Notre Dame may launch another Rocket next season.
The Fighting Irish landed one of the country's most prized prospects Wednesday when receiver Mike Miller of Sugar Land, Texas, signed a national letter of intent.Coach Lou Holtz said the 5-foot-7, 160-pound speedster reminds him of Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, the triple-threat star who is leaving Notre Dame a year early to enter the NFL draft.
"He looks like Rocket, he talks like Rocket, he's even got some of the same facial expressions," Holtz said. "He's slightly faster than Rocket and more experienced coming in at wide receiver. But I do not expect him to be another Rocket."
Like Ismail, Miller has excelled as a receiver, runner and kick returner. But the high school star doesn't want to be known as Rocket II.
"I want my own identity," he said. "If Rocket hadn't left, the chances of me going there were slim. When he left, that opened up the door for me."
Despite the signing of Miller, Notre Dame didn't have a banner recruiting year.
"They've had the No. 1 recruiting class the last four years, but this year they're not in the Top 10," said Allen Wallace, publisher of SuperPrep magazine. "I'd rank them about 15."
Wallace said several factors hurt Notre Dame, including tougher entrance requirements, speculation that Holtz might leave and the loss of several assistant coaches.
"They needed linemen and they didn't get them," Wallace said. "And they didn't get the quarterback they wanted, Jeff McCrone, who is going to Florida State."
Florida State, Penn State and Michigan were the biggest winners on the first national signing day for high school players.
"Penn State got the best group of running backs, some great people on the offensive line and a couple of outstanding linebckers," Wallace said.
"Michigan got the best group of defensive linemen, the two best quarterbacks from the state of Michigan and the best athlete from the Midwest. And Florida State got the best running back, the best defensive back and the best offensive lineman in the country."
Florida State's prize recruits include three homestate stars - running back Marquette Smith of Winter Park, offensive lineman Greg Frey of Clearwater and defensive back Derrick Brooks of Pensacola. SuperPrep rated each player as the best in the nation at his position.
Michigan signed highly rated quarterback Craig Randall of Grand Rapids, Mich., and four of SuperPrep's top 20 defensive linemen, including second-rated Trent Zenkewicz of Cleveland.
The Wolverines also got one of the nation's top defensive backs, Deollo Anderson of Youngstown, Ohio; SuperPrep's No. 4 receiver, Felman Malveaux of Hamshire, Texas; and all-around star Tyrone Wheatley of Dearborn, Mich.
Unlike most schools, Penn State doesn't release its list of recruits. But Wallace said the Nittany Lions were expected to sign SuperPrep's second-rated receiver, Bobby Engram of Camden, S.C., and two running backs ranked in the top 10 - Stephen Pitts of Middletown, N.J., and Kijana Carter of Westerville, Ohio.
The Nittany Lions also reportedly got three of the top 10 offensive line prospects - Andre Johnson of Southampton, N.Y.; Marco Rivera of Elmont, N.Y., and Scott Stratton of West Chester, Ohio.
Other schools with excellent recruiting classes were Georgia, Washington, Colorado, Texas A&M, Texas, Auburn, Tennessee, Southern Cal, UCLA and Iowa.
Georgia Tech went undefeated last season and won the coaches' national championship, but Wallace said the Yellow Jackets were outrecruited in their own state by Georgia.
"The Bulldog tradition is hard to beat," Wallace said. "Plus Georgia Tech can't get some kids because of their tough academic standards."
Both schools got top-notch quarterbacks. SuperPrep's No. 1 quarterback, Donnie Davis of Burlington, N.C., is going to Georgia Tech and third-ranked Eric Zeier of Marietta, Ga., will attend Georgia.