Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Heggie Hears a "Who?" | by Pat

The final recruit to go public this past weekend is the center of one of the more surprising recruiting stories in recent memory. Florida lineman Bruce Heggie was a virtual unknown just two weeks ago with no rankings on any recruiting site and not a single offer to play Division I football. Now, he's getting ready to fax in his letter of intent tomorrow morning to play for the Fighting Irish.

How did ND wind up recruiting a player that had to that point gone largely unnoticed by the rest of the college football world? And what, if anything, does it say about ND recruiting going forward under Brian Kelly? I don't think we can really say either way about the second question at this point. This could be a one-time type offer based on a desperate need to bring in more players or a harbinger of future recruiting under Kelly. We'll have to wait until next season to see how Kelly approaches recruiting with a full year cycle.

But back to that first question. While new names of recruits turned up the past few weeks as Kelly and the staff beat the bushes to bring in additional players for the 2010 class, none were as surprising, or surprised, as Heggie.

"Last week FAMU backed out of their offer and said there wasn't going to be an official visit this weekend," Heggie said. "There was William & Mary, but other than that there weren't really anymore options."

Then came the phone call. Notre Dame.

Yep, that's what Heggie thought, too. He probably had to pinch himself.

"It was definitely surprising," he said. "Notre Dame is an epic school. I certainly didn't see this coming. Especially after some of the other schools said they'd recruit me and then backed out of it."
I've seen sleeper recruits before, but never one who's only other option was William and Mary. Even some of the sons of trustees who picked up a scholarship in the past decade usually had a few more options. The story goes that Coach Hinton had considered Heggie while at UC, but UC didn't have the numbers. Now with ND looking to fill out the class, he brought Heggie's name back up again and, following a trip to Florida by DL coach Mike Elston, Heggie was given the opportunity to come up to ND this past weekend to visit. And while on campus, he was offered a scholarship that he immediately accepted.

Coach Kelly certainly has a past history of taking underrecruited players and turning them into productive college players. However, as much as it's easy to point to this when considering Heggie's offer, it's also just being honest to wonder why 119 other college coaches didn't feel the need to offer Heggie. The South Bend Tribune did highlight a few of the reasons why Heggie, son of a Florida State football player, slipped through the recruiting cracks so much.
Heggie, who went to a Florida State summer camp and a Nike camp at the school, believes there's a number of reasons why he's been on the outside looking in most of the recruiting season despite earning Academic All-State, plus All- Lake and All-Sumter County honors.

First and foremost, his school has had three head coaches during his four varsity seasons, the last change occurring the spring of his junior year.

“I didn't get my film out until three-quarters the way through my senior year,” he said. “Tapes were lost. It just wasn't good as far as exposure.”

Second, his school of 800, 40 miles northwest of Orlando, is off most recruiters' radar, though two teammates did get offers and are going to Central Florida.

Missing several games each of his final two seasons did not help either.
Now, rather than continue to dwell on Heggie's recruit history, the important thing is how Heggie will fit in and contribute to the program. Clearly the staff identified the need for defensive ends in this class, especially with losing Chris Martin and Blake Lueders. At 6'4" 240 pounds, Heggie played tight end and defensive end in high school and seems a sure bet to at least start off on the defensive side of the ball. However, recent articles are putting Heggie at 6'6" and closer to 250. If that's actually the case and not just more recruiting stat inflation, Heggie could possibly keep growing into an offensive tackle. Along with the offer to Tate Nichols, ND will need faster, more agile tackles after Charlie tended to recruit bigger road grater types (despite his pass happy offense). But for now, I'm going to list Heggie with the defensive line. With it now being certain that ND will run a 3-4 next season, here are the obvious candidates for the end positions although what the staff thinks won't be entirely obvious until spring ball. What is obvious is the need to land a lot of talent at the defensive end position in the next recruiting class.

Fifth Year
Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman

Kerry Neal
Ethan Johnson
Tyler Stockton*
Bruce Heggie

Emeka Nwankwo*
K. Lewis-Moore*

Hafis Williams*

ND desperately needs defensive ends in this class, but even at that Heggie is a reach if you consider the lack of offers from any other D1 program. However, if he adds viable depth to the team in the future, it will another feather in Brian Kelly's talent identification and development hat. If not, it's the kind of thing that people will bring up constantly when discussing Kelly's missteps as ND's coach. Hopefully Kelly and Heggie will be the ones having the last laugh.