Virginia loaded with recruiting opportunity for Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Virginia produces plenty of college football talent.

It could be one man’s opinion or supported with data from a number of organizations, but there are few who will argue against the value of recruiting in the commonwealth.

“It’s a loaded state,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “It always has been.”

Just how loaded might be a little surprising to those unfamiliar with the recruiting trail in Old Dominion.

Since the start of the 2013 recruiting cycle, Virginia has produced nine players with five-star ratings from Rivals. In the last five recruiting cycles, according to MaxPreps research of 247Sports rankings, only seven states have claimed more top 100 recruits than Virginia (17).

Yet when Notre Dame plays at Virginia on Saturday, it will be the first game in the program’s history to be played in the commonwealth. The Irish have a chance to make a real impact with an impressive performance.

“Almost every top player in the state is going to be there,” Lemming said. “They will be watching Notre Dame up close and personal. A good showing, which is what Notre Dame should do, will go a long way. Then after that, Notre Dame has to stay on top of the top players.”

Virginia Tech convinced plenty of star recruits to stay home during successful runs in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the Hokies haven’t won an ACC title since 2010. That left the door open for Virginia head coach Mike London, who has built a reputation as a recruiter, in recent years.

Of the nine five-star recruits since 2013, three have signed with the Cavaliers (safety Quin Blanding, defensive tackle Andrew Brown and running back Taquan Mizzell). The other six players chose to leave the state for Alabama, Florida State, Michigan and Penn State.

The trend of top recruits fleeing to other colleges makes Lemming believe the Irish could do well in Virginia.

“It’s a sleeping giant type of a state,” Lemming said. “The same with Maryland. They’re states with a lot of talent and players who are willing to leave the state.”

Yet Notre Dame has only signed three players from Virginia — all from one school — in head coach Brian Kelly’s tenure. The Irish should add a fourth, safety commit Jalen Elliott of Chesterfield (Va.) L.C. Bird, in February. Woodberry Forest (Va.) School, an all-boys boarding school, gave wide receiver C.J. Prosise, defensive end Doug Randolph and linebacker Greer Martini to Notre Dame in three consecutive classes.

More talent is available for the Irish to mine in the 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes. Seven different players from Virginia hold spots in the Top 247 or Rivals 250 for the 2016 class. The 2017 lists for both sites include 12 Virginia prospects.

After Saturday’s game, the Irish coaching staff will need to follow up with recruits they have already identified to gauge interest in their program.

“Notre Dame already has its foot in the door just by being Notre Dame,” Lemming said. “Immediately the kids want to listen to you. Then it’s salesmanship: selling the school’s academics and everything Notre Dame has going for it. Then you turn that into the future with the graduation rate and post-grad opportunities.”

The annual five-game schedule with ACC schools should allow Notre Dame to recruit with more frequency in Virginia and other states in the area. The affiliation hasn’t aided Notre Dame much yet, but the opportunity still exists while the conference is slumping.

“Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina could be the three states that Notre Dame should blanket,” Lemming said, “and they’ll get a good response if they do a good job.”

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg is one of nine five-star recruits out of Virginia since 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Virginia has produced nine five-star recruits, and at least one in each recruiting cycle, since 2013. Six of them chose to play college football in a different state.

2016 — CB Levonta Taylor (Florida State commit)

2015 — DE Josh Sweat (Florida State)

2014 — DE Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama), S Quin Blanding (Virginia), DT Andrew Brown (Virginia),

2013 — RB Derrick Green (Michigan), DE Jonathan Allen (Alabama), QB Christian Hackenberg (Penn State), RB Taquan Mizzell (Virginia)

*Ratings courtesy of Rivals

Notre Dame has signed three recruits and currently maintains one verbal commitment in Virginia.

2016 — Three-star safety Jalen Elliott

2014 — Three- star linebacker Greer Martini

2013 — Four-star linebacker Doug Randolph

2012 — Three-star safety C.J. Prosise