Notre Dame football recruiting: Irish prospects soak in atmosphere

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- On a night made for recruits, Notre Dame welcomed more than 30 prospects into ND Stadium for its night game against USC.

After taking in the campus and soaking in the atmosphere, the prospects were ushered into the stadium around 6 p.m.

Touchdown Jesus photos were topped by photos with NBA legend David Robinson, in town to watch his son, Irish freshman wide receiver Corey Robinson, play. Robinson towered over the recruits on the sideline before the game, taking time to talk to anyone that approached him.

Notre Dame commits like linebacker Jonathan Bonner mixed with recruiting targets like linebacker/safety Drue Tranquill.

The crew from California — wide receivers Erik Brown and Michiah Quick, athlete John “JuJu” Smith, tight end Tyler Luatua and offensive lineman Damien Mama — came prepared for their official visits with coats to weather the temperatures, 48 degrees at kickoff, 30 degrees colder than home, with light rain arriving in the middle of the third quarter.

Thirty minutes before kickoff, the recruits made their way to their seats around the 20-yard line behind the Irish sideline.

McKenzie wants in

Isaiah McKenzie planned to visit Notre Dame this weekend. He also expressed a plan to commit to Notre Dame late Friday night.

Word of McKenzie’s plan spread online Friday night when a student-run Twitter account from his school, American Heritage in Plantation, Fla., reported the senior wide receiver prospect had committed to the Irish in a pregame ceremony.

Later Friday night, McKenzie took to Twitter himself to confirm the report.

“#ND #NATION stand up! @JoyStick_izzy is headed to south bend!!!” McKenzie wrote.

The 5-foot-8, 167-pound prospect hasn’t been secretive about his affinity for Notre Dame. After visiting the campus for a week and receiving an offer during the summer, McKenzie has frequently referred to the Irish as the leader in his recruitment.

But for the same reason McKenzie was unable to use an official visit to Notre Dame this weekend, a mutual verbal commitment between the prospect and the Irish coaching staff may be premature.

According to sources close to McKenzie's recruiting process, the scheduled visit to Notre Dame was canceled because he has yet to record a test score on one of the college admissions exams (ACT, SAT, PLAN, PSAT) that the NCAA requires prospective student athletes to take in order to make an official visit. McKenzie reportedly took a test on Oct. 5 and is awaiting results.

McKenzie did not answer multiple calls and messages from the Tribune on Friday and Saturday.

New offers

A pair of 2015 prospects visiting Notre Dame on Saturday walked away with verbal offers from the Irish coaching staff.

Quarterback Blake Barnett from Corona, Calif., reported the offer on his Twitter account. The Irish became the third program, joining Arizona and UCLA, to offer Barnett. 247Sports ranks the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder as a three-star prospect and the No. 21 pro-style quarterback.

Defensive lineman Elijah Taylor also received an offer, according to a tweet from his head coach, John Rodenberg. The 6-3, 275-pound junior from Cincinnati’s Archbishop Moeller ranks as a four-star prospect and the No. 18 defensive tackle according to 247Sports.

Tweets from the stars

‘14 DT target Matt Elam (@FballIsLife69): “Loving My Official Visit So Far #ND”

‘14 LB/S target Drue Tranquill (@d_TraNquill): “Just arrived in South Bend for the tailgate! Food is bomb”

‘14 WR target Michiah Quick (@ItsQuicker): “ND game day. These fans READY”

‘14 WR Allen Lazard (@AllenLazard): “Ain't nothing like college football and marching bands”

‘14 LB target Nyles Morgan (@Obey_Pride): “This game is going to be crazy!”

‘14 CB target Nick Watkins (@CallMeNick_6x): “Bringing the D to South Bend with my brother paytonhendrix24 ... #ND.”

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Students cheer for a television camera before the college football game between Notre Dame and USC on Saturday, October 19, 2013, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN