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Closing time brings a few surprises

Nothing good usually happens right before closing time, especially for Notre Dame fans. The past few years, with the great exception of Manti Te’o, the Irish always seem to be on the wrong side of a signing day surprise.

While initial returns had Irish fans worried about Brian Kelly’s recruiting philosophies, it seems like the Irish might be building some momentum going into Wednesday, with last weekend’s big recruiting weekend already landing four new commitments.

Here are a few of the undecided recruits that might still be Irish:

MATT JAMES: He seems like priority one (and probably two and three) for the Irish coaching staff. James has known Brian Kelly for two years, respected him enough to have Cincinnati in his three final schools, and has a bunch of reasons why Notre Dame would be a great fit. The 6-foot-8 prospect would do a lot to shore up any potential worries at offensive line in this class, and seems to be the top guy that the staff need to receive a fax from this Wednesday morning.

JEREMY IOANE: A safety that would suddenly fill a position that’s become a need, Ioane is one-half of a Hawaiian contingency that arrived in South Bend last weekend apparently wearing shorts. The Irish targeted Ioane after Kelly arrived, but the Punaho standout has obvious ties to the program with Manti Te’o and Robby Toma. Ioane is a safety that jumps out on film for being a heavy hitter. Tough to argue with that offer, especially after watching the tackling ability from the secondary this season.

KONA SCHWENKE: Part two of the Hawaiian contingency, Schwenke’s verbal commitment to BYU fizzled in the last week. Now it looks like its down to the Irish and Washington for the lanky defensive end. Schwenke projects as one of the top five players in Hawaii, and landing Ioane and/or Schwenke could get some great momentum going for the Irish in Hawaii, a pretty talent-rich state.

: Ferguson is a tough guy to read, but he’s a mountain of a prospect and would be a great get by the Irish. The wild-card in all of this is Texas Tech, who recently hired Ferguson’s high school coach at Hargrave Military Academy, Robert Prunty, to coach the defensive line. (Surprise! Ferguson’s position...) It’s a cagey move by Tommy Tuberville, as Hargrave is one of the elite prep-school/post-graduate programs, and always produces a handful of elite college prospects.

DIETRICH RILEY: A few weeks ago I targeted Riley as one of the guys that Brian Kelly had to get, but the scholarship offer to Jeremy Ioane likely means that the Irish staff don’t think they have a legit shot to land the Southern California native. This battle likely comes down to two Los Angeles programs, with Rick Neuheisel most likely beating Lane Kiffin and company for Riley’s services. Riley’s certainly been complimentary about Kelly and the Irish, I just don’t think he’ll leave home.

CHRISTIAN JONES: This blue-chip outside linebacker is still considering the Irish, which says a lot about the recruiting work done by Brian Kelly and Tony Alford. Jones is one of the biggest fish left undecided, and while most people believe it’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll be a Seminole, I’m still really impressed by the word done by the Irish staff. Landing Jones would be almost the equal of last year’s coup on Manti Te’o, and probably a bit more surprising, given the amount of time Kelly had to build a relationship. Second place never feels good, but it’s impressive that the Irish still have a chance at landing Jones.

SEANTREL HENDERSON: Speaking of blue-chippers, Henderson may be the biggest of them all. While the family is playing things close to the vest, I don’t think the Irish are in this race anymore. Henderson spent the weekend visiting Miami, and was in awe of former Hurricanes Ed Reed and Bryant McKinnie, who he spent time with. USC has also done a great job getting back into the race, and the hometown Gophers have done everything possible to try and keep Minnesota’s biggest recruit from fleeing the state. Henderson isn’t the same kind of fit that guys like Ryan Harris and Michael Floyd were at Notre Dame, but he’d certainly step onto campus and compete for the starting left tackle job. I expect Henderson to end up at Ohio State or USC, with the Gophers and Miami as wildcards.