SS Zeke Motta
Notre Dame starting strong safety Zeke Motta and University of Miami reserve wide receiver Shawn O’Dare sit next to each other over lunch and exchange memories of their trip to El Paso, TX to play in the 77th annual Hyundai Sun Bowl.
The Sun Bowl was a big win for the Fighting Irish, as they beat the Hurricanes 33-17. The game was important, certainly, to both players. It was O’Dare’s first chance to dress in a Hurricane uniform and it was the end of Motta’s first season as a starter. These ultra-competitive athletes barely mentioned the game itself, but rarely did they stop talking about their first trip to El Paso.
“Dude, we tore you guys up in the talent show,” said Motta, playfully ribbing his old friend. “We really came in prepared for it.”
All O’Dare can do is grin sheepishly and shrug his shoulders. “We had nothing for you guys,” O’Dare replied. “We just kind of threw people up there to perform.”
The former Vero Beach High School teammates talked about their experiences on and off the field from the 2010 season, caught up on the latest town gossip and talked about some of their high school teammates who were also off playing college football.
Although a decade removed from its full glory, Vero Beach High School had the best record in Florida during the 1990s. The tradition of high school football is a strong one in Vero Beach, and every year the school sends off a quality player or three to play Division I football.
Motta, an Army All-American in 2008, brought exposure back to a program some had forgotten about. Let's see who else Notre Dame could be picking up out of this quiet Florida beach town.
Austin Carter was 5'10", 160 pounds at the start of the 2009 football season. He was an undersized junior linebacker playing behind established seniors, with no hope of serious playing time in sight.
What happened to his body over the next 18 months was nothing short of astonishing. Carter grew three inches and gained 70 pounds. Now 6'1", 230 pounds, Carter is anything but undersized.
As Vero Beach’s starting strong safety in 2010, Carter totaled 64 tackles and two fumble recoveries, caused a fumble and had one interception. These are comparable numbers to some Vero Beach area players who got scholarship offers this year.
Carter is attending Choate Rosemary Hall, a prestigious prep school in Wallingford, Connecticut, to continue his education both as a student and as a linebacker in 2011. The late-blooming Carter will use prep school as a springboard to get into one of the nation’s elite academic schools. Carter carries a 4.3 GPA and 30 ACT score.
Will Notre Dame keep tabs on him this fall?
Nobody was happier than Rakeem Marcelle when it was announced Vero Beach was switching from a Wing-T offense to a passing spread offense. With monster linemen like Bryan Stork (Florida State), Travonte Boles (Western Michigan) and Marcus Jackson (Tennessee) on the offensive line, the school tried to keep the ball on the ground whenever possible in the past.
A change of offense means that Marcelle, a 5'10", 170-pound receiver, will see his stock go way up this fall. He caught four passes for 124 yards and two TDs in last season's playoff loss to Seminole Ridge, and many think those numbers could become commonplace for Marcelle in 2011.
Marcelle runs a 4.5 40, has a 34" vertical leap and carries a 4.0 GPA.
At 6'2", 255 pounds, Connor Moore runs a 4.85 40, broad jumps 9'0" and projects as an interior offensive lineman, a defensive end or linebacker at the next level. He's already drawn comparisons to Michigan's David Molk for his technique and the way he finishes off blocks.
This year’s reigning Junior Rank Camp (Tempe) MVP, Moore will attend Notre Dame's Lineman Showcase Camp this summer, where he'll square off against some of the best linemen in the country. Notre Dame is one of many stops on Moore's schedule this summer, as he will also camp at Miami, Northwestern, Rutgers, UNC, Wake Forest, Duke and Virginia.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein thought so much of Moore's blocking technique that he recently used video of Moore's footwork at Football University Camp in Orlando as an example for his campers to follow.
The rising junior has four generations of Fighting Irish in his family. His great-grandfather, grandfather, father and brother all attended—or currently attend—Notre Dame. Furthermore, his father's two brothers are both Notre Dame graduates.
"My dad always described Notre Dame as a place where I would fit in well, as someone who will continue to be a practicing Catholic in college," Moore said. "There’s a strong connection at Notre Dame for me as far as beliefs and the way the students hold each other to a higher standard."
Moore carries a 4.1 GPA and a 1250 SAT (1740 combined score). Will the Fighting Irish push as hard to get Moore as they did Motta a few years back? They better hurry, because he's already heard from multiple Ivy League and Big Ten schools.
Offer him while he's still available.