On Friday morning at a press conference at his school, the four-star running back verbally committed to Notre Dame, choosing the Irish over Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and Tennessee.
“The first thing that was on my mind going into the recruiting process, is I wanted to go to a school that has high academic standards, and Notre Dame fits that,” the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Hayes told Irish Sports Daily on Wednesday night. “That was the first thing, and everything else fell into place.
“The exposure, Notre Dame has crazy exposure. They’re on national television every Saturday. Notre Dame is a big-time program. When I went down to visit, both times I loved it. I talked to coach (Brian) Kelly a couple times, and felt the love from the coaching staff. I talked to the players and I loved that. All of them were down-to-earth guys, all about being successful in life.
“All that mixed together was a Justice Hayes wonderland.”
Hayes becomes the 13th player to verbally commit to Notre Dame in the recruiting class-of-2011, and first running back. As a junior, he rushed for 1,122 yard and 10 touchdowns, while adding another 22 receptions for 239 yards. He did all of that on an injured ankle.
“There is a lot of history at Notre Dame, and I want to leave my own set of history,” Hayes said. “I want to be the next All-American tailback to come out of Notre Dame. There haven’t been too many of those recently, but by the time coach Kelly’s recruits come in, we’re going to make some noise. We have some talented guys coming in, in the 2010 and 2011 recruiting classes, and we’re hoping to get us a championship. It’s going to be a lot of All-American type guys leaving their mark.”
Earlier in the week, Hayes informed running backs coach Tim Hinton and his recruiter Chuck Martin of his decision.
“They were both fired up.”
Hayes is fired up to be part of the program and stated that he won’t be visiting any other schools.
“This is it. I’m done with the visiting. Notre Dame is the place where I want to be at, and it will be come signing day.”
Joe Arcidiacono played high-school basketball in Philadelphia and ended up on Villanova’s football squad where he became a captain and played alongside Howie Long.
His second child, Nicole, played basketball at Penn State, also becoming one of the squad’s captains.
Clearly, the family is blessed with athletic ability.
Despite Joe’s sporting proficiency, his second-youngest son, Ryan Arcidiacono (Langhorne, Penn./Neshaminy), has had the upper hand on the basketball court recently.
“He started beating me in about eighth grade,” the elder Arcidiacono admits. “Yeah, I can’t run with him. I couldn’t run with him and I couldn’t shoot with him.”
Lately, it seems like most of the country is having the same problem.
Ryan stands in at 6-foot-4, 191 pounds and was named to ESPNU’s Super 60 as one of the premier point guards in the class of 2012.
Although he had been receiving some attention from programs in the Northeast, his recruitment has taken off only recently after the summer circuit.
Because Arcidiacono’s AAU squad, the PA Playaz, is essentially a team with its members from two high schools, Ryan’s Neshaminy High School and Council Rock North, the club doesn’t have a great national following.
“When we got into summer ball, and Ryan really kind of took off on the national level,” Joe Arcidiacono said. “He had some offers here locally. He had played really well, but he just hadn’t been seen on the national level.”
That quickly changed after the Tournament of Champions in North Carolina over the spring.
“So he went down to North Carolina and played well,” Arcidiacono said. “I don’t want to sound like the father bragging about his son, but he’s played like this his whole life and he was just seen there by the national scouts. So these people saw him and next thing he’s exploding and all these people are calling him and the letters came in. So it’s really been a wild ride for him and the family.”
Ryan currently holds about 15 offers including ones from Boston College, Florida, Georgia Tech, Penn State, Seton Hall, Wake Forest and West Virginia.
Notre Dame has also extended a scholarship offer after beginning Arcidiacono’s recruitment last year.
“There was a gentleman before Martin Ingelsby, Sean Kearney I believe his name is, he was the first guy who contacted us from Notre Dame,” Joe said. “When he took the head job [at Holy Cross], Martin Ingelsby got in touch with Ryan’s high school coach and said he would like to watch him work out. So he came to a workout last year at an open gym in maybe September.”
As Arcidiacono averaged 17 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game in his sophomore season with the Redskins, the Irish coaching staff remained in contact with the point guard.
“As the season progressed, he’d keep in contact, usually through the head coach,” Joe said. “They would ask if we could make a quick phone call and I would just call to say hello.”
After Ryan’s success in the spring and summer workouts, the point guard was atop a number of program’s target lists, clearly demonstrated by the attention Arcidiacono received on the first day when college coaches can offer rising juniors.
