Posted by BrianBoru at 5/10/2009 9:29 PM EDT
The Fighting Irish just got a little deeper in the defensive backfield. After sitting out the spring semester, cornerback Gary Gray will be returning to Notre Dame. Though Gray's return was not unexpected, this bodes well for the football program since he has three years of eligibility remaining, essentially providing the Irish with another recruit to its impressive 2009 haul.
Reports indicate that Gray is in good football shape and ready to contribute immediately this season.
Still, the backfield will be crowded and Gray, talented as he is, will have a difficult time snatching minutes from a triumvirate of talented corners already in the fold: Raeshon McNeil, Robert "RJ" Blanton and Darrin Walls. Of the three, I am most confident in Walls and Blanton.
McNeil is a solid player, but he does not possess the same skill set as either Blanton or Walls. Blanton reminds me of a young Bobby Taylor. Like Taylor, Blanton enjoys chirping to his opponents, giving himself a mental advantage while providing a cocky energy that permeates the Irish defense. Blanton, just as Taylor did, has a penchant for making big plays and is a threat to score whenever he snares an interception. He even looks eerily similar to Taylor in uniform, stalking receivers with his stringy frame. Irish fans hope, unlike Taylor, Blanton will decide to stay at Notre Dame all four years.
Darrin Walls, perhaps the most talented cornerback of the bunch, returns to Notre Dame this season after leaving the school for "personal reasons". I expect Walls, who was Notre Dame's best cornerback in 2007, to garner All American notice by the end of 2009. He, like Blanton, provides the Irish with a weapon in the backfield that can and will score if the opposing quarterback is careless with the ball. Witness his spectacular interception returned for a touchdown in 2007, versus Penn State.
This is the first time in many ages that Notre Dame has sported this much talent in the defensive backfield. It should allow Gray to comfortably ease his way into action without pressing too much.
Recruiting Notes: Things have slowed on the recruiting front these days. Still no word on Nick Montana, son of former Notre Dame and NFL legend Joe Montana, but I expect him to commit to the Irish during the summer. Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis is ardently pursuing several big boys along the defensive line. And though I don't expect any to announce soon, it's certainly a pleasant surprise to see that he's beginning to understand that Notre Dame needs to land these guys in order to legitimately compete for National Titles.