“Clyde had a great game that night,” Hotchkiss coach Fred Benjamin stated.
Solomon certainly agreed.
Soon after, Notre Dame became the second program to offer a scholarship to the rising class-of-2012 guard, joining Northwestern. The 6-foot-3 Smith is also hearing from the likes of Stanford and Texas A&M.
“I was really excited,” Smith said. As a sophomore, he averaged close to 18 points, five assists and three steals per contest. “This is my first time experiencing all of this and it’s real exciting.”
It’s only going to get more exciting for Smith, who was named second team all-New England and second team all- Tri-State.
“It’s funny, people are kind of comparing Clyde to Steph Curry, like in his shot-making ability, but I think the thing that makes him so special is his passing ability is uncanny,” Benjamin explained. Having these two kids in the backcourt, you have two point guards that can score. He’s incredibly skilled and he works on his game, but there is a lot of god-given talent there. He has a tremendous feel for the game and he does things with such ease out there, you kind of take it for granted because he makes it look so easy. His basketball IQ is so high. He can see things happening before it happens, and he can see the attack points before they’re there. He makes the game very simple.”
Before he arrived at Hotchkiss, Smith made everything look simple. A straight-A student, Smith still makes the honor roll while studying a very difficult curriculum at Hotchkiss. He aspires to be a big wig at a place like American Express.
“Every school is an option as long as it gives me a good education and the best opportunity both academically and towards my basketball career.”
With the NCAA limiting how much contact a program can have with a sophomore, Smith hasn't had much communication with Notre Dame, but the Irish program definitely has his attention.
“I just know they have a great tradition,” Smith said. “It’s a great academic school, and they’ve had great basketball programs in the past. I just know it’s a great place to be.”
Smith has visited Stanford and Texas A&M, and hopes to see a lot more schools this summer. Notre Dame could be a possible destination.
“Oh yeah definitely if I get the chance,” Smith said. “I’m definitely interested in talking to the coaches and seeing where I fit in. Notre Dame is definitely a great school and I want them on my list.”
For fans who care about offers lists, new Notre Dame commit Jordan Prestwood possesses one of the more impressive lists in the country. I have yet to come across a prospect with a more impressive list, with his list of official suitors ranging all across the country with Alabama, Florida, USC, Auburn, Florida State, Tennessee, Texas Tech, West Virginia, and South Carolina all having pursued the Plant City, Florida standout. Prestwood is a tight end/defensive tackle in high school but projects as an offensive tackle at Notre Dame. Few offensive linemen in the country possess his combination of size, frame, and athletic ability. If the Irish want to get back to the top of the college football ladder, they must begin to put together dominant lines on both sides of the ball. With Prestwood joining defensive tackle Brad Carrico, the Irish are off to a great start in the Brian Kelly era in making that happen.
Prestwood is reportedly already up to 265 pounds after playing his junior season around 240. The 6’6, 265 pound standout has great length at 6’6 with a long wing span. He also possesses wide shoulders and a thick natural frame that will allow him to quickly put on the necessary size to shift to the offensive line for the Irish. The Plant City tight end is a naturally strong player. He delivers a strong initial punch and when he catches the football immediately looks for a defender to run over. Prestwood drives his feet very well and does an excellent job churning his legs through contact. Prestwood also possesses a tremendous motor. He is a high effort player who is aggressive, physical, and seems to love to mix it up. As an offensive tackle he usually spends most of his time against smaller players, who he absolutely dominates. But Prestwood also plays defensive tackle, and really gets after it on the defensive side of the ball. I love his toughness. As he transitions to college Prestwood will need to really work hard in the weight room. While he is country strong, his upper body and lower body strength will have to improve as he transitions to working on the line of scrimmage as opposed to being on the perimeter as he does in high school. With his frame and toughness there is no doubt this will be easy for him, but the work still must be done.
Athletically Prestwood reminds me quite a bit of former tight end converts Matt Lepsis and Eric Winston. Lepsis was an all-conference tight end at Colorado before becoming a 10 year starter for the Denver Broncos at tackle. Winston came to Miami as a tight end before moving to tackle before his sophomore year. He ended up becoming an All-American tackle and a first round draft pick of the Houston Texans. While Prestwood does not have tight end speed, his speed for an offensive tackle is impressive. He works vertically in the pass game, catches bubble screens, and is asked to quickly attack the perimeter in the run game. He does all of these things well for a player with his size and frame. The Plant City standout also shows excellent initial quickness as a pass catcher, a blocker, as well as on the defensive side of the ball. In fact he gets off the line quicker at this point as a defensive tackle than he does as an offensive player. His feet work very quickly, he shows excellent lateral quickness, he adjusts to defenders with ease, and he’s a relatively smooth athlete for his size. His time as a tight end has given him significant experience blocking on the move as well as working on the perimeter, something that is crucial to playing on the offensive line in Brian Kelly’s offense where the tackles are asked to pull and work on the perimeter. Although he plays with good bend in his knees Prestwood is just a bit stiff in his hips, which is something that can be worked on and should not impede his ability to excel at tackle.
