The 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior defensive end/linebacker helped his Tampa Jefferson squad to a 44-34 victory over Miami Norland in the Class 3A championship game with 1.5 sacks on Dec. 17. “It feels great,” McCord said of grabbing the state title following the Under Armour Junior Combine in Orlando last weekend.
But football wasn’t the only thing that kept McCord from focusing on recruiting.
“I always said that I didn’t want recruiting to get in the way of my season or the classroom,” McCord said. “I didn’t want to do that during the football season because I thought it could get me off track and I might mess up somewhere, especially in the classroom.”
McCord was offered by Notre Dame in early December, but his attention was focused on his team and his studies, so he hasn’t heard much since.
“Not that much after the offer because they had to focus on the bowl game and I had to focus on school and our playoffs,” he said.
When he does talk to the Irish, it’s usually with Notre Dame assistant Tony Alford.
“He’s a real cool guy,” McCord said of Alford. “I haven’t talked to him since they offered me. I may get in touch with him later on.”
McCord likes the fact that the Irish are on national television.
“They’re on TV every game, that’s a positive for me,” he said. “If my mom and dad can’t make it to the game, they can always watch it on NBC. That’s a good thing. Coach (Brian) Kelly is a real good coach, led Cincinnati to the Sugar Bowl. It’s a good school.”
In the state title game, McCord got a chance to play both defensive end and linebacker, something he’d like to do at the next level.
“I really like the outside linebacker in the 3-4, but then again, sometimes I like to put my hand in the dirt,” he said.
McCord, who also has offers from Florida, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas Tech and USF, doesn’t believe Urban Meyer’s departure will hurt the Gators’ chances at landing him.
“I don’t really think it’ll hurt because Urban needs time with his kids,” he said. “It really doesn’t have a negative impact on me. It’s just basically a new era.”
McCord says he will have the opportunity to focus on recruiting in the coming months, but doesn’t expect to start narrowing his list and developing favorites until after schools can offer written scholarships, which won’t be until August.
“I want to wait it out,” he said. “I’ve got to really think about it.”
He’s already thinking about the opportunities he’ll have at the next level and the level after that.
“Every time I get a new offer, I’m like, ‘Wow,’” he said. “It just shows my potential and what I can be when I grow up. It’s just another opportunity to make it to the NFL. When I was younger, I really thought I had no possibility of making it to the NFL. Now, I can really see myself playing in the NFL.”
A host of schools are hoping to help McCord get there.
With members of the 2011 recruiting class getting ready to finalize their decisions on February 2nd, the hunt for the 2012 class has already started. Notre Dame coaches have been working feverishly trying to shore up this year's recruiting class all the while talking to some of the nation's top juniors.
Irish offensive coordinator Charley Molnar checked in recently on two juniors from Allentown Central Catholic (Allentown, Penn.) who burst on the scene in 2010.
Quarterback Brendan Nosovitch and wide receiver Kevin Gulyas had tremendous 2010 seasons while helping the Vikings to a 16-0 record and a state championship victory over Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) 28-27.
The duo is no longer a secret as college recruiters have noticed their play and started to get in contact.
"I've received one offer from Virginia," said Nosovitch, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound quarterback. "I'm also hearing from Penn State, Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Rutgers,Purdue, South Carolina and Notre Dame.
"I'm definitely interested in Notre Dame, I used to always follow them when I was a kid and I know it's a special place to play. They have had a lot of good quarterbacks there, that's something I like.
"Obviously, it's a good school that's hard to get into. It's one of the top schools in the nation."
Gulyas also likes the Irish.
"I haven't received any offers yet," the 6-foot, 175-pound wideout said. "I'm hearing from Missouri, Duke, Vanderbilt and Notre Dame.
"I'm definitely interested in Notre Dame. It's just a real storied program full of tradition and to possibly have a chance to play for that type of program would be very special."
Allentown Catholic Central coach Harold Fairclough has gotten the chance to see what colleges like about these players first hand.
"Brendan is a dual-threat quarterback," he said. "He can hurt you on the ground and also has a very strong and accurate arm.
"He is one of the best athletes to have ever come through Central Catholic, I don't think anyone could argue that. We've had a lot of really good athletes come through here in baseball, football and basketball. The things that he's doing now and numbers he's putting up, what I like most about it is he's such a humble kid and you wouldn't even know it. You could see him walking down the hallway and you wouldn't even think that this was a kid putting up video-game type numbers.
