June 9, 2008

Hopkins ready to see Irish

Dustin Hopkins doesn't want his recruitment to drag into next season.

So the kicker from Houston, Texas has taken control of his college courtship, hitting the recruiting trail for South Bend on Monday with plans to give Notre Dame a full evaluation. If the 6-foot-2, 174-pound specialist likes what he sees, the trip to South Bend might be his last recruiting visit.

"If I have a good feeling about the place it's a possibility," Hopkins said. "I'd never say never about committing."

That doesn't mean Hopkins will arrive at Notre Dame looking to take himself off the market. With offers from Florida State, Baylor, Missouri and Kansas State plus interest coming from LSU, Oregon and Miami, Hopkins has developed into a coveted commodity. That's what happens when a kicker turns more than 90 percent of his kickoffs into touchbacks and connects on 6-of-7 field goals.

The Irish have worked to stand out with arguably the nation's top kicker, sending Mike Haywood and Brian Polian to Clear Lake High School this spring. Hopkins doesn't know what to expect when he visits South Bend, but Notre Dame's reputation will precede the campus tour.

"As far as Notre Dame, it's got tradition that nobody else has," Hopkins said. "The academics are hard to beat. Notre Dame, as far as strength of the football program and strength in the classroom, it's just strong all the way around."

If there's something working against Notre Dame it might be the depth chart with two scholarship kickers already on the roster. Brandon Walker started as a freshman last season with reserve Ryan Burkhart now in the junior class. Hopkins said he's well aware of those personnel dynamics.

"I'd like it to be where I could come in and be the guy, but sometimes it doesn't always work out like that," he said. "I plan on coming in as a freshman and starting. If they have somebody there, I'm confident in my abilities that I could beat him out."

"I really don't know what I'm expecting," Hopkins said. "I could walk on campus and love it or I could walk on campus and think I don't want to come here. It's a 'we'll see' kind of thing."

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