There will be a transition for Prestwood initially as he moves from tight end, where he spent significant time away from the offensive line, to the tackle position. He will need to learn the finer points of being a lineman, such as angles, reacting to twists and stunts, working with combinations, using his hands better, and working in a tighter area. But he has all the physical tools to make the transition with relative ease, as he plays with good natural power and drive. Prestwood plays with a relatively good base, although he will need to become more consistent as a tackle. He plays the perimeter so much that at times he lifts up a bit too much, which is something he’ll have to correct. As mentioned above Prestwood shows excellent foot quickness and knee bend. As he improves his technique expect to see Prestwood become a very effective run blocker. One area that especially needs work is his steps at the snap. Although his feet work quickly he does not work proper angles nor does he really step and then drive into defenders. I was surprised by the fact Prestwood plays with relatively good leverage for a player who spends so much time in a receiver stance. He can really get low and drive through defenders while maintaining quickness and short area power. One encouraging thing I saw was that Prestwood plays with tremendous leverage and shows tremendous initial quickness as a defensive tackle, which is really the only time you see him in a consistent stance that will be similar to what he will do as an offensive tackle. Prestwood works very quickly on traps and pulls and hits with authority in short areas, although he tends to lift up a bit too much initially. Prestwood is a solid finisher in the run game as well. His hands are quick and strong and he does a fine job keeping them inside. At the next level he will need to learn how to use them more as a weapon, marry them up with his footwork, and get better extension.
Prestwood projects as an excellent pass blocker, although he will need quite a bit of work in this area initially. With his length, natural strength, foot quickness, and agility his upside in this area is top notch. The Plant City native quickly gets into his pass set, keeps a good base, and bends his knees well. Although he still has to learn how to use them, he shows very quick hands as a pass blocker. What he will need to do is learn how to use them with more power, get better extension, and learn how to quickly reset them as he adjusts to pass rush moves. As mentioned Prestwood shows excellent quickness as a pass blocker, but really has a lot of work to do from a technical standpoint. It is not that he has poor technique and experience, having played tight end as a high school player. He will have to learn to play through the whistle and finish in the pass game. He also tends to lunge a bit as defenders get near, something he will have to correct. Prestwood is quick off the ball but has to learn to kick slide, keep proper angles, mirror, and react to double moves. The size, strength potential, and athletic skills are all there for Prestwood. With coaching I see him developing into a standout pass blocker.
Right now Prestwood is not one of the nation’s top offensive tackles. The reason, he doesn’t play offensive tackle. He will need a lot of coaching in college and will have to get into the weight room. But as these things happen I see Prestwood making a quick transition to the offensive tackle position. The Irish have struggled against athletic defenses the last few seasons and players like Prestwood, combined with current players Zach Martin, Chris Watt, Tate Nichols, and Alex Bullard the future for the Irish line looks far more athletic. This is a huge pickup for the Irish. Coach Kelly and his staff have gone down into Florida and landed one of the nation’s better players as well as a player who was being recruited heavily by all the major SEC programs, including Florida, Alabama, Auburn, and Tennessee. Combined with Brad Carrico the commitment of Prestwood gets the Irish off to a great start for the Class of 2011.
Size: 88 (Very good size right now, 6’6, 265, but has a great frame)
Strength: 82 (Country strong but needs to develop more weight room strength in college)
Agility: 90 (Excellent quickness and athletic ability for a player with his size)
Technique/Footwork: 70/90 (70 for technique, where he is raw / 90 for tremendous foot quickness)
Run Blocking: 85 (Very good right now, could really develop here)
Pass Blocking: No Grade (Simply does not do much of this right now, but his upside is huge)
Toughness/Finish: 88 (High effort kid, great motor, fighter, very good finisher in the run game)
Intangibles: 90 (Smart player, versatile, great effort, could even play defense)
Overall Grade: 4
90-100 – Elite/Exceptional: Skill set is rare and gives prospect ability to dominate
80-89 – Very Good/Outstanding: Skill set is a significant strength
70-79 – Average: Skill set is solid, not a significant weakness
60-69 – Below Average: Skill set is not a strength for this player and could become a liability
50-59 – Very Poor: Prospect does not possess this trait and it is a definite liability
5 – Elite: Player is one of the best players at his position nationally, potentially dominant
4 – Very Good/Outstanding: Player is a potential standout and starter, could also play early
3 – Solid: Player is a potential contributor, could eventually start down the road
2 – Below Average: Player does not possess the talent to be a significant contributor
1 – Poor: Let’s be honest, Notre Dame is not going to bring in anyone with a one!!
