Irish Need to Close Strong

Recruiting rankings are certainly not always accurate, but they can give you a picture into the future. Yes, there are plenty of five-star players who never see the field in college football, and there are numerous two and three-star players who end up on All-American teams, but history has shown rankings can be fairly accurate.

Take the Notre Dame class of 2003 for example. The Irish signed 12 four-star players in that class. 10 of players have started a lot of games for the Irish. One transferred and became a starter at Maryland (Isaiah Gardner), and another transferred out to an IAA school (Freddie Parish) and started. One would have to look at the rankings for that class and group of players and think "that's pretty accurate."

When looking at recruiting rankings and the future, however, I always look at two classes back-to-back. One impressive class can certainly catapult a team, but two will give you a better picture of the future of the program.

Notre Dame signed a very impressive class in 2006 by signing three five-star players, 12 four-star players, and 11 three-star players. Ryan Burkhart was a two-star player as the kicker signed in this class.

So far, in the 2007 class, the Irish have two five-star, 10 four-star, and four three-star players committed. For sure star power, that's pretty impressive to say the least. But the Irish aren't finished with this class, and as I'll show you, to get the kind of balance they'll need to compete for championships, they have to finish strong on the defensive side of the ball to really knock the ball out of the park with this class.

Let's take a look.


2006 signees: Zach Frazer (4-star), Demetrius Jones (3-star)
2007 commitment: Jimmy Clausen (5-star)

As you can see, the Irish have done outstanding at quarterback getting two impressive candidates in 2006, and the nation's best quarterback in 2007. Head coach Charlie Weis will certainly have talent and depth for the future with these three players.

Running back

2006 signees: James Aldridge (5-star), Luke Schmidt (4-star), Munir Prince (3-star)
2007 commitment: Armando Allen (4-star)

Again, the Irish have done a nice job of signing talent and depth. Aldridge has started to show signs of his five-star ability as he gets healthy from a knee injury. Allen and Prince will bring the home run speed the Irish have been lacking. Schmidt will bring the thunder. The Irish will certainly find two great prospects out of these four, and more help could be on the way.

Wide Receiver

2006 signees: Barry Gallup (3-star), Richard Jackson (3-star), Rob Parris (3-star), George West (3-star)
2007 commitments: Duval Kamara (4-star), Greg Little (4-star), Golden Tate (4-star)

At wide receiver the Irish have a nice mix of numbers and talent. Losing Benn probably hurt the Irish a bit in star power, but the Irish have a nice mixture of numbers, different types of receivers and hopefully speed. A pure deep threat seems to be the only thing missing, but hopefully one will emerge from these seven players.

Tight End

2006 signees: Konrad Reuland (5-star), Will Yeatman (3-star)
2007 commitment: Mike Ragone (4-star)

The Irish again have good numbers and great talent. I believe Ragone will perform like a five-star player when fully healthy. The Irish landed a speedy tight end to stretch the middle of the field in Ragone, a combo guy in Reuland, and a very solid blocker with "a lot more potential than people think" type of guy in Yeatman.

Offensive line

2006 signees: Sam Young (5-star), Chris Stewart (4-star), Dan Wenger (4-star), Matt Carufel (4-star), Bartley Webb (4-star), Eric Olsen (4-star)
2007 commitments: Andrew Nuss (3-star), Emeka Nwankwo (4-star), Taylor Dever (4-star)

The Irish have certainly added a nice mix of both numbers and talent with potential to land a few left in this class. Four have already seen the field as true freshmen. They also seem to be landing some nastiness as well. The Irish should be very solid up front in the near future.

Defensive Tackle

2006 signee: Paddy Mullen (3-star)
2007 commitment: Ian Williams (3-star)

Notre Dame has two, but they really need four. And, they really need to land a top guy. Will Blackwell appears to be their last hope at this point. So far, this would be the one disappointment, and it's at a big need area for Notre Dame.

Defensive End

2006 signees: John Ryan (3-star), Kallen Wade (4-star)
2007 commitments: Justin Trattou (5-star), Kerry Neal (4-star)

The Irish landed a good group here as well, both in numbers and talent. The Irish have lacked pure speed rushers and Neal would certainly fit that bill. Trattou should be another Victor Abiamiri when all is said and done, and the Irish are very high on John Ryan as he has played significant minutes as a true freshman. Another commitment here would be outstanding.


2006 signee: Toryan Smith (3-star), Morrice Richardson (3-star)
2007 commitments: Aaron Nagel (3-star), Steve Paskorz (3-star)

This is another area the Irish really need to improve. Toryan Smith sure looks the part at middle linebacker, but they need more numbers and hopefully more star power here as well. There are names left of the board, but very little margin for error.


2006 signees: Sergio Brown (4-star), Jashaad Gaines (3-star), Leonard Gordon (4-star)
2007 commitment: Harrison Smith (4-star)

Gordon likely will end up at safety but was practicing at corner earlier in the year. Harrison Smith was a very big commitment for the Irish as he shows excellent ball skills to go with outstanding speed. So far Sergio Brown is said to be the one that stands out the most from the 2006 class. The Irish need a big-hitting strong safety to add to this mix. With two more four-star players left on the board, adding either would be ideal and really solidify the position.


2006 signees: Darrin Walls (4-star), Raeshon McNeil (4-star)
2007 commitment: Gary Gray (4-star)

The 2006 class appears fruitful as both Walls and McNeil have played significant minutes this season, but neither really stood out when playing. Landing Gray was crucial, especially since it doesn't look like the Irish will land another corner in this class. Still, landing three four-star players is much better than the Irish had been doing at cornerback in recent years.

As of now, the Irish have only 13 players left of the board, and that's counting Jason Peters, who recently has hinted that the Irish are fading fast on his list. With 16 commitments, the Irish could take as many as nine more, but it's not likely they'll end up landing nine more.

The good news is the Irish have two five-star prospects, 10 four-star prospects and one three-star prospect left on the board. They'll certainly be adding more star power over the next month, and more importantly, adding depth to two very impressive recruiting classes.

However, when you look at these two classes together, two needs still remain. The Irish have yet to land a four-star player or better at defensive tackle and linebacker. To be a great team, I firmly believe you need a great defense. The Irish have definitely added a lot of talent and depth along the defensive side of the ball with those already committed, but to play with the big dogs, you needs some big dogs yourself, and the Irish just haven't landed them yet at defensive tackle and linebacker—at least when it comes to star power.

When you look across the board, the Irish have a five-star prospect at quarterback, running back, tight end, offensive line and defensive end. They have many four-star prospects at wide receiver and defensive back, but they're lacking four-star players at both defensive tackle and linebacker.

That means players like Will Blackwell, Chris Donald and Malcolm Smith become very important prospects for the Irish to land down the stretch. The good news is they have a good shot at all three, but I also couldn't say for sure they lead for any of them.

Land those three players and the Irish should be in great shape for the future. That doesn't mean landing players like Lorenzo Edwards, Chris Little, Robert Hughes, Matt Romine and Ben Martin aren't also important. They're very much needed, but the three mentioned above would really solidify these two classes for Notre Dame. Top Stories