The Prospector Notre Dame looking to bring Irish recruiting back to it's glory days status

Panning Central Florida, as well as the entire state, for tomorrow's stars

The annual showdown between USC and Notre Dame was renewed Oct. 16, with that thrilling 34-27 victory for the Trojans that was worthy of some of the best games in the storied rivalry's history.

Just ask someone who was there.

"The atmosphere was better than anything I'd ever seen in person or even on TV," Apopka DB Lo Wood said. "It was amazing."

Wood, who checks in at No. 5 on the Sentinel's area list, gave an oral commitment to the Fighting Irish over the summer. The USC game coincided with his official visit, a sojourn that put Wood in the stands with some of the most sought-after recruits in the country.

So were guys like Seantrel Henderson.

Henderson is the behemoth offensive tackle Rivals rates as the No. 1 overall prospect in the nation. Upon returning to St. Paul, Minn., the 6-foot-8, 305-pounder raved about his visit, as well as the impressive group of players who joined him.

"Most of 'em were from Florida," he said.

Most of 'em were the state's best, too.

Before the game, Notre Dame already had commitments from a duo of Floridians in Wood and Cape Coral DB Spencer Boyd. This week, RB Giovanni Bernard, whom Sentinel rates as the top running back and No. 7 prospect in Florida, pledged for the Irish, allowing Coach Charlie Weis and friends to dig further into that lucrative pool of talent at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, USA Today's reigning (mythical) champion and the current top-ranked team in the country.

"Academics were important to him," St. Thomas Coach George Smith about Bernard's decision. "He liked the atmosphere there and I think he wanted to get out of the area."

The Irish have four St. Thomas players on their current roster (senior offensive linemen Sam Young and Dan Wenger, plus long-snapper Jordan Cowert and punter Ben Turk, both freshmen). In a perfect blue-and-gold world, the commitment by Bernard, who rushed for 1,528 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, would carry some weight with some of his current teammates, three more of whom are listed in the top 10 of the Sentinel's Florida Top 100.

Yes, all three were there for the USC game.

•No. 1: Brandon Linder (OL, 6-6, 280) — One of the top three tackle prospects in America, Linder also has taken an official visit to Ohio State and lists Florida, Miami and Stanford atop his list.

•No. 4: Lamarcus Joyner (CB, 5-8, 165) — Rivals says he's the best corner in the country and that it'll come down to Florida State and Ohio State.

•No. 10: Cody Riggs (5-9, 108) — The son of former NFL RB Gerald Riggs reportedly favors Florida over ND, Georgia, Tennessee and FSU.

Also taking recruiting trips to South Bend this past weekend for the Irish victory over Boston College was the Sentinel's No. 1-ranked player in Central Florida senior LB Christian Jones of Winter Park Lake Howell, and junior rising star ATH Kevin Sousa at first-year high school Lake Nona.

Irish eyes may be smiling on us.

But are they smiling back?

"We didn't talk too much about all being there [next year] or anything like that," Wood said. "It was more about getting to know each other ... and talking about how cold it was."

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2013 YEAR IN REVIEW
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