Notre Dame football: U-M, ND take different recruiting directions

South Bend Tribune


For all the semantics-inspired squabbling over whether Notre Dame vs. Michigan football is a historical and traditional rivalry this week, the recruiting facet of it may be somewhat diminished.

Both teams chase five-star prospects and land their fair share of them, but they may not be running into each other in the same corners of the country as often. A look at the composition of both rosters shows Michigan trending toward more Midwest talent and ND trending away from that.

Thirty-two percent of Notre Dame’s 2013 roster comes from high schools in the old Big Ten footprint (pre-Penn State and pre-Nebraska). Compare that to its 1988 national championship team that included 38 percent from the Big Ten’s Midwestern states.

Michigan meanwhile is 74 percent in its Midwestern orientation in 2013 compared to 67 percent 25 years ago.

Personnel issues

*Fourteen members of Notre Dame’s freshman class made the travel roster for Saturday night’s ND-Michigan clash at Michigan Stadium, including freshman quarterback Malik Zaire, perhaps to get a taste of what a hostile road environment feels like up close.

The others to get a seat on the bus were running backs Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston; cornerbacks Devin Butler and Cole Luke, safety Max Redfield, offensive linemen Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey, defensive end Isaac Rochell, linebackers Jaylon Smith and Michael Deeb, and wide receivers Corey Robinson, William Fuller and James Onwualu.

*Senior outside linebacker Danny Spond, a starter-turned-student assistant coach made the trip as well. Spond retired from football in August because of recurring and debilitating hemiplegic migraines.

*Freshman wide receiver James Onwualu and sophomore safety Elijah Shumate made their first collegiate starts Saturday night.

Missing detail

Two years from now, when a college season passes without a Notre Dame-Michigan game, perhaps the rancor over how it came to an end will have subsided.

Maybe not.

Either way, the rendition that has made the rounds the past year — and republished and rebroadcast over and over — was that Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick handed his Michigan counterpart, Dave Brandon, a letter asking to opt out of future games just prior to kickoff of ND’s 13-6 win in South Bend.

Brandon stuck the letter in his pocket and purported not to look at it until the following day. When he did, he reportedly was bewildered by its contents.

The Notre Dame version of the narrative includes many of the same details, except for one. Swarbrick actually called Brandon the day before the ND-Michigan game to discuss the scheduling dilemma adding five ACC games a season had created.

Brandon then told Swarbrick he needed written documentation of the intended cancellation and Swarbrick said he would provide it before kickoff the next day. As Swarbrick handed it to Brandon, he reportedly asked Brandon if he was sure he needed the letter.

So if Brandon was indeed bewildered on Sunday, he apparently had a very short memory.

The final meeting for the foreseeable future takes place next Sept. 20 in South Bend.

Scouts’ honor

Scouts and personnel types from nine NFL teams were on hand Saturday night at Michigan Stadium to get a look at the draftable talent on both rosters. Among the onlookers was Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, who currently has five former Irish players on his active roster.

The Vikings visit the Detroit Lions on Sunday in the season opener for both teams.

The other teams represented Saturday night were Dallas, Cleveland, St. Louis, Miami, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta and Seattle.

Same as it ever was

The seven ejections as a result of college football’s amped-up targeting rule in week one got Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s attention, but not enough for him to rethink what the Irish are doing in practice or on game days.

“It surprised me there were that many,” he said. “I thought that was a high number. Didn’t get a chance to look at all of them. A couple that I did see looked to be clearly (justifiable) ejections.

“We are still steadfast in our belief that our guys know the difference between intent to injure and tackling, being aggressive football players, so we’ll continue to coach the same way.”


*TJ Jones' 18-yard punt return late in the first quarter, the fourth return of his collegiate career, was seven yards longer than Notre Dame’s longest in 2012.

*The Irish worked out Saturday morning at the Detroit Lions’ Ford Field.

Michigan cornerback Courtney Avery (5) tackles wide receiver Corey Robinson (88) during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in Ann Arbor, Mich. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER