Recruiting comes into focus


As high-profile recruits descend on South Bend for Notre Dame’s football camps, we’re starting to get a better idea of how recruiting will shake out for the 2011 signing class. After reading plenty of reports on targets, prospects, and scholarship limits, let’s take a look at what to expect from this recruiting class, and a wider view at the 85 scholarships available to the football team.

Currently, the Irish have commitments from 12 prospects for the 2011 class:

     Kyle Brindza — K
     Clay Burton — DE
     Brad Carrico — DE
     Ben Councell — OLB
     Matthias Farley — DB
     Jarrett Grace — LB
     Conor Hanratty — OL
     Eilar Hardy — DB
     Matthew Hegarty — OL
     Ben Koyack — TE
     Jordan Prestwood — OL
     Tony Springmann — DE

According to, Notre Dame has offered recruits Christian Jones, a safety, quarterback Justin Worley, running back Savon Huggins, and athlete Richard Rodgers, all in town looking at the Irish, in addition to other prospects hoping to earn an offer. The Irish would be happy to say yes to all four of the recruits, pushing their total to 16.

If you had to wage a guess at the size of the Irish recruiting class, the best would be somewhere between 18 and 20 recruits, leaving a relatively small amount of space on a somewhat crowded bus even before this week.

Those numbers come from a estimated breakdown of what the roster is going to look like next year. While there is always turnover when a coaching change takes place, it seems for the most part the roster has stabilized for the time being. Here’s my best guess at what the roster will look like next year by class:

     5th Year: 5 to 7
     Seniors: 21
     Juniors: 18
     Sophomores: 21
     Freshman: 18 – 20
     (85-man scholarship limit)

There are eight seniors on the roster with eligibility remaining, but it’s highly doubtful that all of them come back for a final season, and I guessed somewhere between five and seven guys will return. The junior class will likely fluctuate depending on the seasons of Kyle Rudolph and Michael Floyd and whether or not they are tempted by the NFL.

Either way, this is pretty exceptional roster balance, something the Irish didn’t have when Charlie Weis took over the football program from Tyrone Willingham. That balance, as well as a nice base of established recruits, allows the coaching staff to aim high at the remaining recruits, swinging for the fences on national recruits like Ray Drew, Cyrus Kouandjio, and George Atkinson III.

Expect to hear something out of a few campers after this week, and then the Irish focus will get much tighter as they hone in on a few select recruits, specifically at positions of need like safety and defensive end.  

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.