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Irish recruiting: Taking a look at the high school All-Star games

Jan 1, 2014, 2:51 PM EDT

Orlando Sentinel Orlando Sentinel

Happy New Year, everybody.

While college football’s grandest day is upon us, two prep showcases are just around the corner. As you’d expect, Notre Dame commitments and recruiting targets will be on display. The rosters of the Under Armour All-America Game and the US Army All-American Bowl are filled with names that should be familiar to Irish fans.

Brian Kelly and his coaching staff are well on their way to putting together another elite recruiting class. It may lack the five-star prospects that last year’s cycle had in Jaylon Smith, Greg Bryant and Max Redfield, but the depth of this group should be its strength.

“As Notre Dame puts the finishing touches on another Top10 class, you have to like the balance with this group,” 247 Sports’ Steve Wiltfong told me. “The Irish are again landing difference makers in the trenches, with Andrew Trumbetti on defense and Alex Bars and Quenton Nelson on offense being three guys in those areas I like a lot.

“Coach Kelly and company are also bringing in more talent at the skill positions with Nic Weishar and Justin Brent two guys that will catch a ton of balls in South Bend and Nick Watkins adding to what is becoming a very talented secondary.”

Lets run through some names to watch in both games.

January 2, 2014 — 4pm ET

Notre Dame Commitments:

Alex Bars, OT — Will likely start at left tackle. Always a good sign.
Corey Holmes, WR — After an injury plagued season, Holmes opening eyes. Compares to TJ Jones.
Tyler Luatua, TE — A recruitment worth watching. Still listening to Alabama, USC and UCLA.
Isaiah McKenzie, WR — Still needs to clear some academic hoops, but working hard to do so.
Sam Mustipher, OG — Big bodied interior lineman will benefit from tough competition.
Andrew Trumbetti, DE/OLB — Has impressed this week with pass rush skills and relentless energy.
Nick Watkins, CB — Dallas athlete makes his debut on the recruiting circuit. Another good CB addition.

Irish Recruiting Targets:

Thomas Holley, DT — Does Bill O’Brien’s departure to the NFL get the Irish back in the mix?
Adoree Jackson, CB — One of the elite athletes in the country. Still a longshot.
Braden Smith, OL — Lining up next to Alex Bars at left guard this week. Would be a huge addition.
John “JuJu” Smith, S/WR — Might be tough to pry him from USC, but an elite athlete.

January 4, 2014 — 1pm ET

Notre Dame Commitments:

Quenton Nelson, OT — Starting LT that’s been impressive this week. Rivals has him a Top 25 player.
Nic Weishar, TE — Has opened some eyes this week with his elite ball skills.
Richard Yeargin III, OLB — Clemson is chasing, but Yeargin’s saying all the right things about Notre Dame.

Irish Recruiting Targets:

Matt Elam, DT — Just eliminated the Irish and was remarkably candid why.
Damien Mama, OL — Named a top four that didn’t include Notre Dame.
Nyles Morgan, ILB — Chicagoland prospect that Irish staff wouldn’t quit on. Could pledge to ND during game.
Nathan Starks, RB — One time target that might be a back burner option if ND wants a back.

  1. kansasirish - Jan 1, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    What were Elam’s comments? Looked but couldn’t view the video.

    • chadwalters425 - Jan 1, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      Video is premium content. I would prefer that Keith indicate it in his linkage so we’re not giving away free clicky-clicks but hey, it’s his show.

  2. irishdodger - Jan 1, 2014 at 3:41 PM

    Elam had a lot of work to do academically. The staff said they would go to bat for him with admissions but needed to know his interest level. Elam took a pass on the offer & acknowledged his academic hurdles. I’ve also read where there’s more than just academics that ND was concerned with, so it’s best to move on.

    You can scratch Holley off the list, too. He reportedly didn’t like his visit to ND. He’s likely to favor Florida if PSU falls out of the mix.