“I think June 15th is the first day they can call, and everybody called,” Arcidiacono said. “That day, he probably got six offers. And Brey said, ‘Look, I’m sure I’m going to be offering you, I just need to see you,’ like a lot of schools did. And then he saw him in Orlando or West Virginia — one of those two places, I’m not sure — he saw one or two games and then had Ryan call. So we called out there and they offered.”
Besides his imposing frame at the point guard position, Arcidiacono’s father believes that Ryan possesses a number of qualities that make him a valuable asset to potential colleges.
“He’s got great size at the point at 6-4 and he’s up to about 191 pounds,” he said. “With his size and strength, you rarely see that at the point guard position. He’s got great handles, great court sense, he can beat you off the dribble and he’s still growing. He can shoot and has great range.
“I don’t know if there is one feature that stands out. He’s just hyper-competitive. Every loose ball is his ball. He just competes. He competes the whole time.”
If there is one characteristic that Joe stressed when asked about his son’s talents, it’s his aggressiveness on the court. According to the elder Arcidiacono, this was most evident at the very camp that helped put Ryan on the map.
“He’s got a lot of good core strengths,” Arcidiacono said. “He’s just tough as nails. He’s got a real edge to him and just competes. When he was in North Carolina, he took eight stitches to the head. He was in Wake Forest Hospital, at about 12:30, 1:00 in the morning and his doctor said and his coach too, ‘You can’t play.’”
Not seeing that as an option, Ryan put in a call to his parents the following morning and told them that he had made his decision. He was going to participate.
“He put in a call to Patti and I in the morning and he said, ‘I’ve got to play. I absolutely have to play,’” Arcidiacono said. “And I said, ‘You know what, you’ve worked so hard, go ahead and play.’”
The result was a performance that saw him put up a scoring average in the 30s at the Tournament of Champions.
Although Ryan has always had natural talent, it was a former Penn State point guard that helped propel the young Arcidiacono’s game. After starting for four years with the Nittany Lions, Ben Luber graduated from Penn State in 2007 and began his career as a trainer and an assistant.
“I’ve had a trainer with him since he was in the seventh grade, Ben Luber,” Joe said. “Ben did a phenomenal job. He’s now an assistant coach at Rider. He trained Ryan in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades and then he got a basketball ops job his first year at Rider and now he’s a full-time assistant. Ben worked with him for three years. Ben worked his ball skills. Ben really took charge to improve all of Ryan’s skills and took him to a complete next level.”
As Ryan continues to gain exposure and his recruitment unfolds, he and his family have yet to narrow his list of offers into a group of favorites. However, the Arcidiaconos do have a number of qualities they would like to see in Ryan’s future college.
“My wife and I both went to Villanova, so we know the value of education,” Joe said. “Basketball is going to leave you at some point, so you have to go to work. The education piece is important. The player-head coach relationship level is also huge. The facilities and all that kind of stuff does not mean as much as the player-head coach relationship and the education. I like that he wants to play in the Big East or the ACC. He wants to play at the highest level he can. He wants to go where he will have the ball in his hand and be the point guard.”
With visits to Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Villanova, Florida and others in the making, the Irish program seems to have all of the qualities that Joe is looking for in his son’s college choice.
“I think a school like Notre Dame has all of the characteristics that any parent values,” Arcidiacono said. “Based on their education, their commitment to excellence in academics and athletics, their coaching staff, Notre Dame is definitely a school that we’re looking at closely.”
Because of the uncertainty of the number of fifth year players that will be asked to return, Notre Dame could possess between 18 and 22 scholarships to offer to freshmen in the class of 2011. Even if that number is closer to 22, it’s very possible that the Irish could have as many as 15 or more of those spots filled by the time the 2010 football season arrives. As a result, it’s a safe bet that the Notre Dame coaching staff will be extremely selective with those remaining spots on the recruiting roster. Last week Irish Sports Daily’s Steve Wiltfong spoke to two young men that would be virtually guaranteed one of those remaining slots should they choose the Blue and Gold. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Sports Daily?
Antonio Richardson, OT, 6-6, 310, The Ensworth School, Nashville, TN visited the Notre Dame campus for the first time last week. Richardson, who actually hails from Mt. Pleasant, TN, transferred to the Ensworth School in Nashville at the insistence of his father, Lanny who had become frustrated watching Mt. Pleasant High School students excel on the field or court only to find themselves unable to qualify academically when offered college sports scholarships. Not wishing that same fate for his son, the elder Richardson persuaded the Ensworth School to accept him despite some academic deficits. Since enrolling, Antonio has maintained a grueling regimen of academics and athletics. It was perhaps no surprise that his host for his unofficial visit was Chris Stewart. Stewart will not only be starting at left guard this season for the Irish but will also be starting in law school as he enters his fifth year of college.
