June 29, 2008

Irish almost earn Banks dividend

E.J. Banks arrived at Notre Dame on Saturday with a plan to play it cool.

The three-star athlete from McKees Rocks, Pa., wanted another look at the Irish program, but the 5-foot-11, 186-pound prospect had no intention of taking himself off the market. Yet while flanked by his parents and connecting with parts Notre Dame's incoming class, standout from Montour High School began to wonder if a recruiting audible was in order by Sunday.

More specifically, Banks debated the merits of taking himself off the market ahead of schedule.

"I was thinking about it," he said. "I did think about it real hard and was thinking about my future. If I went there I wouldn't have to worry about how far my education could take me. It's a hard decision."

With some factors working in Notre Dame's favor.

Banks spent the weekend getting to know the Irish roster, starting with his potential position group. Freshman Robert Blanton hosted Banks on the visit, but Jamoris Slaughter and Gary Gray made sure to introduce themselves as well. Even defensive end Ethan Johnson got into the act, as did verbal commitment Tyler Stockton.

"Tyler Stockton, he's always talking to me," Banks said. "He keeps saying he can't sleep until I commit. It was funny."

Offensive line coach John Latina recruits Banks' area for Notre Dame and Corwin Brown has made his presence felt in this courtship too with some film work alongside the cornerback during the Blue-Gold Game weekend. But unlike the spring game visit when Notre Dame hosted dozens of prospects, the smaller crowd in South Bend this weekend let Banks get to know other parts of the Irish coaching staff.

"This time I got to meet the players and hang out with them and I got a good feel for the coaches," Banks said. "You know how it is when a whole bunch of recruits are around. The coaches have different mannerisms with all that, but this time they were hanging out and cracking jokes.

"They're all funny. They all talk stuff when they're playing Madden or NCAA (video games)."

Head coach Charlie Weis spent time with Banks too, but not to apply pressure toward a commitment.

"He didn't really put a number on (how many cornerbacks they want), but he let me know they need corners," Banks said. "After this year they're losing a couple guys and they need some people in there."

Banks wasn't the only part of his traveling party that left impressed.

"(My parents) love Notre Dame, they fell in love with it," he said. "When I got the offer in the mail it was, 'Oh my gosh, Notre Dame. E.J., you gotta really take a look at this.'

"I think they're juggling Notre Dame and Ohio State around (as favorites)."

Banks said he plans to visit Pittsburgh next week and Rutgers in late July. That figures to be it for his summer schedule, although he said Virginia Tech could slip into the mix. Last week Banks said he was down to Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pitt, West Virginia, Wake Forest and Rutgers.

Considering how Banks entertained a commitment, the Irish don't appear to have done anything to hurt their chances.

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