Monday, January 07, 2008

Next in Line | by Pat

It would be interesting to see the web traffic numbers for the varying recruiting sites this past weekend, because Saturday definitely rivaled National Signing Day as one of the major recruitnik holidays of the year. In addition to the ever popular US Army All-American bowl, this year marked the start of the ESPN Under Armor Bowl on ABC. And just to keep everyone busy, the games were scheduled for just about the same time. Actually, the game on ESPN started an hour later than the one on NBC, but they finished within 5 minutes of each other. (Now that's the NBC we know and trust.) With both games on at the same time, message boards were flying as folks updated each other on the play-by-play from each game, noting how the recruit committed to their school was kicking ass and was so totally better than that slower-than-expected overrated schlep going to their rival.

Of course, the US Army game was once again the main attraction for Irish fans, what with 14 committed recruits playing in the game. (Insert hackneyed Tom Lemming joke here) As a sure sign that the Army bowl is maturing, the NFL players in the now cliched high school player/NFL player comparisons actually played in the very same US Army bowl themselves. For a quick trip down memory lane, check out young Brady Quinn running the option for the East team in 2003.

I'll leave the detailed breakdown of how each ND recruit looked to others because it is just a fun all-star game after all. Rakes of Mallow does a nice job and The Quad on New York Times also has a quality run-down, including some quotes from the recruits in the game and one ND fan who is so optimistic he makes me look like King of the Pessimists.

For a quick overview, most of the ND guys looked pretty good with Michael Floyd standing out with 118 yards receiving and two touchdowns on four receptions. The first one came courtesy of his future teammate in Dayne Crist as Floyd caught the ball over Michigan bound cornerback Boubacar Cissoko and raced into the endzone for a 56 yard score. Floyd pulled in another TD catch after muscling past future classmate Robert Blanton in the end zone. He wasn't the only ND receiver to pull in a TD grab as John Goodman caught one from game MVP Terrelle Pryor.

If you missed the game, there are a few places online you can go to check out highlights. has some excellent offerings including comprehensive game highlights and video of every in-game commitment. Getting more ND-specific, ndnation poster slats has you covered with youtube clips of Crist's long TD pass to Floyd, a few other Crist throws, Floyd's TD reception over Robert Blanton, another clip of Robert Blanton, John Goodman's TD grab, Brandon Newman, Steven Filer, Mike Golic, Jr. and his dad, Anthony McDonald, and Sean Cwynar's recovery of a Crist fumble.

Breaking a streak of the past few years, Notre Dame did not receive a commitment during the game itself. Arizona QB/WR/S Gerrell Robinson was down to Arizona State and Notre Dame and was even rumored to be spending plenty of time with the ND recruits at the game. In the end though he picked up the Arizona State hat and is now on track to play receiver for the Sun Devils.

Luckily for the Irish, receiver help was still on the way over on ABC at the Under Armor Bowl game. At the start of the 4th quarter, wide receiver recruit Deion Walker picked up the (gray and blue?) Irish hat and became the third WR in the recruiting class of 2008. Before we get to Walker's info, I must say, I really enjoyed how ESPN whipped up a faux living room, complete with leather couch and glass coffee table, just off the field for the hat selection process.

Walker, a 6'4" 185 pound North Carolina native, is the topper on what is one of the best wide receiver classes in the nation. He boasts one of the most impressive offer lists in the current class with ND coming out on top over offers from finalist Penn State as well as Southern Cal, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, LSU, Cal, and many others. He cited ND's academics and the presence of Coach Weis as reasons he picked the Irish.

"The value of Notre Dame's academics is excellent, and I have developed a strong relationship with Charlie Weis," said Walker. "He is just a cool guy and really put in a lot of effort calling and recruiting me personally."
As you might expect from someone with that kind of offer list, Walker is highly rated on all of the recruiting sites. On he is a 4-star player and the 35th player overall in the nation. has Walker as a 5-star recruit and the 40th overall player in the nation. ESPN slots Walker as the 34th best player in the nation on their Top 150 list. As a junior, Walker was named 1st Team All-State as both a wide receiver and defensive back. He was also named 2nd Team All-State as a kick returner. Over on the track and field side of things, Walker won a state championship in the triple jump as a freshman and sophomore.

In other words, Walker is one of the highest rated players in the current class and the Irish receiving corp has a very bright future with the highly regarded haul of prospects over the past few years. It's also a tall haul with Parris, Kamara, Floyd, Goodman, and Walker all checking in around or over 6'3". Throw in a speedster like Golden Tate and Clausen and Crist will have plenty of choices in the passing game.

Walker wasn't the only recruit in the Under Armor game by the way. OL recruit Braxston Cave lined up against ex-Irish commit and future Gator Omar Hunter and had a very solid game. Helping to keep Omar in check all game long, Cave showed that at least physically he will be able to help out ND's OL depth as soon as next season. Safety recruit Jamoris Slaughter was also at the game, but injured his knee during the week of practice and sat out the game.

All in all, it was a fun day for Irish recruiting fans. There were enough highlights to fuel optimistic thoughts of future Irish successes and other than a few minor bumps and bruises, no major injuries that will affect any of the recruits as they enter the stretch run towards National Signing Day.