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Stanford game a chance for Irish to establish themselves for recruits as top academic program

| Friday, November 29, 2019

Although the regular season is drawing to a close, Notre Dame continues on the recruiting trail as they prepare to travel to Palo Alto, California, to take on Stanford. According to Bryan Driskell of Sports Illustrated, Saturday’s game against the Cardinal could send an important message for the state of the program to prospective players.

“The best thing that Notre Dame can do is beat Stanford and continue having another season. … If they beat Stanford on Saturday, this will be the first time that our game has won 10 games in back-to-back regular seasons since 1988 and 89,” Driskell said. “And this will be the first time they’ve won at least 10 games in postseason and regular season three straight years since ‘91 to ’93.”

Driskell said that kind of success translates to keeping recruits engaged throughout the process.

“That’s what keeps kids locked in, because they see a future for themselves — not just being able to get a tremendous education at Notre Dame, but also the opportunity to play for championships,” Driskell said.

While the majority of recruiting takes place in the first half of the season and in the offseason, these next couple weeks are still crucial to confirming the strength of incoming classes.

“As far as the focus between now and December, what you’re going to see from the staff is getting on the road … and making sure they’re ready to sign in December,” Driskell said. “That’s a big thing is making sure that all the committed players are going to sign in December. If they don’t sign in December, then you start getting a little nervous.”

Looking at this weekend in particular, Driskell identified two advantages the Notre Dame-Stanford matchup presents: showcasing Notre Dame’s national schedule and establishing Notre Dame as the superior intersection of football and academics.

“With Notre Dame going out to Stanford [three weeks after] they went down [to] North Carolina is what makes Notre Dame unique. There’s nobody in the SEC that’s going to do that in November. There’s nobody in the Big 10 that’s going to do that November,” Driskell said. “Nobody in the Pac-12 is going to play in California and then also in North Carolina another week. … But I think the bigger story for Stanford for me is this is an opportunity for Notre Dame to re-establish itself as the dominant academic program when it comes to football.”

Driskell said Stanford has been the one team that’s managed to claim that title from the Irish over the past decade. However, with the Cardinal being 4-7 this season, he believes this is the perfect opportunity to make a statement to recruits who are prioritizing their academic options.

“Stanford ended a seven-game Notre Dame win streak against Stanford back in ’09. Since then, beginning with that year, they’ve gone 7-3 against Notre Dame,” he said. “Notre Dame hasn’t beat Stanford on the road since 2007.

“They haven’t won back-to-back games against Stanford since ’07 or ’08. … This year, they have a chance to beat Stanford by double figures for the second-straight year and get their first winning streak and sort of establish yourself as ‘We are the preeminent program again,’ and that’s big, because if you look at the number of players that Stanford has beat Notre Dame for, the volume is not high, but the names are big.”

Finally, Driskell addressed the always-present potential for change within the coaching staff and how that impacts recruits.

“I think they’re reassuring kids behind the scenes that, ‘Hey look, don’t worry about it.’ But I think the other thing that helps Notre Dame is the reason Notre Dame hasn’t lost a lot of recruits in the past when they lost coaches,” he said. “For example, when Mike Elko left after 2017, they didn’t lose anybody, because Brian Kelly has always demanded that [the coaches come] to sell Notre Dame more than themselves. … The way that Notre Dame staff recruits — and I give a lot of credit to Brian Kelly for this — is what makes Notre Dame special. And so when kids commit to Notre Dame, they’re not committing necessarily to Chip Long or a specific coach per se. It’s more about the opportunity that Notre Dame affords.”

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