Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Incredible Shrinking Class | by Pat

The rapidly dwindling junior class lost another member: backup quarterback David Wolke decided to transfer to another school in search of more playing time.

"Everyone from the student body, the school, head coach, coaching staff and football team have been great," Wolke said. "The best thing that ever happened to me was choosing Notre Dame. It's the best decision I've made. I've grown and I've learned. The only thing that's not going right is playing time.

"You've got to expect that playing behind the No. 1 athlete in America."
Of course being stuck behind Quinn isn't so much the issue; Wolke clearly was overtaken on the QB depth chart by sophomore Evan Sharpley. Charlie claimed that no decision was made in the spring as to who would be Quinn's 2006 backup, but the fact that Sharpley played so much more in the Blue-Gold game was a pretty big hint. An even more obvious hint was three weeks ago when, according to Wolke's dad, Weis suggested that Wolke move to tailback (!). Wolke never played tailback before in his life, and likely wouldn't see the field there either.

Wolke hasn't settled on a new destination yet, and I'm sure he'll take some time to look for a favorable depth chart. After sitting out his junior year, he will still have two seasons of eligibility left.

Wolke's departure means that the original 17-man junior class is now down to 9; I really can't remember there ever being such a small class before. Here's a rundown on the guys who signed with ND in February of '04, and where they are now:

Darrin Bragg - backup wide receiver
David Wolke - transfer

Darius Walker - returning two year starter at running back
Justin Hoskins - transfer

Chris Vaughn - suspended from team and transfered to Louisville

Chauncey Incarnato - transfered to Indiana
John Kadous - left team, still at ND

Justin Brown - backup defensive end
Brandon Nicolas - transfered to Colorado
Ronald Talley - co-starter at defensive end

Maurice Crum, Jr. - returning starter at linebacker
Anthony Vernaglia - backup linebacker
Abdel Banda - backup linebacker

Terrail Lambert - backup cornerback
Leo Ferrine - backup cornerback
Tregg Duerson - left team, still at ND
Junior Jabbie - left team, still at ND

Notice that only two offensive players are left. And only two players started last year. It's possible that Talley and Vernaglia will start this year with Lambert and Ferrine contributing in the nickel and dime defense, but that seems about it. I'm sure we'll see lots of media commentary this coming season about the stellar senior class that Ty recruited -- I'll wager that more guys will be drafted out of the senior class than there are juniors on the team -- but I doubt too many writers will mention the depleted junior class that'll severely strain the team next year.

Consider that in 2007, there will be a maximum of 23 seniors and juniors on the roster -- as opposed to about 53 sophomores and freshman. Not that I need to remind you, but this recruiting dropoff is one of the major reasons why ND let Willingham go (Ty's first class was ranked #5 by Scout, the next two years: #30 and #27.) Unless the incoming freshman and current crop of recruits are ready to play early and often, 2007 is going to be pretty rough.