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.

Cubs' Dexter Fowler hit in leg with bat by power-swinging toddler

Cubs' Dexter Fowler hit in leg with bat by power-swinging toddler

On this edition of Chicago's Funniest Home Videos, Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler is all smiles after being hit in the leg by a power-swinging toddler.

Fowler, who is currently on the disabled list with a right hamstring injury, posted the video of an impromptu batting practice that broke out with his neighbors and a young left-handed prospect named Kellen.

Take a look for yourself and insert your own Bob Saget play-by-play voice.

Hilarious!

For those hardcore fans who are concerned with Fowler's health, it's all good, the 30-year-old was lightly struck in the left leg by a soft NERF bat and did not appear to be in any serious pain.

Although Kellen missed on his initial swing in the video, we're certain his swing will continue to develop over time. A few more training sessions with Fowler should only enhance his potential of becoming a real home run threat down the road. And who knows, maybe we'll see the young fellow suiting up for the Cubbies one day.

57 Days to Kickoff: Coal City

57 Days to Kickoff: Coal City

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Coal City

Head coach: Lenny Onsen

Assistant coaches: Jim Mikula, Francis Loughran, Jim Looper, Ryan Bunton, Mark Masters, Ryan Vanduyne

How they fared in 2015: 5-5 (3-2) Interstate 8 Large Conference. Coal City made the 4A state playoffs and lost to Marengo in opening round action.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Coalers run the football effectively this season? 

Names to watch this season: RB Nick Hayden, OL Virgil Geers

Biggest holes to fill: Who steps up to replace graduated QB Nick Micetich this season?

EDGY's Early Take: With three starting offensive linemen back, along with RB Nick Hayden in the fold, look for the Coalers to challenge for the top spot in the I-8 and beyond.

White Sox: Nearly three years later, Matt Davidson is back in The Show

White Sox: Nearly three years later, Matt Davidson is back in The Show

It’s been 1,006 days since Matt Davidson last played in a major league baseball game. 

In between, the former top-100 prospect endured a two-year flirtation with the Mendoza Line while being passed over time after time for a return to the big leagues, even as a September call-up. But after hitting .268/.349/.444 with 10 home runs in 75 games with Triple-A Charlotte this year, the 25-year-old Davidson was called up to the major leagues on Thursday and is hitting eighth as the White Sox designated hitter. 

“It’s been a long ride, but I’m glad to be here,” Davidson said. 

The White Sox acquired Davidson for closer Addison Reed from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Dec. 16, 2013, with the hope he could be a staple at third base and the middle of the team’s lineup for years. But after not making the White Sox out of spring training two years ago, he struggled in back-to-back seasons in Triple-A. 

Davidson hit 43 home runs in that span, but had strikeout rates north of 30 percent both years and saw his OPS plummet to .644 in 2014 and .668 in 2015. During that offensive malaise, Davidson didn’t have any illusions of returning to the major leagues for the first time since the Diamondbacks brought him in in August and September of 2013. 

“The past couple years I haven’t really had a good reason to be impatient,” Davidson said. “I’ve struggled, so I kind of knew I wasn’t getting called up. You’ve got to take it day by day, one step at a time and focus on what you need to do to get here.”

The White Sox liked what they saw from Davidson during spring training in March, but needed to see him translate that positivity into regular-season success. Davidson’s .792 OPS was the best he’s had since 2013, and his strikeout rate dropped to about 26 percent. 

With the White Sox having an off day next Thursday and the All-Star break approaching quickly, there wasn’t a need for an extra arm in the bullpen, so Matt Purke was optioned to Triple-A and Davidson was brought up. 

“I think when you hit rock bottom and you try to work your way back up and build yourself back up, something happens there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Not only doing that in spring training, but doing what he’s doing in Triple-A is the stuff that you build off of.”

With left-hander Tommy Milone — who’s given the White Sox offense plenty of headaches in the past — starting for the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, Davidson will get an immediate opportunity to make an impact, albeit from the back of the lineup. 

Ventura said he’s not worried about Davidson trying to do too much in an effort to make an immediate positive impression in his first major league game since Sept. 28, 2013. Davidson and the White Sox feel like his 2014 and 2015 issues are behind him, and the focus is on getting him to contribute for a team that expects to be in contention for a playoff spot throughout the summer. 

“I think he’s in a better spot than he’s ever been and understands himself better,” Ventura said. “I think he’s gotten over trying to impress and trying to do too much and the pressures that come with that. Even in spring training he was in a great spot. So I think that whole experience has helped him for right now. Seeing him today, he still seems to be pretty level headed about who he is and what he can do.”