Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 31, 2016

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

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52 OCT. 31, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI W ith the University of Miami visiting Notre Dame for the first time since 1990, it brings to mind how much the state of Florida has evolved into prominent recruiting territory for the Fighting Irish. Prior to the 1970s, Notre Dame football players from Florida were almost non-existent, although the Zloch brothers — 1965 starting quar- terback Bill and 1968 starting cor- nerback Chuck — were exceptions on top-10 teams. It was a reflection of the times, because the NFL didn't even have football franchises in the South until Atlanta and Miami in 1966. It wasn't until the late 1980s under head coach Lou Holtz and recruit- ing coordinator Vinny Cerrato that Notre Dame began to make inroads and become more of a player in the Sunshine State, while Miami, Florida State and Florida all became super heavyweights in the sport. Today, Notre Dame coming up empty-handed in Florida equates with disappointment, especially with the Irish joining the ACC in 2013, which aided its presence in the state. • By our count, 87 players from Florida have played in games for Notre Dame, most recently current freshmen Devin Studstill (Riviera Beach), the starting free safety, and Kevin Stepherson (Jacksonville), a wide receiver who had three touch- down receptions in his first five games. • In addition to Studstill and Step- herson, the Irish signed four other players from Florida last February — running backs Tony Jones Jr. (St. Pe- tersburg) and Deon McIntosh (Pom- pano Beach), offensive guard Parker Boudreaux (Winter Gardens) and linebacker Jonathan Jones (Ocoee). • Like in 2016, the 2017 recruiting class also might have the most Notre Dame players from Florida. Its four verbals already are: wide receiver Jordan Pouncey (Winter Park), offen- sive lineman Dillan Gibbons (Clear- water), defensive end Jonathan Mac- Collister (Orlando) and linebacker Drew White (Fort Lauderdale). This state has cultivated premier talent for Notre Dame the past quar- ter-century. The expectation is that can be at least matched, if not surpassed, over the next 25 years. NOTRE DAME'S ALL-FLORIDA TEAM Quarterback: Kevin McDougal (Pompano Beach, 1990-93) After freshman phenom and pro- jected starter Ron Powlus suffered a season-ending injury the week before the 1993 opener, McDougal stepped in and remains the all-time pass ef- ficiency rating king at Notre Dame with a 156.7 rating, 11 points higher than anyone else. He led the '93 Irish to an 11-1 cam- paign and debatable, if not contro- versial, No. 2 finish. Running Back: Autry Denson (Lauderhill, 1995-98) The current Irish running back coach's college career began at cor- nerback until a season-opening loss at home to Northwestern. Later, it looked like he would move to flanker. Instead, he remained a main- stay at running back, eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing each of his last three years and becoming the school's all- time leader with 4,318 rushing yards. His 47 career touchdowns (43 rushing) trail only Allen Pinkett's 53 on the all-time Irish chart. Denson earned second-team Associated Press All-America honors as a senior. Receivers: Armando Allen (Opa Locka, 2007-10) in the slot and Bobby Brown (Lauderhill, 1996-99) split wide Although he often played through injuries, the speedster Allen's 119 ca- reer receptions are the most ever by a Notre Dame running back. Brown paced the Irish in receiving in 1997 and 1999, and finished his ca- reer with 96 catches that averaged 15.8 yards and included 12 touchdowns. Sunshine State STARS Recruiting in Florida is reaching its greatest heights at Notre Dame Current Irish running backs coach Autry Denson — who hails from Lauderhill, Fla. — became Notre Dame's all-time leading rusher with 4,318 yards from 1995-98. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS

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