Cardinal-Irish connections run deep

Brian Polian, the Texas A&M special teams coordinator and tight ends coach who spent the past seven years on the staffs at Notre Dame and Stanford, raised an interesting point this week in discussing the challenges and advantages of the national approach that the Cardinal and Fighting Irish employ in recruiting.

Notre Dame and Stanford finish second in the battles for top prospects more than any programs said Polian, who coached from 2005 to 2009 in South Bend, Ind., and the following two seasons in Palo Alto, Calif.

The schools’ strong worldwide brands almost always get coaches from both programs in the door, especially if the prospect has any academic inclination. But when you recruit nationally, often, Polian said, it’s difficult to get a Texas player away from Texas, an Ohio kid away from Ohio State, a Florida kid…

You get the picture.

Because of their similarly built recruiting pools and methods of operation, Stanford and Notre Dame often butt heads in recruiting. Notre Dame beat Stanford for star linebacker Manti Te’o out of Honolulu in 2009.

Irish coach Brian Kelly said Notre Dame has a solid plan to differentiate itself in recruiting from Stanford and other programs.

“We think we have many, many distinctions that are unique to Notre Dame,” Kelly said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “We make sure that recruits that are looking at Stanford and looking at Notre Dame understand what we believe to be those distinctions.”

Notre Dame receiver T.J. Jones committed to Stanford out of high school in Roswell, Ga., three years ago but ultimately signed with the Irish.

Both programs possess a strong pull, he said. He settled on the Irish because of family connections and the program's rich tradition.

“It was very hard,” Jones said. “I felt a personal tie to Stanford. And the relationship I built with the coaches and player in that short amount of time was a very strong relationship, so it was hard to let go.”

Jones said he embraces Stanford coach David Shaw every year on the field when the Cardinal and Irish play. They renew the annual rivalry Saturday in South Bend.