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Final recruiting weekend proves pivotal

As the final weekend on the recruiting calendar approaches, the Irish coaching staff pulled out all the stops to make this weekend the biggest in the Brian Kelly era.

With less than a week left before letters-of-intent begin to get faxed into the Notre Dame football office, Kelly and his staff have put together an impressive group of players that will trip to South Bend for official visits.

Here’s a quick look at the recruits who’ll be visiting:

Matt James (OL): Every list should start with this hulking offensive lineman from Cincinnati. James, who will decide between the Irish, Ohio State, and Cincinnati, is the most likely candidate of the true blue-chippers to commit to the Irish, and he’ll be all ears to Kelly and his staff this weekend.

Luke Massa (QB): Massa is one of the trio of quarterbacks to be recently offered by the Irish. Even though he’s a verbal to the Bearcats, he’ll join his high school teammate James in South Bend for the official visit. Some suspect that the Massa offer was an attempt at a package deal. If it works as well as the Roby Toma offer, Irish fans should be pinching themselves.

Jeremy Ioane (S): Speaking of Toma and Manti Te’o, Ioane was a prep teammate of the duo from Punaho. He represents a need for the Irish, and a more than capable replacement for Dietrich Riley, who looks to be extending his decision for a few days.

Kona Schwenke (DE): Another eleventh hour offer from Kelly and another Hawaii native. (Talk about the Pineapple Express...) Schwenke is committed to BYU, but projects to be a long-bodied defensive end prospect that has shown some real athleticism. This would be a great steal for Notre Dame, especially after the loss of Blake Lueders.

Brandon Bourbon (RB): Now this would be a great vengeance recruit. Bourbon, committed to Stanford since August, hopped at the offer by Kelly, and will take his trip to Notre Dame this weekend all ears. If the Irish manage to reel in Bourbon, that’ll be a four-for-one trade with Stanford, losing Lueders, but gaining Chris Badger, Tai-ler Jones, and Tate Nichols.

Danny Spond (QB/ATH): Spond was the first of the “big skill” offers from Kelly, who just happened to play quarterback. The Colorado native grades out impressively as an athlete and would be a great recruiting victory for Kelly, who deserves credit for targeting the one-time Colorado commitment.

Derek Roback (QB/ATH): Another recent offer, Roback doesn’t necessarily profile out as the best quarterback visiting, but he’s got a lot of great attributes as an athlete. He looks like a perfect example of a developmental player that Kelly and staff successfully targeted at Cincy.

Also joining the crew on campus will be commitments Christian Lombard (OL), Andrew Hendrix (QB), Austin Collinsworth (WR/S), Daniel Smith (WR), and Tate Nichols (OT) who will all be taking their official visits. Each of these committed recruits will be critical building positive momentum as the undecided prospects take their final visits before locking into a college choice.

South Bend expects chilly temperatures and a decent chance of snow before clearing up and warming slightly over the weekend. Kelly and company could use a picturesque campus to go along with his proven track record when making his sales pitch.

This is Brian Kelly’s biggest weekend as the head coach of Notre Dame. We’ll tell if he won or loss Saturday by the number of faxes that come in on Wednesday.