Did you think we had entered the time of the year when the only significant developments in the college football world were player arrests?
While there is a bit more downtime as coaches prepare for a rare vacation, this weekend at Notre Dame might be the most significant of any prior to the start of fall practice in early August.
June is camp season. Coaches have returned to campus from spending much of May on the road during the six-week spring-evaluation period. With high schools on summer break, prospective recruits have the time to travel around the country to participate in team-directed camps on various campuses.
Notre Dame is holding its most notable camp this weekend, in which a number of 2014 and 2015 recruits will participate. The camp gives the coaching staff an additional opportunity to evaluate many of remaining targets and further build relationships with current commits.
Among the Irish targets expected to attend this weekend’s camp are Norcross, Ga., defensive end/linebacker Lorenzo Carter, defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, NY) and Corey Holmes (Fort Lauderdale, FL).
(The full list of prospects attending the camp is available here, subscription required)
The three players are not only some of the finest in the country, but they also play positions of need for the Irish. After 11th-hour losses of both linebacker Alex Anzalone and defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes from the 2013 class, Notre Dame needs to close strongly and bolster the front seven, having just three current commitments for the defensive line and linebacking areas.
Carter is the most highly touted of the group, with a consensus top-10 national ranking. He would be an ideal Cat linebacker in Notre Dame’s 3-4 defense, but luring him out of the South will be an arduous task for area recruiter Scott Booker.
Holley, while ranked below Carter, may be an even more important target for the Irish given his locale and the team’s lack of young bodies in the interior defensive line. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco landed Ishaq Williams out of Brooklyn two seasons ago and is Holley’s primary recruiter.
The 2014 class isn’t particularly strong at defensive tackle. So landing one of the few elite players at the position—who would join current commit and fellow Brooklyn native Jay Hayes—would put the Irish in a much more comfortable position at nose tackle with Louis Nix likely off to the NFL after this season.
With Notre Dame losing two of its three 2012 wide receiver signees, Justin Ferguson and Davonte' Neal, the position remains a priority in the 2014 class despite signing four recruits this past February.
Justin Brent was one of the team’s first commits last summer, but the Irish would like to add two more receivers to go along with Brent. A commitment from Holmes isn’t imminent, but this weekend the Irish can at least ensure a return visit from him in the fall.
All incoming freshmen are now on campus for summer classes, so this weekend also provides an opportunity for recruits to interact with the newest members of the program in addition to the veterans and current commits who will also be on campus. With the rise of social media, interaction among recruits and with current players has increased (although mentioning a recruit in a message viewable to the general public is still an NCAA violation).
Notre Dame's 2014 class currently stands at 11 commitments with seven-and-a-half months remaining until national signing day on Feb. 5 (although, as we learned from Vanderdoes, that event isn’t the be-all-end-all day that we once thought). Eight of those are offensive players.
Around 22-23 players, with at least 10 having to be on defense for the Irish to maintain a well-rounded roster, appears to be what the final count will be come February 2014. There’s no shortage of talent on the current commit list, but the balance is far from ideal at this point—although it is still early in the process.
With the season rapidly approaching for both coaches and recruits, interaction will soon decrease. The true impact of this weekend’s visits may not be known for some time, but Notre Dame has to impress some of the elite talent making the trek to South Bend.
That, and hope those other significant developments that often happen in June are avoided.