January 2, 2011

Tuitt, Notre Dame forming bond

SAN ANTONIO -- It appears Notre Dame will have every chance in the world to lock up Stephon Tuitt's signature.

Tuitt has been committed to the Irish since September, but recently he opened up his recruitment a bit with an official visit to Auburn in December and another one planned, but not yet officially on the books, to Georgia Tech later this month.

And through all that, as it continues to unfold, the Notre Dame staff has been forging a stronger relationship with the four-star defensive end.

"They've still been great," Tuitt said during registration at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Sunday. "We've still been communicating like we always do. They trust me, as I trust them, too. They're trusting me to go on these official visits and do this with my mom. In this situation, that really gave me more confidence about Notre Dame. It made me really get closer to the coaches."

Tuitt eliminated Auburn following that visit, but he still plans to visit Georgia Tech, with other programs perhaps lurking on the periphery of his recruitment.

The Yellow Jackets had been a finalist before Tuitt committed to Notre Dame back in September and have hosted him several times on unofficial visits dating back to the beginning of the process.

"It'll probably be just to go revisit and get the same feeling I had," Tuitt said. "I'll really just put everything aside and act like it's my first time going there and talk to the coaches again. I'll talk to the coaches again. It's been a while. Really, just set my eyes open and go in open-minded."

More than anything, as National Signing Day draws near, the nation's No. 2 strongside defensive end wants to be sure of his decision as the process draws to a close.

"Me and my mom talked about it," Tuitt said. "She wanted me to take my visits. She still likes Notre Dame, but she wants me to take my visits just to make sure, because Feb. 2 is right around the corner. It's not like it's five months away; it's right around the corner. She just wants me to make sure I make the right decision.

"Everything, she said, boils down to me. Where I'm going for four years is what I'm gonna have to stick with. I didn't blame her for what she wanted me to do. I just did it because she's my mother, and that's it."

The Irish certainly haven't done anything to hurt themselves on the football field, finishing the season with a four-game winning streak that included a resounding Sun Bowl victory over Miami.

Tuitt watched the Sun Bowl and has taken delight in the possibility of joining a Notre Dame defense that found its stride late in the season. Tuitt has been pondering the idea of joining that unit for practice in the fall.

"I'll go down there and get a chance to practice with the big boys and get my first game and get the jitters out of the way," Tuitt said. "Going in the spotlight, and going in with all the pressure I have, I think will be better for me because I can take a lot of pressure. Doing that will make me work harder to get a chance to go out there and play."

Off the field, the Notre Dame staff has been doing everything it can to secure Tuitt's signature the first week of February.

Recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin, defensive line coach Mike Elston and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco all have been doing their part. But once the recruiting period opens back up, it will be head coach Brian Kelly's turn to put the finishing touches on with an in-home visit.

"I've really been talking to Chuck Martin and coach Diaco," Tuitt said. "Getting a chance to talk with coach Kelly will be a great thing, the head coach coming to my house or wherever we set the visit up at. My mom really wants to talk to him."

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