  3. yogihilt - Jan 1, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    Just got this from somewhere duh!
    Matt Elams comments
    “I love ND and the staff but I just couldn’t drag them along,” Elam said in a text. “It was mutual. It’s a great college choice but I’m just not ready.”
    Elam alluded to pressure from Notre Dame to commit earlier than his scheduled decision date of Jan. 4 at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
    “They need to know if I’m going there or not, so I told them I’m fine with them moving on and giving it to another player,” Elam said in a text.
    The Irish sent 270 letters of recruiting mail to Elam in November to represent his hometown area code in Elizabethtown, Ky. Elam ranks as a five-star prospect, the No. 2 defensive tackle and No. 7 overall in the 2014 class according to 247Sports. Rivals rates Elam as a three-star recruit and the No. 26 defensive tackle.
    “I wish them the best and they are proud of me,” Elam wrote. “We ended on good terms. That’s the best you can ask for.”

    Wow, we’re on a level to dictate terms to a 5 star by Jan 4, no less

  4. newmexicoirish - Jan 1, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    Elam couldn’t swing the academic requirements. We’ve been down this road – and recently too. We’re not going there again. Take care Matt – best of luck to you.

  5. onward2victory - Jan 1, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    Speaking of academics, I really hope Isaiah McKenzie can qualify. He sounds like an exciting player from all reports I’ve heard, and you can’t help but love a kid that wants to be at ND this much.

    • shaunodame - Jan 3, 2014 at 3:29 PM

      Am I the only one who thinks he has a high chance of flipping to another school? Since his performance in the AU Allstar game he has been boasting on his Twitter account about adding Florida and Tenneessee scholarship offers. He was a late bloomer with a low star/overall ranking according to most recruiting sites, including ESPN but has proven himself as of late on the national stage against blue-chip competition.

      Something tells me the supposed “prestige” of the SEC, and playing closer to home, draws this kid out of his commitment to ND. I hope I’m wrong but I’m just pessimisticaly reading the tea leaves.

  6. newmexicoirish - Jan 1, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    I agree. I’m really pulling for this kid. An opportunity like this will make a huge difference in his life, and that of his little brother. I wish him the best!

  7. bernhtp - Jan 1, 2014 at 7:01 PM

    We seem extremely likely to get Morgan imminently, but most of the others listed are tough to impossible. I’m hoping that we get a couple of bluebirds at the last minute as we did last year (e.g., Bryant, Folston, Vanderdoesnt).

  8. newmexicoirish - Jan 1, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    That’s why I think we need to get our coordinators on board and get these guys in the mix. There are some guys out there we might be able to sway (Thomas Holley, JuJu Smith, Braden Smith etc.) and I emphasize MIGHT sway to make a commitment to the Irish if we can get our coordinators working on them. Additionally we need the offensive coordinator in Luatua’s ear from now until Feb.5. He committed but it sounds like he is having second thoughts.

    • domerboyirish - Jan 2, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      You are spot on. Keith, any rumors flying around on who might be the new OC? Do you have a list of potential candidates?

  9. 25kgold - Jan 1, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    Coach Shaw was paid to throw that Rose Bowl game for Stanford! Those plays he called was pure BS! Either way, Gol(D)son will still have his way with that MSU defense next year!

    • bernhtp - Jan 1, 2014 at 9:42 PM

      Stanford’s last 4th and 1 play that failed tonight was very reminiscent of our goal-line stand in 2012.

      No MSU this year for the Irish.

  10. ajw21 - Jan 1, 2014 at 9:15 PM

    I see Golson not playing against Mich St next yr.
    Go Irish!

    • 25kgold - Jan 1, 2014 at 9:21 PM

      Then who? Oh, I get it…Tommy, right? LOL

      • bernhtp - Jan 1, 2014 at 9:39 PM

        Don’t play MSU in 2014. Victim of ACC schedule.

  11. fnc111 - Jan 1, 2014 at 9:51 PM

    That’s the way Shaw coaches. He keeps his opponents in it til the end. MSU was the better team today.

  12. 25kgold - Jan 1, 2014 at 10:19 PM


  13. kiopta1 - Jan 1, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    Our best shots are (not including Morgan or Mckenzie) Juju Smith, Micah Quick, Braden Smith, and a couple potential late visitors.

