Notre Dame Football: Irish Reel in Alex Anzalone
Last month, Notre Dame received a verbal commitment from Rivals 5-star linebacker Jaylon Smith following a football camp in Indiana. Sunday evening, history repeated itself at the Nike-sponsored The Opening camp in Beaverton, Ore. when Alex Anzalone, a 4-star linebacker from Wyomissing, Pa., verbally committed to the Irish. The commitment aired on ESPNU in a taped segment recorded just hours earlier.
Anzalone, who chose Notre Dame over Florida and Penn State, is the team’s 17th verbal commitment in the 2013 class (ironically coming on the same day as Roger Federer’s 17th Grand Slam title). That also already matches the number of signees in the 2012 class with National Signing Day still seven months away.
Despite playing mostly outside linebacker at Wyomissing High School in southeastern Pennsylvania, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Bob Diaco has recruited Anzalone to play on the inside. All-American middle linebacker Manti Te’o departs after the 2012 season. Anzalone plans to enroll at Notre Dame in January and don the same number Te'o currently wears—No. 5.
An exceptional student, Anzalone is a great fit both on and off of the field for Notre Dame. Anzalone excels at closing gaps on ball-carriers with a great understanding of angles of pursuit. At 6’3”, he has a bigger frame than Te’o and could turn into the next great Irish run-stuffer. With Smith and Anzalone in the same linebacking corps, the potential for Notre Dame’s defense could reach heights not seen in South Bend for many years.
Anzalone was initially committed to Ohio State, but he reversed course in early May following a report that a registered sex offender was using social media to contact potential Buckeyes recruits. A photo was leaked of Anzalone and current Notre Dame commit Mike Heuerman with the man at the team’s spring game in April.
Speaking to Irish Illustrated last week, Anzalone cited the school’s academic reputation and the camaraderie he has developed with many of the team’s other verbal commits as appealing factors.
“Academics speak for itself,” Anzalone said. “It’s the No. 1 undergraduate business school. I’m real close to the commits and I definitely fit in with the players.”
Notre Dame had to overcome some key selling points for the Gators and Nittany Lions to land Anzalone’s services. His father, Sal, is a Florida alumnus, and the family has relatives in Tampa. Penn State is located just two-and-a-half hours northwest of Wyomissing.
Despite around five more scholarships available in the class, Notre Dame could be complete at the linebacker position. In addition to Smith and Anzalone, 3-star prospects Michael Deeb and Danny Mattingly have pledged to the Irish (per Rivals). Westerville, Ohio athlete Marcus Ball remains on the Irish radar and would likely play linebacker at Notre Dame. He is also considering Arizona State, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin.
The Opening featured upward of 150 of the nation’s best high school players, including six other Notre Dame commits in addition to Anzalone. Smith, cornerback Devin Butler, offensive linemen Steve Elmer and Colin McGovern and wide receivers James Onwualu and Corey Robinson attended the camp, which consisted of speed and agility drills as well as one-on-one matchups and seven-on-seven passing competitions.
With the recent surge of commitments, Notre Dame’s class continues to soar up the overall team rankings. Rivals.com ranks the Irish No. 5, while 24/7 Sports has them at No. 3, trailing only Alabama and Michigan. While the 2012 Fighting Irish might not find itself ranked that high in the polls this season, the addition of Anzalone increases the likelihood that future Notre Dame teams will do so.
Notre Dame would like to add a running back, a wide receiver and at least one defensive lineman and defensive back with its remaining openings. Cornerback targets L.J. Moore (Fresno, Calif.) and Priest Willis (Tempe, Ariz.) have planned official visits to campus for the Michigan game on Sept. 22. Quarterback, offensive line and possibly linebacker are now complete for the 2013 class.
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