Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2020

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

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34 AUGUST 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY MIKE SINGER M arch 12, 2020 will be remembered as the day the sports world came to a screeching halt. With the corona‑ virus pandemic spreading through the United States, college athletics and professional sports were put on hold indefinitely. Notre Dame was set to host a mon‑ ster recruiting weekend March 20‑22 — but the NCAA enacted a dead pe‑ riod, which halts in‑person contact between college coaches and pro‑ spective student‑athletes, through April 15. This not only prevented recruits from visiting Notre Dame — the Irish coaching staff was not allowed to hit the road and evaluate prospects' workouts at their schools. Many recruits hoped to take vis‑ its after the dead period lifted, but it was extended through the end of May a few weeks later. It was pushed back a couple more times and — as of July 20 — was set to run through Aug. 31. Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly wasn't too optimistic that the dead period will lift this calendar year. "How do you fly in a family that hasn't been tested, put them up on campus at your hotel and let them walk around campus freely?" he said in a Zoom press conference. "If visits do happen, we'll be excited about it, but we'll be cautious and have to ask a lot of questions. "We're operating as if you will not be able to visit this campus this re‑ cruiting season, and we have to take our campus to you." The Notre Dame staff has resorted to conducting "virtual visits" with recruits, which is a Zoom call that of‑ ten includes a video tour of campus that the coaches are able to talk over. As of July 20, Notre Dame had 12 commitments in its 2021 class. As of the same date last year in the 2020 recruiting cycle, the Irish already had verbal commitments from 16 of its 17 eventual signees. Notre Dame is a unique institu‑ tion that's hard to explain on a Zoom call. All of the videos in the world can't show the complete experience that student‑athletes are getting on campus. Some prospects, such as Fridley (Minn.) Totino Grace offensive tackle Joe Alt, have visited campus even though they can't see the coaches due to the dead period. Before Alt made the decision to commit to the Fighting Irish over Iowa, his father's alma mater, and Minnesota, the lo‑ cal option, he wanted to step foot on campus and see what it was all about. A few weeks later in early July, he an‑ nounced his pledge to Notre Dame. The dead period has hurt other schools, but one can reasonably ar‑ gue that it hurts Notre Dame more than most because the Irish don't have a strong local recruiting base to rely on and were banking on the March, April and June recruiting weekends — all of which were wiped out — to get prospects on campus and win their recruitments. Many of Notre Dame's top targets hadn't been on campus in several months and were looking forward to the March weekend. Several of them have since committed elsewhere. Notre Dame has still been able to land six new high school commit‑ ments during the dead period, plus a pair of graduate transfers. Six of the eight players have never taken a formal recruiting trip to Notre Dame. During a normal cycle, Notre Dame wouldn't take a prospect's commitment unless he had taken an actual visit, but the Fighting Irish were forced to adapt with the times. TYLER BUCHNER COMPETES AT ELITE 11 FINALS All of the major high school re‑ cruiting camps were shut down due to COVID‑19, including the Elite 11 Regionals. However, the nation's premier quarterback competition decided to have its finals anyways, even with several regional camps not taking place. Some quarterbacks were able to compete in the Elite 11 Regionals in Los Angeles on March 7. La Mesa (Calif.) Helix Charter quarterback and Notre Dame pledge Tyler Buch‑ ner received an invite to the Elite 11 Finals with his stellar performance that day. It didn't seem like the Finals would be able to happen, but the La Mesa (Calif.) Helix Charter quarterback and Notre Dame commit Tyler Buchner had an up-and-down week in Murfreesboro, Tenn., but was still named an Elite 11 finalist. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM Notre Dame Works Through The Challenges Created By The Pandemic

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