With National Signing Day less than two weeks away, Notre Dame will get a final chance this weekend to lure the top remaining prospect on its board. Eddie Vanderdoes, 5-star defensive tackle from (Placer, Calif.), will be in South Bend on his official visit. The Irish likely need to make up some ground over schools closer to Vanderdoes’ northern California home.
Vanderdoes, who decommitted from USC in November, is considering Alabama and UCLA in addition to the Trojans and the Irish. The defending national champion Crimson Tide will get the final sales pitch to Vanderdoes when he visits Tuscaloosa next weekend.
The sentiment remains that getting Vanderdoes out of the West Coast will be a tough task. However, Notre Dame can significantly improve its standing with the 6’3”, 310-pound U.S. Army All-American this weekend.
Vanderdoes’ most natural position is a 4-3 defensive tackle, but he has the athleticism to develop into an elite defensive end in a 3-4. That would likely be his position in the Irish’s 3-4 scheme, as he has great speed for his size and has expressed some opposition to playing nose tackle.
Of course, position flexibility is often a product of the de-recruitment process that occurs once kids get on campus. The Irish appear to have their three defensive line starters for 2013—Sheldon Day and Stephon Tuitt at end and Louis Nix III at nose—but Vanderdoes would likely find his way into the two-deep at some point next fall.
Early playing time is available in South Bend, even with Kapron Lewis-Moore the only loss off of the two-deep. Unlike many of the other defensive linemen on the Notre Dame roster, Vanderdoes can spell Nix at the nose, while at the same time getting some work at end behind Day and Tuitt.
Despite his hesitance to play the nose, playing time is always better than no playing time.
Notre Dame can also offer a chance to compete for national titles immediately. Neither Lane Kiffin at USC nor Jim Mora at UCLA has proven that they’re capable of taking teams to the highest level. The Bruins appear to be on the rise, but one 9-5 season doesn’t atone for their decade-plus of mediocrity under Bob Toledo, Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel.
Will increased chances of a national title be enough to convince Vanderdoes to leave his California comfort zone? Maybe, but Alabama can offer even better odds, as evident by the three recent crystal balls that don the Hall of Champions inside the Tide’s football facility.
Where the Irish have the advantage over the team that embarrassed them in the BCS Championship Game is a need at the position in this particular class. Currently, Isaac Rochell (McDonough, Ga.) is the only true defensive lineman committed to the Irish, with Jacob Matuska (Columbus, Ohio) potentially playing up front as well if shifted from tight end, his high school position.
Alabama currently has commitments from 5-star defensive end Jonathan Allen (Ashburn, Va.) in addition to pair of solid 4-stars in Darius Paige (Foley, Ala.) and Tim Williams (Baton Rouge, La.). Vanderdoes would not be the shining star at Alabama like he could be at Notre Dame. Many high-profile recruits have egos, and being perceived as a crown jewel does matter to some.
With whom will Eddie Vanderdoes sign on Feb. 6?
Also working in the Irish’s favor is that 5-star linebacker commit Jaylon Smith is expected to be in South Bend this weekend on an unofficial visit, making the short drive up from Fort Wayne, Ind. to perhaps do some recruiting of his own. Smith and Vanderdoes have been actively communicating on Twitter of late, with Smith encouraging him to join the group that has dubbed themselves "Irish Mob '13."
A number of other Irish targets, including fellow USC ex-commit Kylie Fitts (Redlands, Calif.), will be on campus as well, giving Vanderdoes a chance to develop some potential relationships should he ultimately decide to make Notre Dame his new home come summer. Vanderdoes tweeted that he will shut down all media contact until National Signing Day, so it may be difficult to get a read on where the Irish stand after this weekend’s visit.
Notre Dame is getting the second-to-last crack at a player that wasn’t even on its radar just a few short months ago.
Calling the Irish a long shot here isn’t completely accurate, but they’ll have to do some serious convincing during Vanderdoes’ short time in Indiana. With him having finalists in the West, Midwest, and South, Vanderdoes’ decision will be one of the most intriguing as the 2013 recruiting cycle reaches its final days.