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Local linemen could be recipe for recruiting success

Feb 17, 2012, 8:28 PM EDT

Tate Nichols

Losing a recruit like Taylor Decker would usually be cause for alarm. Over the last decade, the Irish have struggled to keep proper inventory along the offensive line, and the loss of a six-foot-eight, 300-pound left tackle prospect, three-star recruit or not, would’ve set off more than a few Irish fans. After all, it was misses like Decker that brought seasons like 2007, when a green offensive line turned a high-powered Irish offense into an inept unit that had linemen that looked more fit for roller derby that football.

A slow rise from the abyss followed that rock bottom season, and by the start of the Brian Kelly era, the Irish were playing solid football along the offensive line. Just as important, they were developing a proper depth chart, with veterans like Andrew Nuss and Mike Golic supplying depth instead of not-quite-ready freshman. As the Irish step into 2012 needing to replace seniors Trevor Robinson and Taylor Dever, they’ll look to guys like Tate Nichols and Christian Lombard, players with experience in the program and years in a college weight room.

That’s not to say that the Irish can rest on their laurels. After only landing two linemen in the class of 2012, Notre Dame will look to land a sizable group in their next recruiting haul. While the Irish reached to Las Vegas and Charlotte to reel in Ronnie Stanley and Mark Harrell, Notre Dame will have the opportunity to stay close to home when filling this year’s class with talented offensive linemen.

A quick scan through Notre Dame’s offers and a look at the national rankings for offensive linemen show a talent rich pool in the Midwest. Headlining that group is Michigan’s Steve Elmer, the Irish’s first commitment to the class of 2013. Possibly enrolling for spring semester, Elmer is one of the finest tackles in the country and has the athleticism to run the 100m dash for his high school. Two other relatively local targets that the Irish are already hot after are Chicagoland prospects Kyle Bosch and Ethan Pocic. Both players are already collecting elite offers and the Irish have already been in to visit both and have plans to get both either on or back to campus soon. With Illinois going through a coaching transition with Tim Beckman replacing Ron Zook, Notre Dame should be out in front of the state school in an area where Irish ties are already deep.

Add in players that are already sporting Irish offers like Peoria’s Logan Tuley-Tillman and Indianapolis’ Timothy Gardner, along with regional recruits like Northern Kentucky’s Hunter Bivin and Western Pennsylvania’s Patrick Kugler, and you’re beginning to see a strong base of players that the Irish are chasing, with distances from campus all a reasonable car ride, not usually the case for a school that’s reached wide for its roster.

Whether Notre Dame is chasing players closer to home because that’s how talent evaluation or because they missed on national players like Zack Banner and Arik Armstead is a valid question. While it’s certainly early in the evaluation process for recruiting services, just about every player listed has already been identified as one of the top 250 players in the country by one website or another, meaning the geographical odds might have simply shaken out in Notre Dame’s favor.

If that’s the case, it’s great news for new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, who had plenty of success with both the Chicago Bears and the Fighting Illini. With offensive coordinator Chuck Martin still covering Chicago for the Irish, and Tony Alford now coordinating the Irish recruiting effort, there’s plenty of advantages to chasing players close to campus. Namely, the Irish can get multiple visits to campus from a prospect, not just take their one shot with a guy like Banner. That geography helped with a highly touted recruit like Gunner Kiel, who made multiple spontaneous visits to South Bend without the need of booking flights and coordinating family travel.

The Irish will likely look to sign four offensive linemen in a class that could approach 20 players. After going coast to coast to find them the past few years, Notre Dame will merely need to protect its own backyard to put this class together. Success isn’t guaranteed, but a home field advantage can’t hurt.

  1. andy44teg - Feb 17, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    Ok..so if this offensive line plays up to its full potential and Golson is everything we hope he is…I think we might be looking at a potential Heisman candidate…seriously…it’s possible! With the runningbacks that are returning and if someone steps up at WR…Golson could very well be a serious Heisman candidate…Who else is out there? Landry Jones? He loses his best WR and couldn’t throw w/out him last year. Pry that QB out @ USCum and DeAnthony Thomas @ NikeU and that’s about it. I’m smelling a pretty big year from “THE ERA OF GOLSON” TM

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 17, 2012 at 11:58 PM

      while i don’t mind your optimism, name all of the freshman and sophomores to win the heisman since its inception.

