Example 1: What had been anticipated for the last week or so became official on Thursday when Giovanni Bernard, a running back from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., backed out of his Notre Dame commitment and picked North Carolina. The Irish recently became involved with Brandon Bourbon, a 6-2, 205-pound running back from Potosi, Mo., who is committed to Stanford. Bourbon will visit ND this weekend. Example 2: Notre Dame recently lost defensive end/linebacker Blake Lueders when he switched his verbal commitment to Stanford. Notre Dame is now recruiting defensive end Kona Schwenke of Kahuku, Hawaii. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Schwenke is committed to BYU but, according to Rivals.com, will visit Notre Dame this weekend. These examples mean two things: 1. Signing day is nearing, and 2. Poaching season is in full swing. “It's a big domino effect,” said Allen Wallace, publisher of SuperPrep Magazine and national recruiting editor for Scout.com. “It's part of the reality. It goes from one program right on down to another. You end up taking a kid from one school, they end up trying to take a kid from another school. That school then has to try to get another guy.” And Notre Dame, under first-year coach Brian Kelly, is right there in the game. Recently the Irish have offered a number of players. They include:
- Schwenke, whose high school sits about an hour's drive away from Punahou School, the school that Irish freshmen Manti Te'o and Roby Toma attended. Another Punahou product, safety Jeremy Ioane, will also visit ND this weekend.
- Bourbon, a Stanford commit who ran for 2,531 yards and 34 touchdowns last season. He is being recruited by new Irish offensive line coach Ed Warinner, who was recruiting Bourbon last season while coaching at Kansas.
- Derek Roback, a 6-3, 221-pound high school quarterback from Waverly, Ohio, who is committed to Toledo. Notre Dame is recruiting Roback as an athlete, and he too will visit this weekend. From the outside, Wallace points out, poaching players from other schools' lists looks like a sign of weakness. True, a school is typically raiding other schools because it lost its first target and is now chasing fallback guys. “But at the same time, that's part of recruiting and good recruiters have to deal with this all the time - losing certain prospects and then switching over to get other guys,” Wallace said. “You've got to do what you've got to do in the time frame that you have.” And that time frame is dwindling. Notre Dame will host a number of players this weekend, hoping to make a big impression before things can become final on Wednesday. “The last two weeks of recruiting season,” Wallace said, “are basically a mad dash to the finish.”
Bernard's boltBernard's switch to North Carolina came as no shock after he visited Chapel Hill last weekend. George Smith, his coach at St. Thomas Aquinas, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that part of Bernard's decision was based on Notre Dame's coaching change. Bernard committed to ND when Charlie Weis was the coach. With Bernard gone, Notre Dame now sits at 17 verbal commitments. Five of those 17 - quarterback Tommy Rees, cornerbacks Lo Wood and Spencer Boyd, safety Chris Badger and receiver Tai-ler Jones - are already enrolled at Notre Dame.
New nameAnother name to pop up on ND's radar recently is defensive end Bruce Heggie. Heggie will make an official visit this weekend. The 6-4, 240-pound Heggie, from Mount Dora, Fla., has no offers and ND is his only official visit.
Recruiting rumblingsWallace shared his predictions on where he believes some of the big names remaining on ND's list will land. Seantrel Henderson, OT, St. Paul, Minn.: Ohio State. Dietrich Riley, S, La Canada, Calif.: USC or UCLA. J.R. Ferguson, DE, Chatham, Va.: Miami. Christian Jones, LB, Winter Park, Fla.: Florida State. Matt James, OT, Cincinnati: Notre Dame.
Staff writer Bob Wieneke: firstname.lastname@example.org (574) 235-6428