Notre Dame hosted its first Junior Day of the spring last weekend and though the visitor list wasn’t huge it was quite prestigious. Nearly every prospect that visited came away impressed and one, Andrew Trumbetti, pulled the trigger for the Irish. Even those that didn’t commit seemed to elevate Notre Dame on their list of prospective destinations. Irish Sports Daily spoke to two young men, both highly rated at their respective positions that the Irish coaching staff would love to see in Blue and Gold in 2014. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Sports Daily?
Jeb Blazevich, TE, 6-5, 225, Charlotte Christian School, Charlotte, NC took his first ever trip to South Bend last weekend for the Irish Junior Day. Blazevich came away from the visit with an even greater appreciation for Notre Dame.
“I really liked it; just going around and seeing the facilities,” he enthused. “Like the coaches said you really won’t get a feel for it or know what it’s really about until you go here for about four or five years and get involved with it. “
Blazevich (pictured) got the opportunity to visit with a friend and former teammate, current Notre Dame safety Matthias Farley.
“That was great catching up with him,” the 2014 prospect said. “We didn’t really talk that much football. We just wanted to give him a night off, a break. He’s a great guy. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Blazevich got the opportunity to spend a very full, information-packed day on his visit. He liked what he saw.
“They had practice first thing in the morning,” he said. “The first thing was the positional meetings, so we went to those. I met Coach (Scott) Booker, I’ve talked with him a lot, but it was good getting to meet him face to face.”
“We went to practice and of course they were very busy. We just sort of stood out of the way and observed that. From there we went on a little tour. We talked with (Adam) Sargent about academics. We went and saw Touchdown Jesus; we went into the dome and saw all of that cool stuff. It’s just a lot of tradition.”
Blazevich was especially impressed by the academic presentation that featured Notre Dame’s 98% graduation rate for all scholarship athletes. He also engaged in a panel discussion with current Irish players that included Farley and James Onwualu about the realities of academic life.
“There were a lot of questions about how tough the classes were, what the day to day time management is like,” he said. “The players were like, ‘Look, this is what it’s honestly like. You hear all the stats, but if you commit yourself to it, it’s not that bad.’”
Blazevich got the opportunity to talk to Irish Head Coach Brian Kelly. He liked the fact that Kelly was straightforward with him about how much they wanted him but also that they wouldn’t be able to wait forever for his commitment.
“What I told Coach Kelly and all of the coaches, I was upfront and honest with them, was, ‘This place is one in a million. It’s very unique and now it’s just on me to decide whether I want to jump on board and be a part of it.’ This place is definitely one in a million and you can’t find anything like it anywhere else.”
Blazevich has plans to visit five more schools before making any decision. He hoped to follow his Notre Dame visit with one to Ohio State, the weather permitting. Then he planned on visiting Clemson, Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss before making his final decision. He plans to decide by no later than June first, maybe earlier if he’s certain.
“I think the earliest would be around May,” he informed. “If I’m not ready, I’m not going to commit. Whenever I’m ready, I’ll commit.”
As big of a visitor to Notre Dame’s Junior Day as Blazevich was, there was one even bigger, literally if not figuratively. At 6-6, 300 pounds, Braden Smith certainly stands out. The Olathe South Senior High School star, visited Notre Dame’s Junior Day also and, like Blazevich, came away very impressed.
“I felt very comfortable there,” he said. “I really liked the people there and the coaches. I liked the campus size also, it’s really small and it’s like a circle, so it’s pretty easy to get around. The football area is very easy to get around, it’s just one building. I like that you don’t have to walk a mile to get to one place or another. It takes like two seconds and there you are.”
In addition to Notre Dame, Smith holds scholarship offers from a veritable who’s who of college football’s elite. Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, TCU, Georgia, Miami and Stanford have all stepped to the plate. In addition to his visit to South Bend, Smith also made stops at Michigan and Ohio State as well. Still, there was something about Notre Dame that stood out.
“They (Michigan and Ohio State) were pretty good, but I think Notre Dame is one of the more impressive ones,” he said. “I felt more comfortable there than the other two.”
Smith got to spend time with the three coaches that are most significant to him in terms of his recruitment, Bob Elliott, his recruiter, Harry Hiestand, his position coach and Kelly. He came away with nothing but positive things to say about them.
“I really like Coach Kelly,” he said. “He’s up front and he told me he was not going anywhere, he’s staying there. That’s one factor that really influenced me. I really like him (Coach Hiestand) because he’s honest with everything he says and you want to play for a guy like that. He kind of acts like his offensive linemen are his family; I like that.”
Smith also had the opportunity to spend time with the offensive linemen. He came away impressed with Notre Dame’s big road graders.
“They’re good guys,” he stated. “I like them. They’re easy to get along with and they don’t have egos. They’re all like one big group.”
Smith has finished his visits for a while. Now he plans to concentrate on his track and field season and then get back to his visits in the summer. He will most definitely enter the summer feeling good about Notre Dame.
“They’re pretty high up there; I’d say that after the visit,” he said. “Top five definitely: I don’t really know the others yet, but TCU and Texas A&M definitely.”
It appears as if the Irish have positioned themselves for an official visit in the fall. When asked if that would transpire, Smith simply answered, “probably, yeah.”
These two summaries represent just a sample of the Notre Dame football recruiting information available each week on Irish Sports Daily.