"With the numbers he's put up the last two years, he's the first player in Pennsylvania history to throw for over 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons as a sophomore and a junior. This year he put up some ridiculous numbers. As far as passing, he threw for over 3,000 yards and for rushing, he ran for over 1,500 yards and had 68 touchdowns combined.
"He's a defensive coordinator's nightmare. If you try to shut down the run, he'll hurt you with his arm and if you try to bring pressure, he'll hurt you with his legs on the ground."
Nosovitch's talent was evident in junior high.
"When Brendan was in eighth grade I got to see him play a few times," explained Coach Fairclough. "He was actually a great defensive player. He had a ton of interceptions from the safety position.
"When he was a freshman we brought him up as a quarterback and with his great work ethic, he ended up starting by the end of the season.
"In his freshman year, we were playing a game and a linebacker came blitzing in and had him dead-to-rights in the backfield. He went to tackle him and we thought it was going to be a tackle for about a seven-yard loss.
"Brendan spun out of that, scrambled to his right and threw the ball about 45 yards in the air for a touchdown and we thought, 'Goodness gracious, did this kid just do that?' I think at that point we realized we had something special."
The junior quarterback brings the best of both worlds to an offense.
"I bring a passing game and a running game,"said Nosovitch. "I'm not one-dimensional. If you take away the run, I'll throw. If you take away the pass, then I can run on you. I do whatever I need to do to get the job done."
Gulyas was on the end of many of Nosovitch's passes and once he made the catch, it was time to hang on for the ride.
"Kevin is also a great kid," said the Allentown Catholic Central coach. "He's a very coachable kid and he's very intelligent.
"He's probably one of the quickest players I have ever coached or been around. We can get him the ball in space with a one-yard pass and he can turn it into a 40-yard one easily. He's got very good speed, very, very good hands and just broke most our records for receiving this season. He will break the rest of them next year.
"He is very elusive with speed and has a very high football IQ, this allows us to do a lot of things with him. That's just the type of kid he is."
The junior wide receiver also started displaying his talents at a young age.
"We brought him up as a freshman and just about every single day in practice he would burn one of our starting cornerbacks for a touchdown," claimed Fairclough. "It was awesome to see that from a young, talented kid doing that to junior and senior players who have been starting for a couple of years. We knew at that time we had to get this kid on the field and find a spot for him.
"He played his freshman year and then had a outstanding year his sophomore year. A play I remember from his sophomore year came against Nazareth (Nazareth, Penn.). It was a big game as we were both undefeated at the time.
"Kevin made a play on a two-yard throw and turned it into a 40-yard run, but when he got to the goal line there was a defender there and he put a juke move on him that I have only seen, literally, in a video game and scored a touchdown."
The chemistry between Gulyas and Nosovitch developed over countless hours on the football field, and spells big trouble for other teams.
"Brendan and I like to play fast," the wide receiver said. "We like to make other teams quit early and we like to play at a high tempo. We like to set the tone early and score a ton of points. After doing that a lot of teams start giving up.
"I like to use the speed and quickness that I have to shake defenders and create space to catch passes," explained Gulyas. "Usually I'm lined up in the slot, so I have a linebacker or safety on me, so with the speed I have, I like to create mismatches to get past defenders.
"A lot of teams try double-covering me and when they do that, it allows my teammates to be open. We do a lot of screen passes to throw off defenses and then we can go deep, short or intermediate and it really throws the defenses off. We are unpredictable, it makes us tough to cover."
With Notre Dame displaying interest in the two juniors, Coach Fairclough knows it's because of their work ethic all around and not just on the field.
"(Nosovitch) is definitely doing well in school," he said. "He has above a 3.2 GPA. He's been a great student in the classroom and has never been a problem.
"Kevin's GPA is in the 3.4, 3.5 range and he's very strong in the classroom. Central Catholic falls in the line of Notre Dame as far as prepping kids for academic discipline, structure and stuff like that.
"First and foremost, I think Notre Dame is a great academic school. It's one of the tops in the country and the other thing I like about it is it's overall tradition.
"The exposure that it gets being on TV and being able to play a wide variety of teams and not being tied down to playing just a conference schedule.
"I like how they produce players and the standards that they have as a program and a university."
So what will the two be looking for in a college?
