Jan 8, 2012, 5:36 AM EST
Last year, the Irish came down to the wire for the services of blue-chip running back Amir Carlisle, only to see the California native stay in his home state and play for Southern Cal. After whispers of a surprise transfer flew across the Irish blogosphere over the past few days, Bob Wieneke of the South Bend Tribune broke the story that Carlisle, a year after almost coming to Notre Dame, was leaving Los Angeles and headed to South Bend.
Here’s more from Wieneke’s report:
Carlisle will transfer to Notre Dame and will have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2013 season. He will enroll at ND for the spring 2012 semester, which begins Jan. 17. Carlisle must sit out the 2012 season to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements.
“It was a very tough decision for him to select USC over Notre Dame last year,” Duane Carlisle, Amir’s father, told the South Bend Tribune on Saturday. “It came down to the wire, and it was neck-and-neck the whole time. Very close decision. They’re both great places with great traditions.
“He’s excited. He’s very excited about the opportunity to continue his career as a student-athlete at Notre Dame.”
Carlisle was granted his release from USC, and on Friday he met with Irish head coach Brian Kelly, tight ends coach Mike Denbrock, who recruits the West coast, and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin.
“It’ll be good,” Duane Carlisle said. “He’s got a real clear picture with how he’ll be used, and he’s excited about getting on the field.”
Kelly cannot publicly comment on Carlisle until he signs his scholarship form, which essentially serves as a national letter-of-intent.
The story sent shockwaves through the USC program, with players reportedly blindsided by the move. Carlisle’s freshman season was ruined by a variety of injuries, but the youngster did plenty to impress Lane Kiffin, and even with Curtis McNeal stepping up and claiming the starting running back job, Carlisle was likely the No. 2 back in the program heading into spring drills, ahead of players like George Farmer and D.J. Morgan.
The Irish’s dogged chase of Carlisle last recruiting cycle came back to be a huge benefit after his father, Duane Carlisle, took over as the Director of Sports Performance at Purdue, after spending three years as the head of strength and conditioning for the San Francisco 49ers. Not wanting to split from his family, Carlisle decided to transfer to the Midwest as well, leaving the Trojans for one of their biggest rivals.
“This definitely was a family decision,” Duane Carlisle told the Tribune. “It wasn’t just an Amir decision. We felt as though Notre Dame would be the best fit for him for the next four years.”
The fit is an excellent one for the Irish (made even better because it puts a large dent in the Trojan backfield depth chart as well). Carlisle will sit out the 2012 season and still have three seasons of eligibility, likely replacing Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick after next season and joining a depth chart that’s filling quickly, thanks to players like KeiVarae Russell, Will Mahone, Cam Roberson, George Atkinson, and Cam McDaniel.
Garry Paskwietz of WeAreSC.com didn’t downplay the loss of Carlisle, talking glowingly about his “explosive playmaking ability that Lane Kiffin likes plus he also brings an element of toughness so his future was bright in terms of playing time.”
After worrying that the loss of running backs coach Tim Hinton would cost the Irish the commitment of Mahone, reeling in a running back that was one of the top 100 players in the 2011 recruiting class and impressed early in a Trojan backfield filled with highly touted players is just a gigantic victory. After years of not pulling a single significant scholarship transfer, the Irish have now pulled in two blue-chip prospects that had the Irish No. 2 at Signing Day, only to come back to Notre Dame after choosing at another school. If that doesn’t speak to the dedication of this coaching staff on the recruiting trail, I’m not sure what does.
Carlisle will participate in spring drills with the Irish.