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Recruiting stakes high this weekend

While the game on the field will take precedent, the Irish have stacked the deck for recruiting this weekend in South Bend. 17 top recruits will be in South Bend on official visits (and countless more unofficially), making this one of the more important weekends in recent Irish memory.

Those recruits include all-everything prospects Seantrel Henderson of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, Chris Martin (who has been chronicled plenty in this blog), mammoth tackle prospect James Stone, Trojan target Dietrich Riley, and current Stanford commit but Irish legacy Tai-ler Jones to name a few.

Over the weekend, Eric Hansen Bob Wieneke of the South Bend Tribune did a nice piece on the impact the last great ND-USC game had on recruiting.

The 2005 Notre Dame-USC game earned a hefty billing, which helped attract some of the nation’s top talent.

Seven players who had either committed to or eventually would commit to Notre Dame -- Walls, Raeshon McNeil, George West, Toryan Smith, Richard Jackson, Zach Frazer and Matt Carufel -- made their official visits that day.

A number of other standouts the Irish were gunning for, including defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and receiver Terrence Austin, also were on hand.

Also attending, unofficially, was a junior quarterback from Westlake Village, Calif., who at the time was still flying a little under the radar. A few months later, however, Jimmy Clausen was as much of a household name as a high school junior can be.

An estimated 15 players made their official visits to Notre Dame that day; many more were there unofficially. It was a day to impress.

Save for a fourth-down, fourth-quarter pass that eluded Irish cornerback Ambrose Wooden and found the hands of SC receiver Dwayne Jarrett, the day went perfectly.

The Irish fell in the final, fleeting seconds to the No. 1-ranked Trojans, 34-31.

The weather was ideal. The Irish stirred the crowd by breaking out their green jerseys. The campus was buzzing, beyond what Walls’ stepmom was thinking.

Walls, when asked to compare his Notre Dame visit with others, talked about the excitement in Gainesville, Fla., when he, along with future Gators Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin, watched Florida host Tennessee.

“The atmosphere at Tennessee was great,” said Walls, who not long before the SC game had committed to Notre Dame. “But the atmosphere here for USC, it just can’t compare.”

There is a great opportunity for the Irish to impress this weekend, and a large piece of that will be predicated on whether or not the Notre Dame squad plays a complete football game and competes with the Trojans for the first time since 2005.

With a weather forecast that looks advantageous to the Irish and USC more susceptible this year than any other in the Charlie Weis era, the Irish have to feel like this is the year they can get over the top of the Trojan mountain.