      Did you run out of answers after Tim Tebow in 2007? Me too.

      If you just want to speak about him being a candidate, fine. But do you really think that a kid with ZERO playing experience is going to play an entire season of football in South Bend without making a few mistakes?

      So, first he’d have to be discussed, by people other than you and I in a blog post, as a heisman candidate. Then he has to play nearly mistake free football in a football program that has a microscope on its every move.

      Love the optimism, don’t love the lack of logic.

      • andy44teg - Feb 18, 2012 at 12:46 AM

        hey..if it’s going to happen anywhere…South Bend would be the place…I do remember a certain scam newton won it after playing JUCO ball for 2 years..Ingram was a sophomore and so was sam bradford..so there ya go..put that in yer pipe and smoke it!

      • jomilly - Feb 18, 2012 at 12:04 PM

        ingram

      • irishnole - Feb 18, 2012 at 12:29 PM

        Bradford and Ingram. Haven’t been many but there have been a few recently. Like you pointed out EG has no experience while all three of them played some as a freshmen. But hey can’t deny it wouldn’t be a nice surprise.

      • ct111 - Feb 18, 2012 at 2:25 PM

        Nice!! Way to be a dream killer

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 19, 2012 at 12:36 AM

        andy44teg,

        I won’t “put it in my pipe and smoke it” cause i get all my smoke from the TCU players. :)

        Didn’t mean to be a dream crusher. Heck, if he gets into the conversation, i’ll be so excited that i’d sh!t YOUR pants.

    • papadec - Feb 18, 2012 at 12:01 AM

      andy – Barkley @ usc will probably be the pre-season favorite for the Heismann. Wouldn’t it be nice to have ND vs usc as two undefeated teams going into that game – ND winning & going to the BCS Championship? Ahhhhhhhhh – big sigh, dreaming…………..

    • 808raiderinparadise - Feb 18, 2012 at 5:33 AM

      I said the day Golson signed with ND that he would be the next QB to make ND relevant in Kellys offense. Watch and learn.

    • runners00 - Feb 20, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      Consistency. It would be great to have an amazing quarterback like Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. But what we really need out of that position is consistency. You know, we need to move the football down the field — hold onto it in the red zone — and score some points.

      Golson doesn’t need a Heisman for us to win. And we don’t need to set expectations so high that he can’t reach them. We need a quarterback to move the football. Rees couldn’t consistently accomplish this at this level. Golson, Hendrix or Kiel should be able to.

  2. jerseyshorendfan1 - Feb 18, 2012 at 12:56 AM

    Glad we are focusing on guys closer to home. I know a guy whose son is being recruited by WVU and just had a visit. The dad said campus was amazing but a six hour drive each way was a little more than he wanted to do in order to go and see his son play. Distance does matter to a lot of recruits and their families. As Keith points out, distance was a benefit in the Kiel decision, but I’m sure it more often causes us to lose players. Now if Urban will just stop his poaching, we may have a chance with some local studs.

  3. bernhtp - Feb 18, 2012 at 7:56 AM

    Focusing on regional recruits makes sense for now given that we’ve been whiffing on most of the national ones this last cycle. Once we get the on-field performance up to a BCS level, we can widen the net and put more attention on the national five stars.

  4. nudeman - Feb 18, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    Couple things:
    1. I think ol’ Andy might be pulling our legs, OR he had a cocktail or two. Either way, I like the optimism.

    2. A while back someone made a point that ND should focus on regional recruits only. Many, myself included jumped on his ass and pointed out all the starters who come from other regions – Tuitt, Lynch, Wood, Manti, etc etc. But this offseason has proven how incredibly difficult it is to get talent from CA, AZ, FL, TX etc to ND. ND can never turn its back on the outlying areas because it truly is a national brand. But there is no doubt that, a kid from Chicago, Indiana, or thereabouts is more likely to sign with ND than the same profile kid from Austin, LA, or Pompano Beach. I do think it makes sense for ND to adopt an attitude that they “own” the Midwest, especially Catholic high schools.
    I went to a Catholic HS in CHicago area that sent a few kids to ND, including Scott Zettek. ND definitely is a highly preferred choice among Catholic HS kids in Chicago amd ND should NEVER lose a kid like that to tOSU or Illinois, or Wisconsin, etc.

