September 20, 2005

Big Ten Blitz: Irish collecting talent

Regardless of the already high expectations during the first season of the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame, building a great talent base still is the No. 1 priority for the Irish off the field.

There are several big name players already on the Irish commit list and they're not even close to being done.

This past weekend, even the season's first loss (44-41 to Michigan State) couldn't stop another commitment from coming down the pipe, this time from Fort Campbell (Ky.) defensive back Leonard Gordon who was moved by the mood of the locker room after the game.

"I saw those coaches and those players, how much they cared about each other," Gordon said about his post-game locker room visit at Notre Dame. "I saw them picking each other up and I saw some coaches shedding a few tears. It was a family atmosphere that reminded me of high school."

Stellar secondary recruiting may not stop with Gordon and four-star cornerback Raeshon McNeil from North Carolina in the bag. The No. 1 cornerback in the country, Darrin Walls, was present in the Big House to watch the Irish upset Michigan a week ago and will make his first trip to Notre Dame on Oct. 14. The trip to South Bend will be his last scheduled official visit.

Then there is Maywood, Ill., defensive back Sergio Brown, also a visitor for the Michigan State game. Though he enjoyed his visit, wants to knock out a couple more before making a decision. An impression looks to have been made, however, and the Irish are in good shape here.

Rumors continue to swirl about four-star Rivals250 defensive tackle prospect Jason Kates. Insiders believe he is close to pulling the trigger for the Irish. His unofficial visit this past weekend kept the fire burning. Kates, however, denies the talk.

"I'm just up there to watch a game and have a good time," Kates said. "I'm going to play every game of the season before I make a decision."

Last, but certainly not least, is the ongoing story of four-star Cincinnati offensive tackle Aaron Brown who made a last minute change in scratching his Louisville official visit in favor of watching the Irish take on Michigan State.

That didn't change his decision date which is still set for Oct. 6, but Notre Dame made waves again with another big fish.

"We've been to a lot of schools and ND really has their stuff together," according to Aaron's father, George Brown, after the trip. "From a one to 10, they scored a 10."

The comments about Notre Dame are some of the most positive to date about a single school coming from the Brown camp. Next up for the Rivals100 offensive lineman is Virginia Tech, followed by a trip to Miami or possibly even Purdue.

Minnesota adds Ohio pair

Every time Cincinnati Colerain running back Terrence Sherrer was asked to name a favorite, he would consistently name the Golden Gophers. When he made the trek to Minneapolis to watch Minnesota take on Florida Atlantic on Saturday, many expected it to be a commitment day, but he waited.

He waited at least until the next day.

"I loved the experience and it really reminded me of my high school, only at a much bigger level," Sherrer said. "My coach told me if I liked the experience then I should commit on the very next day. The entire atmosphere was great."

Sherrer, who was recruited by Gophers defensive line coach Carey Bailey, was then joined by another commitment from sleeper offensive guard D.J. Burris of Kenton (Ohio) who stands at 6-foot-3, 275 pounds.

West Virginia and Ball State had offered Burris, but his official visit to Minneapolis apparently was all that was needed to get a verbal commitment from the offensive lineman. Burris became the third offensive lineman to pull the trigger for the Gophers in the 2006 class.

The commitments from the weekend bring Minnesota to seven with official visits being the key. Four-star Rivals250 defensive tackle Aundre Henderson is set to visit his future college home this weekend when the Gophers (3-0) play host to No. 10 Purdue in their Big Ten opener. Considered by many to be the second-best player in Kentucky behind Rivals100 selection Micah Johnson, Henderson surprised many by committing to Minnesota in August and was Bailey's first commitment for this recruiting season.

Henderson has explained in the past that he is 90 percent committed until visiting the campus. Will Minnesota be able to move that number to 100 this weekend?

Where did Iowa go?

The Hawkeyes scored the No. 11 recruiting class in the nation for the class of 2005 that included five-star offensive lineman Dan Doering and other stars such as four-star fullback Kalvin Bailey, Rivals100 quarterback Jake Christensen, and Anthony Moeaki, the No. 2 tight end in the country.

Many experts believed that 2006 would be another huge year for the Big Ten power that was starting the season with loads of expectations. But Iowa is sitting at only five commitments for this class and many are wondering when the Hawkeyes will start to pick things up soon.

Several top Iowa targets rated at four stars or higher have pulled their commitment trigger elsewhere including Grandview (Mo) quarterback Josh Freeman (Nebraska), running back James Aldridge (Notre Dame), St. Louis (Mo.) receiver Jeremy Maclin (Oklahoma) and five-star running back Chris Wells who was looking to take visits, but remains solid with Ohio State.

Other prospects such as four-star wide receiver Andrey Baskin, who is favoring Tennessee heavily, have not yet committed elsewhere, but are definitely looking away from Iowa.

There is definitely light at the end of this tunnel though. Iowa's aggressive offering system has them in on some very high level prospects. This includes Euclid (Ohio) outside linebacker Thaddeus Gibson who has the Hawkeyes in his top five going into October.

Iowa joins Notre Dame, Minnesota, Florida, and Miami among the schools in serious contention for offensive lineman Matt Carufel with the workings of an official visit to Iowa City already in place. Many believe the Hawkeyes will be a team to watch all the way to the end because of how adamant the 6-foot-5, 275-pounder is on visiting.

Speaking of visits, four-star fullback Stanley Havili has been favoring Iowa, though he is playing things somewhat close to the vest. The Salt Lake City (Utah) Cottonwood prospect is the No. 1 player in the state and has only two officials set to Iowa and Arizona State.

It appears that he will only take those two during the season with little time on his hands which could be huge for the Hawkeyes, who last year went to Florida to land a fullback, in landing his commitment.

Michigan still in on big names

Three four-star commitments and one five-star pledge highlight the Michigan commitment list to date as the Wolverines have gotten off to another big start in with regards to the class of 2006. Though the numbers are not yet overwhelming, the quality of talent is.

More good news came this week when the nation's top player, Percy Harvin announced he would visit Ann Arbor the weekend of the Ohio State game in November as one of his visits. He went to Florida last weekend and also will see Southern Cal and Miami.

The Wolverines have cracked the top four of the nation's No. 3 rated offensive tackle Stephen Schilling of Bellevue (Wash.) and have been high on his list from day one.

Richmond (Va.) Varina fullback Brandon Minor has set four out of the five official visits for his fall trip schedule which includes Michigan on Dec. 1 after a Tennessee trip in October.

Venice (Calif.) four-star safety Jonas Mouton has only taken two trips so far in the fall, to Nebraska and Michigan, and seemed very impressed with what he saw in Ann Arbor. In fact, he took a break from his visits after the trip to Michigan to apparently think things over and focus on his season.

Four-stars Antwine Perez who visited Sept. 9 and linebacker Joshua Tatum are also two prospects that have Michigan high on their list with visits set up or taken.

Five-star athlete Jamar Hornsby set up an Oct. 15 visit to Michigan. He is expected to sign with Florida.

Given all the talented players who are interested in putting on the Maize and Blue, it looks like the Wolverines could be headed for their third consecutive top 10 class.

More Recruiting Blitzes:
SEC: Big weekend for Gators
Pac-10: Bruins rolling along

Coming tomorrow: ACC, Big 12 and Big East.

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