Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2017

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

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14 JUNE/JULY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME EARLY SIGNING PERIOD MADE OFFICIAL: DEC. 20‑22 Football Bowl Subdivision coaching staffs will receive early Christmas presents for the first time this year in the way of recruiting. After the NCAA Division I Council in April approved an early signing period in football, the Collegiate Commissioners Association — which runs the National Letter of Intent Program — set a 72-hour early signing period for college football recruits from Dec. 20-22. Those dates coincided with the first three days junior college players sign letters of intent to transfer to four-year schools. College basketball has long had an early signing period (mid-November, when virtually everyone inks with his respective school), but this will be a first in college football, which for more than 40 years has had its national signing on the first or second Wednesday of February. The traditional signing period in February will remain for prospects still undecided or opting to wait later, take other official visits in January, or make announcements in late December or early January all-star games. According to 247Sports, last year there were 786 college football prospects that originally commit- ted to one school before they ended up signing with another. Notre Dame was involved with 11 of them, with five changing their mind in the 11th hour and inking with the Irish, while six others opted to enroll elsewhere. Earlier this month, 2018 Detroit Cass Tech cornerback Kalon Gervin, who gave a verbal commitment to Notre Dame Feb. 13, announced on Twitter that he has changed his mind and will not sign with the Fighting Irish. That left Notre Dame with 11 verbal pledges through May 16, still among the most nationally at this point of the 2018 recruiting campaign, although Gervin's decommitment dropped the Irish from No. 3 to No. 5 in Rivals' 2018 rankings. With bowl preparation or coaching changes at their peak during a hectic mid-December, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said he is unsure how many players from this year's class will utilize the early signing period. However, even with all the tumult of last year's 4-8 season, 15 of Notre Dame's 21 recruits remained with the Irish through December despite the exit of five assistant coaches. It was a positive sign that most Irish recruits choose the school, not necessarily a coach. Kelly has been a proponent of an early signing period in the past, and he believes it should be advantageous for Notre Dame now that the recruiting calendar has been moved up and official visits (paid for by the school) can be from April through June, as opposed to the start of a new school year in August. The other positive he points to is because Notre Dame recruits nationally, an early signing period should afford better time management overall for the staff — even though he is not counting on every verbal to sign Dec. 20-22. "It allows us another resource to be pointed towards those that are not [yet signed] because we're coast-to-coast [recruiting]," Kelly said. "We're going from L.A. to New Jersey. Any one less trip for a coach to go coast-to-coast to focus on a particular kid that's not committed is a resource well-served." The current members of the 2018 recruiting class (the 11 so far for Notre Dame) are not permitted to take official visits until the start of their senior years. The class of 2019 (or those finishing their sophomore years in high school) will be the first permitted to take official visits beginning in April of their junior year. SKYLAR DIGGINS AND DANIEL SMITH GET MARRIED Former 2010-13 Notre Dame receiver Daniel Smith made his best catch ever when he married 2009-13 Fighting Irish point guard and three- time All-American Skylar Diggins this last week- end of April at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. The South Bend natives — Smith attended Clay High School and Diggins graduated from Wash- ington High School — dated while students at Notre Dame before getting engaged last summer. The brother-in-law of 1999-2002 Notre Dame safety and former NFL player Gerome Sapp, Smith has pursued a career in graphic design and art, while Diggins is a two-time WNBA all- star with the Dallas Wings. She will now go by the name "Diggins-Smith." Smith earned a monogram as a freshman and played in all 13 games as a junior for the 12-1 Irish in 2012, starting four times. Although he caught seven passes that year, he was primarily utilized for his blocking when the Irish racked up a 12-0 regular season and No. 1 ranking while averaging 202.4 yards rushing per game. His football career ended his senior year when he suffered a broken fibula and tibia during a 37-34 victory versus Arizona State on Oct. 5, 2013. Diggins-Smith is the all-time leading scorer in Notre Dame women's basketball history with 2,357 points. More significantly, she elevated the Fighting Irish from a solid top-25 program that won only four NCAA Tournament games the previous five years to a perennial Final Four team her last three seasons with two runner-up finishes. When Diggins enrolled, Notre Dame was 4-48 all time against superpowers Tennessee (0-20) and UConn (4-28). In her last 12 games against the two elite programs the Irish were 10-2, 3-0 versus the Volunteers and 7-2 against the Huskies. Diggins posted on Instagram a few days after the wedding: "Married my best friend this week- end, officially making me the happiest woman on earth! Thanks to everyone who has sent their love and support. To forever!" Diggins and Smith, who dated while they were student‑athletes at Notre Dame from 2010‑13, were married in April. PHOTO COURTESY SKYLAR DIGGINS VIA INSTAGRAM Wide receiver Micah Jones of Gurnee (Ill.) Warren Township, shown at his Notre Dame commit‑ ment ceremony Feb. 17, is one of 11 players currently verbally pledged to the Irish. He can sign his letter of intent Dec. 20 if he so wishes. PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN

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