SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame said Tuesday it will not release a standout high school recruit from his letter of intent before he enrolls at UCLA later this month, meaning he can’t play football for the Bruins this fall and will lose a season of eligibility.
Eddie Vanderdoes will have only three years of eligibility remaining because Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly did not release the 6-3, 285-pound defensive lineman from the letter he signed earlier this year.
“We did not release him from his national letter of intent in order to protect the integrity of that very important program, but we have worked with the Vanderdoes family so that Eddie can continue his education this fall at a school closer to his home,” Kelly said in a statement.
Vanderdoes, who graduates from Placer High School in Auburn, on Saturday, said he plans to enroll at UCLA, a school the Fighting Irish are not scheduled to play the next four seasons. He had originally verbally committed to Southern California, but reopened his search last fall and was the final player to sign with Notre Dame.
Kelly could not comment on Vanderdoes during his Feb. 6 signing day news conference because the school had not yet received his letter that afternoon, although a news release including Vanderdoes’ name was distributed to the media, then quickly replaced. Vanderdoes announced his decision Tuesday to attend UCLA in a statement released to The Sacramento Bee.
“For very personal reasons, I feel a strong need to remain close to home and be near those who are most important in my life,” he said. “I am honored and humbled that Note Dame thought enough of me as a person and a football player to offer me a scholarship. They have been very gracious to recognize not only how difficult a decision this was, but also how important it was for me to be near my family at this time. I take my commitments seriously, but as circumstances changed, the most important commitment is the one made to family.”
A call to Vanderdoes by The Associated Press rang unanswered Tuesday and he did not respond to a text message.
There has been speculation for weeks that the five-star recruit was reconsidering his decision. Kelly talked about it last week, saying he expected Vanderdoes to report to school later this month, but added: “We’ll see who shows up. There’s always a surprise or two.”
The recent surprises for Notre Dame, though, haven’t been good. The Vanderdoes news comes just 10 days after news broke that quarterback Everett Golson, who helped the Irish advance to the BCS title game against Alabama, had been suspended for the fall semester for “poor academic judgment.”
Before that there was Gunner Kiel’s unexpected decision before spring practice began to transfer to Cincinnati, news that linebacker Manti Te’o had been the victim of an elaborate hoax involving a fake girlfriend and word of Kelly’s interview for the vacant Philadelphia Eagles job. Not to mention how surprised Notre Dame fans were to see how poorly the Irish played against Alabama in the BCS championship game, losing 42-14.
As a senior at Placer High School last fall, Vanderdoes had 72 tackles, including nine sacks. He also forced two fumbles and had a fumble recovery. The Irish weren’t counting on Vanderdoes to contribute a lot this year, but were hoping he could step into a bigger role in 2014. Nose guard Louis Nix III and end Stephon Tuitt, who both have two years of eligibility left, are projected by some as possible first-round NFL draft picks after the upcoming season, which could mean big holes to fill.
Kelly said at signing day that recruiting for the offensive and defensive lines would be priorities.