Notre Dame football recruiting: Target Tranquill in ND-Purdue tug-of-war
In a span of one week, Drue Tranquill may have a clearer picture of what school he’ll sign with in February.
It starts this Saturday for the 2014 Purdue verbal commitment. Tranquill will visit West Lafayette with a host of his fellow commits to see the Boilermakers play Notre Dame. The nationally televised night game stands as one of Purdue’s biggest recruiting weekends of the season.
The following Saturday, Tranquill will travel to South Bend for a visit for Notre Dame’s game against Michigan State. Two games seven days apart will go a long way in swaying the mind and heart of the defensive athlete recruit from Fort Wayne. Tranquill expects to learn a lot.
“I'm going to get a good taste of both environments and what it's going to be like on game day,” Tranquill said. “I'm going to be able to get the chance to tailgate at both schools and see how the students involve themselves at each university. I’ll get to hang with some of the recruits that are already committed and be around the guys. Another thing is seeing how the coaches coach, their coaching style and seeing how they interact with the players as recruits and on the team.”
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound prospect has remained committed to the Boilermakers, but has kept open ears to both staffs. This past week, Tranquill heard from Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell (Sunday), ND defensive line coach Mike Elston, his lead recruiter (Sunday), and Irish head coach Brian Kelly (Monday).
With each pitch he learns more about his future options. Purdue will have the first chance to impress on game day this Saturday.
“I expect it to be rocking,” Tranquill said. “It's one of Purdue's biggest games, a night game on ABC. So I'm expecting a big crowd, and the students to be pretty involved. Purdue needs the support this year with coach Hazell coming in his first year.”
On the field, Tranquill is well aware of perceived differences between the two teams. Notre Dame’s coming off a season that ended in the national championship game, while Purdue’s working under a new head coach.
“I just want to see Purdue compete against one of the top teams in the country,” Tranquill said. “Notre Dame coming off a loss to Michigan is going to be fired up to come out and play. I'm interested to see how the Purdue team's going to react off a mediocre but good win under coach Hazell. They only beat Indiana State by six. So I'm looking to see how they come out and see how fired up they are and how they want to compete.”
Tranquill continues to build relationship with other recruits committed to Purdue, including offensive linemen Kirk Barron and Denzel Ware, kicker Austin McGehee and quarterback David Blough. The group has maintained communication through Purdue’s rough start to the season.
“You honestly have to take into account coach Hazell not being able to have a recruiting class yet,” Tranquill said. “How the guys react and how they compete really says a lot about how much they believe in coach Hazell. That plays a large role when you're able to see the guys and how much they want to fight for coach Hazell.”
Notre Dame will wait its turn to impress Tranquill, but the Irish coaching staff has already helped itself with a conversation earlier this week. After originally pushing the idea of Tranquill coming in as an inside linebacker, the staff has backed off a little bit and termed him more of a defensive athlete.
“Middle linebacker was a foreign position to me. I didn't really understand why (the ND staff wanted him there) at first, but coach Kelly was able to explain that to me,” Tranquill said. “With a coach that successful, you have to listen to what he says. He knows what he's talking about. That was playing a little bit into my decision, but with them recruiting me as a defensive athlete now it kind of evens the tables with Purdue wanting me as a defensive athlete too. That shouldn't be an issue either way now.”
Perhaps the results in Tranquill’s first three games as a senior at Carroll High have swayed the minds of the Irish coaches. Tranquill has played all over the field on both sides of the ball. On defense, he’s lined up at middle linebacker, outside linebacker, safety and corner in three blowout victories. On offense, he’s scored 12 touchdowns. Last Friday, Tranquill tallied 258 total yards of offense and scored five touchdowns on the nine plays he touched the ball.
Tranquill is adjusting to being avoided on defense and making sure to play within the design of his defensive scheme.
“When it comes down to it, you might not be the guy on the score sheet, but if you do your assignment right your team's going to win,” Tranquill said. “That's ultimately the biggest thing I'll learn from this year: learning to play assignment football on defense, but just enjoying the offensive side of the football and getting to touch it my last year.”
As the recruiting process continues to develop, he’s established one source of knowledge he knows he can trust on each side with Notre Dame and Purdue.
For the Irish, freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith, a former training buddy of Tranquill’s in Fort Wayne, holds valuable information.
“I keep in contact with him probably twice a week at least,” Tranquill said. “He was like a big brother to me in offseason training. I respect what he has to say. Being a freshman at Notre Dame, he's got a lot of experience. He understands what Notre Dame is all about. He's not going to lie about his experience at Notre Dame.”
Meanwhile, Tranquill has been able to see Smith step onto the playing field and start his first two games at Notre Dame.
“When you see a kid that has that much heart and that much desire to play the game be successful, it's awesome,” Tranquill said. “I want nothing else for him and I'd expect nothing else from him. He's a great player and deserves it."
With Purdue, a growing familiarity with the West Lafayette campus for his family prevails.
“They’ve been down there five, six times with me,” Tranquill said. “They have a pretty good understanding of what coach Hazell stands for and his staff.”
Tranquill might have a pretty strong idea by the end of September of where he’ll end up, but he hasn’t put himself under a self-imposed timeline. He’ll take as long as he needs – and as long as both staffs allow – weighing a final decision to stick with his commitment to Purdue or flip to Notre Dame. Other schools like Wisconsin, who offered Tranquill recently, may try to join the mix as well.
"I'm not putting a time table on myself,” Tranquill said. “I think these two weekends are going to speak volumes to not only get peace of heart but also what's going to be the best business decision for myself.”