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It’s panic season in recruiting

Dec 19, 2011, 1:24 PM EDT

Deontay Greenberry Head

For a small, but fanatical subset of college football fans, this is the most stressful time of year. Forget autumn Saturdays — where sixty minutes determine who wins and who loses. This is way more serious. Two years of work — evaluating, wooing, relationship-building — all coming down the stretch, as coaches try and convince 17- and 18-year old kids that their college is the best one for them. Yep, it’s panic season for hard core college football fans. And with the Irish involved in some of the most heavily recruited players in the country, it’s time to buckle up and hold on tight.

Over the weekend, Deontay Greenberry led his Washington Union team to a state championship, adding to his California-record setting receiving numbers while making an interception on defensive and recovering an onside kick to will his Fresno high school to victory. That alone should garner headlines, as the likely California state player of the year all but put on a cape and rescued Lois Lane this weekend. But the internet wasn’t abuzz with his performance, but his decision, along with his cousin blue-chip cornerback Tee Shepard, to visit USC while they were down in Carson for the game.

That Greenberry and Shepard would step foot onto USC’s campus alone isn’t surprising — both have said they planned on visiting all along. That it would happen this late in the game, and just before a recruiting dead period, has Irish fans shaking in their boots. Greenberry told this weekend that no matter what, he and his cousin were going to college together. And with Shepard early enrolling at the college of his choice, we’ll likely know in a matter of days where the talented duo ends up.

Keeping Notre Dame fans (and coaches) sane are the quotes that accompany Greenberry’s acknowledgement of the package deal:

“Tee said he is really interested in them so my boy wants me to go out there and check them out so that’s what I’m going to do,” Greenberry said.

“They want me. I’m going to keep it open. Right now I’m solid to Notre Dame so that’s where I’m at right now. Right now I’m 100 percent solid to Notre Dame.”

Greenberry, who had a touchdown catch, a fumble recovery and an interception in Washington Union’s victory, has said throughout his recruitment that he wanted to leave California for college but the Trojans – and many other teams – have continued to recruit him.

He said he’ll definitely listen to what USC offers on the visit.

“Like I said at the beginning of my recruitment, I wanted to leave the state so that’s where my mind is still,” Greenberry said.

“It’s not just Notre Dame. I just want to get away from home and experience some new things.”

Since the visit, news has been scarce, but that hasn’t stopped fans from worrying. For those with a doomsday attitude, the timing is horrendous for the Irish. Entering a quiet period, Lane Kiffin and the USC staff essentially had the last word with Shepard, who would have the chance to enroll at Southern Cal on Wednesday for the early signing period. For skeptics, they’ll point to Shepard using the official visit for a free flight to watch his cousin (and what should have been his teammates if not for a transfer hiccup) play and get a visit that’s long been on their list of places out of the way.

Greenberry might be the most important recruit on the Irish board, especially with Michael Floyd departing. On paper, there’s no question that the fit at Notre Dame is better for him, with a depth chart wide open compared to Robert Woods and Marquise Lee. The same can be said for Shepard, who will watch Gary Gray and Robert Blanton play their last games at cornerback next week and the depth chart behind them unsettled.

Irish coaches had a chance to speak with Shepard and Greenberry last night and feel in good shape with both. Of course, they’re used to this kind of thing, working in an industry where your performance is directly tied to trusting the word of 18-year-olds. But the rest of us, we’re just along for the ride. If that means having your hair turn grey because Ronald Darby plans on visiting Clemson or Urban Meyer is taking a run at Taylor Decker, get used to it, because this coaching staff has.

Unlike previous regimes, there is no protocol with verbal commitments or looking at other schools. This staff will continue to recruit who they want, whether it’s Nebraska commitment Jordan Westerkamp or all-everything recruits like Nelson Agholor. They’ll win some and they’ll lose some, but it’s been a practice that’s been more than kind to Brian Kelly and his staff. Last year, it landed guys like Everett Golson, who was committed to North Carolina, Aaron Lynch, who was set to enroll at Florida State, and Stephon Tuitt, who had switched his commitment to Georgia Tech just days before Signing Day. A guy like Troy Niklas wasn’t a sure thing until his fax arrived in South Bend that snowy Wednesday morning.

It’s that time of year — panic season for a college football fan. Two years of following recruits, high schoolers many of us have only seen in YouTube highlight reels or with stars attached to their name, all coming to a boil in that first week in February. For the Irish coaching staff, they’ve decided to roll the dice with a ton of high profile players. It’s a strategy that paid off last year, and one that’ll likely determine the fate of this year’s recruiting class.

That’s the price of admission when you’re trying to build a BCS program, and it’s a strategy recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin, and the entire coaching staff, have embraced. But for those fans watching nervously in sideline, take note. As they say in the movies, if you’re scared — buy a dog. With high stakes recruiting, if you’re scared — follow Northwestern.

  1. 1historian - Dec 19, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    Good piece – the next 6+ weeks are going to be nerve-wracking – for everybody.

    Just hang on and keep your fingers crossed.

    • oldestguard - Dec 19, 2011 at 2:42 PM

      i like our chances…let the other guys panic.

      Coffee is for closers !

      • johnnd1985 - Dec 19, 2011 at 2:52 PM

        First place is a Cadillac El Dorado. Second place is a set of steak knives. You know what third place is. Third place is your fired.

    • 9irish - Dec 20, 2011 at 5:51 AM

      oooohhh…you guys are scaring me with these quotes. That movie was used as a serious hatchet in the military recruiting community.
      anyway, I don’t track this stuff like some of you do (recruiting), but there is something suspect when somebody says, “RIGHT NOW I’m 100 percent”. what the hell does that mean? Tomorrow, nice knowing you?!

    • nudeman - Dec 20, 2011 at 10:59 AM

      Update on Shepard and Greenberry
      Sounds like they’re still committed

      I’m sure the Irish coaches have had some contact as well since their USC visit

      Tee Shepard update… Reply

      Just wrapped up a 30-minute conversation with Ray Shepard, father of Notre Dame commitment Tee Shepard, following the pair’s weekend official visit to USC along with four-star wide out Deontay Greenberry.

      “I don’t think he’s switching schools,” Ray Shepard said. “I don’t think he’s even close to switching them.”

      All that being said, it sounds like USC made such a strong first impression on Saturday during the visit that the Trojans nearly did flip both Irish commitments before they left town. Ray Shepard said USC puts its best foot forward with athletics director Pat Haden near the beginning of the visit. Haden talked up USC and Notre Dame in terms of their academics prestige and football.

      “I told him that you’re committed to Notre Dame and if you’re going to visit a school do it for real, just don’t mess around with them to see if you like it,” Ray Shepard said. “And you know what? Actually he did like it, more than I thought he would. To be honest, he liked it a lot. I was actually sitting there (on Saturday) thinking that he’s going to USC and what in the world just happened?”

      Ray Shepard said he wasn’t sure what changed the mood of the visit, but he noticed on Sunday that the four-star prospects had gone quiet around the facilities and meetings with coaches. When USC showed off the Jeweled Shillelagh, the trophy that goes to the winner in the Notre Dame-USC series, it appears the move didn’t sit well with either prospect.

      “It was a different Tee on Sunday,” Ray Shepard said. “They kept saying how they were No. 1 in this and that. Tee was like ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was like they were taking a shot at his team. They were talking about how they have No. 1 receivers and Tee was more about going against them. He didn’t like that.”

      Shepard and Greenberry will play in a California all-star game this weekend, followed by a trip to the Semper Fi Bowl in Phoenix (new high school all-star game). Because it’s a dead period, coaches can’t have in-person contact with Shepard or Greenberry. (Per the NCAA website, a dead period is defined as “The college coach may not have any in-person contact with you or your parents at any time in the dead period. The coach may write and telephone you or your parents during this time.” Ray Shepard said he has not had any contact with Notre Dame since the visit.

      Ray Shepard said the timetable for making a decision might work in Notre Dame’s favor considering Shepard would essentially leave from Phoenix for South Bend. He added that Greenberry will end up following Shepard to whatever school the cornerback chooses.

      “What it comes down to, they’re going to the same school,” Ray Shepard said. “(Deontay) will go wherever Tee goes.

      “My hunch? I think Tee’s going to still be at Notre Dame. I believe that.”
      This post was edited on 12/20 12:43 AM by Pete Sampson

  2. jerseyshorendfan1 - Dec 19, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    If we get on a roll with some of these bigger name recruits, I just hope we can find the room for them. That’s a problem you don’t mind having though.

    A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.

  3. bernhtp - Dec 19, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    I think that reeling in Kiel, especially before Christmas, would have an enormously positive impact on getting others. Kids want to feel they are part of something special – a special class of elite recruits – with a mission to win.

