Drue Tranquill bought into everything. There was the promising new coach, the players and coaches that embraced him as their own, and the program in his backyard that’s looking to build a winner.
“It’s a great university,” Tranquill said of Purdue after his July verbal pledge. “It’s a shame they haven’t had a great football program to represent that the past few years.”
That’s what Tranquill wanted in a school. It’s what led him to flipped his commitment from Purdue to Notre Dame.
On Tuesday evening, everything the Boilermakers had built and Tranquill had committed to, it didn’t matter. The gleam of the Golden Dome and a college football power became too much to pass up. It was a harsh dose of reality served up for a struggling football team.
Credit Darrell Hazell, Marcus Freeman, Jafar Williams and the rest of Purdue’s first-year coaching staff, which led a strong recruitment of the four-star prospect. The Boilermakers were in on him first, well before he became a hot commodity. Where was Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly during all of this? Just playing games.
Kelly said in January that an offer could be coming to Tranquill. He said it again in the spring. And again in July, just weeks before the formal pick of Purdue. But Kelly didn’t want him, need him like Purdue. He surely wasn’t working a private workout with the linebacker like Freeman did in June, or go out of his way to build the bond like Hazell. This didn’t happen until after the Irish swung and missed on several of their top targets.
This was supposed to be the Boilermakers’ headliner in Hazell’s first full recruiting class.
“He’s going to build a great program,” Tranquill said of Hazell in July. “Under his ways and philosophies, this program is going to excel.”
That’s where the reality comes in. To build a winner, it takes talent. To sell talent on becoming part of the program, it takes a close relationship. But tradition tops all in recruiting. Notre Dame trumped Purdue in this game.
Maybe Tranquill will have a legendary career in South Bend, becoming another heralded piece of a storied tradition Perhaps he could be part of a championship team. But he also could be buried on the loaded Fighting Irish depth chart, too. Purdue needed Tranquill to be that impact player so badly.
Hazell faces an uphill battle in building this Purdue program. Recruiting the nation’s elite prospects is a daunting task. In this case, he lost out on a local kid that was all in on his Boilermakers.
For the Fighting Irish, a talented, extremely likeable kid is coming into a power program. For Purdue, this one really has to hurt. Tradition and prestige trumps promise.