The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are certainly in the running for 4-star guard recruit Damien Mama's commitment.
Brian Kelly's program is currently listed as one of two "warm interests" on Mama's 247Sports interest list, with the other being USC. It's also being reported by Adam Gorney of Rivals.com that Notre Dame will be amongst several schools to remain on his interest list after he whittles it down for the first time.
Alabama, USC, Ole Miss and Washington were also mentioned as teams that will stay in contention, per Gorney.
This is good news for the Fighting Irish, because Mama has the potential to be an elite guard recruit. He's also appeared to be a USC lean at times, though he does remain open, according to Gorney's report:
It has become no secret that USC will maintain a high standing with Mama, who grew up cheering for the Trojans and whose family has lived close to campus and have been lifelong fans.
Mama has visited USC multiple times and he has a former teammate, four-star offensive tackle Nico Falah, in his ear about playing for the Trojans.
There was some speculation that Mama would have committed to USC soon after getting his offer but the four-star said he plans to take his time and think things through before making any decisions.
"They're up there among my top choices," Mama said. "They're a top choice but I'm staying open. They'll be up there when I decide. I think I'm probably going to narrow it down soon."
Kelly and his staff have had a good amount of success on the recruiting trail and that includes being able to land players that seemed to have a high interest in USC (see: Eddie Vanderdoes). Considering the bitter rivalry between the two programs, any recruit that Notre Dame can sway away from USC is a big recruit.
Speaking of, Mama certainly qualifies at 6'5'', 340 pounds. He's also ranked as the No. 11 guard recruit in the 2014 class, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings.
That said, considering Mama's apparent affinity for USC and his ties to the program in Falah, it's tough to deny the draw that USC will have for the big-time guard recruit.
If the Fighting Irish want to land Mama, they need to focus on the championship potential. While USC is an extremely talented program, Lane Kiffin and his staff have had a hard time truly putting it together—and the program has seemed to regress rather than move forward.
USC could be considered a championship contender in the next few seasons, but a lot is up in the air. Notre Dame, on the other hand, is a championship caliber program right now, and with the way Kelly recruits, the Fighting Irish should consistently be amongst the best of the best in college football.
Mama is an elite recruit, and he could push 2013 guard John Montelus and 2014 commitment Jimmy Byrne for the starting guard position once Chris Watt moves on. He'd have the chance to play on a very good offense and block for some very talented running backs.
Having the chance to play early on a team with national championship aspirations is huge, and it should be enough of a draw to keep Notre Dame in the race for Mama's commitment. Factor in a great campus, a top notch education and the Fighting Irish's national draw, and Notre Dame has a good chance.
Will it be enough to overcome USC? Anything is possible, and at least for now, Mama appears open to other options.
That's great news for the Fighting Irish.
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