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Onwualu commitment continues Cretin-Derham Hall pipeline

Mar 14, 2012, 10:16 PM EDT

James Onwualu

Cretin-Derham Hall has been kind to the Notre Dame football program. And with Michael Floyd turning in his blue and gold for the NFL, Brian Kelly and company turned to the St. Paul school for its next potential offensive weapon. Dual-threat offensive star James Onwualu just gave his commitment to the Irish football program, turning down the chance to visit both Michigan and Ohio State to follow a long line of Cretin-Derham Hall talent to South Bend.

“Players from Cretin-Derham Hall have had a rich tradition of success at Notre Dame,” Onwualu told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I am really excited about playing there in the future.”

That rich tradition started with running back Rashon Powers-Neal and has continued with Floyd. In the middle players like Marcus Freeman, Matt Carufel, and former four-year starter Ryan Harris have gone from the Catholic school powerhouse to Notre Dame, a remarkable pipeline for a smaller school that’s produced more than its fair share of elite athletes, most notably Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who was USA Today’s player of the year in both football and baseball before being chosen No. 1 in the Major League baseball draft.

That Onwualu would choose to follow Floyd, one of his idols and a family friend, to Notre Dame isn’t surprising. That he’d be willing to close-up shop on a recruiting season that’s seen his profile rise quickly might be. But after a school service trip to Costa Rica that allowed Onwualu to unplug from the hoopla of recruiting and football, the choice to come to Notre Dame became abundantly clear.

“I had a bunch of great friends on that trip and just got the chance to hang out – no phone, no media, no football – and just figure out what I truly wanted for myself,” Onwualu told “That was the time when it kind of clicked. I came back, had a conversation with my brother and my mom and we just figured out that it was something that felt right and would set me up for what I wanted to be doing in the future.”

The future isn’t quite as clear cut for Onwualu as it was for Floyd, who came to Notre Dame a clear-cut wide receiver. While his size and physicality — Onwualu is listed as six-foot-two and 205-pounds — have him looking the part of an outside threat, he’s done the most damage in the backfield, working as a hybrid player in a pro-style Cretin offense that’s incorporated more and more spread principles over the past few seasons.

That versatility, and the changes to the Cretin offense run by coach Mike Scanlan, might have helped make the fit even better for the Irish, with Tony Alford working with both inside wide receivers and running backs, positions where Onwualu will most likely contribute. The advanced offensive system that allowed Floyd to walk in and contribute immediately will likely make the transition to college easier for Onwualu, not to mention his relationship with Floyd, who has offered tips and an occasional workout buddy already.

Onwualu had offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford, and had a final four that also included Minnesota.He joins offensive lineman Steve Elmer and defensive end Jacob Matuska as commitments to the class of 2013.




  1. nudeman - Mar 14, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    OK, come on down James

  2. papadec - Mar 15, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    This is another solid player committing to the ND program, another RKG. YESSSSSSSS!

    • tibeachguy - Mar 15, 2012 at 5:43 AM

      I know I am going to kick myself in the ass for asking this but…..what does RKG stand for?

      • notthatconfused - Mar 15, 2012 at 7:23 AM

        Right Kind of Guy.

      • 1historian - Mar 15, 2012 at 9:39 AM

        When Coach Kelly came on board he pretty much coined the phrase to describe the kind of players/people he was looking for, and over time the phrase was shortened to just ‘RKG’.

      • tibeachguy - Mar 16, 2012 at 6:34 AM

        Thx guys…..learned a new one today….

  3. jerseyshorendfan1 - Mar 15, 2012 at 1:12 AM

    Looks like he has some great field vision, can shed some tackles and when he sees daylight, he’s gone. Good pickup. Keith this is your alma mater , right? I wonder if you can comment on the strength of CDH’s division, schedule, etc. Is he running over some solid defenses in his highlight reel or some grade A patsies? If they are solid teams that they play, then he looks like a real good get.

    • Keith Arnold - Mar 15, 2012 at 6:57 PM

      Art — Yes, I’m a CDH alum. Know quite a bit about Onwualu, and it’s a good pickup. Better kid than he is a football player, and he’s a good football player. He’ll need to work on his long speed, but he’s a physical guy and skill position wise, there isn’t a better school in MN for developing offensive talent.

  4. pwt3 - Mar 15, 2012 at 2:09 AM

    The competition isn’t really material, considering it’s a school that’s sent all those players to ND who’ve had such great success. Obviously they play big-time football.

