Visits indicate ND's late push
FOOTBALL RECRUITINGBOB WIENEKE
Tribune Staff Writer
If there's been one fault CSTV analyst Tom Lemming can find with Notre Dame's recruiting during the Charlie Weis Era, it would be that the Irish have not landed many of the nation's top prospects in January and February, recruiting's version of the fourth quarter.
Granted, Weis' first two full classes have been ranked top-10 groups by Lemming, so the knocks are few. But January and early February are often the period when many of the nation's top players make their choices.
Weis has had success in January -- Sam Young, for instance, committed in January two years ago -- but that success has not come at the frequency of heavyweights such as USC and Florida.
Notre Dame could go a long way toward establishing itself as a strong finisher this weekend when it is expected to host a pair of players -- running back Milton Knox of Birmingham High in Van Nuys, Calif., and defensive end Keith Wells of Gainesville, Ga.
"If they could land these two guys," Lemming said, "it would show the only weakness in their recruiting approach has been rectified."
Notre Dame already has secured three of the Los Angeles area's best players in quarterback Dayne Crist, linebacker Anthony McDonald and tight end Joseph Fauria, but it was Knox who was the LA Daily News Player of the Year. He rushed for 2,218 yards and 39 touchdowns, and, according to Lemming, has his list down to Notre Dame and UCLA.
Knox committed to former Bruins coach Karl Dorrell, but Dorrell was fired at the end of the season and replaced by Rick Neuheisel. Recruiting Web site lists Knox as a "soft verbal" to the Bruins.
Lemming termed the 5-foot-8, 192-pound Knox a "small, explosive-type back" with good strength.
Wells' strength is considered his upside as he's a relative novice to the game. Two years ago, he approached Gainesville coach Bruce Miller and asked if he could join the football team.
"I said, 'Sure we'll let you. My goodness, look at you,'" Miller said of the 6-5 and now 235-pounder. "He's huge. And he's going to get huger. Keith's best football should be ahead of him."
Wells was expected to receive a 5:30 p.m. visit Wednesday from Tennessee's coaches, with Notre Dame assistants Bill Lewis and Corwin Brown arriving two hours later. Wells' other finalist is Ohio State.
Part of ND's Wednesday visit, Miller surmised, was to set up this weekend's trip to South Bend. Miller had thought that Wells could arrive at a decision as soon as Friday, although it still looks like Wells will be heading north this weekend.
"To my knowledge he is. But like I told you at the start of our conversation, he's a high school kid," Miller said. "If he comes to Notre Dame, it means he hasn't made a decision."
The two late visits, according to Lemming, indicate progress.
"It's the lure of Notre Dame to get them for visits," Lemming said. "(It says) that the name of Notre Dame is still strong." http://www.southbendtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080131/SPORTS13/801310442/1001/Sports