OL recruit Tristan Bounds found loophole, visited Notre Dame without violating NCAA rules
Four of the schools Tristan Bounds included in his top eight list earlier this month had yet to receive a visit from him.
The dead period prevented the opportunity for Division I programs to host the three-star offensive tackle for a recruiting visit. With the NCAA extending the dead period again last week, coaches are prohibited from in-person contact with recruits on and off campus through June 30.
But Bounds found a loophole in the system that satisfied his need to visit campuses he hadn’t seen. The Wallingford (Conn.) Choate Rosemary Hall product trekked to two of those four schools this week: Michigan on Monday and Notre Dame on Tuesday.
As long as they aren’t accompanied by football-affiliated personnel or communicating with them during the trip, recruits may visit colleges during dead periods.
“This is really different, because you don’t get to meet any of the staff in person,” Bounds said. “I’ve still never met any of those guys, except through Zoom and FaceTime. We didn’t get to go into any of the buildings. Normally on visits, they show you the best about everything.
“So you’re in the football facilities. You see the practice facilities. You meet players. You meet coaches. None of that happened. And even on the campus tour, we did that ourselves.”
Choate Rosemary Hall head football coach LJ Spinnato came up with the idea after Bounds wondered how he’d stay true to his recruiting timeline. Bounds didn’t want to verbally pledge to a school before seeing its campus. He hoped to commit before his senior season, but the coronavirus pandemic seemed to delay those plans.
Not anymore. Now he’s been to Notre Dame, Michigan, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt and Maryland. Bounds said he has yet to schedule a trip to the two remaining schools from his top eight he has yet to visit, Texas and Boston College.
“I think we gained a lot,” Bounds said. “I at least still gained a lot of perspective about both places. It’s always just good to set foot on campus.”
Joined by his sister and father, Bounds drove approximately eight hours to Ann Arbor, Mich. on Monday. They remained in their car for a sizable amount of their trip to Ann Arbor, driving around campus. The Bounds family spent most of their time in South Bend walking around campus and observing the most notable facilities and buildings.
Before Bounds took the visits, the Michigan and Notre Dame coaching staffs were permitted to provide him with suggestions for what to see.
“The coaches were able to give me a campus map and do as much as they could without violating NCAA rules,” Bounds said. “I didn’t want to get anybody in trouble. And I don’t want to be a part of anybody breaking any rules. I was pretty upfront about that. So they did as much as they could without violating anything.”
Offensive line coach Jeff Quinn extended a scholarship offer to Bounds on the same day he included Notre Dame among his top school list, May 1. The Irish expressed interest later than the other seven schools, but Bounds’ visit kept them at the forefront of his recruitment.
The 6-foot-8, 280-pound Bounds ranks as the No. 39 offensive tackle in the 2021 class, per 247Sports.
“I like him. He’s a three-star-plus kind of guy,” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. “He does have the great growth potential. So if you are going to take a chance on anybody, you are going to take a chance on a guy with that size. But he’s not a proven guy with where he plays.”
That Bounds attends a boarding school located more than 300 miles away from his home in Bethesda, Md., shows distance hardly concerns him. Bounds said academics interest him and are reflected as a top priority in his top eight.
“Culture is also big. I want to make sure I’m somewhere that prioritizes family,” Bounds said. “Then somewhere that knows how to win, and the guys work hard to win. And then the last piece obviously that’s not less important than the others, my goal is to play in the NFL. I want to go somewhere that’s going to develop me to be ready to do so.”
Defensive linemen David Abiara and Jason Onye prioritized similar qualities in a school before committing to Notre Dame. But Abiara wanted to visit South Bend a second time prior to making a decision. For Onye, having never visited campus kept him from pledging publicly.
The Irish eventually secured their verbal commitments despite never being able to host them for those recruiting trips. But not all recruits are as close to pulling the trigger as Abiara and Onye were. For Bounds, he needed to see Notre Dame himself after appearing on their radar so recently.
Now Bounds has a better understanding of Notre Dame, even if a few questions remain. Should the Irish continue to push for Bounds, they are now in a more favorable position to land him.
Whether other recruits will follow Bounds’ lead and visit schools remains to be seen.
“I think it’s been super valuable,” Bounds said. “For me at least, I’m not feeling any pressure from anybody to commit. But there’s only so many spots on a roster. Eventually, guys are going to have to commit somewhere.
“I think it’s good to just get out and see it, especially during these uncertain times. You have no idea what’s going to happen. For me, I just wanted to get out in front of it and see these places.
“That way, if there came a time where a school says, ‘Hey, we only have this many spots,” I’ve seen the place and would feel comfortable with my decision.”
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