With banquet ahead, recruiting efforts in full swing

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Notre Dame’s regular season may be over. The Irish’s recruiting class — one many thought would cap itself around 20 — is already at 21 commits.

But that hasn’t stopped the Irish coaching staff from hitting the recruiting trail hard, with Brian Kelly and his assistants in the homes of committed recruits and up-for-grabs prospects before the dead period starts.

While fans continue to worry about Jerry Tillery and LSU, Brian Kelly spent an evening eating gumbo with the family. As new Florida coach Jim McElwain kicks the tires on linebacker Tevon Coney, Brian Kelly locks down his in-home visit, with Coney (along with Tillery) already signing their financial grant-in-aid paperwork as early enrollees.

The recruiting efforts continue this weekend. With the Irish strapping on the pads for their first bowl prep practice for LSU, the coaching staff will host another fleet of important recruits during the team’s awards banquet on Saturday.

In a weekend that lately hasn’t served as a key recruiting weekend, the Irish are hosting some very big fish. None bigger than Biggie Marshall. 

The Irish are in another tight battle for a Long Beach star, with Marshall among the very best athletes in the country and the top rated cornerback. Mike Denbrock hopes things don’t turn out like they did with John “JuJu” Smith, who torched the Irish in their matchup over Thanksgiving weekend, and then waited to give Denbrock a hug in the tunnel afterwards. The Irish finished a close No. 2 for Smith, who could’ve been playing for the Irish in the secondary or at receiver this season instead of likely haunting the staff for the next three years.

Marshall will be on campus for an official visit this weekend. He’s been worked hard by defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, understanding his opportunity to play early and often in an aggressive, NFL scheme.

After seeing the depth struggles down the stretch, it’s clear the secondary needs help, and you’ve got to think Notre Dame can finally win one of these battles with the Trojans, even if Marshall’s commitment feels like a long shot. But getting him onto campus in December is a big first step.

Also heading to campus is blue-chip tight end Alize Jones. Joining high school teammate Nicco Fertitta in South Bend, Jones has long been committed to UCLA, but has felt like a Notre Dame lean for the past month or so.  Jones is widely believed to be the top tight end prospect in the country and is athletic enough that the Irish coaching staff believes he can be a jumbo wide receiver as well.

Staying on the topic of recruits committed elsewhere, the Irish will be hosting running back and Oklahoma State commit Ronald Jones as well as Michigan commit and safety Tyree Kinnel. Both players would fill key holes in the recruiting class. IrishSportsDaily.com also reports that the Irish are kicking the tires on UAB running back Jordan Howard, who ran for nearly 1,600 yards this season. Howard looked as though he was going to take a look at Wisconsin. But Gary Andersen’s departure likely opened things up for the Irish, who would welcome the power back who can transfer anywhere after the Blazers shuttered their program.

Army All-American Jordan Cronkite will also be on campus, the South Florida native capable of playing either running back or safety. So while Gary Jennings, a multi-faceted athlete who could play either safety or wide receiver. A large group of committed recruits will also be taking official and unofficial visits, building some momentum for a weekend that hasn’t been a big one for recruiting in the past, but now fits in perfectly.

More to come over the weekend as season-ending awards will be handed out and the Irish recruiting class has a chance to grow as well.