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Notre Dame, opponent to use game, location, even uniforms to advantage

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Irish, Sun Devils to compete in prime recruiting area

Friday, October 4, 2013 - 3:40 am

Notre Dame is playing Arizona State on Saturday and the Fighting Irish (3-2) will do so at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (7:30 p.m., NBC).

It's considered a home game for Notre Dame.

Does all of that make sense? If it does, then you are familiar with the dubbed “Shamrock Series” that the Irish kicked off a few years ago – also in Texas.

“We're excited about playing in north Texas in the Shamrock Series,” Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “It'll be a great atmosphere for our football team.”

Notre Dame began playing one home game per season in a neutral site in 2009 when Charlie Weis took the Irish to the Alamo Dome and beat Washington State in front of nearly 60,000 (mostly) Irish fans.

It was a popular event for Irish fans, alumni and most importantly when it comes to gaining exposure in the Lone Star State, to recruits.

“I think it helps,” Kelly said of the exposure to recruits. “I certainly think that any time that you're able to, well, for example, be able to go down there on Friday and get out and see some (high school) games with our coaches, so certainly being able to get down there will help us in that perspective.”

It's helped in the past. Notre Dame has eight players (nearly 10 percent of its current roster) from Texas and the list of prospects that play in Texas and have already been offered a scholarship by Irish coaches (see below) is lengthy.

“Certainly getting some recruits locally to come to (Saturday's) game,” Kelly explained, “you know, we certainly can't see them (per NCAA rules), but we can provide tickets, that helps.

“A “bump” would probably be a good word. Is it going to seal the deal for us in a lot of these instances? Probably not. But it certainly helps to have the kind of exposure there.”

It'll help the 22nd-ranked Sun Devils (3-1) as well.

Arizona State coach Todd Graham spoke earlier this week of the importance of playing the Irish in the metroplex area of Dallas and Fort Worth. It isn't a huge hot bed for the Sun Devil program, but it's important still.

“Our number one recruiting area is in Arizona and California,” Graham explained. “That is our base recruiting area. The next recruiting area is Texas. It has been very productive for us. Obviously, we are going there to play and it is a big deal for us.”

Both teams will try and use the national television audience, being on the same field as the Dallas Cowboys, and hopefully, a victory, to garner attention from the elite athletes in the state. Oh, and they'll use specifically designed uniforms, as well.

The Sun Devils will each wear a unique helmet design, which Graham is excited about.

“One of the things about these helmets is that it is a black helmet with flames in it and every single helmet is different,” Graham said. “We have the forks (logo) on the side, forks on the back; the face mask looks like it actually has been charred in a fire.

“We have a tremendous brand with the fork and if you want to be a champion, you have to look like a champion first. The best recruits are our players and just like how we travel, where we stay, what we eat, the uniforms we have, when recruits come in our players are going to tell them how it is and we want to be the best in the country and taking care and providing for that brand.”

Irish eyes are watching

The Notre Dame football staff will be out at several high school games throughout Texas on Friday watching prospects, some of whom have already received scholarship offers from the program.

Some of the Texas-based players being recruited by Notre Dame include:

Class of 2014

* Tony Brown (CB, Ozen HS, Beaumont, TX)

* Solomon Thomas (DE, Coppell HS, Coppell, TX)

* Myles Garrett (DE, Martin HS, Arlington, TX)

* Nick Watkins (CB, Bishop Dunne HS, Dallas, TX)

* Edwin Freeman (OLB, Bowie HS, Arlington, TX)

* Grant Blankenship (DE, The Colony HS, The Colony, TX) verbally committed to Irish

Class of 2015

* Kendall Sheffield (CB, Marshall HS, Missouri City, TX) Class of 2015