“He was telling me how he’s about to go to law school and this is going to be his fifth year and that they’re going to try and really show out this year,” recalled Richardson. “He seemed like a down to earth dude and he really made me look small. He said he was 355, 350.”
For a young man as motivated to succeed as Richardson, the opportunities afforded by a Notre Dame education were hard to ignore.
“It really did,” said Richardson when asked whether the opportunity to succeed provided by a Notre Dame education appealed to him. “They were asking me what I want to major in and I told them business and they said they have the number one business school in the country. I could see myself there just because they have such a good academic system and their football tradition is really great. They have great coaches and players.”
While Notre Dame clearly made a strong impression on Richardson, he’s still very far from even narrowing his list of offers to manageable few, let alone making a decision. Richardson appears to be headed for a late decision. First he will need to decide which schools will receive one of his five official visits. The Irish hope that they have put themselves in a position to do just that.
“I don’t know where they stand, but I really liked their school and really liked their program,” said Richardson. “There’s a good chance that I will (take an official visit).
Kelly was off campus at a fundraising event during Richardson’s visit but did manage to hook up with the Tennessee prospect by phone. The Irish head coach discussed Notre Dame’s offense and also held out the possibility that Richardson might even be able to earn some early playing time. Offensive coordinator Charley Molnar and offensive line coach Ed Warriner were on campus and they spoke at length with the young offensive line prospect.
“We sat down with both of them and we looked at a bunch of stuff,” recalled Richardson. “They were telling me how I would fit into their scheme and they gave us information about the school in general. I liked it. They have a diverse offense. They really mix it up.”
Richardson is ranked by ESPNU as a four-star prospect and the fifth best offensive tackle prospect in the nation. He is the 32nd best prospect overall.
Kasen Williams, WR, 6-2, 200, Skyline High School, Sammamish, WA had Notre Dame in his top ten, but frankly he didn’t really see himself playing there. His unofficial visit last week changed all of that.
“Before I didn’t see myself there, but they’ve always been a good football team and they have a great tradition there,” Williams said. “Anytime there is a school with a great tradition, you want to see what they’re all about. After being there, my perspective has definitely changed. I could see myself fitting in. I liked the atmosphere. I liked the campus a lot. I liked the coaches.”
Williams especially seemed to enjoy his time with coach Kelly. The two had a long conversation that resonated with the talented wide receiver.
“We just talked about how you can get a good education there,” Williams began. “He said you have the opportunity to play for a national championship and you’ll have the opportunity to get prepared for the next level and also grow as a person.”
Williams’ junior season performance caught the attention of college recruiters all across the nation. He caught 74 passes for 1209 yards and 20 touchdowns. This performance led him to be ranked by ESPNU as a four-star prospect, the eleventh best wide receiver in the nation and the 60th best prospect overall. Kelly did much to sell Williams on his potential in Charley Molnar’s spread offense.
“Any time you’re talking about your top two receivers getting over 60 balls a year, you have to be comfortable,” Williams said. “I definitely feel comfortable in their offense and feel it’s an offense I can be very successful in.”
Williams has previously visited California, Florida, Georgia Tech, LSU and Washington. He said that Notre Dame would probably be his last visit.
These two summaries represent just a sample of the Notre Dame football recruiting information available each week on Irish Sports Daily.
One of 64 players invited to the prestigious 7-on-7 tournament showcasing some of the nation’s top prospects in the class-of-2011, the 6-foot, 180-pound Hardy was one of 10 players that earned EAS All-Performance Team honors, and the only one from the Midwest squad.
“It went real well,” the future Irish defensive back said. His team lost all four games they played at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. “I did pretty good and had a lot of fun.”
A bright spot all afternoon for the Midwest, Hardy had three interceptions including one he returned 100 yards for a score. He also defended several other passes.
“There was a lot of competition here from all over the place,” Hardy said. Prospects that played in the event that are still considering Notre Dame were athlete George Atkinson (Livermore, Calif./Granada), cornerback Josh Atkinson (Livermore, Calif./Granada), running back Amir Carlisle (Sunnyvale, Calif./The Kings Academy), running back Savon Huggins (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter’s Prep), cornerback Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) and receiver Kasen Williams (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline). “I learned a lot from the guys here, and also learned a lot from the coaches.”
Hardy teamed up with the four-star Huggins, and the two got a chance to talk about Notre Dame.
