NCF On The Trail: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

A lot of talent has already come off the board, but there’s still quality at the top of the ESPN 300 that could give at least 10 teams a shot at the second-best class. Plus, Penn State's James Franklin continues to be the most talked about coach in the Washington D.C. metro area.
The Big 12 was turned upside down by West Virginia and Kansas State, and both are being led by former juco recruits. Plus, it was no surprise that many of the nation's best recruits walked away impressed with Florida State following Saturday's victory over Notre Dame.

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UA jersey tour: Iman Marshall

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
Cornerback Iman Marshall was the center of attention at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly on Friday morning, as he received his Under Armour All-America Game jersey. It's the second consecutive year a Jackrabbits standout will take part in the game, as Marshall follows Juju Smith, from the 2014 class.

Marshall will follow Smith's lead in another aspect as well, as the five-star cornerback and nation's No. 8 overall prospect will keep recruiting fans guessing as to his ultimate destination all the way to signing day.

While Marshall announced earlier this fall that he would take official visits to Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame and Oklahoma, those have yet to be scheduled.

"Everything is still the same," Marshall said of his recruiting plan. "I'm just enjoying the process and the season. I'm excited for my five officials."

Although, everything might not be the same for long, as Marshall added that those might not actually be the five schools he visits.

"I have a feeling I might switch one, but I'm still debating," Marshall said, declining to state what school might not actually receive a trip.

SATs have prevented Marshall from taking official visits to this point, and he said he hopes to eventually take some during the end of the season so there isn't a rush to take them all after the season ends. One thing that isn't likely to change between now and the end of the year is that the three California schools involved -- Stanford, UCLA and USC -- will all be in the race until the end.

Six questions with Iman Marshall

Who are you most looking forward to playing with at the Under Armour All-America Game?

Marshall: "First off I would love to play with Josh Rosen, Christian Kirk and Cordell Broadus. There are a lot of guys on the East Coast as well, but those are the three that come to my mind right now."

If you could start your team with any player from the 2015 recruiting class, who would it be?

Marshall: "I'd have Rosen at quarterback, Broadus on one side and Kirk on the other, with Calvin Ridley in there also. Me at cornerback, Derwin James at safety and Kevin Tolliver on the other side of me. John Houston and Jeffery Holland at linebacker."

What is your earliest football memory?

Marshall: "In my first game, I went 85 yards for a touchdown on my first carry."

What football player did you idolize growing up?

Marshall: "As a defensive back, of course, I wanted to be like Deion Sanders. Every DB wants to be like him."

If you could take on any professional at their sport, who would it be?

Marshall: "I'd take on LeBron or Kobe at basketball. You can't miss that."

Why do you wear your number (8)?

Marshall: "Nobody knows this but the reason I got eight was that in Pop Warner, my number was zero. They didn't have zero in high school, so the closest number that looks like zero is eight."
The DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virginia) has developed into one of the most competitive areas in the country, so what recruiters do the best job in Washington D.C.? Plus, can Minnesota keep one of the top juniors in the country at home?

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ESPN 300 wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown was presented with his Under Armour All-America Game jersey on Tuesday afternoon in a ceremony in front of friends and family.

"I'm really blessed and happy for this moment," St. Brown said. "I never really had my eye on an all-star game. I was just looking forward to going to college. But this is just another blessing on top of it and an opportunity to play with some of the top players in the country."

St. Brown, the nation's No. 51 overall prospect and No. 7 wide receiver, is a hot commodity on the recruiting trail. He holds offers from nearly the entire Pac-12 as well as LSU, Notre Dame, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, and others. The Fighting Irish earned the first opportunity to make an impression, as St. Brown took an official visit to South Bend in early October.

"It was a different feeling, getting treated like a VIP," St. Brown said. "It was a fun time."

The next program up on St. Brown's visit schedule is Utah, as the Utes will host the 6-foot-5, 205-pound receiver in early November for their game against Oregon.

"They were one of my first offers and have been recruiting me ever since," St. Brown said of the Utes. "They've been doing good lately, so I'm going to go up there."

After that, it could be anybody's guess. St. Brown said he doesn't have a top group of schools and doesn't know which ones will receive his final three visits. St. Brown is likely to wait until signing day to announce his decision, which will give the in-state programs extended opportunities to make impressions. Stanford, UCLA and USC all remain involved, though there's no guarantee he'll take an official visit to any of them.

