SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The Fighting Irish are in the market for a top running back in the class of 2011, and hosted a few big-time names at Tuesday's talented prospect camp. If the hour-long practice session was any indicator, the Irish could be looking at Stanford's work to fill their need at running back.
Cardinal commits Remound Wright and Amir Carlisle worked out. Both showed Tuesday why they are Rivals250 prospects.
Wright has impressed all off-season on the camp circuit, turning in one of the best NIKE Camp performances we have seen from a running back. On Tuesday, Wright did much of the same, showing very good quickness. He is in great shape, and looks strong enough to take the pounding at the next level. During one on ones, Wright earned some positive crowd reaction with his ability to shake linebackers and create a lot of separation. He caught the ball extremely well at the Columbus NIKE camp, and at Strong Mind Strong Body in Detroit. He showed good hands again Tuesday, but looked to be fighting the ball just a tad after a couple of early drops. Nonetheless, Wright is clearly one of the nation's top running backs.
Carlisle is ultra-quick, and is also a skilled pass catcher. He does not have the size or power of Wright, but in Brian Kelly's system, Carlisle is the type of back that can make big plays in the open field.
Seffner (Fla.) Armwood's Matt Jones was clearly the best 2012 running back in attendance. He is not quite as natural a pass catcher as Wright or Carlisle, but Jones's combination of size and quickness puts him in an elite athletic category that the Irish are looking for. The fact that he is from Florida makes his attendance even more important, where the Irish have made much effort over the years to land the state's very best athletes. If running back does not work out, Jones is the type of athlete that can be successful at multiple other positions.
Rivals100 running back Savon Huggins was on campus, but did not participate in Tuesday's practice session at the Labar practice fields.
What will Notre Dame do at quarterback?
The Irish will bring in three quarterbacks this fall, including Rivals250 prospect Andrew Hendrix. After losing out on Bubba Starling to Nebraska, there is debate among recruiting fans whether Notre Dame will move on to the class of 2012 for their next quarterback commit, or sign one this year. Tuesday's session gave a look at both options.
Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern's Justin Worley was the biggest 2011 name in attendance. At 6-4, and 196 pounds, Worley showed nice touch on his deep passes. He sports offers from Notre Dame, Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, LSU, North Carolina, Stanford, and Tennessee.
Clearwater (Fla.) Countryside 2012 stud Gray Crow followed up his strong performance at the Gainesville NIKE camp with another impressive performance in South Bend. Tuesday represented Crow's third visit to Notre Dame. He holds a verbal offer from the Irish. He clearly has high interest in Notre Dame. He is a well-built prospect at 6-feet-3, and has a very strong arm.
Edgewood (Ky.) Dixie Heights Zeke Pike had a very positive day. He threw the ball quite well, much improved from his showing at the Columbus Elite 11 camp earlier this Spring. He is every bit of 6-feet-5, and has effortless throwing power. Pike has early offers from Cincinnati, Iowa, Kentucky, and Purdue among others. Edgewood, Kentucky is a Cincinnati suburb. Coach Kelly's influence in the area could be a major positive for the Irish.
A surprise from our neighbor
Summer prospect camps are always an opportunity for relative unknowns on the recruiting market to get their name out to college coaches. No one accomplished that better Tuesday than Windsor, Ontario athlete Arjen Colquhoun. The 6-1, 180 pound prospect did not let a minute go by without jumping in for another rep. During one on ones, he literally took every other rep on one side of the field, either as a wide receiver or a defensive back. Though he showed some pass catching skills and some range with his taller frame, his most impressive trait is his ability to break on the ball on pass defense. Taller safety prospects usually have a rough time in one on ones against quicker receivers, but Colquhoun was fearless in breaking on the ball and being aggressive with receivers. On several occasions, he disrupted a shorter route, or broke on the ball to record a pass breakup. Colquhoun impressed at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp just one week ago, but Tuesday's performance proves he is worth a long look north of the border.
Like Colquhoun, Chris Jones was relentless in his efforts to take every rep possible. The Minor, Alabama prospect has Notre Dame in his top four along with Auburn, Tennessee, and Florida. He dazzled at both wide receiver and defensive back, proving he could play either position at the next level. Jones showed the best ability to finish plays as a defensive back, not only being in great coverage position more often than not, but also showing the ability to make an interception.
The linebackers were led by Detroit (Mich.) Southeastern's Ed Davis and class of 2012 Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain product Joe Bolden.
Davis seems to pick up an offer from each camp he attends. He has offers from Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa. On Tuesday, he made multiple breakups in one on ones. He has exceptional change of direction skills for a taller framed linebacker. The one on one drill is very unfriendly to linebackers, especially when they can't get a shove on quicker running backs. But, Davis seems to be able to run and cut step for step with most running backs.
Bolden is the teammate of Irish linebacker commit Jarrett Grace. He reports an early verbal offer from Cincinnati. Like Davis, he had multiple breakups in one on ones, and showed very good anticipation in his ability to jump routes and get his hands on the ball.
Wide Receivers finish strong
Despite the strong performances from defensive backs like Colquhoun and Jones, a few wide receivers played quite well during the one on one period. A.J. King, Matt Jones' teammate, looked really quick in drills, then applied his speed to one on ones, consistently getting behind defensive backs to catch deep passes. He holds offers from Iowa and Purdue.
A couple of 2012 receivers from the Midwest fared well. Solon (Ohio) standout Tres Barksdale is a taller prospect and an easy target for quarterbacks to hit because of his size and ability to extend for the football. He had perhaps the day's best catch, making a leaping catch over Colquhoun on a deep pass. Barksdale took some reps at defensive back as well, but should be considered a receiver prospect. West Des Moines (Iowa) Dowling star Amara Darboh was perhaps the most natural looking of the wide receiver prospects. He showed very good hands, catching the ball away from his body. He is not a burner, but he is very fluid and has a very athletic build.
Irish getting into Ohio DE sweepstakes
Ohio's defensive end group in 2012 will be one of the nation's top storylines during next year. Prospects like Toledo Whitmer's Chris Wormley, Mentor's Tom Strobel, Cincinnati Taft's Aldolphus Washington and Archbishop Hoban duo Greg McMullen and Latroy Lewis are national-level prospects and figure to make up a big part of Ohio's remarkable defensive line group next year.
Lewis was in South Bend Tuesday, working out for the Irish coaches. That means the Irish have a great chance to improve their standing with Lewis and fellow Akron (Ohio) Archbishop Hoban standout Greg McMullen, who could make up the best pair of junior defensive linemen in America. Lewis showed many of his desired traits Tuesday- quickness off the snap, and fluidity around the edge during pass rushing moves. Ohio State will likely sign a smaller class in 2012. If they can't load up on defensive lineman next year, there will be top-end prospects in Ohio available for the taking. Notre Dame can reap those benefits, and hosting Lewis is a big step in that direction.
-Irish commitments Jarrett Grace and Brad Carrico were on hand to watch practice. They did not work out. Michigan prospects Valdez Showers, Riley Bullough (class of 2012), and Takudzwa Kubvoruno did not practice, but were on hand.
-2012 running back Coy Brown could be the first non-kicker from Nappanee (Ind.) Northwood to sign with a major college program in Rivals.com history. Brown is a well-built running back that caught the ball very well. He needs to improve his speed, but has time to do that. Kicker Ryan Burkhart signed with Notre Dame in the class of 2006. Northwood High School is about 30 miles from Notre Dame.