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Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Notre Dame wins big with nation's top DT

By Erik McKinney

The cat seemed to get out of the bag early, but that didn’t lessen the impact of defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes (Auburn, Calif./Placer) announcing on Wednesday evening that he will sign with Notre Dame.

There was a small hiccup earlier in the day, when Vanderdoes’ name appeared on a Notre Dame press release announcing the 2013 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish before the nation’s top defensive tackle had signed his letter of intent. On the next press release, it won’t be a mistake.

This is a huge win for Notre Dame, which adds to a stellar class by landing California’s lone five-star prospect and a former USC verbal commitment.

The 6-foot-3, 310-pound defensive tackle originally committed to the Trojans over the summer, when scholarship spaces in USC’s top-ranked recruiting class were dwindling. But Vanderdoes opened up his recruitment in December and programs from across the country pounced.

Vanderdoes took official visits to UCLA, Washington, USC, Notre Dame and Alabama -- his five finalists -- and was left with a very difficult decision that wasn’t finalized until late in the process.

He was seemingly linked to all five schools through various reports, though he maintained his uncommitted status through the final few weeks, eventually committing to and signing with Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Vanderdoes tallied 72 tackles and nine sacks as a senior, leading Placer to 11 wins on the season.

What is the impact of Vanderdoes' decision?

What it means for Notre Dame: Adding the nation’s top defensive tackle is a big, big victory during any recruiting year, but reaching in and taking the top-ranked player from California is a big accomplishment for Brian Kelly. Notre Dame’s path to an undefeated regular season was paved by the defense up the middle, and Vanderdoes gives the Fighting Irish another standout player to plug into what has become a strength.

What it means for the teams that lost out: USC definitely takes the hardest hit with this news, as Vanderdoes once seemed a solid commit to the Trojans and Lane Kiffin’s team was in need of adding several big bodies up front. After holding commitments from five defensive linemen, the Trojans signed just one in the 2013 class. UCLA looked to be the leader for Vanderdoes heading into signing day but couldn’t keep the defensive tackle in state. It’s a missed opportunity for the Bruins to strike another blow at their crosstown rivals, but there won’t be any tears over the defensive class UCLA signed.

Turning point: Vanderdoes was too thoughtful about the process and courted by too many programs for there to have been a single turning point. Obviously the biggest thing that led to Wednesday’s announcement was his decommitment from USC, but the ultimate decision was the result of five official visits and doing plenty of homework. Several times this year, recruits have been blown away by their official visit to Notre Dame, and Vanderdoes can be added to that list.

Surprise (scale of 1-5): 3. When it came down to crunch time, it seemed as though UCLA and Notre Dame were the teams to beat for Vanderdoes. It’s a bit of a surprise because he doesn’t stay in state, but there’s nothing truly shocking about Notre Dame taking advantage of a terrific year on the field.

Immediate impact (scale of 1-5): 5. It doesn’t matter what the depth chart looks like, Vanderdoes is going to get to work on cracking the depth chart. With his combination of talent and work ethic, it should be nearly impossible to keep him off the field in his first year.