    • andy44teg - Feb 18, 2012 at 10:36 AM

      Nude:
      1. I don’t know if i was pullling anyone’s leg so much as it was cock-eyed optimism mixed w/ 3 crown royal tottie’s. Alcohol doesn’t make you a different person..it just makes you more of the person you really are…lol
      2. I agree w/ your #2 100% I couldn’t figue out why we passed on a guy like tommy schutt (sp?) who would have given his left nut to be a golden domer. We need to treat the midwest like say Miami treated their region back in the ’80′s or USC treats SoCal. I know the talent isn’t as rich as those places, and that’s why Notre Dame is also a national recruiting power (or used to be) Lock up the best kids in the region and then hen-peck the ones you need from all over.

      • nudeman - Feb 18, 2012 at 1:26 PM

        The explanation re: Tommy Schutt is simple: They liked Schutt a lot but had already locked up Sheldon Day who plays a similar position, similar body type and was considered by far the stronger of the 2.

        I’ve seen it written that this kid (Day) is an animal (in a good way) and that in any other year when we weren’t obsessed with losing Greenberry, getting Kiel, Davonte Neal saga, etc … any other year he’d have been considered the #1 “get”.

        Can’t wait to see him play. Their D Line sounds great for the next couple years with Day, Lynch, Tuitt. That makes me wonder why we were so obsessed with Armstead.

      • andy44teg - Feb 18, 2012 at 3:10 PM

        Yeah..I hear what your sayin, Nudebuddy…it’s just hard to see a kid who was from the area, qualified virtually in every aspect, and even WANTED to go to Notre Dame get passed over…find a spot for him SOMEWHERE!

  5. goirish08 - Feb 18, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    The “optimism” on the Irish is crazy. Every year it’s the same ole thing all of these high expectations. I am going to just sit back and hope for the best. The schedule is crazy tough this year. Golson…..red shirt freshman winning the heisman…..doubt it! Hell, BK is so in love with Rees, Golson might not play……what’s his record now as a starter!?!?

    I would love to see ND rule the midwest, but then theirs this guy named Urban. He doesn’t care who is in the way. If someone is the leader, committed to a team, and Urban wants him, he will go after him with success. With a couple of months to recruit, Urban signed 2 five stars players, 6 four star players, and 2 three star players. (I guess the NCAA doesn’t give sanctions to cheaters) I hate to say it, but with Urban in ND’s back yard, ND will not rule the midwest.

    After two full seasons, the jury is still out on BK. Other than the first full years recruiting class, on the field ND and this years recruiting haul…..disappointing. Sorry, not drinking the Kool Aid this year!!!I

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 19, 2012 at 12:43 AM

      Tommy is 8-0 as a starter :) ….at least that what was drilled into my brain by countless BK interviews. I know that Mel Kiper is predicting Tommy as a high first round pick after he graduates specifically because he’s 8-0 as a starter. Plus, he deserves to be the starting quarterback next year because he’s 8-0 as a starter.

      Also, i hit my first two jumpers yesterday at the gym. Missed my next 7, but i’m still shooting 100% from the field..FEED ME THE ROCK!!!

      • mayo1010 - Feb 20, 2012 at 2:39 PM

        When was he ever 8-0 as a starter? Won the last 4 of 2010 and lost gm 2 in 2011. So right there he is 4-1. I never heard 8-0 in BK’s countless interviews.

      • nudeman - Feb 20, 2012 at 3:30 PM

        mayo
        I’m guessing idratherbeinsouthbend was being facetious.

        He’s mimicking those irritating posters here who thought Rees was singlehandedly winning games by also playing great D, place kicking, rushing for 200 yards and giving halftime pep talks.

        Note: A QB is not like a starting pitcher.