"Education will definitely come first," said Nosovitch. "I want to get a good education. I want to go somewhere where I fit in well like with the offense, the coaches and the players. Those will be the two main things I'll look for."
"The most important thing is academics," he said. "Notre Dame is a really good academic school. I'm more concerned about life after football and being able to get a good job. That's definitely my top priority.
"After that would be athletics and Notre Dame sure is good with athletics also."
With Nosovitch and Gulyas being very good friends, they usually hear people say that they should go to the same college and play football together.
"We have been playing together since we were kids," said the junior wide receiver. "It would be pretty cool if we ended up playing together in college. Whatever happens, happens and maybe it will or maybe it won't.
"People come up to me and say that Brendan and I have to go to the same school, but who knows?I know our moms want us to. The bottom line is wherever we go, we both will be successful and I really believe that."
Coach Fairclough realizes that that could be a possibility in the future.
"If they decided to play at the same college, that would be great," he said. "They are very good friends on and off the field. They hang out on the weekends and after school. That would be awesome to see. Very neat and very interesting.
"It could be a possibility."
Simply put, Bryce Haynes has options…options that aren’t usually available to long snappers.
Generally regarded as the top long snapper in the Class of 2011, the Cumming, Ga., native is down to four schools – Notre Dame, North Carolina, Ohio State and Harvard. The 6-foot-4, 185-pounder has taken official visits to South Bend, Chapel Hill and Columbus with a visit to Cambridge set for this Thursday.
“The first school I visited was North Carolina,” Haynes said. “That’s the only one I’ve actually been to see the game-day atmosphere and I think it’s great. It’s a beautiful campus, it has great facilities. They all have great facilities, they’re all really similar. Great people up there, it was really nice.
“Notre Dame is pretty much the same. I haven’t been up there for a game day, but I really like the Catholic background. Tons of tradition, the coaches are great as well. What’s great about Ohio State is I spent a lot of time with the coaches and also the players. I met a lot of players at Ohio State. It’s a big school, but that’s a good thing too. Great education. The football team and the facilities are outstanding.”
Haynes is looking for a blend of football and academics.
“I want both,” he said. “I want football and the education and I just want a great environment. All of the schools I’ve been to have a good education, a great environment and a great football team. I’m just looking to see how Harvard compares to all of the other schools.
“Obviously, their academic reputation is huge and I know they’re really successful in football. They’re always winning their league championship or contending for it year in and year out.”
Coaches from all four schools have visited Haynes recently, including Notre Dame special teams coordinator Mike Elston, who was in late last week.
“He mainly got to talk with my parents,” Haynes said of Elston. “I didn’t get to see him that much. They want me to make a decision. I know that they’re expecting people to commit soon, so I’ve got to get that figured out.”
It could get figured out soon. Haynes will head to Chris Rubio’s 9th Annual National Kicking & Snapping Event in Las Vegas on Saturday.
“I’m going straight from Harvard to Vegas,” Haynes said.
Rubio, who serves as Haynes’ snapping coach, is trying to set it up so Haynes can announce his college decision at some point on Saturday. Haynes said none of the four schools have a lead at this point.
After the Army All-American Bowl concluded I was able to spend a few minutes with each of the Notre Dame commits that played in the game. Here were their thoughts from the game and their experiences down in San Antonio.
GEORGE ATKINSON, WR
On what he will take from this week: “It was great to compete against the top talent out there in the nation. It helps getting ready for the next level.”
On his safety play during the game: “I did okay, I had a little mishap in coverage, but I thought the team played well. We just had to finish.”
On getting two touches in the return game: “I’m trying to get used to that (getting touches). I’m going to be playing offense so I am going to be ready.”
On his experience from the Army week: “It is something I will never forget. It got to spend time with my family and get to know more about the Army and what they go through; and playing and practicing against the top talent in the country.”
MATTHEW HEGARTY, OL
On his feelings about the game: “It was a fun experience getting to hang out and get after it with some of the guys I’ve been here with all week. I didn’t play as well as I hoped, but right now I’m just glad I did get to play after the kind of week it was and things that happened. But it’s good that I got to have that experience.”
On going against the talented East DL: “It’s tough if you are not at your best, they definitely know how to get the kill shot in. Between Ray Drew, Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt; anywhere you look they all have a lot of speed and a lot of stretch. They are very advanced at this level.”
