Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2020

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

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Page 32 of 47 FEBRUARY 2020 33 FOOTBALL RECRUITING and the number of advanced place- ment classes he's taken. "We have serious conversations," Polian said. "The biggest thing here is the ability to communicate. There are guys here who succeed because they can have a conversation and communicate with a professor. "If a guy will come here and may have good grades, but we've got to work really hard to communicate with us, there's a hunch that, hey, that guy might have a hard time." There may not be a specific 2020 re- cruit who comes to mind, but 2021 Ri- vals100 player Gabriel Rubio earned his Notre Dame offer by showing a commitment to the classroom. His GPA was below a 3.0 in the middle of his sophomore year, so de- fensive line coach Mike Elston made a deal with him. If he raised his GPA, then the Irish would offer. In that last semester of his sophomore year, he earned a 3.7 GPA, and Elston knew Rubio had the scholastic aptitude necessary to thrive at Notre Dame. It wasn't merely that his GPA was higher. Rubio showed he was willing to accept a difficult academic chal- lenge and exceed expectations. "Dave Peloquin [Notre Dame's director of player personnel], spe- cifically, on our staff working in con- junction with our admissions office, they do a really good job of where there might be a concern, let's ad- dress it now, let's have some honest conversations," Polian said. "I would tell you eight and a half to nine times out of 10 we get the answer we're looking for." CULTURAL FIT In addition to athletics and aca- demics, the Notre Dame coaching staff must assess if a recruit is a cul- tural fit. That's why, when a prospect visits campus, the staff seeks input from Notre Dame's current roster. "That's invaluable feedback," Po- lian said. "If there's ever a doubt in our mind about whether a guy fits, we will immediately go to the host." Other bits of information could come from the recruiting staff, in- cluding student ambassadors from Notre Dame, Saint Mary's and Holy Cross, who spend time with the re- cruit and help set up events for unof- ficial and official visitors. "Our ambassadors will give us feedback in terms of when they're with a prospect and the family, say, for a home game and spend a great deal of time with them, more than we will, for an unofficial or official visit and come back and say, 'Hey, I don't know. There's some things that they were talking about that don't necessarily jibe,'" Polian said. "It's not the decider, but it's a big piece of information as we're trying to put the puzzle together." ✦ FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM THE EARLY SIGNING PERIOD The Fighting Irish signed all 17 of their committed prospects and added one new recruit on the first day of the early signing period (Dec. 18-20). Here are five takeaways from that eventful yet drama-free day: 1. The Class Stuck Together It was expected that Notre Dame would sign all 17 of its verbal commitments on the first day of the early signing period, but it can't be overlooked how important it is that it actually happened. There were attempts by other coaching staffs to get in with Notre Dame's top recruits on offense in light of coordinator Chip Long's departure, but they stuck true to their word. Notre Dame was a perfect 17 for 17 in terms of its commitments putting pen to paper with the Irish. Park Hills (Ky.) Covington Catholic's Michael Mayer, Rivals' No. 3 tight end and No. 37 overall recruit in the country, was probably the most shaken up about Long leaving the program, because they were very close and Long had an in-home visit just a week before the news broke. But the Irish were able to keep Mayer and all of their 2020 commits locked into the class. 2. Notre Dame Finally Lands Ramon Henderson The recruitment of Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty defensive back Ramon Henderson ended. The 6-3, 180-pounder added a lot of suspense by waiting until Dec. 18 to an- nounce his school of choice, and it came down to Notre Dame and Utah. Henderson, a three-star recruit and the No. 63 prospect in the Golden State per Ri- vals, had been a longtime Notre Dame lean who was very valued by the coaching staff. It was expected he would pick Notre Dame — but you just never know until the recruit's letter of intent officially arrives. 3. Surprise Last-Minute Visitor During the weekend before the early signing period, Notre Dame had a surprise official visitor on campus, which was kept under wraps. Moorpark (Calif.) High offensive lineman Jonah Monheim, a four-star recruit who was committed to USC, made his way out to South Bend for a visit. Notre Dame was involved in his recruitment back in the spring and made an offer to him during that time, but the Irish decided against taking a true interior offensive line prospect and moved on to other recruits. After evaluating his senior tape, the Fighting Irish got back into the mix with Monheim, but their efforts fell short. Despite turmoil at USC, Monheim stuck with the Trojans and is currently their lone four-star signee. 4. Possible February Addition? In his press conference Dec. 18, head coach Brian Kelly mentioned that there could be an addition to the 2020 class in February. "Probably just be on the offensive side of the ball," Kelly said on the topic. Considering that Notre Dame nearly added Monheim to its 2020 class, it would be plausible to think the Irish may look to add an offensive lineman on National Signing Day in February. 5. Notre Dame's Class Ranks No. 15 Nationally Notre Dame's 18-man class sat at No. 15 in the Rivals national team rankings heading into the final two months of the 2020 recruiting cycle. In sorting by average star ranking per recruit, Notre Dame's class was 10th best (3.56). — Mike Singer The Irish landed Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty defensive back Ramon Henderson, a three-star prospect and the No. 63 player in the Golden State, on the first day of the early signing period Dec. 18. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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