"They said it's okay if I take an unofficial visit," St. Brown said of local programs UCLA and USC. "Of course they want me to take officials, but they're okay if I go unofficially."

Seven questions with Equanimeous St. Brown

Who is one player you are looking forward to playing for or against at the Under Armour All-America Game?

"I'm looking forward to playing with Blake Barnett again. He was my quarterback up at The Opening."

If you could start a team with any 2015 recruit, who would it be?

"Travis Waller (St. Brown's high school quarterback)."

What is your earliest football memory?

"Playing flag football with Travis [Waller]. We were about seven."

What football player did you idolize while growing up?

"Growing up I usually played football. I didn't watch much, so I didn't really idolize anybody. Now, I try to play like Calvin Johnson. I think he's my kind of body type, so I try to see what he does."

If you could take on any pro player in their sport, who would it be?

"Richard Sherman."

Why do you wear your number (6)?

"As a junior, all the seniors got to pick first and there were only a few single digits left, so I just took it. I feel like single digits stand out more during games."

What is one thing people might not know about you?

"I like to play a lot of video games."

UA jersey tour: Cordell Broadus

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
Cordell Broadus was presented with his Under Armour All America jersey on Monday afternoon, in a ceremony attended by friends and family. Of course, one attendee was just a bit easier to recognize than others, as Broadus is the son of Calvin Broadus, better known to most as Snoop Dogg.

But Broadus made it known early on in his recruiting process that if programs and coaches are merely looking to make a splash by landing the son of the legendary rapper, they shouldn't waste their time.

"They should know from the jump that if you're recruiting somebody it should be for who they are," Broadus said, adding that so far, coaches have been good about that angle. "It hasn't come up yet, but I would stay away from a college that did that. It'd feel like it's fake, and that it wasn't for me and my athletic ability."

After making the move from Diamond Bar (Calif.) High School to Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman this past offseason, the 6-foot-2, 192-pound wide receiver finds himself a significant member of a nationally-ranked program that finished its nonconference schedule with wins over powers from Arizona and Utah, as well as four wins over top California programs. All the Gaels have done in two conference games is post a combined 130-0 score line as Bishop Gorman seeks yet another state title. Broadus ranks second on the team with 22 receptions for 297 yards and five touchdowns.

While Broadus, the nation's No. 133 recruit and No. 14 wide receiver, sports an impressive offer sheet, he said his focus has been on his senior season rather than recruiting. As a result, he has yet to truly begin narrowing down his finalists and said he would like to see as many of the schools that have extended scholarships as possible.

Broadus said Arizona, Arizona State, Florida State, Notre Dame and Washington will eventually receive official visits, while he was at the Rose Bowl on an unofficial visit to UCLA this past weekend.

"I want to see if I can fit in comfortably and if they need me at the wide receiver position," Broadus said of what he'll be looking for during his visits.

Seven questions with Cordell Broadus

What players are you looking forward to competing with or against at the UA All America Game?

"A lot of my friends that I grew up with will be at the game. Iman Marshall, Josh Rosen, John Houston. Those guys."

If you could start a team with any other player in your class, who would it be?

"Iman Marshall at the cornerback position. He's such a big corner. He can contribute and shut down a whole side of the field. He has a great head on his shoulders."

What was your earliest football memory?

"My dad forcing me to play football because I didn't want to play football right away. I didn't really start liking football until seventh or eighth grade. In eighth grade I started officially working out, doing cone work and running routes. When you start working on your craft, the more time you put in, the better you get."

Which football player did you watch as a kid?

"I liked to watch Jerry Rice, Keenan Allen, Kez Bryant, Terrell Owens, A.J. Green. Guys like that."

If you could take on any pro in their sport, who would it be?

"I'd take on Alex Morgan in soccer. Just for a chance to hang out with her and get her number."

Why do you wear your number (21)?

"My mom had me at the age of 21, so I really represent that. And my dad is from 21st Street as well."

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

"I like reading. I read a lot of books on a wide variety of topics. Also, I want to be a director and direct their favorite movie."
Mississippi State's fast rise to No. 1 in the country will open even more doors for the Bulldogs in recruiting. Plus, even with all of Kentucky's success in Ohio, it couldn't stop the Buckeyes from taking away one of its commitments this weekend.

