornerback Kalon Gervin] and [safety] Julius Irvin — three of the top defensive backs on their board — it was a big success,” Driskell said. “I think a big reason for that is when the players look at what Notre Dame has done defensively the last few years and then they look at how they played defense on Saturday, everything that [Irish defensive coordinator] Mike Elko has been telling these recruits about how aggressive they’re going to be with the corners and how they’re going to attack other teams, the kids saw that on Saturday.

“Obviously, the result wasn’t what you would hope for, and a win always has a greater impact, but the fact the recruits could see Notre Dame go out there and go toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the SEC, I think, proved to be very impactful.”

For Irvin, whose father played in the NFL in the ’80s, Notre Dame demonstrated it offers the opportunities the four-star safety prospect — per Rivals — would want as both a student and an athlete, according to Driskell.

“He was a kid that liked Notre Dame, but I think they were trailing probably Washington and some other West Coast schools heading into the visit,” he said. “He was blown away with what he saw … was really blown away with just what the Notre Dame coaches and staff kind of talked to him about regarding what they can provide for him not just as a football player, but also as a student and also as a person, and that was a big thing for him.”

And for Griffith and and Gervin, Driskell said the Irish had to put themselves back in the race for their recruitment, and the Georgia game helped to do just that. For Griffith, Notre Dame’s play Saturday put them back on the radar after they had fallen from the top of his list.

“[Griffith] was a guy that had Notre Dame in his top list a while ago — at one point, Notre Dame led — but the 4-8 season really soured him on Notre Dame, and I think he was on campus this weekend,” Driskell said. “I think he loved what he saw from the defense, and I think Notre Dame is going to be a player for him again.”

For Gervin, Irish defensive backs coach Todd Lyght has been pushing the four-star corner prospect to reconsider Notre Dame after he decommitted in May, and the aggressive style displayed by the secondary Saturday has made the Irish a player again in his recruiting, Driskell said.

“Todd Lyght’s really been involved with him,” Driskell said. “He hasn’t given up on him. They convinced him to come to campus this weekend. Like the other guys, when he watched how they played defense … I think Notre Dame has made themselves a player in his recruitment again.”

Irish junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush winds up for a pass during Notre Dame’s 20-19 loss to Georgia on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Wimbush completed 20 passes for 210 yards in the game.Sarah Olson | The Observer
Irish junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush winds up for a pass during Notre Dame’s 20-19 loss to Georgia on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Wimbush completed 20 passes for 210 yards in the game.

Another recruit the Irish made a strong impression on was four-star wide receiver Chase Cota, who is from Oregon and whose father played for the Ducks in his college days.

“This was their second trip to Notre Dame,” Driskell said. “I think they were really blown away with what they saw. There’s been a lot of rumblings that he’s going to stay out West … but I think Notre Dame put themselves in a really good position with him, and if they can close out the season the way that we’ve seen them play so far, then I think he’s a kid that they definitely put themselves right in the running with.”

Part of the success of the weekend for the Irish was due to the electric atmosphere of Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday. Despite an underwhelming proportion of Irish fans in attendance, the recruits did not view that as a negative given the level of noise in the stadium, according to Driskell.

“No one has said that to us,” Driskell said. “Every kid that we’ve talked to talked about how electric the environment was because the reality is the kids listen to the noise. … I was told that it was very loud in the stadium on both sides. I think that created a loud, raucous environment.

“ … From what we understand, every kid that we talked to said it was a great environment.”

Now, with the Irish on the road for the next two weeks, they won’t have the opportunity to host recruits on campus until Sept. 30. Besides that, however, Driskell said the recruitment process will stay largely the same for the Irish coaching staff.

“It doesn’t really change anything until they get on the plane and leave for Boston,” Driskell. “During the week, they’ll continue to make their recruiting calls, they’ll continue to send out their electronic mail, they’ll continue to reach out to kids. … The only thing that changes is, obviously, they won’t have anyone on campus this weekend.

“ … They’ll continue to try and build the relationships with the kids to try and get them on campus for a later date.”

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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