Notre Dame has a reputation for recruiting well in New Jersey. Last February, head coach Charlie Weis – a Garden State native – signed Theo Riddick (Immaculata), Tyler Stockton (Hun) and Carlo Calabrese (Verona), bolstering his program's status as a prime player for recruits from the state.
While Notre Dame definitely has received major contributions from Garden State natives in recent years, it has also missed out on a couple of major targets and appears to be losing even more ground in the race to land New Jersey's best.
In 2007, Weis landed Hoboken wide receiver Duval Kamara and Camden Catholic tight end Mike Ragone, but he was spurned by Don Bosco Prep defensive end Justin Trattou, who decided to switch his commitment from Notre Dame to Florida.
Great Grab by Duval Kamara
Duval Kamara Amazing Catch
Trattou de-committed shortly before national signing day, giving the Irish little chance to find an alternative at a position of need.
To add insult to injury, Notre Dame was spurned by another highly-regarded recruit one year later, nose tackle Omar Hunter from Buford (Ga.). Though Elizabeth (N.J.) graduate Hafis Williams, who represents Notre Dame’s only New Jersey recruit from the class of 2008, will help on the defensive line this season, it will be an extremely young unit that could use Trattou’s services.
The trend continued this past winter. Weis was prepared to sign St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City) athlete Nyshier Oliver to help with special teams duties and play the slot on offense. After a complicated recruiting process, Oliver left Notre Dame at the altar to sign with Tennessee to play defensive back.
Oliver’s departure to Tennessee left the Fighting Irish with a class that was short on wide receivers, something that Weis is trying hard to address in the 2010 class.
The 2010 class will also feature Paterson Catholic defensive tackle T.J. Clemmings, if Weis has his way. Clemmings is an intriguing prospect. He entered high school as a touted basketball prospect. He stopped growing around 6-foot-6 and now is teeming with potential on the football field.
However, it appears that the Fighting Irish may once again fail to land its top New Jersey target. Clemmings committed and de-committed recently to Pittsburgh. While it appears he is not officially committed, Clemmings looks like he is Pittsburgh’s to lose.
Weis did secure a commitment last month from Raritan standout Bennet Jackson. Jackson compiled over 500 yards receiving last year and should give the Irish some added depth at the position.
Further down the line, Weis will also have his work cut out for him with New Jersey’s loaded class of 2011.
Offensive lineman Angelo Mangiro from Roxbury and running back Savon Huggins from St. Peter’s Prep will both be ranked among the top recruits nationally in their position. Notre Dame has its sights set on each.
Rutgers is already putting the full court press on both players. Greg Schiano has had success keeping top offensive linemen in-state recently, so that plays in the Scarlet Knights' favor.
Huggins has no leader yet and isn’t afraid to leave the state. He put on a show at last weekend’s 7-on-7 held at Rutgers and his stock continues to rise.
Weis may have better luck with notable 2012 player Aubrey Lewis III from Paramus Catholic. Lewis’ grandfather, Aubrey Lewis Sr., a Montclair graduate, etched one of New Jersey’s greatest all-time careers on the gridiron before going to play at Notre Dame in the mid-1950s. Aubrey III started at wide receiver and defensive back as a freshman for Paramus Catholic and has great athleticism and football IQ for a player so young.
Pittsburgh continues to roll
Even without Clemmings' official pledge, Pittsburgh's Dave Wannstedt has still done a very nice job of reeling in 2010 recruits early on and paving the way for an impressive 2011 haul.
The Panthers already have verbal commitments from the Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) tandem of offensive lineman Brandon Sacco and defensive lineman Bryan Murphy, as well as St. Joseph Regional receiver K’Waun Williams.
DeMatha (Md.) athlete Jeff Knox and Bishop McDevitt (Pa.) receiver Salath Williams are also on board.
Williams may be able to help lure teammate Jameel Poteat to Pittsburgh. Poteat is a talented running back drawing interest from schools up and down the east coast. Wannstedt was the first coach to verbally offer Poteat, and Pittsburgh appears to be in good shape.
The Panthers also lead for fellow 2011 in-state star Terrell Chestnut. Chestnut plays quarterback and defensive back for Pottsgrove, but he projects to the defensive side of the ball at the next level. His teammate, Maika Polamalu, is another that Wannstedt will keep an eye on, though Penn State will also be in the hunt.