SOUTH BEND - Cole Marcoux doesn’t know who Jimmy Clausen’s heir apparent as the next Golden Boy at Notre Dame happens to be. Or much about new Irish head coach Brian Kelly beyond his coaxing the University of Cincinnati into college football’s stream of consciousness. Or anything about stretch Hummer limos or depth charts or where he might stand on the great training table debate. “All I know is that I can’t imagine any high school football player who wouldn’t be interested if Notre Dame ever came calling,” Marcoux said Tuesday night via cell phone from his parents’ home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Notre Dame might do just that. Welcome to life after Clausen at Notre Dame, where the next guy in the quarterback lineage, Dayne Crist, may turn out to have a higher ceiling than his record-setting predecessor and Plan B looks like ... well ... a crate full of question marks. Which is why Marcoux might fit in just perfectly. He is the anti-Clausen - overlooked, underhyped and overjoyed that a reality TV show might actually change his reality. “I think Notre Dame definitely should go after this kid,” CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said of the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Marcoux, a senior at the Fieldston School in the Bronx, N.Y., who has been the buzz of the college recruiting circles since his stunning performance in Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. “And if Notre Dame doesn’t go after him, someone else will,” Lemming continued. “He got overlooked, because nobody goes to New York City to recruit and he didn’t go to any of the high-profile combines. He’s got a rifle arm. He can make all the throws. “I think he’s better than Andrew Hendrix.” Hendrix is a 6-3, 220-pound senior quarterback at Cincinnati Moeller High School and the biggest commitment question mark in the class - not because of his talent, but because of his chronic indecision. Hendrix verbally committed to the Irish over Ohio State last June, but has oscillated between honoring that commitment and shopping for a new school ever since Charlie Weis was fired Nov. 30. Moeller coach John Rodenberg said Tuesday night Hendrix would make a final decision Wednesday, though Hendrix had intimated that a final decision had been made several times before he took a recruiting visit to the University of Florida last weekend. Kelly, while not speaking specifically about Hendrix, addressed the poach-and-switch phenomenon with the Orlando Sentinel’s Iliana Limon during a break in the American Football Coaches Association Convention in Orlando. "I wanted to make sure there was that same commitment back from the other end," he said of the recruiting process since taking over for Weis in mid-December. "If there was that sense and feeling, `Hey, I'm committed to Notre Dame,' well then I'm committed to you.’ “If there are other kids that wanted to take other visits, then I made it clear that you're not committed. I think I had experienced that more (at ND) than I had at any other school." Lemming is puzzled that Hendrix turned out to be one of those situations. “I did not see this one coming,” he said. “He ought to know a lot about Brian Kelly, having played high school ball in the city where Kelly was coaching. And Florida wasn’t even interested in him in the first place. He’s not their first, second, third, fourth or fifth choice. But if he doesn’t end up at ND, there’s plenty of ways they can go.” The givens are Crist, walk-on Nate Montana - who transferred back to ND recently from Pasadena (Calif.) City College, and freshman Tommy Rees from Lake Forest, Ill. Rees enrolled early with four other members of the 2010 recruiting class and began spring-semester classes Tuesday. Recruiting moves back to fast-forward Friday, when the current four-day dead period ends. The options for Notre Dame beyond Hendrix, according to Lemming, could and/or should include:
- Scotty Young, a 6-3, 185-pound dropback passer from Denton, Texas, who has been rated ahead of Hendrix all along. Young currently is committed to Texas Tech but acknowledged he’d be open to explore other options after Tech fired head coach Mike Leach in late January. “He’s got a great arm and he’s exceptionally productive - one of the two most productive high school quarterbacks in the country,” Lemming said. “He would be a great catch. And I think Notre Dame could get him if they worked hard enough at it.”
- Andrew Manley, a 6-3, 220-pound quarterback from Leilehua High School in Wahiawa, Hawaii, who is currently committed to New Mexico State.
- Bret Visciglia, a 6-4, 190 sophomore at Los Angeles Valley Junior College. Yes, a junior college transfer. He was an outstanding student at Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame High School, but he got underexposed at quarterback because the starter was ... none other than Crist. Visciglia’s mother, Lynn, acknowledged Tuesday that Crist had been trying to sell the Weis regime on her son and now is doing the same with Kelly’s group. And yes, if an offer came, they’d be interested.
- Then there’s Marcoux, who seems almost destined to end up at Notre Dame. The last Division I quarterback to come out of the Fieldston School was Gus Ornstein, a breathtaking two-sport athlete who signed with ND then left after getting logjammed behind Ron Powlus. He landed at Michigan State and eventually Division III Rowan (N.J.). He now is Marcoux’s head football coach at Fieldston. “I think the reason college found me is because I went to Michigan’s football camp, and a lot of coaches saw me there,” Ornstein said. “Cole didn’t have that kind of exposure. And he only started playing the game as a freshman, so he’s still very raw. “But I think he’s got the size and the arm and he’s a much better athlete than people give him credit for. I think he’d be very successful at a Division I program.” For now, Marcoux is committed to Dartmouth of the Ivy League, but the U.S. Army All-American Bowl might have changed all that. In a 30-14 West victory over the East, Marcoux came in during the fourth quarter and led the losing East team to a pair of touchdowns and a two-point conversion in his two drives running the East offense. He was 5-of-8 for 99 yards. The other three East quarterbacks, the elite of the elite prospects, were a combined 3-of-15 for 47 yards. “If college coaches were watching the same thing I was watching, they’d have to conclude this guy is for real,” said SuperPrep’s Allen Wallace, national recruiting editor for Scout.com. And to think it all started with a reality show - “The Ride” on Fox Sports Net. Hundreds of quarterbacks tried out in 28 cities across the United States, with seven finalists appearing on the show. The prize was a spot in the prestigious All-American game. Through the connections he made through the show, Marcoux also got to spend a couple of days working out with New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady. As recently as last year, Marcoux was thinking baseball for his future. He was actually more highly recruited in that sport and had played it a lot longer. The pitcher even took an unofficial recruiting visit to Notre Dame. As part of the visit, Marcoux took in the ND football team’s upset loss to Syracuse that frigid, snowy November weekend in 2008. “If I’m not mistaken, that was not the best football game to come to,” he said. “But you know what, I had a great time anyway. I loved the campus, loved just being there. I’ve been rooting for Notre Dame since I was a little kid. “How ever all of this ends I have no idea, but I’m enjoying the ride. The word I use is ‘surreal.’ One opportunity led to the next one and it just started rolling. I don’t know what door is going to open next, but I do promise I’ll appreciate it and make the best of it.”