Academics play significant role in Notre Dame recruiting process

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Academics play significant role in Notre Dame recruiting process

Louis Nix couldve stayed home in Florida, content to play at a university where football would be his main focus. But Nix, a four-star defensive tackle out of Jacksonville, chose to go north to Notre Dame, where student-athletes often have to do more than pay lip service to academics. That classroom challenge and potential for success motivated Nix and was a point in Notre Dames favor when it came time for him to choose his university.

Coming up when I was getting recruited, going to different schools in Florida, and hearing from people that went to college for football, they told me itd be a little bit easy, class wouldnt be that hard, blah blah blah, Nix recalled earlier this year. They told me, you come here, its not going to be that easy, youre going to have to push yourself. And me, I like pushing myself. I like to take up a challenge. Right now, Im almost to a 3.0. I just like taking up challenges, and I think thats a good thing.

Recruiting is a cutthroat business, especially when it comes to blue-chip prospects, and even more when those players hail from the South. But two of Notre Dames biggest recent gets from SEC territory -- Nix and defensive end Stephon Tuitt -- mentioned they wanted to challenge themselves academically.

We're going to validate that this year, obviously with the No.1 graduation rates that you can do both, and they don't have to be mutually exclusive in college football, coach Brian Kelly boasted in November.

That message didnt fall on deaf ears. Five-star class of 2013 running back Greg Bryant committed to Notre Dame on Sunday, and his dads explanation of the verbal commitment had nothing to do with the teams success on the field.

"One hundred percent (graduation rate) for minority athletes, 97 percent for team graduation," Greg Bryant, Sr., told Rivals.com affiliate Irish Illustrated. "I like those odds. Everyone else (is) 50 percent or below. It's bigger than the game of football."

Bryant told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel -- which characterized his commitment to Notre Dame as a shocker -- prior to the season he expected to commit to an SEC school. And no doubt, Notre Dames success in 2012 certainly played a major factor in Bryant choosing the Irish.

The Irish have built an impressive class of 2013, one which Rivals.com ranks No. 2 nationally. Kelly and his coaching staff have signed 15 four or five-star recruits to date, the largest crop of blue-chip prospects the school has brought in since 2008.

Related: Four Chicago-area prep players make Rivals Top 100 list

Notre Dames on-field success is its biggest selling point -- for the first time in over two decades, a coach can legitimately tell a high schooler hell have a chance to win championships at Notre Dame. But just as important of a pitch is that, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Notre Dame is the first school to be ranked No. 1 in the BCS and have the nations top graduation rate.

I think if you have the football program that has the highest graduation rates and is also a team that is competing for a national championship, I would qualify that as good for NCAA football, Kelly said earlier. You have something that has both ends working towards excellence.

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

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