“I told him it’s a great place and he agreed with me on that,” Hardy said. Huggins visited the Irish campus in June, and has Notre Dame in his top-10 with Florida, Georgia, Miami, North Carolina, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Stanford and Wisconsin. “He said that he wants to weigh all of his options and take visits to other schools he has in his top-10. I told him to do that and hit me up when he figures out his decision.”
On Monday, Hardy headed back home, where he plans to take things he learned at Gridiron Kings and apply it to his senior season.
“I would say the competition and competing helped,” he said. “It was a lot of fun competing with some of the best players in the country, that was a big thing for me.
“I had a lot of fun.”
With fall football training camp looming, the Notre Dame coaching staff is putting on a strong push to get its top prospects on campus for unofficial visits before the 2010 season gets underway. While several recruits that Notre Dame covets plan on making late decisions, there are numerous others that have a much more abbreviated timetable for decisions. With a limited number of scholarships available the Irish coaching staff must walk the fine line between getting the players that they need and leaving room for those that they want. Last week two players that Notre Dame clearly desires took unofficial visits to South Bend. Irish Sports Daily’s Steve Wiltfong caught up with both of them after their trips to get their reactions to the visits. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Sports Daily?
Christian French, ATH, 6-5, 215, Kennedy High School, Cedar Rapids, IA visited Notre Dame for a March Junior Day. When he returned home he told his father that, “you have to see it.” Last week Cherokee French, father of Christian finally got a chance to do so.
“He was right,” Cherokee said of Christian’s enthusiasm for the Notre Dame campus. “It was amazing. We toured the facilities, got to learn more about the rich heritage of Notre Dame. I did not know only 8000 students went there. We got to meet with more of the coaches, the Athletic Director, Admissions, Student Services; excellent facilities, great people.”
Besides Notre Dame, French currently holds scholarship offers from Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon, South Florida, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Wisconsin. While he has yet to narrow his list to a more manageable number, the Irish appear to be in a very good position with him.
“All the schools are going to be hard to say no to,” said Cherokee French. “A lot of them have great facilities and everything, but I was just impressed with what it (Notre Dame) looked like yesterday.”
As a father, the elder French appreciates the efforts that the staff at Notre Dame invests in its student-athletes and their academic success.
“I like that they put so much effort into your success and your ability to graduate from Notre Dame,” stated Cherokee French. “When we went down to student services I was amazed. They said we do everything we can so kids don’t fail. I like how they said you don’t have to apply for the business school here. If that’s what you want to do you’re in. At other schools you have to apply for the business school and they look at your GPA and everything. I like how they have everything centrally located in the Gug building.”
Notre Dame is recruiting French as an outside linebacker. He got the opportunity to watch film from the Blue-Gold game to see how outside linebackers play in defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s defense. He also got to spend time with Irish players Manti Te’o and Roby Toma.
Before the unofficial visit even ended, the French family was talking to defensive backs coach Chuck Martin about scheduling an official visit once the 2010 season begins.
Justice Hayes, RB, 5-10, 180, Grand Blanc High School, Grand Blanc, MI also visited South Bend unofficially last week. Like the French family, he and his family, specifically his grandparents that accompanied him on his visit, came away very impressed. In fact, they were so impressed that the Irish are virtually guaranteed a spot in Hayes’ final three schools.
“We went through a lot of stuff,” Hayes said of his mid-week visit. “I came out really liking what I saw. I’m going to go home, think about it with my family and I definitely have different schools and other schools. I’m going to go home and think about it, probably trim my list to three next week sometime and I’m going to go from there. I really like what I heard from Notre Dame today, and they’re definitely going to be in my top three.”
“The opportunities there, it’s better than any other school in the nation in terms of academics,” Hayes opined. “If you’re really looking at your future and want a successful future and know you can pretty much get a six-figure job, Notre Dame is the place to go. And their coaches are great. Everything is just going great for their program right now.”
Hayes got to visit with several of the incoming freshmen while eating in the cafeteria. He also met with fellow Michigan native Jonas Gray, got to tour the locker room and spent considerable time with an Admissions person and an academic advisor. He ended up in offensive coordinator Charley Molnar’s office.
“He basically said I’m their guy,” remembered Hayes. “He said they have to recruit other running backs and there are a lot of other talented guys out there like Savon Huggins, but I’m basically their guy.”
If the visit didn’t totally win over Hayes, it certainly won over his grandparents.
“They loved it,” Hayes stated. “They basically preached academics just like my parents. They ultimately said it comes down to my decision, but they said they want me to go the academic route which is either Northwestern or Notre Dame, but it’s all up to me.”
These two summaries represent just a sample of the Notre Dame football recruiting information available each week on Irish Sports Daily.
Page 185 of 210