Derrick Wilson (Anchorage, Alaska/Hotchkiss School) has come along away to attend boarding school in Connecticut, so location won’t be an issue when the ESPNU Super-60 point guard prospect goes to make his college decision.
“Anything is good for me as long as it’s in America,” the 6-foot, 205-pound Wilson stated.
Schools all across America are definitely interested in Wilson.
The class-of-2011 standout holds close to 20 scholarship offers from the likes of Notre Dame, Syracuse, Boston College, Marquette, Xavier, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and St. John’s. A talented running back, Wilson also holds full rides from Boston College, Duke and Stanford, but will definitely play basketball on the next level.
“There is so many things he does well,” Benjamin said. As a junior, Wilson averaged 19 points, nine assists, six steals and seven rebounds per contest. “He’s under control. He’s coachable, but he’s like a pitbull, he hates to lose. He’s about his team and doing whatever it takes to make the team better. He’s a unique kid that doesn’t come around all the time. He’s incredibly strong and incredibly talented.
“He’s such a sure ball handler. He can create his own shot. He can create great opportunities for other people. Also what sets him a part, he’s a tremendous defender. He’s a lockdown defender. Also, when I needed him to rebound, he could do that as well.”
Notre Dame assistant coach Anthony Solomon has seen Wilson do all of that. The Irish staff has watched Wilson on the AAU circuit, and Solomon has been by the school for a game this past season.
“I’m interested in Notre Dame,” Wilson said. “I just know they’re in the Big East and they’ve had a couple great players in guys like Luke Harangody. I don’t know much about how they run their whole program but I want to know more.
“I haven’t really talked to (coach Solomon) much since I got the offer. I know they’ve been busy with the Big East tournament and the March Madness tournament, and I’ve been busy traveling, I had my spring break, and I’m hoping we can talk more in the spring.”
Wilson is looking forward to taking visits in the spring, summer and fall. He says he hasn’t had a chance to really take in a college campus. Virginia Tech has been in touch about visiting April 24th, but other then that, there isn’t really anything on his schedule. He hopes to make it to Notre Dame sometime in the future, and is targeting a decision by the end of summer or early fall.
“I want to go to a place I can play off the jump, and also a place with a good academic program. A place I can get my chance to shine.”
Wilson has definitely been able to shine at Hotchkiss. From a military family, Wilson has moved around a lot before they settled in Alaska. While he lived in Georgia, his family became good friends with Jason Morris (Augusta, Ga./Hotchkiss School), who a year older, has signed with Georgia Tech. Wilson saw that Morris was headed to Hotchkiss, and thought it would be a good fit for him as well.
"I've been playing with Jason since kindergarten, first grade," Wilson began. "Our fathers are good friends and they stayed in touch and talked about the school. We looked into it and I had to get my grades up and I got in.
"I think they saw the academics as well as the athletic opportunities, and they thought it was a no-brainer," Benjamin added. "When Jason came here, that was one of things Jason was talking to him about, the school and they pursued it and it has worked out great."
If Notre Dame hopes to experience success under new head coach Brian Kelly they will need to recruit good quarterbacks and solid offensive linemen to keep the quarterbacks on their feet. The Irish staff has issued four scholarship offers to quarterbacks thus far and is looking at a number more. Kelly has just recently coached two quarterbacks, Dan LeFevour and Tony Pike that will almost certainly be drafted in the 2010 National Football League draft. Kelly and his staff hope that the success of those two young men will attract top flight quarterback talent to South Bend.
Keeping that talent upright will be the responsibility of Ed Warriner and the Irish offensive line. The Notre Dame staff has already offered several offensive linemen and added one more last week. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Sports Daily?
Max Wittek, QB, 6-4, 200, Mater Dei High School, Corona Del Mar, CA is already very familiar with the Notre Dame football program. He is good friends with current Irish signal-caller Nate Montana and knows Jimmy Clausen. He has also met Dayne Crist, the likely 2010 opening day starter for the Irish.
Wittek received his Notre Dame scholarship offer last Wednesday. Despite that fact that he already holds a number of offers from some of the best college football programs in the nation, he still expressed excitement at the Irish offer.
“There is a little bit of a special privilege you feel to be offered by them,” said Wittek. “It definitely increases interest in them when you know they feel very confident in you to extend the offer, when they’re showing the same amount of interest in you back.”