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Help is on the way: ACC 

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
Each year on the recruiting trail, schools are met with needs that need to be addressed to shore up depth issues both immediately and down the line. With four months until national signing day for the class of 2015, many teams have addressed and met needs.

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Want to impress a star recruit? Make an entrance at his game like Kevin Sumlin does in the Swagcopter or James Franklin in The Flyin' Lion. Plus, this year’s Red River Rivalry has lost some of its luster with recruits.

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Dual-threat quarterback Brandon Wimbush switched his commitment Tuesday from Penn State to Notre Dame. Continue reading to see what Wimbush, now the Irish's top-rated pledge, brings to South Bend:

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Notre Dame got the Class of 2016 started Saturday afternoon with a loud bang picking up a commitment from ESPN Jr300 offensive tackle prospect Tommy Kraemer. If there was a perfect way to begin the class for Brian Kelly and staff, it was this head-to-head win over Ohio State.

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Notre Dame has a big visitor list for its game against Stanford on Saturday, and that list contains a few Big Ten commitments.

Penn State quarterback Brandon Wimbush and Michigan linebacker commit Darrin Kirkland Jr. are both taking the trip to see the Fighting Irish on Saturday.

Both are ESPN 300 prospects and big pieces to their respective classes.

Wimbush has taken other visits, and coincidentally he has taken one to Stanford, Notre Dame’s opponent this weekend. Wimbush is committed to Penn State, but is making sure he’s made the right choice.

"It’s not a Penn State negative, it’s a Notre Dame positive. I’m seeing the positives of Notre Dame and what it could play in my life," Wimbush said. "The roles it could play in my life over the next four years. It’s not something down on Penn State, it’s that Notre Dame could give me opportunities."

Kirkland finds himself in a completely different situation with rumors and uncertainty surrounding Michigan.

Off to a 2-3 start, Michigan has had problems this season that have caused some of its commitments to keep their options open in case coach Brady Hoke is fired at the end of the season.

That is the position Kirkland has taken as he heads to Notre Dame this weekend. In the past, the Michigan coaches have held a no-visit policy, but Kirkland had a different conversation when he told the staff of his intentions.

"They said take the time that you need to make the best decision," he said.

That is a departure from previous situations when commitments have wanted to take visits. Potentially a situational move by the staff to help keep this class together.

Kirkland says there are a lot of other schools that he is considering taking visits to, but hasn’t scheduled any others. He plans on sitting down with his family to figure out which five visits would be the best for his process.
Big Ten teams need to find a way to increase athleticism through recruiting and Wisconsin is working hard in Florida to make that happen. Plus, UCLA quarterback commit Josh Rosen continues to be the gift that keeps on giving for the Bruins on the recruiting trail.

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Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins is probably one of the highest-ranked prospects that no one knows about. Wilkins is perfectly fine with that, too, as he has made it a point to stay out of the limelight.

The No. 83 ranked prospect was presented with his Under Armour All-American jersey on Wednesday and said his process has been smooth sailing because of his plan to keep things to himself.

“I just wanted to let things happen on their own. I feel like there’s not really a point to getting all the media involved with everything,” he said. “It’s my process and I’m going to control it. I don’t want people to be in my ear about things and I just didn’t think adding the media to the process was necessary.”

Wilkins has done an excellent job balancing high school life with his recruiting process and is happy because of it. That doesn’t mean he isn’t serious about his recruitment, though, as things are starting to wind down.

The ESPN 300 prospect has already taken one official visit to Stanford and plans on taking four more out of a list of top schools.

“The last visits will be between Boston College, Clemson, Penn State, Ohio State and Notre Dame,” he said. “I’m coming closer to my decision. I don’t have a set date, but definitely in the next few months.”

Wilkins had plenty more to talk about after his jersey presentation and gave us a look at who he really is.

What one player are you looking forward to competing against? I haven’t really looked at the roster. I’m just overall excited to play against the top players. That’s a great opportunity for me to showcase my talents, get better and play against the best high school players from all over the country. I’m excited to play with the players and learn from them and get better from being in that environment.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be? I believe it starts up front so I would either go with a defensive or offensive lineman. Some of the guys I’ve met in my recruiting process like Adam McLean or Tim Settle, it would be one of those two. That would be cool and we would definitely have a good time knowing them.

