Nothin' But Excuses

We've all heard them. "They're too young to compete." "They can't win with a freshman quarterback." "We have to wait at least four years so Charlie Weis can bring in his recruits." "Ty Willingham was a terrible recruiter." But when it comes down to it, they're nothing more than excuses.

Make no mistake about it – Notre Dame's 2004 and 2005 classes were atrocious. But I still don't really buy that as a legitimate excuse for their struggles. And what better way to support my argument than compare it to Florida's 2004 and 2005 classes. For many Gator fans, this will probably bring back some bad memories and disappointments, but it really gets the point across.

We'll start with Ron Zook's last class, 2004:

4*

WR

Derrick McPhearson

failed to qualify academically

3*

DB

McIntosh Nicolas

failed to qualify academically

4*

WR

Mike McIntosh

never played a meaningful down and transferred

2*

DE

Brandon Daniel

never played a meaningful down, transferred

3*

TE

Dane Guthrie

never played a meaningful down, transferred

4*

DE

Mike Mangold

never played a meaningful down, transferred

3*

TE

Markell Thompson

JUCO that never played a meaningful down, transferred

3*

DB

Dawayne Grace

never played a meaningful down, arrested and transferred

3*

DT

Michael Brown

never played a meaningful down, transferred

2*

LB

Eric Rutledge

starting as a senior at fullback, only now starting to contribute

3*

TE

Tate Casey

decent contributor as an underclassmen but didn't translate well to Meyer's offense

3*

LB

Javier Estopinan

injury-riddled career, only now starting to contribute

4*

S

Kyle Jackson

decent contributor as an underclassmen but didn't translate well to Meyer's defense

4*

RB

Markus Manson

converted to cornerback, probably will never see a lot of playing time

3*

OL

Jim Tartt

4-year starter at guard, solid contributor

3*

OL

Phil Trautwein

got some All-SEC pub before the injury, solid contributor

3*

OL

Jason Watkins

2-year starter at tackle, solid contributor

4*

ATH

Cornelius Ingram

nearly transferred, but now is a solid contributor at

4*

S

Tony Joiner

getting some All-SEC pub, solid contributor

3*

DE

Jeremy Mincey

JUCO that got some All-SEC pub, solid contributor

4*

OL

Drew Miller

All-SEC, major contributor

4*

LB

Brandon Siler

All-SEC, major contributor

5*

DE

Derrick Harvey

All-SEC, major contributor



So the totals are:


2 non-qualifiers
7 transfers
5 minor contributors
6 solid contributors
3 major contributors

Overall, it was an okay class. But there were far too many that never got on the field. It had a very good, underrated offensive line group but severely lacked at other positions of need, namely linebacker, defensive tackle and cornerback. It fell far short of its No. 8 Team Ranking.

Now let's take a look at Meyer's first class, 2005:

3*

TE

Brian Ellis

failed to qualify academically

3*

WR

Eric Sledge

never played a meaningful down, transferred

4*

LB

Kalvin Baker

never played a meaningful down, transferred

3*

LB

Darryl Gresham

never played a meaningful down, transferred

3*

OL

Ronnie Wilson

arrested and suspended for the season

4*

LB

Jon Demps

arrested and kicked off the team

4*

QB

Josh Portis

never played a meaningful down, transferred

3*

WR

Nyan Boateng

never played a meaningful down, transferred

5*

DB

Avery Atkins

arrested and kicked off the team

4*

K

Jonathan Phillips

beaten out by walk-on Joey Ijjas

3*

OL

Simon Codrington

reserve guard, probably will never see a lot of playing time

4*

OL

Eddie Haupt

injury-riddled career, probably will never see a lot of playing time

4*

WR

David Nelson

reserve receiver, probably will never see a lot of PT

4*

LB

Ryan Stamper

reserve linebacker, probably will never see a lot of PT

3*

WR

Louis Murphy

starting receiver, solid contributor

4*

RB

Kestahn Moore

starting running back, solid contributor

4*

S

Dorian Munroe

nickel safety that could eventually start, solid contributor

5*

S

Reggie Nelson

JUCO that originally signed in 2003, All-SEC and All-American, major contributor



So the totals are:

1 non-qualifier
8 transfers/kicked off the team
5 minor contributors
3 solid contributors
1 major contributor

It was basically a disaster of a class. There was tons of attrition and hardly any needs met. Meyer has called it the 'lost class.' The only shining success was Nelson but he was a re-sign from Zook's 2003 class. I'd argue it was just as bad as Notre Dame's 2004 class and probably even worse.

So we come to the crux of my argument: there are only nine players on the active Gators roster from those two classes that I would say are either solid or major contributors. Compare that to other depth charts and you'll find that's drastically fewer than most any team in the country.

And yet, despite all that, Florida is still considered one of the most talented teams in the country and is a top 10- and maybe top 5-caliber team this year.

So I ask -- why is it any different for Charlie Weis and Notre Dame? Why is it an acceptable excuse for their downfall? Notre Dame's recruiting over that same period might have been a bit worse than Florida's, but not so much as to justify them possibly going 0-8 and the banter that it's Willingham's fault.

So what if most of the talent are underclassmen? Boo-frickin'-hoo, I say. Notre Dame has supposedly recruited pretty darn well over the past two years. They had the No. 5 class in the country in 2006 and the No. 11 class in 2007. Most college programs would beg for that kind of talent influx. Those players should be performing better than they are. And to me, that falls on coaching and coaching alone. There's no excuse.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Blake Bonsack


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