Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Nails" | by Pat

The stealth recruiting continued with ND's second verbal commitment in the form of Illinois running back/safety/linebacker Aaron Nagel (#20, right). Nagel came to Notre Dame as part of a small invite-only Junior Day and picked up an unexpected scholarship offer. And just like Kerry Neal, Nagel jumped on the chance to join the Fighting Irish.

"My dream school is Notre Dame,'' he said. "I always wanted to go there. I always liked their program. I always liked their academics and tradition."
As a star for Lemont High School, the 6'2" 215-pound Nagel plays safety and running back. As his team's main ground threat, Nagel piled up 1265 yards rushing and 17 TD's on 168 carries. Despite the impressive rushing totals though, it sounds like his future position with the Irish might lie at linebacker. Nagel mentioned that Weis is hoping to have him put on a few pounds and suit up at outside linebacker instead of his current spot at strong safety. Whether he ends up at safety or linebacker though, Nagel brings a lot of speed and a penchant for the big hit. He also seems to enjoy it.
"Defense is my passion,'' he said. "I like to hit people. I'm used to carrying the ball 17 to 18 times a game and catching passes, but I like defense more than offense. I like to be the one hitting people, not the one who is taking a hit and getting hurt."
Nagel's commitment to ND caught many Irish fans off-guard, but he wasn't nearly the sleeper candidate that Kerry Neal was. Before Nagel jumped on the ND offer, nearly all of the Big Ten (save the traditional heavyweights) had offered him a scholarship in addition to schools like Oklahoma State, Boston College, and Stanford. Some might worry that a lack of offer from a Michigan or Ohio State means something, but we need to keep in mind it's still March. It's true that recruiting has really picked up the pace the past few years, but many schools still like to get kids to a summer camp before handing out an offer. Weis apparently though didn't need that with Aaron.

Nagel picked up his scholarship offer after a 40 minute personal interview with Charlie. Ranked 3rd in his class with a GPA over 4.0, Nagel certainly fits Weis' ideal of "football players who can also read and write." No doubt he impressed Weis with whatever it is they talked about. According to Nagel, Weis excused himself from the interview at the end and said he'd be back in a minute.
"He came back," Aaron Nagel recalled Monday via cell phone, "and he said, 'All right Aaron, I think we're going to pull the trigger now.'"
From there it was a short race back home to confer with his parents before calling Weis back and accepting the offer. Living close to Chicago made for a quick car ride and also probably helped Nagel's cause as I really think that Weis is trying to really lock down the best talent in and around the city. It seems that Weis is trying to re-establish ND's presence in the midwest with kids that love ND, but I really think that the greater Chicago area is where Weis wants to make the Irish destination #1 for the best players. ND will always go after the best talent regardless of location, but building a solid base of midwestern kids, especially those that grew up dreaming about ND, is a smart move to me.

With two defensive players on board now, the common trait is their abundance of speed. I don't think it should be overlooked that both Nagel and Neal started high school in the defensive backfield, corner and safety respectively, before growing into their current position at safety and linebacker. Now, it seems that Weis sees them shifting yet again to linebacker and defensive end. It has long been a tradition that the best way to add speed is to make safeties into linebackers and linebackers into lineman. It seems that Weis is doing the same thing here with Neal and now Aaron Nagel.

And really now, what's not to like about a future linebacker who's last name is German for "nail"?