Wittek has spoken to tight ends coach Mike Denbrock and Kelly. He really enjoyed his conversation with Kelly.
“He said I had the privilege of being able to watch your film and evaluate you and he likes my versatility of going from under center to the gun, and I’m exactly what he’s looking for in a quarterback and he feels very comfortable in offering me a scholarship to Notre Dame,” explained Wittek. “He was telling me he’s had some success with two quarterbacks coming out for this year’s draft, Dan LeFevour and Tony Pike, and he had a chance to coach both of them. He was saying how his legacy with quarterbacks plus the Notre Dame legacy is something special.”
Wittek’s spring break coincides with Notre Dame’s spring practice schedule and he hopes to make it to South Bend to visit.
Brey Cook, OT, 6-6, 295, Har Ber High School, Springdale, AR has exploded onto the recruiting scene. Unlike many blue chip recruits, he wasn’t always a star. In fact, Cook recall exactly when he realized that he could compete at the highest level.
“Definitely the first team camp we went to at Tulsa before my junior season,” said Cook of when he realized his potential. “Our football team goes to it every year and we played against other schools from Oklahoma. I remember doing really well and football became a lot more fun and felt a lot more natural.”
Cook’s play earned him a starting spot on what became state championship football team. It also netted him an invitation to play at the U.S. Under Armour All-American game.
His improved play also caught the attention of the top football programs in the nation and the scholarship offers came pouring in. He currently holds offers from top flight programs such as defending national champion Alabama, Arkansas, Miami, Auburn, Oklahoma, Ole Miss and now Notre Dame.
“It’s awesome,” said Cook of the Irish offer. “I know they have a great history and there is a lot of tradition and everyone knows who Notre Dame is. I know they’re one of the top programs in the country. I don’t know too much about them, but I know who they are and what they do.”
Cook has spoken to offensive line coach Ed Warriner and hopes to speak to Kelly soon.
“I don’t know much about coach Kelly, but hopefully I will soon.”
Cook is currently being recruited the most heavily by three schools.
“Oklahoma and Arkansas have made big steps to recruit me and I talk to them a lot and Auburn,” said Cook. “Those schools stand out because they contact me more and I’m able to talk to them more.”
Cook hopes to visit several schools this summer in order to begin sorting through his formidable list of scholarships.
“This summer we’re going to lay down a plan to go to a couple of schools,” said Cook. “The biggest thing I’m looking for is facilities and coaching staff. You have to have a good coach and make sure you can be coached by him and be able to apply it. Coaching staff, facilities and making sure I’m going to have a good time when I go there for the next four years of my life.”
These two summaries represent just a sample of the Notre Dame football recruiting information available each week on Irish Sports Daily.
Coach Mike Brey is thinking the same thing.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Atkins keeps in frequent touch with Brey, and has talked to his future coach a couple times since Notre Dame’s season came to an end last week in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Atkins is the only true point guard on the Irish roster next year, with starter Tory Jackson's career coming to a close.
“(Coach Brey) told me the ball is in you hands, and it’s time for me to lead,” Atkins said.
Atkins is ready.
On April 9th, the Baltimore Catholic League Most Valuable Player will end his prep career by playing in the prestigious Derby Festival Classic all-star game in Louisville. The likes of Isiah Thomas, Moses Malone, Dominique Wilkins, Rex Chapman, Jamal Mashburn, Pervis Ellison and Derek Anderson have also suited up in this event. A couple months later, Atkins looks forward to being in South Bend attending summer school and working out with his future teammates.
“Confidence wise, I’m ready to get in there and start,” Atkins said. As a senior, he led Mount St. Joseph’s to a 32-5 record and a league championship, averaging 16 points, 10 assists and five rebounds per game. “I just have to get my body ready. I know when I start the season, I want to be around 185 pounds. I still haven’t met with the strength coach, he may have a different plan.
“I’m looking forward to playing in the Big East. That was definitely one of my dreams and I’m really excited about that. Coach Brey said he’s excited to get me down there in the summer and get with the guys and get ready for the season.”
Atkins really enjoyed watching Notre Dame’s six-game winning streak that ended the regular season and carried over to the Big East tournament, propelling the Irish into the NCAA field. Jackson’s tough and smart play during that run inspired Atkins at home, and he’s looking forward to carrying the torch his predecessor is passing on.
“Watching him, I learned to be smart with the ball and also attacking the gaps. He always, I think he led the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio a couple years, I know he’s done it for awhile. Definitely just being smart with the basketball and creating opportunities for other people to make shots.”
While Atkins thinks of himself as Notre Dame’s starting point guard, the thought of hearing his name being called by the public address announcer inside Purcell Pavilion for the season opener, just hit him.
“That moment right there is going to be surreal.”
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