May 1, 2008

Irish check out Georgia linebacker

Notre Dame assistant coach Jon Tenuta was back in familiar territory earlier this week when he paid a visit to Valdosta High School in Georgia. The former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator was there to check on four-star linebacker Michael Gilliard.

"He was down two days ago," said the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Gilliard. "We only talked for a minute because of the rules but he seems like a nice guy and wants me to come up to Indiana this summer for a visit."

Gilliard holds 21 scholarship offers, but the Irish aren't included in the impressive list that features Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and Auburn.

"They didn't say anything about an offer but my coach said probably when I go up there they might offer," Gilliard said. "It's a possibility (that I'll visit) unless I commit by then. That school has so much tradition and I was shocked when they had interest in me."

Gilliard's interest lies in several schools closer to home too. He has made unofficial visits to Georgia, Georgia Tech and Florida this spring.

"Georgia, I went up there, that's like the school that's on top right now. It's in-state and really a program I like," he said. "I like Georgia Tech too. Their coach, Paul Johnson, is really good and Florida, I went to their spring game. I was really impressed with those guys too."

This spring Gilliard hopes to see Tennessee and South Carolina and maybe a handful of other schools. But if he finds the perfect fit he could end the recruiting process before making those visits.

"I'm going to keep visiting schools and everything like that," he said. "I'm looking for the school where I feel most comfortable and where I can go play early; I want to earn a starting spot."

A two-year starter, Gilliard posted 112 tackles and eight sacks last season for Valdosta, which finished 9-3. During his sophomore season the Wildcats struggled to a 1-9 mark.

"That year, the team really wasn't together. We had to get used to a new coaching staff," he said. "This year we just came together. On defense, we had 10 out of 11 returning starters, so that was one of the main things."

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