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.
Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.
The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.
He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:
It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.
Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.
Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.
Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.
With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.
When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.
While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.
“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.
Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.
Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”
This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.