Changes on the Way

Irish head coach Charlie Weis recently spoke of changes to the recruiting process he'll likely make during last Wednesday's signing day press conference. Weis, like all ND fans, wasn't happy with the ending of this recruiting season, and like any good manager, he'll root out the problems and make the changes necessary. What will he likely change?

Weis mentioned in his press conference that he'll take a different approach to offers starting now.

"I think when we sent offer letters, when you send them early, like now for a junior, we've added one of our key words on that offer letter, "commitment." I think what we're going to do is we're going to spend a lot more time making sure that if a guy wants to commit to us, verbally commit to us, everyone is under a clear understanding of what that means," Weis said. "No soft verbals, no silent verbals, no quiet verbals, okay? Either you're committed or you're not committed."

I personally think this is a great idea. I also think it's very important that Weis do it from the very beginning of the process. I think you must be very clear with the person beforehand about how you will handle the recruiting process.

As many on Irish Eyes know, Arrelious Benn did give Notre Dame a silent verbal. There were reported others……..Chris Little, Greg Little and Chris Donald being among them. The problem with a silent verbal is that Notre Dame then stops recruiting players at that particular position, like they did at wide receiver, and then the players don't hold up to their end of the bargain. I don't blame them if they want to be at another school, that's their right, but it really put the Irish in a bind at the end. Live and learn……

If I were Weis in this situation, I'd make sure the player, AND HIS FAMILY, understand how the process will work once an offer is made. I think it's very important that the family or people who guide the prospect understand Weis' recruiting process. He needs to inform them how he recruits a player and what his expectations are of the player, and what they can expect from Weis and his coaching staff.

You need to make the player and family understand that there will be times when the player feels he's ready to make a decision and might not really be ready. Let them know there will be times when he feels pressured by others to make a decision and he needs to take a step back and make sure he's confident enough to make his decision. And after he commits, there will be times when he's pressured by other schools to renege on his commitment and switch to another school, and he needs to stand strong with his decision.

Most importantly, I think Weis needs to let a player know he means business when it comes to verbal commitments. I've often said a "silent verbal" is worthless. If a player isn't comfortable enough to tell the world he's going to Notre Dame or any other school, he's not committed to that particular school. There is a reason he's not comfortable saying it, therefore there is more selling to do and he's not committed to that particular school.

I think a lot of players are pressured into making a decision before they're actually ready. The pressure usually comes from outside sources…..friends, fans from schools, coaches….and Web sites and newspaper reporters making many intrusive phone calls that a player and family just plain get tired of dealing with. But I also think early in the process is where the education needs to start, and I'm confident Weis will make his new policy very clear from the get-go.

The other change I think you'll see is Weis casting a larger net in recruiting. The Notre Dame coaching staff has done a good job recently of finding many of the top prospects and offering them in comparison to previous years, but I also think a wider net, meaning more offers and more players being recruited, will be the other change Weis was speaking about. I think you're already seeing that now.

Some Irish fans have said; "we need to offer more defensive players." I definitely think you'll see that in the immediate future. However, I think Irish fans need to understand something about why the defensive recruiting might be delayed just a tad thus far.

Irish defensive coordinator Corwin Brown was hired just three weeks ago. He came from the NFL so he has had zero exposure to any recruiting or possible junior prospects until now. Brown's entire first two weeks were focused on signing those top players for this past 2007 recruiting class. He's been on the road continually and hasn't had time to focus on junior recruiting.

Other college defensive coordinators have had ample opportunity to watch film on many of the top junior prospects. They've been in the many recruiting meetings that coaches have throughout the year to discuss both senior and junior recruiting……Brown is simply starting from square one. In fact, many of us probably had more knowledge on junior recruiting than he did heading into last week.

Brown and the Irish staff focused most of last week on recruiting, and we've seen a good number of offers go out recently. Many more offers are on the way from what I hear. I'd expect to see another 20 or so offers extended in the next few weeks.

The Irish have already offered athletes Ryan Williams, Terrell Pryor, and Will Hill—who some predict will end up on the defensive side of the ball. Linebackers Steve Filer, Shayne Hale, Anthony McDonald and David Posluszny also recently received offers, and defensive linemen Ethan Johnson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Sean Cwynar and Kyle Long also have offers from Notre Dame. Irish fans should see a good number of defensive offers coming very soon, and I'm certain there are more out there already we've yet to uncover.

But offers won't be the only change in recruiting I'm guessing. I think you'll see Weis actively recruiting the next tier of prospects in the future. The next tier would be prospects the Irish haven't offered initially but could get an offer soon. "Plan B" is what we recruitniks like to call it, and I don't care who you are, every school eventually gets to "plan B" at some positions during recruiting. You simply can't land everyone you want, and so you have to stay on top of "plan B" recruiting. And if "plan B" becomes "plan A," you better have "plan C" ready as well as they've just become "plan B."

One thing I think Irish fans can be certain of is that Weis is a smart man. He knows there's a problem. He's a first-time college head coach and he's learning just like every first-time head coach does. The good news is he recognizes problems quickly and acts decisively to fix those problems. I think we'll see the new changes come pretty quickly, and if there's anything I'm certain of, Weis has no problem having the hard conversations to let people know he means business. He'll act quickly, and I think you'll see the results of those actions very soon.


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