Not everybody thinks it’s a foregone conclusion that Alabama will defeat Notre Dame for the national championship.
“I think Notre Dame is going to win – I do, but obviously I’m biased; If they don’t win, I still see it as an extremely close game,” said Isaac Rochell, the defensive end from Eagles Landing Christian Academy who is committed to the Irish.
Notre Dame’s undefeated regular season and appearance in the national championship game has very little of an immediate impact on the Irish’s recruiting efforts in the state of Georgia. The Irish have only one 2013 commitment from the state, Rochell. Within the last few months, Notre Dame entertained both Peach County WR Demarcus Robinson (committed to Clemson) and Tucker QB Juwaan Williams (undecided) for official visits.
If Notre Dame is going to capitalize in Georgia from this year, it will be in future years. The Irish are already targeting some of the state’s top underclassmen, including extending a football scholarship offer to Norcross High School junior DE Lorenzo Carter earlier this week (see below).
Back to Rochell: He’s not a bandwagon recruit for Notre Dame. “I committed before my senior season,” he said. “I didn’t know they were going to have this good of a season. But I figured it’s a good football program with a good coach. Coach (Brian) Kelly is implementing what he believes in, and Notre Dame is a program on the rise.
“With (Kelly) there, along with the academics, the football tradition, the overall comradery of the Irish Nation, and after praying about it – I just felt like it was in my best interests to go to Notre Dame. Obviously, there are some good schools in the South. But I felt like my best fit personally was to go to Notre Dame.”
Even though Notre Dame may only pluck one recruit out of Georgia this year, he’s a good one: The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder picked the Irish over runner-up FSU among 20+ offers, including UGA.
“Really, it came down to FSU and Notre Dame,” Rochell said. “If Notre Dame was to fall through, which I doubt it will, I would go to Florida State. That was my school. But I feel really confident about Notre Dame. I’m a 100-percent OK with my decision. There’s no ‘I might de-commit.’ I’m going to Notre Dame, no matter what. But Florida State was definitely the school I was going to if I didn’t pick Notre Dame.”
Some people originally thought UGA was the favorite for Rochell. “I like Georgia. I like Mark Richt, and I like the type of person he is. I really respect the things he does. I like Georgia. Living in this region of the country, there are tons of Georgia fans, and I like all of that. But I just felt like I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to Notre Dame.”
Now about that game next month: With Rochell living in the heartland of the SEC, he hears about it every day how Alabama is a huge favorite over Notre Dame.
“I think Notre Dame has their strengths and weaknesses. Obviously, the weakness is probably the offense right now. They’re good but it’s not their strength. Alabama’s strength is their running game, and I feel like Notre Dame’s defense is going to match up well against it.
“I feel like it could come down to coaching. I don’t feel like it’s going to be a blowout at all. In fact, both teams match up very well, and I feel like it will be a close game. If you want to beat Alabama, you have to have a good offense, and you have to stop their running game. But I think with guys like Manti Te’o, Stephon Tuitt and others in the middle for Notre Dame, it’s going to be hard for Alabama to run all over them. I mean, we’ll see.
“Obviously, we’re in SEC Nation, and everbody here says it’s going to be a blowout. But I can’t see it. Looking at Notre Dame’s schedule, you can’t win 12 games in a row and not have a hard-nosed defense. Even if Alabama gets an early lead, I can’t see Notre Dame taking a passive approach on defense. It’s going to be a defensive game.”
This weekend, Rochell had to delay his official visit to Notre Dame, but with good reason – his high school team will play on Friday in the state semifinals against George Walton Academy, which features 2014 UGA RB commit Stanley Williams. Rochell has rescheduled his trip for Jan. 18-20.
NOTRE DAME OFFERS ONE OF STATE’S TOP JUNIORS
After an undefeated regular season, Notre Dame may now have the confidence to come into the state and recruit head-to-head against the SEC powerhouses for elite prospects. Earlier this week, the Irish offered Lorenzo Carter, a junior defensive end from Norcross High School.
“Notre Dame is great; their defense is tough,” Carter said. “I’m looking forward to getting to know their defensive coordinator and all the coaches associated with the program so I can get more informed about Notre Dame. They’re so far away that I really don’t know much about them.”
What’s his prediction for the national championship game? “People around here say Alabama is going to blow them out. But I don’t see it, as strong as Notre Dame’s defense is. But it is Alabama, so it’s going to be pretty tough. It’s going to be a good game.”
Back to Carter’s recruiting: The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder already has 15 early offers, including Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Georgia Tech. He’s still waiting on one from UGA.
“I know, it’s crazy, right?” Carter said. “Georgia told me they’re really interested. I definitely want an offer from them. I love their defense. I’d be an outside linebacker playing for (defensive coordinator Todd) Grantham. That would be awesome. They’re a home team, and my parents can come see me play all the time.”
THIS JUST IN
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