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Thursday, October 15, 2009
Updated: October 16, 10:22 AM ET
Top recruits taking wait-and-see approach

By Sheldon Shealer

It's not only fans and alumni who get excited about college football rivalry games, but also the next generation of college stars.

This weekend's college schedule features annual showdowns such as USC-Notre Dame and Texas-Oklahoma. Top recruits will be there to absorb the atmosphere, but does the lure of playing for a program with high-profile rivalries and nationally televised games factor into their college decision?

Josh Shaw of Palmdale (Palmdale, Calif.) and Dietrich Riley of St. Francis (La Canada, Calif.) are senior defensive backs who have Notre Dame and USC on their lists of finalists. Both have tied their official visits to Notre Dame this weekend.

"It is important for me to play for a university with nationally televised games because I want my family to always be able to see me play if they can't make it in person," Shaw said. However, he was quick to add, "Playing in nationally televised games won't be very important when it comes to making my decision, although I would like to play on a national stage because it is more exposure for me."

Said Riley: "If I plan on going out of state -- to Notre Dame or Florida -- it's important because my family is really supportive and they want to watch me play."

Darius White, the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the ESPNU 150 who has Oklahoma and Texas on his final list, takes it a step further ... to a point.

"It gets so intense, places are shutting down so people can go watch it," the Dunbar (Fort Worth, Texas) player said. "It would be cool to play in it, but I wouldn't make that part of my decision why I chose a school."

Although all three said the rivalry game and TV will not play a major part in their decision, Riley and Shaw said it was the rivalry matchup that made them take up Notre Dame on an official visit.

"When I looked at Notre Dame's schedule, the USC game stood out to me," Shaw said. "I just felt like there is no way I can miss this game."

"First and foremost," Riley added, "I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Not too many athletes receive a full scholarship from Charlie Weis and the Notre Dame program, so I definitely wanted to show them interest and go up and feel the experience."

One player whose mind is made up is Second Baptist (Houston, Texas) senior quarterback Connor Wood, who has committed to Texas.

"I'm going to be burnt-oranged out," said Wood, who will be sitting with his parents on the UT side of Dallas' Cotton Bowl.

Wood experienced his first college rivalry game last year when he attended the Longhorns-Sooners game, and it left quite an impression.

"I never had been an OU or Texas fan before this recruiting thing started," he said. "But just seeing how loud it got and how intense got (me into it). Going in there and seeing the atmosphere I think is a huge thing for recruits to see, no matter which team wins."

For Riley and Shaw, the Notre Dame-USC game will be the first time they have seen a rivalry game in person.

"I think this game is going to come down to the wire," Shaw said. "I am expecting a great game with a crazy atmosphere."

"The place will be rocking," Riley said. "The only thing that concerns me right now is how the weather will be."

Greg Biggins and Jon Mahoney contributed to this story.