ND looking for some Dunne deals

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

The attention shown by Notre Dame to the Bishop Dunne football program in Dallas over the past year inspired a new nickname for the school.

Nick Watkins shared the name on Twitter and it’s reached all the way up to head coach Michael Johnson.

“They want to call Bishop Dunne, ‘Notre Dunne’ now,” Johnson said. “We have so many kids getting offered by them.”

Four players on Dunne’s current roster received offers from Notre Dame: defensive backs Nick Watkins and Payton Hendrix, offensive lineman Jovan Pruitt and defensive lineman Darrion Daniels. Watkins, Hendrix and Daniels will be in at AT&T Stadium on Saturday for Notre Dame’s game against Arizona State. Pruitt remains verbally committed to Arkansas.

Until this weekend, Watkins has been responsible for telling his teammates what he saw on his April visit to Notre Dame. He spent multiple days on campus while Johnson was a guest speaker at the Notre Dame Coaches Clinic. Now the Irish are coming to town and Hendrix and Daniels can see the team in person.

Hendrix, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound safety, received his offer from the Irish in July. Daniels, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive tackle, learned of his offer from ND in September. Watkins said he was proud of his teammates, but not surprised that the Irish would be interested in them too.

“They’re both extraordinary players,” Watkins said. “They bring a lot to the table with their athletic ability and their smarts. They’re the total package.”

Watkins, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound cornerback, is the gem of the talent-laden Dunne roster. The four-star prospect has a number of schools still chasing him including Alabama, UCLA, Oregon, Florida State, and Oklahoma in addition to the power programs in Texas. Rivals.com ranks Watkins as the No. 11 cornerback in the 2014 class and No. 160 overall. 247Sports slates him as the No. 25 cornerback.

The Irish have been perceived to be the leader of the group since Watkins’ visit in April and his fall schedule likely won’t change that. He’ll see Notre Dame this weekend and again on Oct. 19 when he and Hendrix travel to South Bend on an official visit for the USC game. He chose to visit the Irish during Dunne’s bye week and doesn’t plan on making any other visits until after his season.

Watkins left impressed beyond expectations the last time he visited. Now he wants to take in a game day atmosphere.

Hendrix is still learning about Notre Dame, but has soaked up plenty of secondhand knowledge from Watkins in addition to his conversations with his recruiter, Irish cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks.

The thought of playing in the secondary with Watkins in college has crossed Hendrix’s mind.

“We joke about it a lot,” Hendrix said. “We haven’t really had a serious conversation about it, but we’re always joking about it.”

The three-star prospect has a smaller offer list, but still has plenty of options. Hendrix said the Irish are one of his clear favorites with Arkansas, Texas Tech, Wake Forest and Tulsa also surging ahead of other programs. 247Sports slates Hendrix as the No. 76 safety in the 2014 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 89 prospect for 2014 in the state of Texas.

Like Watkins, Hendrix has no other visits lined up beyond Notre Dame. He does, however, have an idea of what will weigh into a final decision.

“I’m looking for academics first, good coaches that can help me get to the next level, a place my parents are comfortable sending me to school and a place I really feel comfortable playing at,” Hendrix said.

While Cooks and the Irish coaching staff continue to work on Watkins and Hendrix, an offer last month to Daniels put them ahead of most schools. Daniels, a junior, received his first offer from Oklahoma the morning of Sept. 19. Later that afternoon, he learned of his Notre Dame offer.

“I was at our JV football game and Coach called me over,” Daniels said. “At first I thought I was in trouble so I was kinda mad, but when Coach told me Notre Dame offered me, I just yelled. All the football players thought I was in trouble, and they came over and asked what happened. I just yelled and the whole crowd started clapping when I yelled Notre Dame offered me. They were really happy for me.”

Daniels said the offer came as a complete surprise. In a little more than a week following the offers from Oklahoma and Notre Dame, Daniels added Arizona State, Baylor, Texas Tech and Louisville to his suddenly growing list.

“When I found out OU offered me that automatically told me I had to step my game up. When Notre Dame offered me, that meant I have to change everything,” Daniels said.

“Dunne is the type of school that they really tell us about Notre Dame because Notre Dame is a Catholic school too. They really push it on us and tell us how hard the schoolwork is. When I found out Notre Dame offered me, it’s going to push me to work a lot more and work harder on the field and show Notre Dame that they made a good choice in offering me.”

Daniels is starting to see why Watkins and Hendrix have joked about playing together at Notre Dame.

“They’re a really good school. Honestly, I think they want to go, but one thing they want to do is keep the defense together,” Daniels said. “So I think they’re thinking about going to Notre Dame together.”

At the very least, Watkins is spreading positives about Notre Dame to his teammates. The advice Daniels remembers Watkins giving him is pretty straightforward.

“He said it’s the perfect college,” Daniels said. “He said if I like Bishop Dunne, I’m going to love Notre Dame.”

Off to a 4-1 start in the 2013 season, Bishop Dunne has started to prove the attention from college football programs has been merited. But the relationship being built between the Catholic high school in Dallas and the Catholic university in South Bend might stand above the others. A name change won’t be necessary.

“It really does bring value to our school for our guys to be offered by Notre Dame and have the opportunity to play at one of the best programs in the country,” Johnson said. “It shows we’re doing something right at Bishop Dunne.”

VISITORS LISTHere is a look at many of the recruits expected to be in attendance for this weekend's game. 2014 classDE/OLB commit Grant BlankenshipCB target Nick WatkinsS target Payton Hendrix 2015 classOT commit Jerry TilleryDT target Darrion DanielsDB target Justin DunningDE target James LockhartCB target Kendall SheffieldRB prospect Soso JamaboDT prospect Daylon MackRB prospect Jordan StevensonDT prospect Jalen GossOL/DL prospect Kameron StubberfieldQB prospect Chason VirgilWR prospect Akilian ButlerCB prospect Josh ButlerDB prospect Corvette MilesQB prospect Nathan ElliottDT prospect Jozie MiltonTE prospect Michael DunmanCB prospect Ashton PrestonATH prospect Christian GibsonOL prospect Abdul BeechamWR prospect Larry PryorQB prospect Dezmond ChumleyATH prospect Louis BrownWR prospcet James Proche

Nick Watkins, a senior cornerback at Dallas Bishop Dunne, will attend Saturday's Notre Dame game in Arlington, Texas. Watkins is one of the top remaining targets in the secondary for the 2014 recruiting class. (Photo provided/Dallas Morning News)