Jan 9, 2012, 11:46 AM EDT
Over the weekend, news broke that Ronald Darby backed away from his commitment to attend Notre Dame, opening up a recruiting war for one of the nation’s top cornerback prospects, and one of the country’s top sprinters. After gaining significant momentum with the pledge of Elijah Shumate at the Army All-American bowl, the Irish now seem on the outside looking in as they try to get Darby back in the fold, a key piece to their recruiting class.
Of course, this isn’t something that the Irish coaching staff didn’t see coming. Holding Darby’s commitment throughout the process was always considered a long shot, and a big reason why Notre Dame hasn’t set their in-house visit with Brian Kelly and the Darby family yet, following the successful blueprint used to swing Stephon Tuitt back into the fold last year after he flipped his commitment to Georgia Tech, just days before Signing Day.
Darby will look at Clemson, Florida State, Auburn and LSU, while still keeping the Irish in the race.
“It changed,” Darby told IrishSportsDaily.com of his relationship with Notre Dame. “I knew it wasn’t going to stay the same, but everything changed after a while.
“I like Notre Dame, don’t get me wrong, I love it. But I’m a good track runner as well and Notre Dame is a football powerhouse, not really a track one.”
Darby’s track schedule, which saw him competing internationally, is part of the reason his recruitment opened up in the last few weeks, with the Maryland native wanting to take recruiting visits he couldn’t schedule earlier because of competitions.
If there’s a bright side in all of this, this Irish coaching staff has had success bringing commitments back into the fold, namely with Tuitt and Aaron Lynch in the last recruiting cycle after heated battles. Darby reopening his recruitment could also open the door for blue-chip cornerback Yuri Wright, Shumate’s Don Bosco Prep teammate who some recruiting services view as a better player than Darby, and a recruit that’s got Notre Dame at the top of his list.
You can’t help but wonder if the change Darby is referring to is the switch of Chuck Martin from the secondary to offensive coordinator. Both Tony Alford and Kerry Cooks were down at the Under Armor All-American game where Darby played last week, and he’ll likely hear from another fleet of Irish coaches before he makes a decision on Signing Day. In the meantime, expect to see Joe Piane, the head of Irish track and field, and new sprint coach Alan Turner checking in with Darby as well.
Darby has long been a key member of the Irish recruiting class, and there’s no reason to believe this staff will let Darby walk away without a fight.