Are the Irish courting two Armsteads?

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By now, most Irish fans that have been reading this blog are familiar with Arik Armstead, the highly touted two-sports athlete that’s been recruited by both Brian Kelly and Mike Brey. Armstead is practicing right now at the US Army All-American bowl, where the 6-foot-8, 280-pound defensive lineman and power forward is still mulling through his recruiting options, with the Irish in the thick of it with schools like Cal and Oregon. Armstead has been tackling extra school work so he has the option to early enroll, and plans to do so for the spring semester.

In a bizarre twist of fate, the Irish could be getting two Armsteads for the price of one, with Arik’s older brother Armond Armstead also reportedly looking at Notre Dame as well.

The Orange Country Register reports that Armond, a graduating senior at USC who sat out last season with a medical condition after the Trojans’ medical staff refused to clear him for participation, is looking to transfer without penalty and play out his final season of eligibility in 2012. And Notre Dame is one of three possible destinations.

Although he hasn’t ruled out returning to USC next season, defensive lineman Armond Armstead is strongly considering transferring after the school wouldn’t clear him to play in 2011.

“Nothing’s set in stone, but I’m going to start taking visits and checking some other schools out,” Armstead said by phone Tuesday night. “I’m not 100 percent sure what’s going to happen.”

Armstead, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound senior from Elk Grove, has three options to choose from: Return to USC, transfer or enter the 2012 NFL draft. Based on conversations with him and his father, transferring seems like the most likely outcome, returning to USC the least. Armstead listed Notre Dame, Auburn and Arkansas as three possible destinations.

After starting all 12 games in 2010, Armstead was hospitalized in March ’11 because of an undisclosed medical condition. Despite passing numerous tests and being well enough to work out with the team, Armstead never gained medical clearance from USC’s doctors and redshirted.

The school’s reluctance to clear Armstead was a source of frustration for him and his family and led his brother, top-rated two-way lineman Arik Armstead, to decommit from USC.

“We haven’t been real happy with the process and some of the procedures about how everything was handled,” said Guss Armstead, Armond and Arik’s father. “Because of that, it may be time for him (Armond) to move on.”

Neither Guss nor Armond Armstead would say whether USC has cleared Armond to play in 2012. But the uncertainty of that situation clearly is a deterrent.

Scholarship numbers are tight for the Irish, but I’d highly doubt Brian Kelly would turn down a player of Armond’s stature, especially with the youth — however promising it is — along the defensive line. Of course, if bringing in Armond would help Notre Dame sign Arik, expect the Irish to sign on for that combo deal as well.

What remains to be determined is the elder Armstead’s scholarship release. There is a murky line that’s drawn (see the recent case with Phil Martelli and Todd O’Brien) and in all likelihood, USC will need to approve the schools that Armond can transfer to, meaning a marriage between a former Trojan and the Irish is a tough one to envision.

Still, if the landing spot of Arik has been a mystery to the reporters that cover recruiting, the fact that Armond isn’t reportedly considering Cal is an optimistic sign for Notre Dame’s staff, who have doggedly pursued Arik, even when the odds looked long to even get him out of California.

Decisions will be coming soon for both Armstead brothers, with Armond having a hearing scheduled at USC that’ll determine his football playing future and Arik deciding whether or not to take a recruiting visit before he enrolls somewhere next semester.

It was a long shot of long shots to start, but there’s a legitimate chance that both Armstead brothers could be on campus next semester at Notre Dame, a welcome sight to Irish followers, who get the added bonus of putting a stick in the eye of Trojan fans.