  6. borromini - Feb 18, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    Just saw a post on BGI that Kyle Bosch just committed to Michigan…

    • goirish08 - Feb 18, 2012 at 3:32 PM

      Hell, ND has one recruit VERBALLY committed. Michigan has 7 and OSU has four, one 5* and three 4*. Don’t think the Irish coaching staff is going to rule the MW anytime soon. SUCKS, BK better get off his conceded b*tt and start getting the ship righted!

  7. dmac4real - Feb 18, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    Maybe I am overreacting….but were are REALLY struggling right now in recruiting. We closed horribly for 2012, and off to an average start in 2013, especially compared to everyone else…

    • nudeman - Feb 18, 2012 at 6:31 PM

      You ARE overreacting. Didn’t we just learn the hard way that early commits mean close to nothing?

      Decker, Darby, Greenberry, Perkins

      I wouldn’t say it’s meaningless, but it’s sort of like being 2 under par after the front 9 on Thursday at Augusta. Nice start. Nothing more.

      • andy44teg - Feb 18, 2012 at 9:47 PM

        Again, Nude..100% agree here…One of the biggest reasons for these kids to commit this early is to get their names out there so other schools start looking at them. The kids who commit this early honor their verbal AT BEST 50/50 i’d say. Look at Gunner Kiel…he committed to Indiana way early in the process, but c’mon..who are we kidding…a kid with that kind of talent had ZERO intentions of ending up at the doormat of the Big Ten. I don’t care how badly his family thought his brother was treated there.

  8. fw190wuerger - Feb 18, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Just a minor correction to this interesting column. It’s Logan Tuley-Tillman rather than Logan Tulley-Pullman. He plays for Manual High School in Peoria, here is some video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3qnJdSVmSc

    Hope he takes a serious look at ND.

  9. fnc111 - Feb 18, 2012 at 8:34 PM

    After going 7-5 next season I highly doubt ND will get 20 recruits for the 2013 class. The embarrassing end to this past season cost ND a bunch of players. I see ND signing around the same number as this year if they are lucky. Will most likely be recruits that are desperate for good offers. Kelly is asleep at the wheel while scUM, USC and Ohio State are pile driving ND in recruiting the last few months.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 19, 2012 at 12:49 AM

      I don’t know if the rough patch at the end cost ND a “bunch” of players, maybe one or two, but EVERY coach’s interview about signing day speaks to one specific point, RELATIONSHIPS with the athlete, the family, the high school, and the high school coach.

      To that point, I’d say the early commits are kinda a big deal. It shows that you have a relationship. Somebody above conjectured (using “conjectured” in a sentence is a triple word score) that early commits sign at a rate of 50/50, but you have 0% chance to land a kid until you have a relationship.

  10. ct111 - Feb 18, 2012 at 11:12 PM

    It doesn’t matter if ND signed top 25 recruiting class or #1 recruiting class, ND will always find a way to lose.

  11. fnc111 - Feb 19, 2012 at 12:47 AM

    Should’ve hired Bob Stoops two years ago. Give the man his waivers and start winning. Quit trying to be Yale in the classroom and Bama on the field. This team couldn’t beat awful Michigan and usf teams but some of you expect some miracle turnaround with less talent than what Kelly was handed. What a failure Kelly is….

  12. idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 19, 2012 at 12:56 AM

    Simply winning at Notre Dame means you’re not a failure. You might not be meeting expectations, but you can’t really call the guy a failure.

    Take about a hundred 18-21 year old kids. Make them go to class, stay out of trouble, and post a winning record. That’s not failure.

    Failure is winning 11 games with students on a payroll. Failure is graduating 48% of your football players. Failure is calling an 11-2 Michigan team awful.

    • nudeman - Feb 19, 2012 at 10:03 AM

      Well said.

      Is ND any institution “failing” if they lose 4-5 games/year but graduate 100% of their team, on time with a degree from a fabulous university? I’d like to fail like that.

      I’d also like to ask a couple guys from some of ND’s worst teams in the past 30 years; the Faust and Davie teams who stunk; ask them if they wish they’d gone somewhere else, maybe even won a NC, but came away from 4 years in school without a degree.

