Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Should I stay or should I go | by Pat

A recent press release confirmed what has been rumored for the past few weeks. Notre Dame is only bringing back three 5th year seniors -- Maurice Crum, Jr., Justin Brown, and Terrail Lambert -- and is losing another member of the current sophomore class to transfer in Munir Prince.

First up, the release on the 5th year candidates.

Head coach Charlie Weis announced Tuesday that three seniors will apply to Notre Dame's Faculty Board on Athletics for a fifth year. Inside linebacker and 2007 team captain Maurice Crum Jr., defensive end Justin Bown and cornerback Terrail Lambert will seek enrollment in the graduate studies program at Notre Dame.
No big surprises there as ND will welcome back three starters and say goodbye and thanks to Anthony Vernaglia, Leo Ferrine, Darrin Bragg, and Junior Jabbie. Notice that all three coming back are on the defensive side of the ball, leaving no 5th year players on offense in 2008. In fact, only three players on offense -- David Grimes, Paul Duncan, and Mike Turkovich -- will be in their final year of eligibility in 2008.

Over on the attrition side of things, the Munir Prince-to-transfer rumor finally was made official.
"After talking with Munir, he decided he'd like to leave our football team and the university," ND coach Charlie Weis Tuesday said in a statement. "I appreciate all that Munir has done for our football program and Notre Dame, and wish him well in the future."
Good luck to Munir, who handled his transfer in a refreshingly drama-free manner. According to Munir's old high school coach, he will transfer to Missouri.
DeSmet coach Pat Mahoney confirmed that Prince is transferring to Missouri after two seasons at Notre Dame, where he played running back and then cornerback. Prince is expected to play defensive back for the Tigers and, after sitting out next year, will have two years of eligibility remaining.
The news wasn't surprising as his departure was rumored for quite some time. Still, it's never good to see players leave the University, especially a guy like Munir Prince who was Charlie's first recruit in his first full recruiting class. After hearing the infamous "Wooosh" comment from Charlie about Munir's speed before the 2006 season, we were all eager to see the Missouri product in action. The wait wasn't long as he saw action in the first game of the season against Georgia Tech, albeit largely as a decoy. Prince only wound up with 21 yards on 15 carries that year and soon after was switched to cornerback. He didn't play much this year either and only tallied three tackles. Next year might have been more of the same with Darrin Walls and Terrail Lambert back as starters and Raeshon McNeil, Gary Gray, Leonard Gordon, Robert Blanton, and Jamoris Slaughter all fighting for playing time. Then again, the practice reports on him were normally very positive this past season and he's certainly a quick player, so who knows.

Apparently, transferring has been on Munir's mind for awhile as he considered leaving after his freshman year.
"At the end of his freshman year, he had contacted me about possibly transferring," said Patrick Mahoney, Prince's high school coach at St. Louis DeSmet Jesuit. "Then when he went in to ask for his release, whatever problems he was having he expressed and I assumed they satisfied them.

"Then during the (2007) season, as he explained it to me, he said, 'Coach, I'm just not happy here.' I don't know whether it was football or socially or academically or being away from home. His basic thing was that it just wasn't a good fit for him."
With Prince leaving, that will mark 5 of the original 28 members of the sophomore class who have left ND. Much was made of this issue during the season when most of the other sophomores were leaving, but I think that was more due to the abrupt, in-season manner in which many of them left rather than an absolute numbers issue. After all, the initial 28 member sophomore class used up 33% of the available 85 scholarships. Attrition was more or less inevitable as Charlie Weis worked build up the numbers in a program that was effectively operating at NCAA probation levels scholarship-wise. Hopefully though, the rash of player transfers is over for at least a little while, especially in the sophomore class.

With National Signing Day just under a month away and ND sitting with 22 publicly committed recruits, the final clarification on the 5th year players and Munir means it's likely ND will try to pick up another two or three players. With Sean Cwynar and Trevor Robinson starting class next Tuesday, it is true that ND can take technically take more than 25 players in this class. However, ND is just about hitting up against the 85 scholarship limit so two or three more players is about all that should be expected, barring any more attrition.