‘Charlie Weis is winning with someone else's players,' say the anti-Irish, anti-Weis faction while his supporters counter with the previous staff's inability to be successful with those same guys. Until Weis is playing predominantly his own players, there will be the continuing debate over just how good of a coach he is.
It shouldn't be long before Weis and his staff answer that question. Through recruiting, they are putting their own imprint on future Notre Dame teams. The Irish landed a Scout.com top five class last year and appear to be poised to repeat that success this year. If there is one word that seems to sum up this staff's recruiting philosophy, that word would be "athletic." The class of 2006 contained tremendous athleticism and this year's target list seems even more loaded with athletes. Irish Eyes talked to two of the more athletic players on the Irish list last week. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Eyes?
Harrison Smith, LB, 6-3, 215, Knoxville Catholic High School, Knoxville, TN obviously represents a top target for the Irish staff. The talented Scout.com four-star athlete projects as a safety at the next level, though he could easily grow into an outside linebacker. His importance to this recruiting class was underscored just last week.
"I talked to coach Minter recently and I got a text message from coach Weis after the Michigan State game," said Smith. "Coach Lewis sends a text message every now and then."
That no less than three of the Irish staff are actively recruiting Smith, including the head coach, defensive coordinator and his position coach, and that Weis targeted Smith with a text message after one of the most emotional and stirring comebacks in Notre Dame history, underscores his importance to this class.
While watching the Michigan game, Smith saw one of the Notre Dame deficiencies that he's specifically being recruited to fix, lack of speed. With a 4.38 forty time, Smith appears to be just the speed fix the Irish need.
"I caught a little bit of the Michigan game but I was at the UT/Florida game," Smith said. "I was surprised that they got beat like that. I think it's mostly speed. Michigan has a lot more speed so it's tough to stop them."
Smith still has Notre Dame and Tennessee at the top of his list but wants to look more closely at some other SEC schools, specifically Auburn and Alabama. He has a visit set up to see Auburn and has tentative plans for a visit to Tuscaloosa to see the Crimson Tide. And, though he has been to South Bend three times already, Smith plans to make at least one more trip, for the Stanford game on October 7.
"I think I'm going down to see the Auburn/Florida game (10/14) and I might go to Alabama to see them play Auburn (11/18)," explained Smith. "I'm also coming back to see Notre Dame play Stanford for an unofficial."
Knoxville Central remains unbeaten after a 35-0 victory over Anderson County on Friday night. Smith has actually contributed more on offense than defense, though for good reason.
"I haven't gotten a lot of tackles on defense because they're being tackled at the line," explained Smith. "Offensively, I'm doing pretty good. I have over five hundred yards rushing and more than ten yards a carry. I think I have eleven touchdowns."
While the Notre Dame coaching staff definitely hopes that Smith will add speed to the defensive side of the ball, on offense, they're taking a very hard look at Ron Brooks, WR, 5-11, 170, MacArthur High School, Irving, TX. Though the Scout.com five-star receiver has yet to receive an Irish offer, he has Notre Dame in his top eight. And the Irish staff apparently still has considerable interest in Brooks. They're working to set up an official visit for the Texas speedster.
"I'm trying to get an official visit set," explained Brooks when asked about his interest in Notre Dame. "I haven't talked to coach Oliver in a couple of weeks though. They're trying to get a visit set after our football season. I'm definitely interested in Notre Dame. Everyone is pretty much the same right now; I'm just trying to take my visits and see what I like."
Brooks sounds like a player after Charlie Weis's heart. He's limited his college football watching to just the highlight shows, substituting looking at game film and preparing for MacArthur's next opponent.
"I watch highlights and stuff on Saturday," Brooks responded to whether he watched Notre Dame on television. "I'm watching film for next week. I scout our next opponent so I really don't get a chance to watch much football. We're 2-1 right now (actually 3-1 after an overtime victory last Friday night). I'm doing pretty good. I'm playing quarterback and I'm towards the top of our district in rushing and touchdowns. I'm not sure what my stats are but I'm doing pretty good."
These two summaries were just a sample of the Notre Dame recruiting information available each week on Irish Eyes.