Prime time fits Notre Dame recruiting

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

A little more than five months remain in the 2015 recruiting cycle, but the finish line is already in sight for Notre Dame.

A class of 17 verbally committed recruits has left the Irish with a short list of top targets remaining, with official visit season on deck. Notre Dame will likely add five or six more prospects to the class by the Feb. 4 signing day.

The Irish won’t wait long for one of its biggest recruiting weekends of the season. The Sept. 6 night game against Michigan will provide Notre Dame with an enhanced opportunity to host prospects.

“They’re able to really spend some quality time and get the flavor of what this Notre Dame crowd’s about on game day in Notre Dame Stadium,” said recruiting coordinator Tony Alford. “It’s huge. And it’s always good when you’re having success too.”

The 7:30 p.m. kickoff on a Saturday for the Michigan game allows recruits more time to get on campus after typically playing a game of their own the night before. Night games have worked with varying success for Notre Dame in recent seasons in terms of commitments, but they have always produced a long visitors list.

The game will serve as a valuable follow-up to the inaugural Irish Invasion camp Notre Dame hosted in June. The prospect camp brought in roughly 60 recruits for the Friday night event.

“I thought it went really well,” Alford said. “(Coordinator of recruiting operations) Megan Whitt was outstanding as far as helping plan that with (director of player personnel) Dave Peloquin and that crew. They did a really good job.

“We'll go back and look to figure out where we want to tweak it and what we can do to improve it in the years to come. For the first time, I thought it was pretty good.

“We just have to continue to try to get more players here from outside the region. The publicity of it will just continue to grow, and we'll get more players. First time out it was a good evening and a good night, and I know those kids really enjoyed it.”

Notre Dame added one commitment from the group in attendance for the Irish Invasion: running back Josh Adams. Alford said Notre Dame’s staff remains in contact with a number of recruits from the camp. Their feedback will help shape how the camp runs in future years.

“You ask guys to compare and contrast,” Alford said. “ ‘What did you like? What didn't you like?’ We'll tweak it and figure out how to make it better.”

The flow of new ideas in the recruiting office at Notre Dame has been steady in the last couple years. Last season J.R. Sandlin joined the staff as a recruiting analyst after stints with Alabama and Tennessee.

Sandlin left in the offseason for a coaching position at Jacksonville State. New to the staff this year is Whitt, who worked under head coach Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

“I think it’s always good to brainstorm and come up with some new ideas,” Alford said. “People come from different backgrounds at different places, and they can throw it in the pot and we can shuffle it around and see what fits and doesn’t fit.”

One idea that the Irish haven’t pursued is the possibility of signing recruits on track for mid-year enrollment to early financial aid agreements. New NCAA rules allow a recruit to sign the agreement starting Aug. 1 of his senior year.

The agreement guarantees a scholarship from the school, but is non-binding for the student-athlete. The rule also allows for the school to announce the early signing of the player and removes some communication restrictions between the school and the player.

A number of programs including Nebraska, Clemson and Ohio State, signed recruits earlier this month. Offensive line commits Jerry Tillery and Tristen Hoge have both expressed plans to enroll at Notre Dame in January.

“We haven’t really sat down and talked about that as a staff yet,” Alford said. “I’m sure that will be a conversation we will have, though.”

The staff did have conversations in the last week with its recruits in the wake of the ongoing academic fraud investigation at Notre Dame. Alford indicated none of the recruits expressed major concerns.

“We are who we are. There will adversity everywhere you go,” Alford said. “There will be some adversity in how you deal with it.”

Five-star CB Marshall to visit

Iman Marshall, one of the top 2015 prospects in the country, plans to make an official visit to Notre Dame. The five-star cornerback released Thursday on Twitter a lists of the schools he plans to line up for his five official visits.

Marshall will visit Notre Dame, Florida, LSU and Michigan, and asked fans to help him decide between Texas and Oklahoma for his fifth visit. The Irish already hold three commitments from cornerback prospects but would find room for a player of Marshall’s caliber.

The 6-1, 190-pound prospect from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly ranks as the top 2015 cornerback according to both Rivals and 247Sports. Rivals ranks him as the nation’s No. 3 recruit regardless of position. 247Sports slates him No. 6 overall.

Five-star DE Cowart's decision

The nation’s No. 1 overall prospect ,according to Rivals, has set a decision date. Defensive end Byron Cowart announced via Twitter on Thursday he would make a televised commitment on Sept. 28.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound recruit from Seffner (Fla.) Armwood took an unofficial visit to Notre Dame in June, but the Irish appear to have fallen out of the running. Notre Dame would likely need Cowart to make an official visit for the Rice or Michigan home games to become a legitimate contender.

Among the leading candidates to land Cowart are Florida, Florida State, Oregon and Alabama. 247Sports slates Cowart as the No. 15 prospect in the 2015 class and the No. 3 strongside defensive end.

Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Tony Alford has guided the Irish to a 2015 class of 17 verbally committed prospects. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)