    Also, Matt Carufel should not be listed in connection with ND, ever. He quit on the team at a low point (Fall of ’07), which would have been bad enough, but he would go on to badmouth ND and its coaching staff to Michael Floyd during Floyd’s recruitment.

  5. rambler09 - Mar 15, 2012 at 2:53 AM

    I’m very excited about this kid. Honestly, if Ohio State (more so Urban Meyer), Michigan, and Stanford all want him I don’t care if he’s a 3 star- though I expect his stock to rise. This is a great get. We might be moving more slowly than Michigan, but I’m very happy with all 3 of our commitments at this point.

    Oh, and pay attention to what happens at the 0:39 mark on that highlight reel, haha. I hope he was ok.

    • nudeman - Mar 15, 2012 at 10:49 AM

      Excuse me if I’m not awestruck by UM already getting 97 commits for 2013. Are there good players in there? Undoubtedly.
      But it’s not like there aren’t one or two good guys left out there.

      More importantly, with the guy who took his talents to Houston and Darby, didn’t we just learn the value of early verbals?
      Here’s what will happen to these early UM commits:
      – Most will end up keeping their commitment. Of those, some will end up not panning out as 4 and 5 star guys
      – Some will have underwhelming senior years due to injury or being overrated or other reasons
      – Some will see friends in the coming months get wooed by big schools, miss the attention, re-open their recruitment and end up elsewhere.

      Still LOTS of time for ND to have a great recruiting year. But they absolutely MUST have a solid season on the field to make that happen

  6. kansasirish - Mar 15, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    Anybody see the news that Tee Shepard has left the Irish? WTF!!!!

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Mar 15, 2012 at 1:37 PM

      I saw that Tee Shepard has gone back to Fresno. It was a footnote in the article i was reading about Amir Carlisle being eligible for the 2012 season. So, that’s kinda a big deal!

    • heartofgoldandblue - Mar 15, 2012 at 1:41 PM

      Confirmed. Somehow the recruiting class just got worse. Wonder how this effects where Davonte starts out. Does he go straight to corner?

      • kansasirish - Mar 15, 2012 at 1:44 PM

        Davonte has got to play some corner now. Hopefully he can be a triple threat(O,D & ST).

      • nudeman - Mar 15, 2012 at 5:25 PM

        I don’t think one can play “some” corner.

        Sufficiently difficult position that you’re either 100% committed or you don’t play it. He’ll play CB as his main position, and get an occasional bone thrown his way in the slot or WR, and of course special teams too.

    • bernhtp - Mar 15, 2012 at 1:49 PM

      Ouch!! I saw that. Haven’t had much luck with that family.

      • kansasirish - Mar 15, 2012 at 2:11 PM

        So where does everyone think he’ll go? USC? Houston?

      • nudeman - Mar 15, 2012 at 5:21 PM

        Don’t care if he goes to Harvard or Fresno State or Houston.
        He’s gone.

        I’m guessing the BK and staff just posted an 11th Commandment:
        When recruiting, Thou shalt not go to Fresno. Or Thou is gone.

  7. papadec - Mar 19, 2012 at 1:23 AM

    I have nothing to base this on but my own gut feeling – Kelly and the Irish took a flyer on some academically questionable, very talented players ( Perkins, Shepard, Greenberry) and came up smelling more like fertilizer than roses. It may be considerably more difficult to get the Admissions people to cut some slack on future recruits. OR, maybe the Admissions staff has a new policy that gives Coach Kelly way more latitude than previous coaches had. I guess time will tell. Personally, I’m still very upset by the foul call against the Irish men at the end of the Xavier game on Friday night. I borrowed from nudeman’s former vocabulary & my own personal favorites from my Marine Corps days, as I was jumping up & down and screaming at a very disinterested TV screen. Yes, the TV survived, as did the team & hopefully any other advanced age fans watching. Which of course brings us back to football – ND, the ND teams & fans will survive ALL obstacles to success. Always have – always will. That is what sets us apart.

    • nudeman - Mar 19, 2012 at 10:42 AM

      I saw that play and for the official to make that call at THAT point in a game … he should be on the sidelines for the rest of the tournament. Embarrassing.

      As far as the munitions go, I did an inventory of the stockpile last night and noticed a few were missing. No problem; things like that call are what they’re there for

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