The script finally flipped Monday.
After years of the University of Florida coming in at the 11th hour and poaching Notre Dame’s football recruits, the Irish plucked two-way line standout Chase Hounshell from the Gators’ cache.
Hounshell, a 6-foot-6, 265-pounder from Kirtland, Ohio near Cleveland, became the 23rd commitment in a recruiting class that could swell to 25 by national signing day on Feb. 2.
He was going to be an offensive lineman for the Gators, but will get his first audition at defensive end for the Irish.
“A lot of recruiting services have him as a three-star guy, but I’ve had him at four stars right from the very beginning,” CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said Monday night. “He’s very strong and has quick feet. I think he could really add to the deep group of defensive line. I think his growth potential is even better on the offensive side of the ball. I think he could develop into an All-American on offense if that’s the way they end up going with him down the road.”
If Hounshell does end up on offense, he has the experience of playing in a spread offense at Mentor Lake Catholic High School and was a two-time all-Ohio selection for his play on both sides of the ball. On defense in 2010, he amassed 36 tackles, five sacks, nine tackles for loss and three forced fumbles, earning Ohio Division II defensive co-Player of the Year honors.
Hounshell comes from an athletic family. His older brother, Chad, is an offensive lineman for coach George O’Leary at the University of Central Florida. His twin sister, Colette, signed a national letter-of-intent in November to play basketball for Division I school St. Francis (N.Y.).
Hounshell committed to Florida on Aug. 12 with the intention of enrolling in time for the spring semester. But after Urban Meyer’s surprise resignation in early December, Hounshell reopened his recruitment.
New Florida coach Will Muschamp and former Irish assistant Frank Verducci were part of a Gators delegation that visited the Hounshell house on Sunday. The Irish coaches visited Monday and nailed down the commitment.
“I liked that I knew what I was getting and I liked the certainty at Notre Dame, and right now, there is a lot of uncertainty at Florida,” Hounshell told The (Willoughby, Ohio) News-Herald Monday. “My initial plan was to wait until national signing day to make a decision, but this is the right time for me. I felt very comfortable with Notre Dame and with this decision.”
“It was just a great comfort level that I felt,’’ Hounshell added. “The tradition at Notre Dame had a lot to do with my decision as well. We are an Irish family and grew up Notre Dame fans.”
Another two-way line standout, Troy Niklas of Anaheim, Calif., is set for a campus visit on Jan. 28. The other high-profile prospect still in play, running back Savon Huggins of Jersey City, N.J., is expected to make his college decision that same weekend.
“Notre Dame is really finishing strong and answering a lot of questions people had about this staff as recruiters,” Lemming said. “The key is consistency and to do it every year, but they’re certainly putting themselves in a great position this year.”