The education, the facilities, the defensive scheme and the possibility of getting on the field early all factored into Ben Councell’s decision Sunday to play football at Notre Dame. But it was a simple, thoughtful gesture while on a recent campus visit that stood out for the senior-to-be outside linebacker.
Fighting Irish assistant Mike Elston (defensive line/special teams), who recruited the Asheville, N.C., talent, took useful mental notes during his time interacting with the recruit and his family.
“He kept in constant contact with my father,” said the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Councell, who’s set to enter his senior season at Reynolds High. “That was a big deal, because no other school had done that. He formed a good relationship with my parents.”
So when John Mark Councell accompanied his son to South Bend, Elston made sure there was time for both football and futbol.
“It was a big deal for dad to watch the U.S. soccer game [vs. Algeria], and [Elston] planned the schedule around that,” said Councell, who chose the Irish over Georgia Tech, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. “The whole coaching staff was hospitable. But he took care of dad.”
Dad, who played soccer at N.C. State, had his pick from many swanky viewing areas within the Guglielmino football complex at Notre Dame to take in the American’s crucial World Cup tilt.
“They had the team meeting room -- an auditorium like a small movie theater with a huge projector,” added Councell, rated the No. 37 OLB by ESPN Recruiting. “They gave him the option of that or up in one of the offices with a big HD screen. He got to pick and he likes the HD.”
Notre Dame’s 2011 class stands at 12 commitments, including Eilar Hardy (CB), who offered his verbal pledge over the weekend. An ESPN three-star recruit, Hardy (Pickerington, Ohio) had 18 schools offer, including Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Head coach Brian Kelly’s push to stockpile defensive depth continued by landing both recruits the seventh and eighth defensive players added to next years crop.
Thats where they’re lacking, and that’s why they wanted me to come in,” Hardy (6-0, 180) said. “I’m a big corner, and that’s how they like their corners.”
Councell’s Reynolds squad utilizes a 3-5 defensive set that will prepare him for D-coordinator Bob Diaco’s 3-4 scheme at Notre Dame. He’s expecting to play at the Dog position, an outside linebacker/defensive hybrid that requires good speed off the edge as well as an ability to drop back into coverage. Last year, he recorded 124 tackles (13 for a loss) and blocked what could have been a game-winning field goal in the Division 4A state championship game.
“You line up almost like an end, but you don’t put your hand down,” Councell said. “I can rush or go into pass coverage. God blessed me with a little bit of speed, and I’ve played receiver, tight end, linebacker and safety. I feel pretty comfortable in the pass rush and outside pursuit. It kind of fits in with my body type.”