      I suspect the answer would be a unanimous “No”.

      “Failure” is schools who recruit kids to win football games and make them money; and let them major in Gym and let them skip classes. After 4 years, it’s “thanks, but please get out of the way; we got a hot recruit coming in to take your place; and btw, you’re no longer on scholarship, so if you want to pursue your Gym degree, it’s on your nickel”.

      Who’s failing here?

    • 1historian - Feb 21, 2012 at 11:10 AM

      I’m sure you all know who Greg Oden is and I’m sure you all know how unfortunate he has been since he was the overall #1 draft pick in the 2008 NBA draft. He recently signed a contract for $1 million – chicken feed in NBA circles – for one season after his rookie contract expired.

      Today I saw a post that he is scheduled for more surgery. His NBA career is over before it ever got started.

      In his final semester in his freshman year @ Ohio State – according to Sports Illustrated – he took two courses. They were a)Sociology and b)The History of Rock & Roll.

  13. tony34343434 - Feb 19, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    great comment idrather and nude, we play on a different playing field and i am happy about that, we are not Michigan, USC or Ohio State. i am proud of my university for its high standards and great education, i wish these other schools would look at their mission statement and we CAN win, Stanford has which is at our level with academics and Boise has won with lesser recruits so IT CAN BE DONE, just have to work harder. if ESPN would stop glorifying these schools like Ohio state and miami when they CHEAT and call them out maybe things will change, i am so tried of ESPN saying how bad athletes are and how they are all for themselves, then they show a half hour of T.O. throwing pop corn in his face, ESPN is a problem and they are Catholic bashers.

    • nudeman - Feb 20, 2012 at 10:51 AM

      tony
      I don’t know about ESPN being “Catholic bashers”. Never heard that before, never observed it either. Any examples, beyond the usual complement of ND haters that exist in the general population?

      Having said that, ESPN falls in love with certain athletes and uses them to their marketing advantage. I guess it’s business, but some of the personalities they enable are sickening.

      There are dozens. T.O. is a great example. LeBron is another one. Two guys who’ve never won a thing, likely will NEVER win a thing, and are the embodiment of today’s sick pro athlete culture: Entourages, money, me me me, and all the substance of a whiffle ball. And most are broke within 5 years of being out of the game. 75% from what I’ve read.

      Not heros at all. Tragedies.

  14. sullyp18 - Feb 20, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    this is the latest on Davonte, I still dont think we will be the overall choice but it seems as if we are still in the race according to some sources. http://azstarnet.com/sports/blogs/finley/ua-football-arizona-s-odds-improving-as-neal-s-college/article_1413e09a-5b8d-11e1-abee-001871e3ce6c.html

    • nudeman - Feb 20, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      I keep looking for something that makes me think it’s ND
      I’ve seen nothing

      Therefore I still say it’s UA, and have read/heard nothing to make me feel otherwise.

      Damn

    • bernhtp - Feb 20, 2012 at 12:54 PM

      The only news here is that the coaches already know, but are sworn to secrecy. The ostensible epiphany during his cousin’s funeral does not bode terribly well, since that would point to a larger focus on the family, who live in AZ.

      Anyway, all people that matter already know and the rest of us will find out tomorrow.

  15. sullyp18 - Feb 20, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    I agree completely, but here is to hoping we have a shot here. If we did get him is there any word on what side of the ball he would be playing on. Everything that I read is pretty vague.

    • nudeman - Feb 20, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      2 things

      1. There is SO MUCH working against ND it’s hard to fathom Neal will go there. To an 18 year old AZ kid, Indiana might as well be the Moon. No friends there; not a single player on the roster from AZ. Bad weather. The exact opposite is true with respect to UA.

      2. If he goes to UA, no Greenberry meltdown here. Would love to have him in blue and gold. But the program can survive his loss.

      BONUS: No F Bombs, but I don’t understand the overly orchestrated decision process. Every family has their own inner workings, and Davonte is supposed to be a good, normal kid. Still, even if he picks ND, I don’t get this.

