The Ones that Got Away

Ah, the ones who got away. An annual rite for Notre Dame fans is not only celebrating the young men who cast their lot with the Irish on signing day, but also lamenting the decisions of those who chose to go elsewhere. In a series of articles over the next few weeks, Irish Eyes will check up on the recruits who picked other schools to find out what sort of playing careers they had. We'll begin with those in the class of 2001.

Robert Cleary, OL, Canyon Lake, Calif. (UCLA). Coming out of Temescal Canyon High School, Clearly was a second-team USA Today All-American and he appeared on a host of All-American teams and top 100 lists. He was rated as high as the No. 8 offensive lineman in the country, by Fox StudentSports.com, and No. 9 by Rivals.com. Though he never started a full season at UCLA, Cleary had a nice career.

Cleary redshirted his first season, and appeared briefly in two games at guard in 2002 and three games at tackle in 2003. The 2004 season was his breakthrough, as he played in 12 games and started seven at guard. He also received an honorable mention on the Pac-10 All-Academic team. In his final season in Westwood, he started the final seven games at weak guard and earned two team postseason awards: The Jack R. Robinson Award for highest scholarship of a senior player, and the Jerry Long "Heart" Award. He also was named to the Pac-10 All-Academic second team.

Michael Craven, LB, La Quinta, Calif. (Stanford). As a senior at La Quinta High School, Craven was a consensus All-American who appeared on just about every list of the nation's top recruits, including Parade magazine's. PrepStar rated him the No. 1 linebacker in the country, SuperPrep No. 3. For a player with such accolades, his playing career at Stanford would have to be termed a disappointment.

After redshirting his freshman year, he stepped in as a starter at outside linebacker for the first two games of the 2002 season before moving to a reserve role. He finished the season with 28 tackles—six against Notre Dame—3.5 tackles for loss, an interception return for a touchdown and a forced fumble. In 2003, Craven played in 10 of the Cardinal's 11 games and started the final five. He had 38 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. For his performance in Stanford's 21-14 win over UCLA, he was name Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week.

In 2004, he played in seven games as a reserve inside linebacker and as a member of the special teams unit but failed to make much of an impact, recording just one tackle. Craven again was a reserve outside linebacker in his final year, recording 25 tackles, two tackles for loss and one fumble recovery for a touchdown against UC-Davis.

Ben Cronin, OL, Ames, Iowa (Iowa). Cronin was an honorable mention USA Today All-American as a junior at Ames High School and a PrepStar All-American as a senior. However, his career never really took off at Iowa.

After redshirting in 2001, Cronin saw action in just two games his second year. In 2003, he logged time in seven games, primarily on special teams. Though he was listed as the starting right guard following spring practice, Cronin only started one game in 2004—at center. He didn't play at all in two games, saw only special-teams action in two more and played sparingly in the rest. Cronin again was a reserve in 2005 and didn't start a single game.

Ty Eriks, FB, Seattle Wash. (Washington). As a senior at O'Dea High School, Eriks was a SuperPrep and PrepStar All-American running back. In fact, SuperPrep rated him the top running back in the Northwest and the region's No. 2 prospect overall. Unable to find and stick to one position at Washington, Eriks didn't make much of an impact on the field for the Huskies.

Eriks redshirted his freshman year and began the 2002 season as a fullback before switching to outside linebacker. He appeared in 10 games, primarily on special teams. In 2003, he again started the season at fullback—he had three carries for nine yards—before moving to defensive end. Eriks appeared in all 12 Husky games and recorded 12 tackles. He was a second-team Pac-10 All-Academic selection. In 2004, he bounced between offense and defense, recording nine tackles and a fumble recovery. He was named to the Pac-10's All-Academic Team. In 2005, he appeared in nine games, rushing once for a one-yard touchdown.

Brent Grover, LB, Fort Thomas, Ky. (Purdue). Grover was rated the nation's No. 7 linebacker by SuperPrep coming out of Highlands High School. Rivals.com had him ranked at No. 23 among linebackers. Notre Dame fans know the name well, as he was a four-year starter at Purdue and had some good games against the Irish.

