A key part of recruiting in major college football is establishing relationships with high school programs and coaching staffs.
Notre Dame has done so of late with programs such as Cretin-Durham Hall in St. Paul, Minn., the alma mater of former Irish star Michael Floyd and class of 2013 verbal commit James Onwualu.
Bishop Dwenger, a Catholic high school just down the road from campus in Fort Wayne, produced current Irish players Tyler Eifert, John Goodman and Tony Springmann.
Woodberry Forest School in Woodberry Forest, Va. is rapidly becoming a potential “pipeline” school for the Notre Dame football program. Incoming freshman safety C.J. Prosise hails from there, as does 2013 linebacker target Doug Randolph.
The most recent sign of mutual admiration between the programs came Tuesday night, when Woodberry Forest linebacker Greer Martini gave Notre Dame a verbal commitment, the team’s first in the 2014 class.
At 6’3” and approximately 215 pounds, Martini projects as an inside linebacker at Notre Dame.
After not signing a true linebacker in the 2012 class, the Notre Dame coaching staff has focused heavily on the position in the 2013 and 2014 classes. Martini is the fourth linebacker to commit between the two classes, joining 2013 commits Michael Deeb, Danny Mattingly and Jaylon Smith.
Alex Anzalone, a 4-star linebacker from Wyomissing, Pa. is expected to decide between Florida, Notre Dame and Penn State this weekend.
Martini discussed with Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson on Tuesday night the reasons for making a decision prior to the start of his junior year.
“The combination of athletics and academics, that was basically what made the final decision,” Martini said. “I couldn’t think of a better place than Notre Dame.”
Martini held offers from Maryland and N.C. State, while North Carolina and Penn State also showed interest. Woodberry Forest is located approximately 30 miles northeast of Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia. The Cavaliers were not a major player in Martini’s recruitment.
The inside linebacker position for the Irish was a concern with Manti Te’o set to depart following the 2012 season, but with Deeb and Martini in the fold and Anzalone potentially joining them, the future looks much brighter.
The 2014 depth chart could feature senior Ishaq Williams at Cat linebacker, sophomore Jaylon Smith at Dog linebacker, and a combination of senior Jarrett Grace, sophomores Anzalone and Deeb and freshman Martini on the inside.
Martini becomes one of the earliest players to ever commit to Notre Dame. Offensive lineman Steve Elmer, the first to commit in the 2013 class, gave his pledge to the Irish last September following his attendance at the Notre Dame-Michigan game in Ann Arbor, just down the road from his home in Midland, Mich.
While the Irish have offered upwards of 40 prospects already in the 2014 class, don’t expect much movement in the immediate future. There are still five to seven spots to fill in the 2013 class, which currently stands at 16.
Randolph, Martini’s Woodberry Forest teammate, remains squarely on Notre Dame’s radar despite having given a verbal commitment to Stanford.
Notre Dame capitalized on one of the many pipelines it has developed throughout the country. It’s an often-overlooked aspect of recruiting, but one that has begun to pay major dividends for Brian Kelly and the Irish.