A Look at Recruiting

Notre Dame recruiting is rolling right now. Irish head coach Charlie Weis is currently able to select more than the numbers he'll have to recruit. My how things can change within one year. Here is a look at last year's recruiting class combined with the current commitments for a look at the future of Notre Dame football.

The class of 2006 is far from complete, but with only a handful of scholarships still available, it is fairly easy to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the last year's recruiting class combined with this year's commitments.

Quarterback - Last year Evan Sharpley was the lone quarterback recruit, while this year both Zach Frazer and Demetrius Jones have made commitments to Notre Dame. The spring of 2007 will be interesting. Brady Quinn will have headed for the riches of the NFL, and along with David Wolke the aforementioned recruits will be the lone quarterbacks left on the roster. The quarterback position will be wide-open.

Fullback - Freshman Asaph Schwapp received his first start this past weekend against the Trojans. With incoming recruit Luke Schmidt being added to the mix next summer, Notre Dame should be set for the future.

Tailback - The 2005 recruiting class did not include a tailback, but with James Aldridge and Munir Prince committing this past spring, tailback should be just fine. Aldridge is the traditional big back, but he has speed to boot. He is a proverbial home run threat. Prince is electric once in the open field, but he has also added 20 pounds to his frame since his junior year, and should be able to run the ball between the tackles as well.

Wide Receiver - Last year D.J. Hord and David Grimes signed with Notre Dame forming the traditional two-man wide receiver combination for a recruiting class. Notre Dame has added Rob Parris, George West and Barry Gallup thus far this year, with Laron Moore, Terrence Austin and Richard Jackson all still available. The question is do any of the current freshmen or committed recruits possess the ability to be a true deep threat? That is the piece to the puzzle the Notre Dame offense has not shown thus far this season – a player that can simply run by the secondary. With Rhema McKnight now coming make for a fifth-year, will Notre Dame use another scholarship for a wide receiver recruit?

Tight End - Joey Hiben was a big catch for Notre Dame last year. He is a track athlete with a lot of upside. Paddy Mullen has already pledged to Notre Dame this year, with Konrad Reuland and Will Yeatman still available as well. Due to coach Weis utilizing so many different two and three tight end formations, signing more than two tight ends during a two-year recruiting cycle should not be considered unusual. Adding Reuland would really allow Notre Dame to have several talented receiving tight ends that will make life difficult for opposing defensive coordinators over the course of the next several seasons.

Offensive Line - Paul Duncan and Michael Turkovich have already made strides and have played at the end of a few games so far this season. Their progress is key as Mark LeVoir departs after this season and Ryan Harris after the 2006 season. Thus far Notre Dame has added Eric Olsen and Bartley Webb for this recruiting class. At least two more, if not three more, offensive linemen are needed to start the process of building the depth chart back to normal. Numbers are so low for the freshman and sophomore classes, however, that it will take at least one more recruiting class for that to happen. Several recruits are still available, including Chris Stewart and Sam Young among others.

Defensive End - Patrick Kuntz has started out at defensive end during his freshman year, but many expect him to make the transition to defensive tackle before too long. No other defensive end was signed last year. Ohio natives John Ryan and Kallen Wade have given their commitments to Notre Dame this year. Both were highly sought after by the Notre Dame coaching staff, but depth is still a bit precarious looking towards the future. Two top flight defensive ends will be needed for the class of 2007 as well, with pure pass-rushing ability being the biggest attribute Notre Dame will likely be looking for.

Defensive Tackle - Derrell Hand was signed last year and is redshirting this season. Assuming Kuntz does in fact slide down to defensive tackle that would a good start. No defensive tackle has committed to Notre Dame thus far, but with Butch Lewis, Lawrence Marsh and Gerald McCoy all still available, Notre Dame has an excellent opportunity to add an influx of talent to its defense come Feb. 1.

Linebacker - Kevin Washington, Steve Quinn and Scott Smith all signed with Notre Dame this past February. Notre Dame currently has no commitments from this year's linebacker recruits, but Toryan Smith appears to be a good bet. Anthony Lewis and Morrice Richardson are also viable options. Notre Dame will be set for the future if this recruiting class fills out with Smith and at least one of Lewis or Richardson.

Cornerback - No cornerbacks were signed last February. That certainly stung, but with Raeshon McNeil and Darrin Walls both committing for this recruiting class, cornerback will have serious talent enrolling next summer. Both McNeil and Walls have the physical ability to play as true freshman. It would not hurt to add one more cornerback to this year's class, but there are more pressing needs.

Safety - David Bruton, Kyle McCarthy and Ray Herring were all brought in last year. All three have talent, but the question that has yet to be answered is do any of them have the ability to be impact players? Many feel Bruton will be next year's starting free safety. Sergio Brown, Leonard Gordon and Jashaad Gaines have all committed to Notre Dame. There are plenty of players available looking towards the future at safety, it is just a matter of finding out which players will step to the forefront and become playmakers.

Kicker/Punter - Notre Dame did not sign a kicker or a punter last year, but northern Indiana resident Ryan Burkhart gave his commitment to Notre Dame during September. He is a kickoff specialist and has also kicked a 53-yard field goal this year for Northwood High School. He is expected to compete for the kickoff duties from day one at Notre Dame. Whether or not Burkhart ends up punting will depend on current junior Geoffrey Price. If Price is unable to deliver next summer and fall during workouts, perhaps Burkhart will be given the opportunity to punt as well.

2007 - The Notre Dame coaching staff is not only recruiting for this February's National Signing Day, but the next as well. Junior recruiting is going extremely well thus far and Notre Dame is positioning itself for another excellent recruiting class next year. Look for the Irish to be even more selective and go after the truly elite recruits from the start all the way through National Signing Day come February of 2007.

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