Friday, December 09, 2005

Center of Attention | by Pat

Recruit number 23 pulled the trigger for Notre Dame when offensive lineman Dan Wenger publicly announced his verbal committment to Coach Weis and the Irish.

"I think [Notre Dame] is unmatched to any other place," Wenger said. "It's the best fit all around between academics and athletics. You obviously have the football tradition and what they've done in the past, but wherever you go, you're meeting someone that was a graduate of Notre Dame. Everyone knows about Notre Dame. It's not something people are blind to."
The 6'4" 285lbs Wenger is now the 4th known offensive lineman recruit for the Irish, joining Bartley Webb, Eric Olsen, and Chris Stewart. It's also expected that Matt Carufel will announce his intentions to attend Notre Dame publicly in January at the Army All-American Bowl Game. Also, Notre Dame is still after Wenger's teammate Sam Young, who is one of the top recruits in America, regardless of position.

That's not to say that Wenger hasn't earned his own share of accolades. Playing center for his high school team and expected to play center for Notre Dame, Wenger is ranked as one of the best centers in the country. ranks him 3rd among centers while tabs him at the 18th best offensive lineman in the country. More important than recruiting rankings though are the impressive collection of offers that Wenger accumulated. Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, Penn State, Purdue, Boston College, and Pittsburgh all offered and pursued the talented lineman. Also, Wenger was invited to participate in the US Army All-American Bowl in January. He's the 8th publically committed player for the Irish to be invited to the game.

Here's a free highlight video of Dan for all. Now, judging lineman from a grainy internet video is pretty hard to do. With that in mind, here's a review of Wenger from an article written back in April. The writer covers Florida high school football so I'd imagine he's seen more than his fair share of good players. And while one would expect a complimentary review for a player who collects as many scholarship as Wenger, this is still heady praise.
DANIEL WENGER: If there is a better high school center in the nation, please let me see him. Very seldom has any young linemen ever been groomed to play this position at this age. Watching him play, you get the sense that, like Young, here is a position that Wenger will settle at for the next decade – and beyond. Last year, in two games, I tracked him on three different series to see what he did that was so impressive, and after writing down notes, I came to the conclusion that he dominates, standing defensive linemen straight up, trap blocks so well and can open holes quickly with his strength and pure athletic ability.

HIS STRENGTHS: If you watch Daniel on four different plays, he won't block the same on any of those plays. While most 17-year-olds have been trained to repeat blocks and use one or two different blocking schemes, Wenger variates from play to play, which comes from plenty of practice and film watching.

NEEDS TO WORK ON: Just gaining the natural experience the position requires. He will be given more and more responsibility as he gets to college and at the professional level.

IN CONCLUSION: After watching him play three different times, I proclaimed that this will be the first linemen in this class, who will start in the National Football League. He just has the look of a center who will play in the league for a long time. He reminds me a lot of another Floridian Jeff Faine.
Pretty impressive stuff and I'm sure ND fans will love the Faine comparisions. Not sure if that is exactly fair to Wenger since those are mighty big shoes to fill, but I think it's safe to say that expectations are high for all of the offensive lineman recruits this year as most of them have excellent shots at very early playing time. And speaking of early playing time, one extra benefit that Wenger brings is his experience at the position. This positive was hightlighted in an article from June.
There has to be something said about a high school football player who competed over a four year period at the center position. In this day of playing a number of positions on the line, here is an athlete who will have over 40 starts at a position that colleges seem to fall over the place trying to cement.
Bob Morton should return for a 5th year and John Sullivan still has 2 years of eligibility left, but it's nice to know that their backup won't be learning the position from scratch next year.