      • nudeman - Feb 20, 2012 at 1:21 PM

        BTW, too bad for him if he picks UA. Football aside, does anyone really think a degree from UA – which is a good school – has the same gravitas as one from ND?

        Also, going to school in a completely different region of the country is an enriching life experience, ESPECIALLY when that school is ND with a much more national/international student body.

        By comparison, if you go to UA you’re with a bunch of kids from Tucson, PHX area, Wickenberg, Yuma, etc etc. Maybe one or 2 from LA.

        Damn

      • bernhtp - Feb 20, 2012 at 2:03 PM

        The value of the UA education needs to be further devalued by half since the UA GSR is less than half of ND’s. Beyond the elite value of the ND education, experience and degree is ND’s commitment to each individual and their success. This comes through in the consistently national best graduation rate, honoring scholarships (no oversigning and cutting), and so many other qualities that come with its Catholic identity and mission.

        Some kids/families understand and value this; some don’t. Those that don’t probably wouldn’t do well anyway. Here’s hoping that Neal is among those that appreciate that difference.

  16. sullyp18 - Feb 20, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    Unfortunately education is not a huge part their decision process. Remember they will all be playing the in NFL so who needs an education. If education were a huge deciding factor Yale and Harvard would be dominating college football. Something tells me that making and winning a championship has a much greater impact that improving your GSR from 98%-100%.

    • nudeman - Feb 20, 2012 at 3:12 PM

      sully
      Neal is only 170 lbs. He’ll put on some bulk, but there’s no guarantee he’s going to the NFL. So right out of the gate he’s a longshot and BETTER be concerned about a degree.

      Second, I know you know this, but coming out of HS, EVERYONE is a longshot, statistically. Even a big kid like Steve Elmer (2013 commit) is a longshot and he’s huge and rated very highly. Guys get hurt, go to the wrong program, get overlooked or just plain don’t pan out as NFL talent.

      Last thing is Neal’s Dad is on record as being very keen on education.
      Sounds like he’s the driving force behind ND’s chances.

  17. sullyp18 - Feb 20, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    I was being sarcastic on my last post. Obviously the odds of actually making it to the next level or slim, but to a two time all Arizona and 4-5 star 17 year old they are convinced that the NFL is just the next step. Like I said, if education was number one ND would have no issues pulling these kids in. You also have to realize that to most of these kids and families a free college education to wherever is a huge accomplishment. Many times they are the first person to go to college in their family.

    • nudeman - Feb 20, 2012 at 3:36 PM

      Yes, figured you were joking, but wasn’t completely sure
      Good points, particularly about them often being the first to go to college.

      Also, there’s nothing embarrassing about a degree from UA. Good school, so that might satisfy Mr. Neal’s desires just fine.

  18. therightfitness - Feb 20, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    Once again, an article that fails to address the huge get of Jordan Prestwood (6’6″, 280) back from FSU – eligible to play in 2012. Also, it is Taylor Decker who lost out on the opportunity for a solid ND student-athlete experience, and not the other way around, as the article suggests … ND will be just fine. Go Irish!

  19. takingbovadasmoney - Feb 20, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    You can take Logan Tulley-Tillman off of the list. He was one of the eight 4* juniors that committed to Michigan over the weekend.

  20. sullyp18 - Feb 20, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    I think the entire point of the article is to point out something that was mentioned in a past article in terms of where ND recruits. In the past article someone said we needed to stay closer to home when recruiting not taking into the fact that ND is such a national brand that they can recruit anywhere. The point of this article is just pointing out that there are a lot of talented O-Line recruits in the area and ND is going after them.

  21. nudeman - Feb 21, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    An 11th hour prediction of Neal to ND by the Tucson newspaper
    Hardly definitive, but perhaps a ray of hope

    Last call: Which school is looking good to land Davonte’ Neal?
    by Anthony Gimino on Feb. 20, 2012, under Arizona football, Arizona football recruiting

    Davonte’ Neal is going to make some school this happy. Photo by Pat Shanahan, The Arizona Republic

    It’s been fun.

    The extended recruitment of Scottsdale Chaparral star receiver/defensive back Davonte’ Neal has kept four fan bases buzzing for almost three weeks after Signing Day.