  14. newmexicoirish - Jan 1, 2014 at 11:30 PM

    BTW, Thomas Holley, according to an article in the South Bend Tribune, was not able to arrange an on campus visit in the fall. So unless he attended a camp, I don’t think he’s ever made an actual visit.

    Has anyone else heard differently?

  15. mediocrebob - Jan 2, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    Is Starks a RB only or could he play other positions like slot?

  16. regionirish - Jan 2, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    Does anyone have details on the Isiah McKenzie situation? Is it just his SAT score that needs to come up? Or is it his GPA or class curriculum? The word is that the coaches have stopped contacting him because there is little chance he will qualify. Any insight would be appreciated.

    • shaunodame - Jan 3, 2014 at 3:32 PM

      He looked like SUCH an athletic/electric player in the AU game. I hope by some miracle he ends up in TheBend when it’s all said and done.

  17. c4evr - Jan 2, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    George O’Leary has taken UCF a long way. Just think, if ND had lowered its admissions standards for coaches, The Irish would now be playing in the Fiesta Bowl and the whole Willingham, Weis, Kelly circus could have been avoided. In an alternate universe there are happy fans and a C4evr that posts about lucky charms and 4 leaf clovers.

    • getsome99 - Jan 3, 2014 at 1:46 AM

      Don’t forget about the RB he killed in practice in ’08.

      • c4evr - Jan 3, 2014 at 3:19 AM

        Well, at least he and Kelly have something in common.

      • getsome99 - Jan 3, 2014 at 12:12 PM

        Only one of those coaches was found negligent in their respective incidents.

  18. ndirish10 - Jan 2, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    A bit off topic. Saw the Fiesta Bowl last night, where was the defense?! And to think O’Leary was the Irish coach for 5 days back in 2001.

    Here’s to a Happy and hopefully memorable New Year! GO IRISH!!!

  19. italianirish - Jan 2, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    According to ESPN, none of the people listed above are signing during the game today.

    They’re updating the commits here (for those of us at the office today):

    Here is the order of the announcements. We’ll pin this to the top and knock them off as players announce.

    No. 8 Speedy Noil – Texas A&M
    No. 61 Travis Rudolph – Florida State
    No. 23 Jamal Adams
    No. 29 Gerald Willis III
    No. 15 Jalen Tabor
    No. 11 Tony Brown
    No. 1 Leonard Fournette

  20. irishdodger - Jan 2, 2014 at 7:24 PM

    Just saw McKenzie almost take one to the house on a return that set up his offense for an easy TD. ND needs to do whatever it takes (w/in the rules) to get this kid enrolled. No, they can’t repeat the Tee Shepherd fiasco, but do the due diligence & take care of this young man. He’s been more faithful than lesser recruits who spurned ND after verballing to them. Kid is ELECTRIC.

    • nudeman - Jan 2, 2014 at 8:14 PM

      Saw that, and the kid looks really good. Small, but really good.
      What do you do if you’re ND and he doesn’t have the test scores or the grades or the core curriculum?
      Temptation is to say “the hell with that stuff; find a way”.
      As a fan, I’m on board with that. But it also might be setting the guy up for failure.
      Anyone want to see the kid come to his dream school and last only a semester?
      I don’t. Could be a crushing experience.
      If you’ve read much about him, he’s endured a LOT so far in his life.

      BTW, can’t compare him to Tee.
      An extreme case; on top of his poor academics, Tee also was nearly deaf if I recall.

      • papadec - Jan 2, 2014 at 10:45 PM

        I like the kid & his attitude. If he can get into ND, I should think the tutors & mentors could help him stay in – if he’s motivated to do the academic work.

      • nudeman - Jan 3, 2014 at 10:22 AM

        The word is that supposedly he’s not even NCAA qualified, let alone ND qualified.
        This is sounding like the longest of long shots

      • viktory2013 - Jan 3, 2014 at 9:13 PM

        ND won’t cut anyone slack as far as academics are concerned. They’re almost Ivy league in attitude, as opposed to the SEC where attending classes is optional, or USC where literacy isn’t a requirement.

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