  4. trbowman - Dec 19, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    I’m not concerned about recruiting talent so much as developing it.

    And congrats to Armando Allen for being promoted to Bears active roster!

    • trbowman - Dec 19, 2011 at 7:11 PM

      And Kyle McCarthy, who has been a yo-yo with the Broncos, lol.

    • dickasman - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:47 PM

      Hey wait til next year when Da Bears draft Da Floyd!!!!

  5. 10of14 - Dec 19, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    I’m going to see what USC has to offer me.”. What the hell does that mean? He has been on USC campus before. Don’t trust Kiffin or Urban Meyer, both are a bit iffy in their recruitment tactics.

    • papadec - Dec 20, 2011 at 1:23 AM

      It means he’s pulling a Cam Newton – looking for the school with the biggest bag. He should have saved an official for Urban & the OSU boosters.

  6. lilrock9 - Dec 19, 2011 at 8:46 PM

    SC Trojans !! Fight on! Coach Kiff & Coach O are 2 of the best in the world. WE ARE SC !!!!! A top 5 class is the Norm in SUNNY Southern California

    • papadec - Dec 20, 2011 at 1:25 AM

      Hey lilrocks9 – how are you doing in the mudslides?

    • Jennifer - Dec 20, 2011 at 10:34 AM

      Lilrock9 ~ I’ve surmised three things from your name “Lil-rock-9”:

      1: “Lil” You’re a little guy.
      2: “Rock” You were either born under a rock or dumb as a box of rocks ~ “!Fight on!” – (?!?Seriously?!?)
      3: “9” We forgive you Lilrock9 for two reasons: First: Nine years old can be a tough age for a boy from LA
      with nothing else to do (15 minutes before bedtime) than troll other teams’ college blog sites.

      • Jennifer - Dec 20, 2011 at 10:41 AM

        Lilrock9: Second Reason to forgive was omitted. It just didn’t seem right to pile it on a little fella such as yourself!

  7. leftcoastirishfan - Dec 19, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    Not to sunny today..Go IRISH

  8. cpfirish - Dec 19, 2011 at 11:25 PM

    Its nice if we get these five star players but who is going to be throwing them the ball?? its that an issue?

    • dickasman - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:49 PM

      LOL…. y can you imagine if they kept Rees as starting QB? Rees toooo Greenberry….ohhhhh well for .513534813878338783 yd gain, again!

  9. lilrock9 - Dec 20, 2011 at 5:24 AM

    Ha!!! Play nice pop pop. It’s just cfb, some of us win a lot more than others that s all !! Fight on! ✌

  10. papadec - Dec 20, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    lilrock9 – you might want to check the All TIME records for WINS & WINNING PERCENTAGE. usc isn’t in the top three – ND IS!!!! Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays under the bridge. Which Bowl game is usc playing in this year? I can’t seem to find it in the TV listings.

  11. gtizzo - Dec 20, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    Not to upset your calmness Keith,

    There is a rumor that Gunner Kiel is about go Irish. Also something to be aware of is that Urban and Ohio State just got there hands smacked with a bowl ban for a year, and the loss of 9 more scholarships. I think the only guy who the Irish are going to end up losing is David Perkins. I think he will end up committing somewhere else, every other target with either pick ND or they won’t. Maybe calmness is the way to go…

    • papadec - Dec 21, 2011 at 12:23 AM

      gtizzo – It’s a total of 9 scholarships/year – not 9 more. Still a nice smack down. I especially like the “show cause” they hit Tressel with. Coaches have been hitting the road, and leaving the players, institutions, and fans holding the bag for too long. Some punishment should follow the offending coach wherever he goes.

  12. don74 - Dec 20, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    I try to learn something every day. Today I learned Jennifer brings it.

  13. lilrock9 - Dec 20, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    Jenny are u single !!! I really like that SASSY MOUTH of yours. CUTE !!!!!!

    • dickasman - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:51 PM

      DUHHHHH!!! She’s a ND fan which means she’s not pretty at all.

  14. tdschell21 - Dec 20, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    Just a heads up – re: the comments on Northwestern – don’t look now, but Northwestern has been better than ND on the field for the better part of the last decade.

    And a much better school since creation.

  15. brendanunderscoreg - Dec 21, 2011 at 7:16 PM

    The hiring of Kelly has caused me to really not care about recruiting. With Weis, it felt like we needed the absolute best of the best because once the players got on campus they wouldn’t improve anymore. Now, I can relax knowing that the players will only improve once arriving on campus.

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