Tag: Bennett Okotcha


Friday notes: Martin, recruiting and more recruiting


The dust has settled and hopefully an Irish coaching staff that traversed the country chasing down some of the top defensive recruits in the country gets some rest. (Not to mention a certain writer who has been having hand cramps since about noon on Wednesday.)

With no real football news to speak of, let’s go over some of the under-reported topics from a pretty incredible 23-man 2011 recruiting class.


Late Wednesday night, one of the guys from Irish Illustrated tweeted that Chuck Martin has to be one of the best coaches in America to have a beer with. I can say that after having the chance to have one or two with him back during the Notre Dame Fantasy Camp last summer, he’s definitely at the top of my list.

After head coach Brian Kelly spoke to the assembled media and a few thousand people watching the live-streaming broadcast at UND.com, Martin gave one of the better off-the-cuff press sessions you’ll ever want to see, including some incredible insight on how the Irish swung Stephon Tuitt back into Notre Dame’s corner after an 11th hour switch.

In a shrewd recruiting move, the Irish coaching staff, even though Tuitt had technically been  committed to Notre Dame for quite some time, saved their head coaching visit to Tuitt’s home for as late in the process as possible, as they knew an elite recruit like Tuitt from a hyper-competitive area like Georgia, would need to be recruited until the very end.

“One of the best things we did with Tuitt is that we still had our boss’s visit,” Martin said. “It was planned. We talked about it. This is not over. This one’s going to go. We can say he’s committed all we want. We knew there was going to come a time whether he was recommitted or very gray, we had it scheduled for the last week like the last Thursday. It got accelerated a week because it happened that way. That changes [Kelly’s] week. Well, you’ve only got seven on the road, you’ve got 10 coaches. Once you change one guy’s, it’s like dominoes, everybody’s week changes.”

When Tuitt pulled the panic switch and changed his commitment, the Irish didn’t stick their tail behind their legs and get insulted that their prized defensive lineman wanted to stay home, they stayed mobile and sent down Kelly, who obviously must be one helluva closer.

As Tuitt recounted to Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated of that visit:

“What really shocked me was when he told me multiple times that if I was just some great player out there that everybody loved and everybody recruited, if I was just a good football player, that he never would have came,” Tuitt said. “He said the reason he came was that I’m a great football player, a great character person and to have both of those, to be able to handle myself in public and keep positive eyes on me, that was important. That’s like all the work I’ve been doing, not putting myself in the spotlight. I really appreciated that.”

That’s the type of experience 20 years as a head coach in college teaches you.


Probably one of the most interesting things Martin talked about was the recruit that got away, Oklahoma commit Bennett Okotcha, who pledged to the Irish after decommitting from Wisconsin, only to pick the Sooners on the final weekend of recruiting.

“A lot of people will say we’re not aggressive enough,” Martin said. “Well, some things that make sense, it still has to be right. You don’t want to twist a kid’s arm. If distance and weather are going to be an issue, you’re not going to have a good career here.”

Taking things away from Okotcha’s situation, Martin then spoke of the difficulties helping a player reach their full potential if they’re not happy at the school they’ve chosen.

“What happened to him when he got here? Well, he was miserable,” Martin continued. “Why did he never become the player we thought he was going to be? Well, because he was miserable. Then there’s another kid that no one thought was great that fits here and loves it here and is an overachiever and the next thing you know, he’s a second-round draft choice and everyone’s like, ‘How did that happen?’ Well, he was the right fit, right place, right time.”

The Irish could’ve definitely used another cornerback in the recruiting class and I was high on the type of athlete Okotcha was and the player he could’ve become. But as Rich Rodriguez can attest to, not every elite college athlete loves their school enough to play football over a thousand miles from home.


For those of you that follow the national rankings on things like recruiting, here’s how Notre Dame matched up:

MaxPreps/CBS Sports: #1 in country
247sports.com: #7
Scout: #8
Rivals: #9
ESPN: #9
Sporting News: #11
ESPN: #9

Bennett Jackson moving to defensive back

Getty Images - Nick Laham

Today the Irish recruiting class took a hit, with cornerback Bennett Okotcha reportedly switching his commitment from the Irish to Oklahoma after a weekend visit. But whether it was a reaction to the news or an already planned switch, the Irish responded with a fairly large cornerback commitment of their own — quite literally — when Bennett Jackson announced on his Twitter page that he’s switching to defensive back, taking over Darrin Walls’ No. 2 jersey.

Expect Brian Kelly to discuss the move on Wednesday during his 1:00 p.m. signing day press conference, but he hinted at something like this 10 days ago when he wrapped up season one. While most people focused on Theo Riddick’s name, the idea of shifting Bennett Jackson, or one of the surplus wide receivers to defensive back, makes perfect sense. The fact that Jackson was a tackling machine on special teams makes this move all the more logical.

Jackson immediately moves into the two-deep conversation at either cornerback or safety, and he’ll provide top-flight speed that’ll help him overcome any catching up he’ll need to do developmentally.


Quiet period leads into intrigue

Bennett Okotcha

It’s officially an NCAA quiet period right now, meaning there’ll be little news breaking until Wednesday morning, when faxes begin pouring into the football office at The Gug. (I’ll be getting up at a bizarrely early hour to follow along in the festivities, for your pleasure of course…) While the past few days have added some clarity to the roster situation, that doesn’t mean it’ll be smooth sailing until Wednesday.

With running back Savon Huggins staying home and going to Rutgers and long-snapper extraordinaire Bryce Haynes committing to Ohio State, that leaves the Irish in the mix for only one more player, defensive end Troy Niklas. Where he’ll go is anyone’s guess, but Servite high school has plenty of ties to USC, so it’s far from a lock that he’ll be dialing 574 into the fax machine.

One other situation to monitor is that of cornerback Bennett Okotcha. The Coppell, Texas native and teammate of running back Cam McDaniel reportedly visited Oklahoma over the weekend, who have made a hard push after Okotcha in the final days of recruiting. It’ll likely be Wednesday morning by the time we find out where the talented corner ends up. It’s a position that the Irish need depth at, and the Irish’s flipping of Okotcha from the Wisconsin Badgers was one of the more under-rated moves of the recruiting season.

There are the usual rumors buzzing around, including the news that Fort Wayne running back and Stanford commit Remound Wright has been offered a scholarship by the Irish, but it looks to be only internet rumors. Of course, if a second fax comes in from Bishop Dwenger high school on Wednesday, the Irish will have secured another four-star recruit, this one in rather spectacular fashion.

Hang on, it might be a bumpy ride until Wednesday morning. We’ll do our best to steer you through.