Rumor has it that Notre Dame made the biggest haul in this year's football recruiting derby. No one knows for sure because the Fighting Irish have yet to release an official list of signings.
But assuming that the usually reliable verbal commitments from the players have been converted into signatures on a letter of intent, that would give Notre Dame, which landed 19 recruits last year and just 16 the year before, a jackpot of 30 for second-year Coach Lou Holtz. It would also seem to dispel the notion that Holtz can't recruit, a tag he picked up while at Arkansas, that he is a winner on the field but mostly a funny man for the Carson show off it.
The funny man must be laughing today.
Holtz, in his first recruiting effort for the Fighting Irish, pulled prospects out of 15 states. Seven came from Florida, four from Pennsylvania and three from Illinois, although none in-state and none from California. Three of the biggest commitments came within the past two or three days--running back Tony Brooks from Tulsa, Okla., tight end Frank Jacobs from Newport, Ky., and defensive lineman George Williams from Willingboro, N.J.
"On paper, it's pretty strong, but we don't play on paper," Holtz told the Associated Press. "We're pleased with it. Now we have to go from here."
Additionally, Jacobs' decision Tuesday, and the announcement from Jeff Ellis of Louisville on Wednesday that he would attend Ohio State, gave UCLA a double-loss with highly touted Kentucky tight ends.
At a news conference, Jacobs called the college choice "the toughest decision of my life. . . . Deep down, it's (Notre Dame's) always been my favorite."
The Fighting Irish did miss out on 6-foot 8-inch offensive lineman Greg Skrepanak from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to Michigan and defensive lineman Marc Spindler from Scranton, Pa., to Pittsburgh. The latter helped another second-year coach, Mike Gottfried, bring in a fine recruiting class, one that also included standouts such as defensive back Louis Riddick, running back Danny Boyd and quarterback Darnell Dickerson.
Elsewhere nationally, running back Randy Simmons of McKinney, Tex., picked Texas A&M; over Texas, giving the Aggies six running backs for the campaign. Like Simmons, Darren Carter of Dallas, was a Parade All-American and three others were ranked among the top 100 players in the state by the Houston Chronicle. That led the way for an overall improvement by the Southwest Conference in keeping the area stars home, compared to the recent probation-marred campaigns.
Oklahoma also fared well, two of its most recent additions being in-state running back Mike Gaddis and defensive lineman Tyrone Rodgers of Wilmington Banning. USC was in the hunt at the end for Gaddis before he decided Tuesday.
In the Pacific 10 Conference, UCLA, USC, Washington and Stanford all fared well. The fate of Rose Bowl champion Arizona State will be determined in the next few days around San Diego, with running back Tommy Booker of Vista, wide receiver Patrick Rowe of San Diego Lincoln and linebacker Junior Seau all considering the Sun Devils. Rowe and Seau are reportedly both considering the Bruins and Trojans, but Booker said Monday his choice is between Arizona State and Washington.
Recruiting Notes Still uncommited: Running backs Leroy Thompson of Knoxville, Tenn., Anthony Ray of Wharton, Tex., and Leotis Flowers of Omaha, Neb., and quarterback Mickey Joseph of Marrero, La. . . . Michigan has recruited two other quarterbacks to go with Ken Sollom of Canyon Country Canyon, Eric Bush of Quincy, Ill., a top-100 prospect, and Wilbur Odom of San Antonio. . . . Bart Hull, the youngest son of former hockey star Bobby Hull signed with Boise State. . . . Meet Emmitt Smith, running back and practical joker. The Pensacola, Fla., All-American, who set national records for career touchdowns (109) and 100-yard games (45) and is third on the all-time yardage list (8,804), announced at a press conference that he would attend Florida--but was wearing Nebraska colors at the time. "I knew if I made my decision to go to the University of Florida you all were going to expect me to come in orange and blue," Smith told reporters. "I fooled you, though. I wore red and white just to keep everybody off balance." Don't expect many people to be laughing in Lincoln, Neb. . . . Running back Leonard Russell from Long Beach Poly, one of the most highly touted players in the country at the start of the season, signed with Arizona State, as expected.
In women's sports, Megan McCallister of Manhattan Beach Mira Costa, the girls' volleyball national player of the year according to Volleyball Monthly, signed Wednesday night with USC, picking the Trojans over UCLA and Stanford. Four of her teammates from the No. 1 team in the nation for much of the year have also announced plans for college, with Holly McPeak and Lisa Arce picking California, Karrie Trieschman going to Hawaii and Heather Bova to Brigham Young. McPeak, Arce and Trieschman are All-Americans. Pepperdine landed one of the top prospects in the country, All-American Barbara Blizzard from Oak Lawn, Ill. She played for H.L. Richards High, picked as the national champion by Volleyball Monthly.