What was your earliest football memory? My first memory, I wasn’t a huge fan of football when I was younger and every time someone would play I would ask why they were playing it. Then after being around my siblings they taught me how to play and ever since then I have loved it.

Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid? Any of the Patriots because they always have good players. Good players like Warren Sapp, even Michael Strahan.

If you could take on any pro player in their sport who would it be?: That would definitely be my favorite athlete, Paul Pierce. Just because I always wanted the chance to meet him and the chance to hang out with him would be great. Playing him in one on one, he’s a crafty guy so maybe in some way that would rub off on me. He’s just a great man, so I could learn a lot from him.

Why do you wear your number?: My favorite number is 42 and that’s the number I hope to wear in the Under Armour game. That’s the [year] my grandpa was born. My grandfather passed about four years ago now. The impact he had on my life was great. I take that number everywhere and know that he’s in my mind.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?: One is that I’m a mama’s boy. I love my mom deeply. The other is my obsession with the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. That was a show I watched growing up and my brothers were in to that when I was growing up. I always got into it and even today it’s my favorite movie. It’s just one of those things that sticks with you.

UA jersey tour: K Justin Yoon

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
Justin Yoon admits he’s usually a really confident guy, but Monday afternoon at his Under Armour All-America Game jersey presentation he was the exact opposite.

When he had to give a short speech in front of family, friends and classmates during the presentation, Yoon said the emotion of being selected as one of the top high school football players in America caught up with him and suddenly he was speechless.

“I honestly couldn’t even speak, I had so many emotions flowing through me,” Yoon, who is a Notre Dame commitment and the No. 2 ranked kicker in the country, said.

“It kind of scared me at the first few moments. But I was finally able to handle the pressure. It was awesome that all of my friends came. Every one that has supported me and who I respect came by, so I'm very grateful to them. I appreciate everything they've done for me. I never ever thought I would be in this type of situation.”

That’s true, especially when you consider Yoon is still relatively new to the game of football.

The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Yoon said he always envisioned himself on the soccer pitch, instead of the gridiron. In fact, he didn’t even start playing football until the eighth grade and once he did things just clicked.

“I didn't even know what football was,” Yoon said. “I was kicking goal kicks, corner kicks and free kicks in soccer. That has really helped with my distance. After that the football coach saw me and told me to try it out. That's where it started.

“It's is a different ball and not just anyone can kick a football like they do a soccer ball, but for some reason it hit well with me. The football just really fit me. I'm not exactly sure how or why, but it just clicked right away. The transition from soccer to football was actually really smooth.”

It was so smooth that Yoon quickly became one of the most heavily recruited kicking prospects in the country.

As a junior, he was nine of 11 in field goals with a long of 48 yards, and he also connected on 38 of 39 extra points. He was also impressive on his kickoffs, recording 38 touchbacks. Those numbers allowed him to pick up offers from Notre Dame, Boston College, Northwestern, Stanford and Texas A&M. He picked the Irish in June and hasn’t looked back.

“Honestly, I never knew football could be that much of a big deal,” Yoon said. “I was new to it. After all the offers and everything, I learned how big it was. It was immense. It's a huge deal. Since my freshman year, I thought I was doing all of this for fun. I just love kicking. I never knew it would help me have a better future. I'm grateful for it.”

Yoon has big expectations for his time at Notre Dame.

“They asked me if I could start as a freshman, and I told them 'Yes.'” Yoon said. “So I'm looking forward to starting the season and seeing if I can make a contribution. But I have to compete. They're going to have other kickers there that are willing to fight for that spot, but I'll be fighting, too. I also want to be one of the better kickers in the country, and I want to win the Lou Groza Award.”

But before he arrives in South Bend, he's looking forward to his time at the Under Armour Game. After injuring his back in the first game of his senior season, the week of practices and the game itself will be an opportunity to test himself under pressure.

“It'll be the first time I'll be kicking on national television,” he said. “So there will be a lot of pressure with that, but I'll be ready for it. I promise I'll do better than when I had to give my speech at the ceremony.”