With Notre Dame on an unprecedented recruiting run, the Irish hit their first speed bump with the de-commitment of defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt, recently upgraded by Rivals to a five-star recruit, will now stay home in Georgia and play for head coach Paul Johnson.
“I think it’s where my heart was the whole time,” Tuitt told AJC.com. “I feel like I made a decision I can be comfortable with.”
Tuitt’s high school coach at Monroe Area high school, Matt Fligg, seemed mighty pleased by the decision to stay closer to home.
“I am just tickled to death that these kids are going to Georgia Tech and it is a school where people in our community and from our school can watch them play,” head coach Matt Fligg said. “I would hop on a plane any day to watch Tuitt or Smith play, but having them so close is really special. Those two kids almost single-handedly turned our program around.”
Tuitt’s flip was something that the Notre Dame coaching staff was obviously braced for with Chase Hounshell pledging to the Irish yesterday and defensive end Troy Niklas visiting campus at the end of the month. But the loss is a big one for defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who had a prototype 3-4 defensive end in Tuitt.
If there was a recruit in Notre Dame’s stable that seemed most likely to flip it was Tuitt, as his hometown roots always seemed to weigh heavy on him.
“I saw this coming, I just wasn’t sure what he’d do,” Fligg said. “He’s been thinking about it a while and just wanted to get it over with. He just wanted to be closer to home.”
No decision is final until the first Wednesday of February and while Tuitt has stated he’ll be finished taking visits from coaches outside of Georgia Tech, expect the Irish to continue to chase him up until Signing Day.
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.
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.