Thursday, January 11, 2007

Recruiting Romine | by Pat

The future of college football was on display last Saturday at the 7th annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl. I know it was the future of college football because I was told so numerous times by the commentators. And not just the future of college football, mind you; it only took the announcers three minutes to mention measurables, and how every player on the field resembled a corresponding NFL great. Welcome to the wonderful world of recruiting hyperbole.

If you've read my previous takes on this glitzy showcase, you know I have a love-hate relationship with it. As an avid ND fan, I enjoy seeing the incoming Irish recruits for the first time on something other than a small, choppy, internet highlight video. It's nice to put faces (and occasionally voices) to 40 times, star rankings, and offer sheets.

On the other hand, the cheese factor is so over the top, and I really hate that look I get from my friends and my wife when they notice something labeled "High School Football" saved on the Tivo. I think next year I'll just have to make up a drinking game for the contest, as drinking games make all sorts of things, like Brent Musberger, more bearable. (One drink for high schooler to NFL Pro Bowler comparison, two drinks for every ND mention by NBC employee after the first 10, finish beer if player is said to be "best ever", etc.)

Anyway, on to the game. Just like the last two years, the Irish received one public commitment during the game itself. Following in the footsteps of D.J. Hord in '05 and Matt Carufel last year, Oklahoma offensive lineman Matt Romine put on the interlocking ND hat (above, right) and became the 17th recruit in the Class of 2007. Here's video of him picking the Irish.

Romine picked ND over childhood favorite Oklahoma as well as Michigan, Florida, and Miami. The Sooners were especially hard for Romine to turn down, but according to him, he couldn't pass on the Irish.

"Notre Dame was just the total package with the academics and the football tradition and the football program Coach Weis is building there," he said. "It's just impossible to beat."
Romine came into the All-American game as a 4-star recruit according to Rivals and Scout and played strong enough during the week of practice to be named a captain for the West Team. At 6-6, 275 pounds, the 1st Team All-State lineman has the size and speed to play tackle for ND and could form a quality bookend with Sam Young in the coming years.

Getting back to the game, unlike 2005 where D.J Hord was the only Irish representative there, the Irish had nine players this year (cue NBC/Tom Lemming conspiracy theories). Two players, running back Armando Allen and tight end Mike Ragone were coming off injuries and didn't play. The others were quarterback Jimmy Clausen, cornerback Gary Gray (sporting a Leprechaun shaved into the back of his head), wide receivers Greg Little (left, arms crossed), Duval Kamara (left), linebacker Aaron Nagel (left, #20), defensive end Justin Trattou (left, #71), and Romine. Clausen won the U.S. Army Player of the Year award (video here) and Trattou was named one of the East team captains for his play during the week of practice.

There was some disappointment for Irish recruitniks when three highly regarded defensive prospects listing ND as a finalist -- defensive end Ben Martin, linebacker Chris Donald, and safety/linebacker Lorenzo Edwards -- all chose schools not named Notre Dame. Martin and Donald picked Tennessee while Edwards selected his home state Florida Gators. While ND is having a solid year recruiting again, it seems as if the Irish are still having a bit of trouble landing those top-level defensive players. With less than a month to go until Signing Day, it will be interesting to see how the Irish close on the defensive side of the ball.

The actual results of the game don't really matter much (the West team won 24-6) as it's just a meaningless exhibition, and no one got hurt, which is really all that matters. Still, if you're curious to check out the action, NBC Sports has the entire game available to watch online as well as the college choices of all publically committed recruits in the game. Keep in mind that it was an All-Star game with modified rules (no blitzes, 4-3 defense only, etc.). The Irish guys all looked pretty good to varying degrees, as did some future opponents like Michigan's Ryan Mallet and Southern Cal's Everson Griffen and Chris Gallippo (game MVP). Scout has a free recap of the game for those interested. (One mistake they made: it was ND's Greg Little, not Duval Kamara, who caught the only touchdown pass for the East).

Finally, BGS reader Dan Jones sent us some pictures from the event and you can check them out here. Don't worry folks, Dan works for the Army and wasn't out stalking high school kids with his polaroid.