Unlike many other schools throughout the country, Notre Dame is in the unique position of having a national recruiting draw.
The Irish coaching staff possesses the ability to recruit prospects at nearly any high school in the nation. But one state among the many that head coach Brian Kelly and Co. may not keep a close enough eye on is the one they're situated in: Indiana.
Being the pre-eminent program in Indiana, Notre Dame could make a realistic effort at dominating the state if it chose to.
"If you look over the last couple years, if they've targeted a kid here in Indiana, they, for the most part, have gotten that kid," Indianapolis Pike High School head coach Derek Moyers said.
In four recruiting classes since Kelly accepted the job in December 2009, he and his staff have signed six prospects from the state of Indiana: receiver Daniel Smith (South Bend, Ind.), defensive tackle Tony Springmann (Fort Wayne, Ind.), offensive lineman Nick Martin (Indianapolis), quarterback Gunner Kiel (Columbus, Ind.), defensive lineman Sheldon Day (Indianapolis) and linebacker Jaylon Smith (Fort Wayne, Ind.).
Daniel Smith had been offered a scholarship by former head coach Charlie Weis prior to his firing in November 2009, and Kelly honored that offer. Thus, Kelly and Co. have signed just five of their "own" players from the state since the inaugural 2010 class.
Considering the lean years Notre Dame's main recruiting competition in the state—Indiana and Purdue—has suffered through in recent years, one would assume the Irish would hold a distinct advantage for the services of the state's elite talent.
Per Rivals.com's archives, there have been a combined 23 prospects of the 4- and 5-star variety hailing from Indiana since 2010, and Notre Dame has only signed three: Kiel, Day and Smith.
So, what exactly is the answer to this quandary?
Moyers, who often sees and speaks with Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston, provided some clarity on the issue.
Most would point to academics being the tangling factor in Notre Dame's recruitment of most elite prospects, and understandably so, as the university is one of the most reputable in the world.
|Elite Prospects in Indiana Since 2010|
|Name||Position||Stars||Year||ND Offer?||Current School|
|James Hurst||OL||4||2010||Yes||North Carolina|
|Roderick Smith||RB||4||2010||Yes||Ohio State|
|Isaiah Lewis||DB||4||2010||No||Michigan State|
|Kiaro Holts||OL||4||2011||No||North Carolina|
|Kris Harley||DT||4||2011||No||Virginia Tech|
|David Perkins||ATH||4||2012||Yes||Ohio State|
|Sheldon Day||DE||4||2012||Yes||Notre Dame|
|Jaylon Smith||LB||5||2013||Yes||Notre Dame|
|Justin Brent||WR||4||2014||Yes||Notre Dame|
|Terry McLaurin||WR||4||2014||No||Ohio State|
Thus, a connection can begin to be made.
According to U.S. News and World Report's latest high school rankings index, only two schools in the hotbed recruiting area of the state—Indianapolis—are listed: Irvington Community, Franklin Central and Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet, with Franklin Central being the lone school operating a football program.
Yet Moyers isn't convinced that academics are the issue at hand.
"I think a lot of people blow the whole academic thing out of proportion when it comes to Notre Dame," Moyers said. "If they want a kid, they're going to get him into school. I know it's a very reputable academic institution from the standpoint of the general population.
"But if they have a young man they want to get who's maybe not as high academically as maybe some of the general population at Notre Dame, I'm fairly certain they can get him into school."
Whether it's a choice made by Notre Dame's coaching staff to simply look elsewhere for talent, it's clear that at the very least, a handful of elite prospects reside in their own recruiting backyard.
Will the Irish take advantage and target more of those prospects?
Only time will tell.
*All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted
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