The reason I bring this up is I don't think Notre Dame has had a true star player in quite some time. Who was the last star player? Was it Jerome Bettis? Was it Raghib Ismail? Who was the last true star player at Notre Dame?
Now, who was the last star player at Miami? I can name a few very recent star players. Who was the last star player at Florida State? Again, I can name quite a few? What about the last star player at Michigan? Oh, that is a bad subject and it still hurts. You can go to Tennessee, Florida and many other schools around the country and find star players. Even teams some would suggest are average have star players. Charles Rogers at Michigan State is a sure star. Why are there none at Notre Dame and there hasn't been in quite some time?
Please don't get the idea that I think that Notre Dame doesn't have talent. They have plenty of talent. They also have players with potential star power. My comments are not meant as a slam on the current players or former players at Notre Dame. I am just commenting that I don't believe that Notre Dame has had a true star in quite some time. Why haven't these top players become star players? What went wrong with some of these players or are they just very good players?
Which current players at Notre Dame have star power potential? I would say that wide receiver Arnaz Battle has that kind of talent. With some coaching, I think quarterback Carlyle Holiday has that kind of talent. Running back Ryan Grant could possess that kind of talent. On defense, I think linebacker Courtney Watson has star potential. Defensive lineman Cedric Hilliard has the physical skills. Vontez Duff could possess the most athletic skills out of any corner in recent memory. Will any of these players become star players?
I have long said that Notre Dame continues to miss on the very elite prospects. I think coach Willingham is going to fix that. I think he is going to fix that this year. A star player is the guy who carries you when things are tight. They lead and refuse to lose. The star player makes the plays that need to be made and that is why he is a star. Is it a coincidence that Rocket returned the punt for a touchdown in the Orange Bowl game against Colorado? I told all my friends he was going to do it before he did it. I knew it, Rocket knew it and the entire stadium knew it. That is why he was a star player.
I am not sure if any recent former players had that star potential. I do believe Arnaz Battle has that kind of talent. Can Ty make him a star with just year to do it? I guess we will have to wait and see.
I am on both sides of the fence in regards to recruiting and top 100 recruiting lists. I am not a supporter of top 100 lists because you have to know a couple of things to judge a recruiting class. Top 100 lists are very helpful and can give you a list of some of the very best prospects in the country. As you will see in the near future, these top 100 lists are hardly good predictors of who the best players are in any given year.
What I find even more valuable is to know which players the coaches really want to sign. Once you know that, then you can make a judgment on which players they actually signed versus those that they really wanted. It's also important to remember that coaches make mistakes as well. Plenty of players get scholarships that can't play at Notre Dame. It doesn't just happen at Notre Dame, it happens at all schools. The key is to limit the number of those that cannot play and increase the numbers that can to add valuable depth with your program.
Not all of these top 100 players can be admitted into Notre Dame. It's important to follow those that can and see what kind of interest they will have in Notre Dame. First, you must know if Notre Dame is recruiting these top prospects and then know if they can get in. That is my job to tell you and I think I have been doing a good job of that. Second, you need to follow them through the process. It will be interesting to see if Notre Dame can gain some interest from a prospect like Reggie Bush. These are the prospects that usually turn into stars. The elite of high school recruiting usually have the best shot but that is not always the case as you will see when we look at past top 100 lists.
In the next couple of days, I am going to be doing a 3-4-part story on this very subject. Kind of my own recipe if you will as to what I believe it takes to be a star player and the many steps involved that need to take place. I am not laying a roadmap to becoming a star. I am trying to identify all facets and processes of college football and taking a 17 year old player and turning him into a productive college player who you hope will have star potential some day. Willingham has three commitments from players he honestly wanted. He might have a fourth, fifth or even sixth very soon. Who is the next star at Notre Dame? Will Willingham and his staff sign any this year?