DL Garnett listening to recruiting pitch from Irish

NOTEBOOK

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

When the music stops playing, Notre Dame hopes to have another defensive tackle sitting in its 2014 recruiting class.

The search has turned into an ever-evolving game of musical chairs. Each day brings a new name or a new development for the Irish. One thing’s for certain: national signing day is only a week away.

Defensive tackle Pete Mokwuah grabbed the first chair on Friday when he flipped his verbal commitment from Rutgers to Notre Dame. He will travel to South Bend this weekend for his official visit.

As of Tuesday night, the Irish appear to have two more options left circling Notre Dame.

The number slimmed when four-star prospect Michael Sawyers, a former Vanderbilt commit, announced plans to visit Tennessee this weekend instead of Notre Dame. The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Sawyers would have to commit to the Irish without a visit or schedule a trip after the Feb. 5 signing day and change the course of his recruitment.

That leaves Daniel Cage of Cincinnati and Courtney Garnett of New Orleans remaining as current targets with visits for both on the horizon.

The 6-foot-1, 310-pound Cage plans to arrive for his 48-hour official visit on Wednesday afternoon. The three-star prospect scheduled a rare midweek visit to squeeze in trips to Louisville and Michigan State earlier this month and a visit to Missouri this weekend. He’ll head to Columbia, Mo., on Friday.

On Tuesday, Cage said he expects he’ll still be able to meet head coach Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder before his visit ends. Both coaches spent the beginning of the week recruiting in various parts of the country. Defensive line coach Mike Elston has led Cage’s recruitment.

Garnett plans to arrive on Friday, per his Twitter account. He became the newest name at defensive tackle when he reported an Irish offer on Monday. The 6-foot-2, 280-pound Garnett rates as a three-star prospect according to 24Sports and Rivals. 247Sports slates him as the No. 61 defensive tackle in the 2014 class and the No. 37 prospect in Louisiana.

A product of St. Augustine High, Garnett holds offers from a number of schools including Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas. The Sooners are thought to be the frontrunner.

Hill holds on

Texas made a late push for Notre Dame linebacker pledge Kolin Hill, but the three-star prospect announced on Tuesday that he remains firmly committed to the Irish.

Following an offer from Texas on Saturday, Hill reportedly started mulling a visit to Austin. On Tuesday, Hill tried to put the rumors to bed.

“100% committed to Notre Dame for those people worried, will not be taking any visits anywhere. My decision is final. #GoIrish,” Hill tweeted.

The statement came following a visit from head coach Brian Kelly and cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks earlier in the day.

Tracking Kelly

Head coach Brian Kelly has been circuiting the country for his final visits with prospects in the 2014 recruiting class.

Kelly started the week on Sunday in Texas with visits to a pair of Irish commits: cornerback Nick Watkins of Dallas and defensive end Grant Blankenship of The Colony.

On Monday, Kelly headed to Louisiana for an in-home visit with cornerback target Terrence Alexander. On Tuesday, he returned to Texas for his visit with Hill. Later Tuesday, Kelly traveled to Santiago High in Corona, Calif., the school of 2015 quarterback commit Blake Barnett. Barnett said Kelly, offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and new quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur met with his head coach.

While in California this week, Kelly is also expected to make recruiting visits with two of the top remaining targets in the 2014 class, wide receiver Michiah Quick of Fresno and safety John “JuJu” Smith of Long Beach.

Sunday is the final day of the contact period before signing day, which allows in-person contact between coaches and recruits on and off campus.

Nelson to Oregon

Wide receiver and return specialist Charles Nelson verbally committed to Oregon on Monday night.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Nelson received an Irish offer in November and visited in December. The three-star prospect from Daytona Beach, Fla., emerged as another option for the Irish behind wide receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Michiah Quick. Notre Dame remains in the running for both undecided recruits. McKenzie is scheduled to visit the Irish this weekend.

TJames1@SBTinfo.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston has led the recruitment of defensive lineman Daniel Cage. SBT photo/JAMES BROSHER