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ND looks to make gains in recruiting, on gridiron against Florida State

| Friday, October 9, 2020

Although Notre Dame football has flown under the radar for the past couple of weeks, work on the recruiting trail has not been stymied. And as the Irish gear up for Florida State, it is important to remember just how much of a recruiting influence this game may have.

The Seminoles (1-2, 0-2 ACC) have not been on an upward trend since 2014, when Jameis Winston led them to the program’s first College Football Playoff. That said, a marquee win for them on the national stage against a top-ranked opponent would be huge for them in terms of recruiting. Irish Breakdown publisher Bryan Driskell emphasized how a big win could change things on the recruiting trail in Tallahassee.  

“I think sometimes we get wrapped up into the record of the opponent, you know. Florida State is 1-2 and they’re coming off a down year, but with recruits [it’s] still Florida State,” Driskell said. “For Florida State, they so desperately need a signature [win]. They need a win that shows, ‘Hey, this new coaching staff is getting things turned around, they’re going to be okay, they’re going to get Florida State back.’”

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Irish quarterback Ian Book jukes across a defenseman during Notre Dame’s 52-20 win over Navy on Nov. 16 at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Irish are heavily favored against FSU and have much more to lose than to gain heading into this weekend. A win might not look overwhelmingly impressive from the outside, but it could be significant for Notre Dame’s recruiting scene in the state of Florida and the south as a whole, an area of the country which takes high school football far more seriously than most, and never fails to churn out elite talent year after year. Driskell likened this weekend’s matchup to a past Notre Dame win over another Florida team. 

“This game reminds me a lot of the 2010 Miami bowl game where Notre Dame beat Miami,” he said. “That was a 7-6 Miami team going through a coaching change and it still is carrying a lot of weight on the recruiting trail because it’s Miami. And this is a similar situation. It’s Florida State … And if Notre Dame can really take control this series and have an impressive win against Florida State on Saturday, that’s gonna have an impact as Notre Dame tries to get back down in the southeast, and continue recruiting in Georgia and also in the state of Florida and Louisiana, states where they’ve tried to pay a lot more attention in recent seasons.”

In the grand scheme of things, Notre Dame is doing a solid job building a recruiting class, despite the dead period that is in effect until Jan. 1. that prohibits recruits from making physical visits to campuses.

Notre Dame currently has the 9th-ranked 2021 recruiting class according to 247sports.com. They have accumulated 19 commits and they are slowly moving into the territory of powerhouse recruiting schools. Two recent commits of major significance are a pair of Georgia receivers: Deion Colzie and Jayden Thomas.

Both four-star recruits would be filling a hole that would be left in the receiving corps next season. These receivers will pair nicely with Lorenzo Styles Jr., another receiver the Irish have committed out of Pickerington, OH, who would help Colzie and Thomas spread the field well. The offensive line is also not making any departure from its dominance. Rocco Spindler and Blake Fisher are a pair of lineman that will certainly have some big shoes to fill, but they both seem more than ready to get to work with the Irish. 

In this day and age, verbal commitments frankly don’t hold as much value as they once did, and the process is never truly finished until the recruits enroll in classes, Driskell said

Notre Dame has already lost one commit in four-star corner Philip Riley, who flipped to USC last week. Driskell said that Notre Dame and all teams need to focus on their commits even if they appear to be invested.

“I think getting a verbal commitment a lot of times tends to mean, ‘Okay, this is the school everybody now has to beat,'” Driskell said. “We’ve seen that with Notre Dame; they’ve lost their fair share of players in this class alone. Obviously, they lost Philip Riley in this class, but they were then able to flip [three-star defensive end] Will Schweitzer from Nebraska. So, yes, it’s just a part of it. I think what we’ve seen really happen over the last 5 to 10 years is schools are pushing these young men to make decisions so much earlier.”

Some of these recruits commit when they are high school sophomores and juniors, Driskell said, and years later, might feel that they made a mistake.

“I mean, a lot of these kids are committing … when they’re 15- or 16-years-old,” he said. “And then as they kind of see things play out, they start thinking, ‘maybe I made a decision for the wrong reasons.’ Nine times out of 10 that results in them going to another school.”

So as Notre Dame heads into this matchup against a dilapidated Florida State that doesn’t expect a win, the real battle is taking place outside the scoreboard as the year-round endeavor that is recruiting continues.

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About Jimmy Ward

Jimmy is a senior at Holy Cross College, where he studies English and sports management. He is originally from Westfield, Indiana. Currently, Jimmy serves as an associate sports editor at The Observer. You can find him at @jimmyyward on Twitter.

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