September 14, 2006

Stars travel to see Irish this weekend

Wherever Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian quarterback Jimmy Clausen goes these days, a big story usually follows. The 6-foot-3, 200 pounder who is ranked as the nation's No. 1 player will be in South Bend, Ind. this weekend for his official visit as his Irish host the Michigan Wolverines. But while Clausen is already committed, there is an impressive group of uncommitted prospects taking their official visit to Notre Dame this weekend as well.

The last time Clausen was at Notre Dame was filled with limousines, flashy championship rings and a press conference where he committed to the Irish. Once Clausen hopped on board, many followed. Tight end Mike Ragone, wide receiver Duval Kamara, athlete Steve Paskorz and defensive end Justin Trattou committed to Notre Dame within six weeks of Clausen's announcement. Now Notre Dame hopes the quarterback can reel in a few more this weekend.

The biggest name visiting Notre Dame this weekend aside from Clausen is Detroit Cass Tech defensive tackle Joseph Barksdale. The Irish are desperate for defensive tackles after striking out last year and Barksdale has been one of their top targets from the start. The 6-foot-6, 323-pounder reportedly tried to commit to Texas a couple of weeks back but Mack Brown balked at the idea of a commitment from the big man while he still took other visits. Texas went on Sam Acho and Notre Dame suddenly became the team to beat for Barksdale. The massive tackle took an unofficial visit to South Bend to watch Notre Dame destroy Penn State and he's on his official visit this weekend to watch the Irish take on Michigan another school on his list.

Columbia (S.C.) Richland Northeast cornerback Gary Gray is another huge name taking an official visit. Gray was committed to South Carolina early in the process but decided to take an unofficial visit to South Bend with his mother in July. The visit went so well that Gray de-committed from the Gamecocks and scheduled official visits to both programs to make his final choice. Heading into this weekend, Notre Dame leads for his services and some think they could seal the deal with another great visit. He'll follow up this visit with an official to Columbia, S.C. next weekend as the Gamecocks host Florida Atlantic. Notre Dame's goal? Make that visit unnecessary.

Woodland Hills (Cal.) Taft athlete Malcolm Smith will make the long trip for his official visit as well. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder currently favors Southern Cal where his brother, Steve Smith, is a starting wide receiver but he wants to see what college life at Notre Dame is like. He'll get his chance this weekend.

Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater safety Lorenzo Edwards will also be taking his first official visit to Notre Dame this weekend. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder would like to play safety in college but his future appears to be at linebacker. Edwards has a long list of schools remaining but getting Edwards on campus early is a big deal for the Irish. Edwards wants a program that combines athletics with excellent academics so Notre Dame is right up his alley.

North Carolina athlete Greg Little will take his first official visit this weekend. The 6-foot-2, 214-pounder from Durham (N.C.) Hillside might project better as a safety or linebacker in college, but his desire is to play wide receiver and catch passes from a top quarterback. At the beginning of the process, Notre Dame wanted Kamara, Washington (D.C.) Dunbar wideout Arrelious Benn and Little as their trio of wide receivers. They can take a big step towards that reality with Clausen visiting the same weekend as Little. Little wants to make a decision in October and has only Ohio State also scheduled for an official.

Also hailing from North Carolina, offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant will be on hand. Sturdivant is committed to Georgia but has always mentioned looking around at other programs. The Wadesboro (N.C.) Anson big man committed to Georgia back in April.

Ragone and offensive tackle Andrew Nuss join Clausen as committed players on official visits. Both players will likely work hard to add to their numbers. Ragone is a Rivals100 member and Nuss is just outside the Rivals250.

Rivals100 running back Armando Allen from Hialeah (Fla.) Miami Lakes was supposed to take an official visit but had to cancel due to his ankle injury.

The list of unofficial visitors is equally impressive led by two five-star players. Muskegon, Mich. Cornerback Ronald Johnson and Chicago (Ill.) Simeon linebacker Martez Wilson, ranked nationally at No. 21 and No. 22 overall respectively, will be on hand for the game as will Wilson's buddy Robert Hughes from Chicago (Ill.) Hubbard. Linebacker Chris Walker from Memphis (Tenn.) Christian Brothers will also be on hand as will Irish commitment Aaron Nagel from Lemont, Ill.

And don't overlook the 2008 studs that will be in attendance as well. The top player in the state of Illinois for 2008, linebacker Steven Filer leads an impressive group of juniors visiting. Stud running back Jonas Gray from Detroit (Mich.) Country Day will also be on hand as will offensive linemen Trevor Robinson and Mike Adams from Nebraska and Ohio respectively.

And it will be a family affair for Mission Viejo, Cal. Wide receiver Warren Reuland, the younger brother of Notre Dame freshman tight end Konrad Reuland.

The attention of the college football nation will be on the battle between Notre Dame and Michigan this weekend and, as it should be, there will be plenty of future talent watching in person.

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