Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 17, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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52 SEPT. 17, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI F orty years ago, the Notre Dame football roster reflected minimal southern influence. Among the 108 scholarship players on the 1978 Notre Dame team, only five were from traditional "SEC territory," which back then didn't include the state of Texas. Thirty years ago en route to Notre Dame's most recent national title, the state of Florida began to become the first southern state to make major inroads in the school's recruiting. Seven players from the Sunshine State alone signed with the Fighting Irish in 1987 because speed was viewed as more prominent in the southern parts of the country. College football began to see the balance of power shifting geographically, especially with the ascent of Miami, Florida State and Florida into superpowers during the 1980s. Among the Floridians who became major contributors on that 1988 Notre Dame championship team were free safety Pat Terrell, center Mike Heldt and tight end Derek Brown. The southern influence also was reflected with standout individuals such as quarterback Tony Rice (South Carolina) and that year 's top two tacklers, Wes Pritchet (Georgia) and Michael Stonebreaker (Louisiana) at linebacker. Florida remains a linchpin in Notre Dame's recruiting efforts these days, as it has more scholarship player representation (10), led by linebacker and leading tackler Te'von Coney, on the 2018 roster than any other state. In recen t years, th ree oth er Southeastern Conference states have become more prominent in Notre Dame's recruiting emphasis. • The first is Georgia, where the Irish have made greater inroads. Safety Derrik Allen, running back C'Bo Flemister and tight end Tommy Tremble were added in the 2018 recruiting haul, and the 2019 verbal commits include safety Kyle Hamilton and cornerback K.J. Wallace, both from Atlanta. • N e x t i s L o u i s i a n a , w h e re landing current standout senior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery was a coup. The past two cycles the Irish inked receivers Michael Young and Lawrence Keys III. • Finally there is Tennessee, which currently includes senior captain and guard Alex Bars; senior kicker Justin Yoon, who is on the threshold of becoming the all-time scoring leader at the school; junior Donte Vaughn, the third cornerback in the rotation who started four games as a freshman; and freshman offensive lineman Cole Mabry. Recently, guard Bryn Tucker of Knoxville Catholic, one of the most coveted prospects for the Irish in 2020, was on campus for the season opener versus Michigan Sept. 1. Bars and Yoon both hail from Nashville, the home of Sept. 15 opponent Vanderbilt. Per our research, only 22 players (including walk-ons) from Tennessee have ever seen action as Notre Dame football players, but almost half of them have come since the turn of the 21st century. Although it remains quite the challenge to pluck any top prospect away from SEC country, Notre Dame has had decent success in the Volunteer State recently. Interestingly, among all SEC schools, the Tennessee Volunteers have played Notre Dame the most during the regular season with eight meetings from 1978-2005. The series is tied at 4-4. Vanderbilt also played the Fighting SOUTHERN EXPANSION Tennessee is among several SEC states growing in recruiting popularity at Notre Dame Golden Tate (above) — who won the 2009 Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top wide receiver — joined safety Harrison Smith as two big-time recruits from the state of Tennessee in Notre Dame's 2007 recruiting class. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS

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