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Players, chance to be part of rebirth swayed James Irish way

February 03, 2010|By JIM MEENAN, Tribune Staff Writer
  • (WSBT photo)
(WSBT photo)

Notre Dame's recruiting got a huge boost Wednesday morning when Matt James of St. Xavier High School Cincinnati faxed in his letter of intent to the Notre Dame football offices. The 6-foot-6, 291-pound offensive tackle picked the Irish over Ohio State. James made an official visit to ND last weekend. "I think absolutely it came down to the visit," said St. Xavier coach Steve Specht this morning. "He had a real good visit." Because James has known new Irish coach Brian Kelly for some time, Specht said that was not that big of a factor. Nor was the fact that teammate, quarterback Luke Massa, was signing with the Irish. "Matt’s his own man and will make his own decision based on what’s good for him," Specht said he told Irish offensive coordinator Charley Molnar. Specht said he cautions kids not to make that decision based on where their buddies are going as many things change in college. The key factors in getting James were his own desire to being a part of returning the Irish to prominence and the reception he got from the Notre Dame players on his visit, Specht said. "I thing the thing that really pushed him over the top was how he was received by the Notre Dame players," Specht said. "He really felt welcomed. "The other thing that is really enticing to Matt is he said ‘I want to be a part of rebuilding it,’" Specht added. "I want to be the first class Coach Kelly brings in to get Notre Dame to national prominence and get them back to a national championship game." Not all news was good in terms of undecided players Wednesday. Five-star linebacker recruit Christian Jones of Lake Howell High in Winter Park, Fla., who recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said was down to Notre Dame and Florida State, signed with the Seminoles, according to the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel. Jones' father and brother played at FSU. That did little to dampen the spirits at the Notre Dame football offices. James is a USA Today first-team prep All-America offensive lineman, is ranked 86th nationally on USA Today/Rivals.com list of top 100 prep players, listed 60th nationally on MaxPreps Top 100 and a second-team MaxPreps All-American. "We’re excited about the two guys from St. Xavier in Cincinnati," said Kelly. "Luke Massa at quarterback is a guy we’ve been very familiar with. And Matt James as an offensive lineman is a guy who can come in and physically compete right away. He’s a real good get. "Then, Danny Spond (Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.) is a big skill guy who is pretty accomplished as a quarterback, can play tight end or outside linebacker –– and he’s physically capable of helping us right away on special teams. "Some of these guys are examples of people we had to recruit in a very short period of time. We had to sell both the University and where we are going in the future. You want to envision being in a BCS game, so you try to piggyback the tradition here at Notre Dame with the success we’ve had the last few years. "Overall, this is a good start for us. It’s a foundation to build on. We’ve got better depth moving forward, we’ve addressed the quarterback situation. We’ve tried to add more athletes." Kelly will be commenting on the entire class Wednesday afternoon, after he has received the entire group’s faxes. James means the Irish will sign at least 22 recruits, with the possibility of four more. Five members of the Irish recruiting class of 2010 are already in school, allowing Notre Dame to go over the NCAA limit of 25. Staff writer Jim Meenan: jmeenan@sbtinfo.com (574) 235-6342

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