After redshirting his freshman year and bulking up, Gover appeared in all 13 Boilermaker games as a defensive tackle in 2002. He started the final nine games, recording 33 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack. He also forced a fumble and had a fumble recovery. For his efforts, he earned a spot on the Sporting News Big 10 All-Freshman Team. In 2003, he started all 13 games and had 32 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks.

In 2004, Grover started all 12 games and, from his defensive tackle sport, tied for the team lead in pass breakups with eight. He recorded 41 tackles, six tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. Notre Dame fans won't soon forget the blowout loss to Purdue in South Bend. In that game, he had five tackles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery. In his final season, Grover played in all 11 Boilermaker games, recording 18 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery.

JR Lemon, RB, Fayetteville, Ga. (Stanford). Lemon was one of the nation's elite prospects as a senior Sandy Creek High School. Despite missing five games in his final season, Lemon was SuperPrep's No. 37 recruit overall and a member of PrepStar's Dream Team. Though he didn't have a standout career for the Cardinal, he was a solid contributor for four years.

After redshirting his freshman season, Lemon saw action as a running back and special teams player in 2002. He played in nine games and started one, gaining 85 yards on 30 carries and scoring three touchdowns. In 2003, he was the team's second-leading rusher with 467 yards on 118 carries, and he led the team in rushing touchdowns with four. He played in all 11 games, starting the final three (including the blowout loss to ND).

In his junior season, Lemon started seven games and led the Cardinal in rushing and touchdowns, though he only had 440 yards and six scores. This past season was a bit of a disappointment for Lemon as he missed the first three games, gained just 222 yards on 76 carries and failed to reach the end zone on the ground. He did have 15 receptions for 78 yards and two scores.

Pat Massey, DL, Brecksville, Ohio (Michigan). As a senior at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Massey was named to USA Today's All-American second team. Rivals.com rated him the No. 8 defensive end, and SuperPrep the No. 17 defensive tackle. Given that his father, Jim, played football at Notre Dame from 1968-72, many thought he was destined for South Bend, but he chose Michigan and turned in a nice career.

Massey redshirted his freshman year and played in 11 Wolverine games in 2002, recording five tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks as a defensive tackle. In 2003, he played in all 13 games, starting nine as a defensive end, and 23 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks. He earned honorable mention All-Big 10 honors in 2004, when he started all 12 games at defensive end and recorded 37 tackles, five tackles for loss and five sacks. He also blocked two field goals.

In 2005, Massey was a team captain and he again earned honorable mention All-Big 10 honors. He started 11 of 12 games, recording 31 tackles and one sack.

Pat Ross, OL, Cincinnati, Ohio (Boston College). Though not considered a blue-chip recruit coming out of St. Xavier High School, Ross had a good career at Boston College.

After redshirting his freshman year and serving as the Eagles' backup center in 2002 (to Dan Koppen, who was drafted by and is a starter for the New England Patriots), Ross got the starting nod in 2003. He started all 13 games that year and all 12 games in 2004, earning second-team All-Big East honors.

In his senior campaign, Ross was one of two team captains and he extended his consecutive-starts streak to 25 games, but was limited to five games due to injury. Still, he earned second-team All-ACC honors.

Charles Rush, DL, Erie, Pa. (Penn St.). As a senior at Cathedral Prep, Rush was named to All- American teams by Parade, Street & Smith, SuperPrep and USA Today. He also was the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year. After making a position switch at Penn St., Rush hit his stride.

Rush redshirted his freshman year and played in nine games as a reserve defensive tackle in 2002, recording seven tackles. For the 2003 season, he switched to the offensive line and started eight games at left guard.

In 2004, he was one of two offensive linemen to start all 11 games for the Nittany Lions. As a fifth-year senior, Rush started 10 of 12 games in a resurgent season in Happy Valley. He leaves Penn St. as an NFL prospect at guard.


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