Before Chance Tucker could verbally commit to a university, the three-star cornerback felt he needed to visit Notre Dame and Washington.
The Huskies (May 22) and the Irish (June 2) each offered Tucker a scholarship long after the coronavirus pandemic halted on-campus recruiting trips back in March. The NCAA has continued to extend the dead period for both official and unofficial visits, in the latest instance until at least the end of August.
So the Encino (Calif.) Crespi product got creative and took an informal, do-it-yourself visit earlier this month to each school to help get the clarity needed to make a decision between his favorites. He plans to make his pledge public at 1 p.m. EDT on Wednesday via Twitter.
Tucker’s trips to Notre Dame (July 4-5) and Washington (July 7-8) required planning and flexibility. Recruits may visit college campuses during the NCAA dead period. But official team personnel are prohibited from contacting and joining recruits during these informal trips.
“Notre Dame’s campus is beautiful. A lot of people know that. But you can really feel it when you get on the campus,” Chance said.
“It has a special feel to it. Obviously it was different because of what’s going on with COVID-19. There weren’t many people on campus, and you couldn’t go inside (buildings). But it was still helpful to get on campus and see it.”
Cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens started pursuing Tucker in May but still had questions. Notre Dame and others missed the opportunity to hold in-person evaluations or receive complete results from recruiting camps and track meets these past several months.
Wondering about Tucker’s change-of-direction ability, Mickens asked Tucker to send clips of himself completing various cone drills. After observing how Tucker flipped his hips and moved laterally in that setting, the Irish extended an offer.
Tucker said Notre Dame likes his length (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) and speed (10.97 100-meter dash). That track time came in Tucker’s first 100-meter dash race of the eventually truncated season. Tucker said a full spring season would have improved his personal record to 10.7, a time that would be considered impressive.
Losing that opportunity helped keep Tucker from improving his status as 247Sports’ No. 46 corner and No. 613 overall player nationally in the 2021 class. He recorded 58 tackles, 10 pass breakups, 4.5 tackles for a loss, three interceptions, one blocked field goal and 13 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games as a junior.
“They feel like they can utilize me in many different coverages and mainly at corner,” Tucker said of the ND coaches. “But they feel like I’m a very versatile player. Those are the type of defensive backs that they like to recruit.”
As of Tuesday, recruiting analysts consider the Irish to have the edge over the Huskies. Tucker would be joining two other corners pledged to Notre Dame: Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard’s Ryan Barnes and Valrico (Fla.) Bloomingdale’s Philip Riley.
Beyond Mickens, defensive coordinator Clark Lea has also been heavily involved with recruiting Tucker.
“I love coach Lea. He’s a great guy,” Tucker said. “I feel like he knows a lot about the recruiting process. He helped me get through it. I got a lot of great advice from him. He’s a very smart, intelligent guy.”
Huskies defensive backs coach Will Harris and assistant defensive backs coach Terrence Brown have been leading the effort for Tucker on Washington’s coaching staff.
“Washington, especially being a defensive back on the West Coast,” Tucker said, “they are very appealing. They have a reputation for developing defensive backs and their players, but especially their defensive backs.”
California delays high school football season
The California Interscholastic Federation announced Monday that its 10 sections will have a modified 2020-21 sports schedule that includes a delayed high school football season.
“It is anticipated that most section start dates will commence in December 2020 or January 2021,” the CIF wrote in a news release.
Tucker said the news hardly surprised him. A delayed season will also hardly impact him. Tucker intends to play in the spring before arriving at his future college in June.
“I’m excited to have a season in the first place really,” Tucker said. “I feel like everything is going to go back to how it was when everybody first had to go on lockdown at the beginning of quarantine. So everybody is going to have to adapt and get back to working out on their own and all that.
“I don’t see anything being different (for me). It’s just going to be a lot of working out at home with small groups of people and probably some of my teammates.”
Four-star quarterback commit Tyler Buchner does not have the luxury of waiting until the spring. He plans to arrive at Notre Dame a semester early, in January. How Buchner will prepare before coming to South Bend now remains to be seen.
Buchner transferred from La Jolla (Calif.) The Bishop’s School to Helix Charter in La Mesa, Calif., this offseason. After facing spotty competition while at The Bishop’s School, Buchner would have benefited from Helix’s tougher schedule against larger schools.
Transferring to an out-of-state school may solve Buchner’s problem. Academics played a role in why Buchner chose Helix in the first place, however.
“We pretty much looked at every school in the country,” Buchner told the Tribune last month. “I wanted to take (Advanced Placement) classes my senior year to get some college credits out of the way. But I couldn’t, because most schools’ AP classes are one-year long. And you can’t get credit, because you can’t take the test when you’re gone.”
Maybe Buchner will announce his future plans soon. Unless he transfers, Buchner will presumably complete a fall semester at Helix prior to arriving at Notre Dame.
The following Notre Dame targets may follow Tucker’s lead and announce their commitments in the coming weeks: 2021 tight end Mitchell Evans, 2021 offensive guard Rocco Spindler and 2022 tight end Jack Nickel.
Evans took an informal trip to Notre Dame last weekend and joined offensive line commit Blake Fisher during his visit. The three-star tight end from Wadsworth (Ohio) High included the Irish in his top 10 list on July 4 and expects to make his pledge public before September. 247Sports ranks Evans as its No. 19 tight end and No. 483 overall player in the class, while Rivals pegs him No. 28 at the position.
Spindler, a four-star offensive lineman from Clarkston (Mich.) High, is Notre Dame’s top remaining recruiting target this cycle. He intends to announce his pledge on Aug. 8. Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and LSU are his top five schools. 247Sports slates Spindler as its No. 5 offensive guard and No. 78 overall player this cycle, while Rivals places him No. 3 at the position and No. 56 overall.
When he will commit publicly remains unclear, but Nickel seems like the favorite to be the first Irish pledge in the 2022 class. The three-star tight end from Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton told the Tribune that Notre Dame ranks among his top four schools. He took an informal visit to campus on June 30. 247Sports stacks Nickel as its No. 24 tight end and No. 441 overall player.