Recruiting stays focused on skill upgrades

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With the Irish a dozen days away from taking on Florida State, recruiting is still the primary focus of the Irish coaching staff, with this another critical weekend. Focused on improving the skill positions — both wide receiver and defensive back — is the main priority, and the Irish have people on campus that can immediately upgrade those positions.

Headlining the official visitors are a pair of teammates from Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey, Yuri Wright and Elijah Shumate. Both are among the state’s top five recruits and slated to play in the Army All-American bowl, and both would fit quite nicely into the Irish secondary. Wright is a long and lean cornerback, an impressive looking athlete with an even more impressive list of offers. He’s taken an official visit to Colorado, and has plans to visit USC, Georgia and Michigan as well. That said, getting to campus is a key step in landing Wright, who is giving heavy consideration to Notre Dame.

“They’re definitely near the top of my list because I’m taking an official visit there,” Wright told Pete Sampson of IrishIllustrated.com. “Because I’m a tall physical corner, I fit their scheme. I really have a good opportunity to play there. I really fit their program and they have real good academics.”

If Wright fits the profile of a picture-perfect cover corner, Shumate is the prototype strong safety that seeks out contact. He’s a guy that’s played a lot of football close to the line of scrimmage, something the Irish have done more of this season with Jamoris Slaughter dropping down into the box to add some versatility to the defense. In many ways, Shumate is a bigger Slaughter, and plays more like Zeke Motta did in high school (or at least in the limited tape that I’ve seen). Interestingly, the Irish have multiple options with Shumate, impressed by his work at running back as well. Like they are with Wright, the Irish are truly in the mix for Shumate’s services.

“Notre Dame is Notre Dame, Shumate told Rivals. “They want me as either a running back or a safety, which is interesting. I prefer defense, but I’ll play whatever.”

Also on campus is a recruit relatively new to the fray, wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp. Committed to Nebraska, Westerkamp recently received an offer from the Irish and even with a full-court press visit from four Huskers coaches earlier in the week, came to South Bend to see what Notre Dame had to offer.

Westerkamp is a two-year All-State first team player in Illinois and was named the Chicago Tribune’s player of the year for 2011, no small accomplishment for a receiver that’s shattered the state’s record for receptions in a career. His offer list is impressive and covers much of the Big Ten, although Michigan and Ohio State haven’t offered. Even more interestingly, Westerkamp seems to think offensive coordinator Charley Molnar’s departure has something to do with his offer.

“I knew I was on their board,” Westerkamp told IrishSportsDaily.com. “Their offensive coordinator left and took a job somewhere else. I’m pretty sure he was a guy that was picking guys based off of 40-times and height and all of that stuff. Whoever the new offensive coordinator is, right after that they offered me.”

Chuck Martin, a Chicagoland native and the Irish’s recruiting coordinator, is handling Westerkamp’s recruitment. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Westerkamp in an Irish uniform next year.

Lastly, Brian Kelly hopped on the university jet yesterday and headed down to Columbus, Indiana, where he had his in-home visit with all-everything recruit Gunner Kiel. All reports have Kiel down to the Irish and Vanderbilt with a decision to come shortly. Obviously, landing one of the top three quarterbacks in the country would be another huge recruiting get for the Irish, especially with Dayne Crist officially moving on from the Irish program. Regardless of what you think about the potential of Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson, Kelly’s made it clear he’s going to try and bring a quarterback in every season. This year, it could be the most highly touted player in the country.