Thursday, October 25, 2007

His name is Jonas | by Pat

Amazingly, good recruiting news continues to roll in: Michigan running back Jonas Gray has committed to Notre Dame. The 21st member of this recruiting class, Gray had committed to Nebraska previously, but concerned about the coaching situation in Lincoln, re-opened his recruitment. At that point, Notre Dame offered him a scholarship and, after an official visit during the Southern Cal game weekend, he quickly accepted.

"It's always been the place I wanted to be," Gray said.
Jonas had been quoted as having the Irish as a favorite as far back as the start of his junior year. Notre Dame recruited Gray, but did not offer him a written scholarship offer over this past summer. At that point Gray started to consider other schools and ultimately decided upon the Nebraska Cornhuskers early in August. With the uncertainty over Coach Bill Callahan's future, Gray decided to consider other options. He had kept in touch with Corwin Brown, and once he had put himself back on the market ND invited him to campus for a visit.

Despite ND's 1-7 record, Gray noted (as Floyd did) academics and the young talent ND is amassing as the major draws to the Dome.
"I want to go to law school and get into politics and I feel this is the best place academically. They also have one of the top recruiting classes and they're going to get better."
In addition to Nebraska and ND, Gray also picked up scholarship offers from Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. He's a 4-star recruit, ranked as the #3 running back in the country and 52nd best player overall according to Rivals. Scout has Gray as a 4-star recruit and the 106th ranked player overall. tabs Gray as the 89th overall player in the nation.

Gray elevated his ranking in the eyes of recruitnik sites with strong performances during the summer combines. The 5'9", 215 pound running back had one of the fastest 40 times at this summer's Columbus NIKE Camp (4.44) and followed that up with a Running Back MVP performance at the West Lafayette NIKE camp. At the Michigan Summer Camp, Gray ran the fastest 40 out of all of the campers with a 4.37 run. While 40 times can vary and I personally don't put much stock in them, having well-regarded runs at different camps is always a good sign. It's also always nice to see a recruit who doesn't drop out of the combines after just one good entry.

Gray followed up his All-State junior football campaign with an All-State performance in track. In addition to being part of a state championship winning 4x400 and 4x800 meter relay team, Gray finished 3rd in the state in the 100M dash with a time of 11.2 seconds and 4th in the state in the 200M with a time of 22.8. This year in football, Gray has rushed for 1,674 yards and 24 touchdowns in nine games. You can see some of his highlights here.

Gray is the only running back currently in this recruiting class and, similar to Aldridge and Hughes, presents a larger, more physical style of running. And while track and camp combine times don't necessarily translate into speed on the football field, there does seem to be ample evidence that Gray is far from a plodder. The young nucleus of talented skill position players on offense continues to grow. The ball carriers will be there; if the offensive line improves with age and added depth, the Irish offense should quickly rebound from this year's horrid showing.

Let's take a moment to note again that curious optimism running through the current recruiting class ("I just felt something special with this class," said Gray). It almost defies belief that ND could look so bad on the field, and yet appear so enticing to recruits. The coaching staff really is doing a fantastic job of getting the kids to believe that together they will be a major driving force in turning around Notre Dame Football.