On what he will take from the game: “I think it’s kind of a good eye opener to remind me that I have to keep progressing and there is so much room for me to improve where I am right now. I just need to get healthy and get everything going so I can hit the ground running when I get there (Notre Dame) in June.”
Is he getting excited about Signing Day: “Absolutely, it’s a big offseason and I am getting ready. But hanging out with guys like George (Atkinson) and Stephon (Tuitt) it makes me look forward to it (getting to Notre Dame) even more knowing I get to hang out with them all the time.”
STEPHON TUITT, DE
On the rumors about him visiting LSU: “LSU? Nah, there is nothing going on with that.”
On playing opposite Aaron Lynch: “It was great. I got a chance to see what they (Notre Dame coaches) were talking about earlier in the year, bookends. We both played great together, we got great chemistry, along with Ray Drew.”
On his play during the game: “I feel like I played better than I have ever played before. Probably because of the level of competition being raised and how many good players we have on the East squad.”
On the play of the East DL: “I feel like we all woke up, had a good night sleep, ate some good breakfast and came out here and started spanking them. That was a good offensive line and I give it up to them. We just worked hard in practice and it showed up during the game. The D-Line dominated this game.”
On his visit after the game with the Notre Dame coaches: “I’m going to have all the people they can send down, all the coaches. I don’t really have any questions for them, we are just meeting with them and having a good time. Right now I don’t have any question.”
On his favorite part of the Army experience: “The soldiers! Meeting the soldiers that give their life to give us our freedom. I thank the soldiers doing all that they do and thank them for giving us all this. Just for all Americans to come in and play against each other. I’m glad we gave them a good show because they are good enough to fight for our country. I’m glad they got some time off to watch a great game.”
The duo first met over the summer and have become close friends.
“We met up at the Michigan camp this past summer,” said Mahone. “We were just chilling, had a good time up there, made a bond and stayed in touch. We were excited to meet each other down here.”
“We’ve texted each other and since we’ve been down here, we’ve hung out,” Brown said. “We just went out to eat. It’s been a great time.”
Thus far the friendship has included much trash talking about who is the better player,
“It hasn’t come out yet,” said Mahone. “Maybe later.”
Mahone said he wasn’t sure who was faster, but Brown was correct when he guessed his buddy was faster. Mahone ran a 4.7 40-yard dash while Brown timed in at 4.8.
Both backs have worked on their speed and agility recently.
“I’ve gotten more balanced over the years,” said Mahone. “I used to be just a power back, but now I feel like I’m gaining more speed and becoming a balanced back.”
“I think the same thing,” Brown said. “I used to be a power back, but now I’m working with my footwork and getting more explosive. I think I’ve balanced out with elusiveness and power.”
Brown lives 20 minutes south of South Bend and camped at Notre Dame after meeting Mahone in Ann Arbor.
“It was awesome,” he said of Notre Dame. “The coaches were great. The facilities were obviously nice and the competitive level was through the roof.”
Brown hasn’t had much contact with Notre Dame lately other than some mail, but he’s hoping to hear more soon. He’s camped at Kentucky and taken unofficial visits to Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Alabama and Iowa and is planning on taking many more.
Brown says that academics will play a huge role in his final decision.
“Football, a blown knee, if it doesn’t work out, I definitely want to fall back on something,” he said. “Maybe physical therapy. Then the connections with the coaches and players. Does it fit me? Is it right? And also the social life at the school, do I like it?”
He hopes to build relationships with more players and coaches while he’s in Orlando and maybe testing well enough to earn his first scholarship offer.
Mahone received his first offer, from Bowling Green, just before leaving for Florida.
“I just talked to Cincinnati, they came in twice,” said Mahone. “I get a lot of letters from a lot of schools, but other than that it’s pretty slow.”
Mahone tripped to Penn State and Michigan for games this past fall. He is receiving mail from Oregon, Alabama, Iowa, Penn State and Boston College as well as the Irish.
“Hopefully in March or whatever, it heats up and I get to talk to some coaches,” he said.
Mahone has plenty of family friends with knowledge of Notre Dame.
“I’ve got a lot of people around me who either went to Notre Dame or know a lot about it,” he said. “I’m sure I could get filled in more. I’m looking forward to learning more.”
His goals for Orlando are simple.
“Just go hard, get my tape out there, show out at these combines and show I’m a college player,” he said.
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