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Richards' Tommy Mister is a top local recruit that Notre Dame has mde an offer to. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
There’s no doubt Notre Dame football is heading in the right direction on the field.
Last Saturday’s 41-3 rout of Miami at Soldier Field was the latest proof of that. But did it also help the 5-0 Irish in their battle with other elite programs for the nation’s top recruits?
Coach Brian Kelly didn’t have much time for that idea at his press conference earlier this week: “If you’re deciding on Notre Dame based on the one game, then you shouldn’t be coming here anyway.”
Be that as it may, ND coaches still thought it was important to get some of the best local players in the Class of 2014 to see the Irish up close and in person. Among those taking in the win were Richards’ multi-dimensional Tommy Mister, Marist receiver Nic Weishar and Plainfield South linebacker Clifton Garrett.
The way recruiting is today, Kelly and his staff have couple of equally high priorities: holding onto the commitments they already have for the current class of prep seniors and working to nail down a good class for next year.
“The quick start helps for next year more,” CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said.
That said, ND still is looking for some secondary help in its current recruiting class, which Lemming ranks as the fourth-best in the country.
“They want to bring in a couple of cornerbacks,” Lemming said, with four-star prospects L.J. Moore of Fresno, Calif., and Cole Luke of Chandler, Ariz., near the top of the wish list.
And the Irish also want to hold onto the 21 commitments they have, which include two players ranked No. 1 nationally at their positions: outside linebacker Jaylon Smith from Fort Wayne, Ind., and offensive guard John Montelus from Everett, Mass.
The only Chicago-area recruit so far in the Class of 2013 is three-star offensive tackle Colin McGovern from Lincoln-Way West.
That’s one place Kelly and the Irish still have some work to do.
“Their weakness is Chicago,” Lemming said. “They haven’t really recruited well [here] since 1990.”
Two local players start for the Irish, both on the offensive line — senior left guard Chris Watt from Glenbard West and junior right tackle Christian Lombard from Fremd. Also playing a major role is sophomore DaVaris Daniels from Vernon Hills, who leads the team with 207 receiving yards.
But many of the area’s best players have been going elsewhere for a generation. “Iowa has outrecruited Notre Dame [in Chicago],” Lemming said. “So has Michigan, and Illinois and Northwestern.”
But that could be changing.
“The organization is really good this year,” Lemming said of ND’s recruiting push. “Kelly is doing a real good job.”
The key is sustaining that. “Notre Dame has not recruited [well] two or three years in a row since 1993,” Lemming said. “Last year’s class kind of fell apart. ... It was going to be top-5 [nationally] till they lost five guys.”
One way to keep the momentum going is to make sure top prospects have Notre Dame on their radar early. Kelly and his staff have done that by making offers to such Class of 2014 standouts as Mister, Garrett, Weishar, Mount Carmel defensive tackle Enoch Smith, Crete-Monee linebacker Nyles Morgan and Bolingbrook defensive back Parrker Westphal.
“The future looks really good for Notre Dame in 2014,” Lemming said.
If it’s as good as the Irish looked at Soldier Field, that’s pretty good indeed.