Thursday, February 02, 2006

In the Books | by Pat

"I've told everyone in this class that this was going to be the class that started Notre Dame back to the top. That doesn't mean we don't have a chance to compete this year and next year. I'm talking about perennially being at the top.

It's easy for a team once in a while to have a good year. A lot of times they flounder afterwards. That's not what we're shooting for here. We want to be a top team every year. I think this team sets the foundation."
-- Charlie Weis, signing day, 2-1-06

Links 'o plenty about the newest recruiting class -- the first batch of players where Charlie had a full year to work the recruiting trail:
• the Official ND Press Release
• Charlie Weis Press Conference Transcript (and podcast)
• the South Bend Tribune - ND Recruit Profiles
Irish Eyes: Offensive Signees and Defensive Signees
• Irish Illustrated: Irish Sign Top 10 Class
• Blue & Gold Illustrated: Class of 2006
(So good, I'll link it again -- the press conference is an especially good read.)

What we said then. Here's the breakdown of the offensive and defensive players, complete with links back to the BGS posts we wrote when they verbally committed.

QB - Zach Frazer, Demetrius Jones
RB - James Aldridge, Munir Prince, Luke Schmidt
WR - Barry Gallup, Richard Jackson, Robby Parris, George West
TE - Konrad Reuland
OL - Matt Carufel, Eric Olsen, Chris Stewart, Bartley Webb, Dan Wenger, Sam Young

DE - John Ryan, Kallen Wade
DT - Paddy Mullen
LB - Morrice Richardson, Toryan Smith
CB - Raeshon McNeil, Darrin Walls
S - Sergio Brown, Leonard Gordon, Jashaad Gaines
K - Ryan Burkhart

Also, take a look back at Travels With Charlie, the whirlwind recruiting trip last winter that really got the ball rolling.

Teammates. Notre Dame has 3 pairs of high school teammates making their way to South Bend this year. Munir Prince and Paddy Mullen both hail from DeSmet in Missouri. Dan Wenger and Sam Young both are St. Thomas Aquinas students in Fort Lauderdale, FL. And Robby Parris and John Ryan are both enrolled at St. Ignatius in Cleveland, OH.

Related. Sergio Brown is from the same high school as Illinois basketball player Dee Brown and Michigan State basketball player Shannon Brown, but isn't related to either. However, he is a cousin of newly committed Irish basketball recruit Jonathan Peoples.

Nicknames. The South Bend Tribune once again lists any nicknames a recruit might have. Here's James Aldridge explaining his nickname, Moose. "Ever since I started football, I've been known as 'Moose. I think it's because I'm such an aggressive runner. I can run around you, but I also don't mind dropping a shoulder, either." Others are a bit more of an inside joke, like Darrin "Teets" Walls or Kallen "I-Robot" Wade. Matt Carufel is..."Matt."

Bonus Babies. So those were the official football scholarship members of the incoming class. However, it appears that Notre Dame will also be bringing in three athletes with the distinction of "preferred walk-on". They'll be under scholarship for another sport, but be allowed to practice with the football team. (However, if they ever get into a game, their scholarship will transfer to the football team and count towards the 85 total team scholarship limit.)

The most notable recruit in this situation is lacrosse player and tight end prospect Will Yeatman. Here's the story we wrote about him when he committted. There are two signing periods in lacrosse and Yeatman did not sign in the early one, so he has not officially signed a letter of intent yet (which is why Weis alluded to Yeatman in his press conference, but could not officially talk about him.)

The other two preferred walk-ons are both special teams contributors. As noted earlier, Tamba Samba from Indianapolis is coming to Notre Dame on a soccer scholarship and will most likely try out for kicker. The third recruit flew under the radar a bit, but was the focus of a recent story in the South Bend Tribune. Baseball recruit Eric Maust will add depth to the punter depth chart when he shows up in the fall. If he doesn't look likely to aid the team, he will shift to baseball full time. As a 9-1 RHP and a 4-year starter at quarterback (he also played 8 different positions in his final high school game), Maust certainly sounds like a great athlete. But one has to laugh a bit at his approach to punting. "The only thing I know from punting was, 'woo, I kicked that one far,'" he said. "Let's see if I can do that again."

BGS sez...We conducted a little email roundtable about this recruiting class over the past couple of days. Everyone to a man agrees that this is a fantastic class, both in terms of quality and depth. It's an important class, too, in terms of immediate impact: a couple of these guys might start right away, and as for the rest we're filling major holes in the depth chart, and we'll have better talent and better numbers in case disaster strikes. Even at defensive tackle, where we missed on our biggest recruit (Gerald McCoy, who opted to stay in-state and go to Oklahoma), we have some numbers there (Mullen and possibly Ryan), so it's not an unmitigated vacuum like the '01 class, where we missed on Shaun Cody and had almost nothing to fall back on.

Some more chatter from the peanut gallery...

Biggest get. Teds: James Aldridge. Aldridge is precisely the sort of "football-first" recruit that ND has consistently missed out on over the past decade, and landing him early in the process -- and beating Carroll and SC to the punch to do so -- certainly turned some heads both within and outside the program and represented a harbinger of things to come. Symbolic of ND's return to the plateau of truly elite programs on the recruiting front. Sean: Six offensive linemen. Regardless of who we have at the skill positions, none of it would matter without these six guys. O-line had reached a crisis stage and Charlie got the depth chart replenished in one fell swoop. Pat: also Aldridge. After failing to sign a single running back last year -- and when's the last time you can remember ND doing that? -- Weis needed to land a good one and it certainly sounds like he did with Aldridge. The fact that he's already enrolled and working out with the team means he may even get to see some carries in the fall. As good as Darius Walker is on his own, it's always better when a team has a stable of fresh legs to wear down opposing defenses. Mike: Darrin Walls. Prior to his injury, he was widely considered the top corner in the country. Jay: Sam Young. He's the best player in the class, the best at his position in the country, it came all the way down to the last week, and he picked ND over Southern Cal on national TV. In addition to his being a blue chip talent, his signing was a fantastic way to wrap up the class and springboard us into next year.

Biggest miss. Gerald McCoy, in a landslide.

Class Sleeper. Mike: Morrice Richardson. I seem to remember Richardson posting the fastest shuttle time at the Athens, GA Nike camp. The kind of quickness, coupled with his size, could give us some nice versatility that our linebackers have often lacked. Pat: Luke Schmidt. For all the press Aldridge gets (just look at my "Biggest Get") people tend to forget that it was Schmidt, not Aldridge that won the Gatorade player of the year award in Indiana. Seeing as how Weis loves versatile players, I'm sure he's going to find all kinds of uses for a fullback with tight end size: blocking for Aldridge, lining up behind Schwapp on the goaline, catching screens and bearing down on 5'8" corners. I expect Schmidt to be a vital piece of the ND offense in the coming years. Sean: Robby Parris. Jeff Samardzija 2.0. Teds: Kallen Wade. Lots of good candidates here, but Wade seems like the sort of player for whom an early commitment, natural athletic ability and positional need may conspire to thrust him into the spotlight as an unexpected gem sooner rather than later. Comparisons between Wade and Justin Tuck have some merit.

Feel free to add your own 2¢.

(By the way, extra-special thanks to Jimmy who put together the opening banner for this post. Bonus points if you can name each player from their picture in the montage.)