Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2016

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

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Page 45 of 55

46 SEPT. 19, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED PREP PROFILES Notre Dame running backs coach Autry Denson has made quite an im- pression on West Hills (Calif.) Cham- inade High School running back T.J. Pledger, the No. 4 ball carrier in the class of 2018. The four-star prospect has run for 2,153 yards and 37 touch- downs in two years of high school. P l e d g e r v i s i t e d N o t re D a m e July 21 with five-star cornerback and fellow Californian Darnay Holmes and said he and Denson were instant friends. "When we met, we hit it right off the bat," Pledger said. "He's a run- ning back, and I think he's a great guy. We talked about things outside of football, which was great. It was just a great visit. "He told me he likes my playing style and my vision. I could defi- nitely see myself in that offense." During the visit, Pledger said he developed an appreciation for what Notre Dame has to offer. "My interest in Notre Dame is very high," Pledger said. "I had a great visit there with Darnay Holmes, and that's when they offered me. I got to see the program, and I felt like it could be a good fit over there." Pledger said, he hopes to see Notre Dame in action multiple times in 2016. "I'm setting up the visit right now with my family," said Pledger, who ran for three touchdowns in his sea- son opener Aug. 26. "I know I'll for sure go see them when they come play at USC, and I'm definitely going to try to get up to South Bend with my family because they didn't come on my last visit." Notre Dame, Pledger said, was ev- erything he thought it would be. "Just the history of Notre Dame," Pledger said. "The whole coaching staff, they showed me a lot of love. Notre Dame speaks for itself. They definitely met my expectations com- ing in." While Pledger is high on Notre Dame, the high school junior said he doesn't have a leader and isn't ready to release a list of his top schools just yet. "I'm looking to take more visits and go out there and see places," Pledger said. "I don't want to re- lease a top list of schools yet because I want to give every school a fair chance." — David McKinney Four-star tight end Mustapha Mu- hammad is taking his time with the recruiting process. The No. 12 player at his position and the No. 242 overall prospect in the class of 2018 according to Rivals said he isn't in any rush to make a commitment. "Recruiting is going great," Mu- hammad said. "I'm enjoying this whole process, and I'm taking things very slow." According to Muhammad, the rea- son he's waiting it out is because he knows what an important decision he has to make. "I don't want to commit somewhere yet because I see guys decommit all the time," Muhammad said. "If I com- mit, I want to be somewhere where I am 110 percent sure, and I want to be dedicated. "That's a very, very big decision." Muhammad will take an unofficial visit to South Bend this season, so the Irish will have a chance at landing the standout. "My interest in Notre Dame is very high," Muhammad said. "I like all the tradition that they have, and I like how they use tight ends in the offense that they have. I'm planning on going to a game this season." Leading the charge for landing Mu- hammad is tight ends coach and spe- cial teams coordinator Scott Booker. "I get along with him pretty well," Muhammad said. "He's visited me twice down here in Texas. We have a good, solid relationship. I'm going to start contacting him more to try to schedule a game to go to. I know that he's a fun coach. "He's young, he's relatable, and I could see myself playing for him." Another factor attracting Muham- mad to Notre Dame is the combi- nation of strong football and strong academics. "They have great tradition and a re- ally good fan base," Muhammad said. "Also, on the educational side, I've heard that they're pretty good aca- demically, and that it's a pretty solid degree to have coming out of college." When his offer from Notre Dame officially came, Muhammad said he was thrilled. "It was great," Muhammad said. "I know that they put tight ends in the NFL all the time, and Coach Booker is a nice guy. I was very excited to receive an offer from Notre Dame." — David McKinney Top 2018 Running Back Is High On The Irish Four-Star Texas Tight End Likes Notre Dame T.J. PLEDGER ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ Chaminade West Hills, Calif. Status: Offered Class: 2018 Position: Running Back Ht.: 5-9 Wt.: 175 Rivals Rankings: No. 4 run- ning back and No. 56 overall player nationally MUSTAPHA MUHAMMAD ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ Ridge Point Missouri City, Texas Status: Offered Class: 2018 Position: Tight End Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 225 Rivals Rankings: No. 12 tight end and No. 242 overall player in the country "NOTRE DAME SPEAKS FOR ITSELF. THEY DEFINITELY MET MY EXPECTATIONS COMING IN." PLEDGER "MY INTEREST IN NOTRE DAME IS VERY HIGH. I LIKE ALL THE TRADITION THAT THEY HAVE, AND I LIKE HOW THEY USE TIGHT ENDS IN THE OFFENSE THAT THEY HAVE." MUHAMMAD

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