Feb 6, 2013, 10:27 PM EDT
It took until well after dark, but Notre Dame finally landed the last crucial piece they were chasing in this recruiting class. California defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes picked the Irish over Alabama, UCLA and USC Wednesday evening, capping off a historic Irish class at 24.
The U.S. Army All-American announced his choice from a hometown press conference, while thousands watched along — or at least tried to — from their computer. Vanderdoes’ selecting the Irish brings a fourth five-star prospect to South Bend in the ’13 class, with an elite recruit landing at each level of the defense. (Throw in running back Greg Bryant for good mix as well.)
The commitment wraps up a whirlwind recruitment for Brian Kelly and his West Coast ace Mike Denbrock, who fought their way back into the game after Vanderdoes stepped away from his commitment to USC in early December. From there, Notre Dame’s full court press paid off, with the appeal of the Irish defense, the fit in the program, and the program’s ascent all playing a factor.
On the field, Vanderdoes brings elite athleticism and size to the defensive front. With a recruitment helped along by Irish star Louis Nix, Vanderdoes brings 300-pound ready-made size to campus, plus the ability to move sideline-to-sideline. (He played some middle linebacker for his high school this season.)
In the final tally, Notre Dame brought in 24 recruits, a class Brian Kelly called his best ever. For those wondering what the Irish’s resurgent season did for recruiting, consider that Notre Dame signed six players that were once committed to other prestige programs:
Eddie Vanderdoes – USC
Max Redfield – USC
Greg Bryant – Oklahoma
Will Fuller – Penn State
Durham Smythe – Texas
Doug Randolph – Stanford
In years past, it was the Irish losing blue-chip players to the power programs above. But after a 12-1 campaign and a leap back into college football’s elite, the spoils went to the Irish.