    If I may speak for everyone else, I think we’re ready for it to be over.

    Will it be Notre Dame, Arizona, Arkansas or North Carolina?

    Neal reportedly made his decision last week but will announce it to everyone Tuesday morning at about 9:30 a.m. from his old elementary school. FoxSportsArizona.com will have live internet coverage beginning at 9 a.m.

    Crazy, huh?

    Neal has had most of the post-Signing Day spotlight to himself. He’s the nation’s top unsigned prospect. He is rated as the eighth-best prospect in the nation by ESPNU.

    Dick Obert of the Arizona Republic — our Gannett partner — has been all over the Neal saga, offering frequent comments from Neal’s father, Luke Neal, who has been the point man for all information about his son’s recruitment.

    Obert’s predictions have been all over the map, too.

    Hey, it’s been a fluid situation.

    As of last week, there were signs — and by signs, we’re talking about hints from Luke — that family reasons could keep Davonte’ close to home. Obert wrote that “UA has the best shot.” A couple of days earlier, he had opined that Notre Dame and Arkansas were the leaders.

    Today, he’s not so bullish on the Wildcats’ chances.

    Hmmmm….

    One way or another, the wait is almost over.

    Here is Obert’s blog post from Monday:

    Scottsdale Chaparral senior receiver/defensive back Davonte’ Neal will finally disclose which college he will sign with tomorrow morning at Kyrene de la Esperanza Elementary School, where a pep band will play during a pre-signing assembly.

    Neal will choose among Arizona, Arkansas, North Carolina and Notre Dame.

    Let’s break it down:

    ARIZONA: Two Chaparral players — linebacker Cody Ippolito and defensive end Dylan Cozens — signed there. His Chaparral coach, Charlie Ragle, is now part of Rich Rodriguez’s staff. And family is important to Neal, who is close to both his mom and dad. A week ago, I was convinced it was UA, because of the family clues I was receiving from his father Luke. But UA’s recruiting class isn’t stacked with four- and five-star players. The Wildcats are thin at quarterback. And even though Rodriguez’s spread offense would look like a perfect fit for Neal and his speed and moves, he wants to be surrounded by great talent. He wants to play in major bowls.

    Conclusion: Cross out UA.

    ARKANSAS: This is like Notre Dame Light. The talent pool is deep. The Razorbacks are probably closer to a major bowl than Notre Dame. But there isn’t the academic pressures and as much national exposure that there is at Notre Dame, which graduates almost all of its players. It would not be surprising if Neal picks Arkansas, based on its offense and a chance for him to be a key figure, much the way the way another No.3, Joe Adams, was in Fayetteville.

    Conclusion: A good shot.

    NORTH CAROLINA — Neal’s grandmother lives there, so there is already built-in support system. New coach Larry Fedora would take full advantage of Neal’s talents. He would likely start the first game next season at slot receiver. But North Carolina faces NCAA sanctions. The Tar Heels pulled in North Carolina’s best quarterback, James Summers, late. A Neal sign would give Fedora five receivers in his first recruiting class.

    Conclusion: Long shot at best.

    NOTRE DAME: This was the only school in which Luke Neal accompanied his son. The tradition is second to none. The electric current felt walking into the stadium is something Neal probably wouldn’t experience anywhere else. The Irish signed five-star quarterback Gunner Kiel, who is already enrolled. Neal could start the season returning kicks and probably figure in at receiver if not at cornerback. Neal is open to playing any position. He would be surrounded by top talent. Brian Kelly’s offense is tailor-made for Neal. It’s important to Luke that his son graduates, and Notre Dame’s 97-percent graduation success rate is the best there is.

    Conclusion: Front-runner.

    Luke has been good at throwing people off day to day with clues, but I think at the end of the day, after this recruiting circus ends,

  22. idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 23, 2012 at 1:40 AM

    WTF Nude, I’ve read novels shorter than this! OK, i can’t really read, but i looked at the pictures on all of the pages…maybe just a link to the site next time? My hand got sore just scrolling down the page to leave this comment.

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