Jan 3, 2011, 11:39 PM EDT
It’s that time of year again. When college football fans read into the clothing choices of four-star recruits or the hats that parents of recruits are wearing around the US Army All-American Bowl. For those of you that swill the recruiting Kool-Aid, it’s the most wonderful time of year.
For the first time in… well — a long time, the Irish enter the home stretch of recruiting on a serious roll. Four straight victories, culminating with a beat-down of the Miami Hurricanes after dispatching the USC Trojans for the first time since Bob Davie. Adding to the intrigue is the downward slide of some key Irish rivals.
Michigan’s in a recruiting free-fall thanks to athletic director David Brandon’s refusal to either cut Rich Rodriguez lose or give him a vote of confidence, a decision that likely won’t be made until Jim Harbaugh decides what he wants to do.
Harbaugh’s decision is likely between two “dream jobs” Michigan — his alma mater — and the San Francisco 49ers, a local team that has plenty of Notre Dame ties. Team president Jed York, a 2003 Notre Dame graduate, could take great pride in not only scoring the hottest coach on the market, but also sticking it to the Wolverines, whose fanbase would revolt if they lost out on Harbaugh, waited until all the other top-programs filled vacancies, and had to reach for a guy like Brady Hoke, a coach whose resume isn’t close to Rodriguez’s.
Harbaugh’s decision to leave Stanford after the season could also be good news for the Irish when it comes to recruits like Amir Carlisle and Troy Niklas, two guys that have Stanford at the top of their list but would likely lose interest if Harbaugh leaves town, which is all but a foregone conclusion right now.
Stanford and Michigan aren’t the only place where a coaching change could help the Irish. While Florida is officially bringing on Charlie Weis to install a pro-style offense, it didn’t stop Ohio native Chase Hounshell from decided not to enroll early at Florida and instead open up his recruitment to the Gators and Irish. He may not be in the rarefied air of some other recruits the Irish are chasing, but he’s a big bodied offensive line prospect with great offers at a position where the Irish are thin.
Meanwhile, the Irish didn’t just beat up Miami on the field last week, they’re taking dead aim at Anthony Chickillo, an outside linebacker/defensive end prospect that is the Hurricane’s top-rated commitment. Chickillo would be a third generation Hurricane if he eventually signs with Miami, but he’s considering taking a visit to South Bend at the end of January, and Tony Alford is on the case for Notre Dame.
With the US Army All-American Bowl and the Under Armor All-American Bowl both on tap for the next week, nearly a dozen Irish commitments or targets are matched up with some of the top players in the country, and will be making their college decision soon. Notre Dame is still after, and looks in a strong position to sign Ishaq Williams (his dad was reportedly wearing a Notre Dame hat this week) and Brennan Scarlett from San Antonio and Savon Huggins and Amir Carlisle in Orlando.
If you like it, the next two months will be some of the most hectic on the college football calendar. If you don’t, plug your ears, steer clear of the message-boards, and I’ll do my best to keep you up to speed. Either way, for the first time in a long while, Notre Dame is in a position of strength going into the home stretch of recruiting, and head coach Brian Kelly and his staff are ready to take advantage of the momentum.