May 28, 2009

Irish jump to offer Kouandjio

An open mind introduced Arie Kouandjio to Notre Dame.

But the 6-foot-6, 315-pound offensive tackle's talent earned the four-star prospect a scholarship from the Irish program, which Kouandjio received over the phone from assistant coach Ron Powlus on Thursday. The standout from DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md., now holds 33 offers.

"I haven't really studied in-depth about them, but I've always heard about Notre Dame," Kouandjio said. "I talked to coach Powlus and he said they liked how I moved really well for somebody at my size."

That's probably because Kouandjio doesn't limit his training to stereotypical offensive line work. He spends plenty of time in the weight room, but he called jump rope his favorite exercise routine. That regimen has helped Kouandjio keep light on his feet, even if he's turned a few heads in the process.

"Oh yeah, definitely all the skill position guys don't know big people can do stuff like that," he said. "I like to see what tricks I can do."

Another unconventional aspect in Kouandjio's workouts was a crash course in wrestling during his sophomore year, although he admitted there won't be an encore. The future U.S. Army All-American wrestled at the heavyweight level and ran into Notre Dame sophomore offensive tackle Lane Clelland on the mat.

The meeting proved to be a one-sided affair.

"He beat me," said Kouandjio, who added that he keeps in touch with Clelland. "That guy, he was pretty good. It was my first year wrestling. He didn't pin me or anything."

Notre Dame may need every connection with the offensive tackle, who's turned into one of spring's fastest rising prospects. He hadn't heard anything from the Irish until two weeks ago when Powlus stopped by DeMatha. Kouandjio thought an offer from the Irish might come, although maybe not this quickly.

In addition to Notre Dame, Kouandjio has added recent offers from Ohio State, Alabama and LSU. While the recruiting attention hasn't surprised the four-star prospect, it has been intense.

"I didn't expect it to this extent," Kouandjio said. "I expected to get a couple of offers from local schools, but now I'm getting it from places all over the nation."

Kouandjio has already visited Cal, North Carolina, Connecticut, Maryland and Penn State. He said he's open to visiting any program that shows interest, including Notre Dame.

"I want to take a visit there, yes sir," he said. "I want to take a visit everywhere. Right now my focus is on football so I haven't done a whole lot with recruiting."

It might be time to jump into it.

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