Class of 2008 Gives the Irish a Boost

SOUTH BEND - What a good day. That's how Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis described National Signing Day on Wednesday afternoon.

Weis might have made an understatement.

Twenty-three letters-of-intent coming from coast to coast were faxed into the Notre Dame football offices earlier in the morning. The signatures on those Irish pledge sheets combined to make for one of the best recruiting classes in the country.

Not bad, for a program that didn't experience too many good days during the fall of a 3-9 season. Regardless of the record a young team put together, this class of players from 17 different states bought into what Weis and his staff were selling.

"I think I'm a pretty practical person, and I think after the record that we had, as disappointed as everyone was, obviously me at the head of the pack, I think that our program needed this boost," Weis explained. Scout.com ranks this class No. 2 behind Alabama, but the Irish hold the highest average star rating. "I think this is a significant boost. The right type of players, the right type of kids, and the right type of day.

"This is the type of day where everyone's got to feel good saying God what a good day," the fourth-year coach continued. "I think we all needed that. Especially me because I don't want to go home and be abused by my son or my wife, and this was a good day. And I think the whole program needed this boost. And now lets worry about getting back in here and getting after it with the guys that are already on campus, and when those guys get here, plug them in here and lets move forward."

Two guys, defensive lineman Sean Cwynar and offensive guard Trevor Robinson, are already in the fold, on campus as early enrollees. They will be joined by their classmates in the summer.

With the letters inked, the future freshmen can now receive their playbooks, workout regiments, and beginning tomorrow talk with the Irish coaching staff on a daily basis.

In this class, Five-star quarterback Dayne Crist, five-star tight end Kyle Rudolph and five-star receiver Michael Floyd lead the way on the offensive side of the ball. Running back Jonas Gray, receivers John Goodman and Deion Walker, centers Braxston Cave and Michael Golic Jr, tackle Lane Clelland and tight end Joseph Fauria are the future of Weis' offense.

Five-star defensive end Ethan Johnson, and Chicago linebackers Steve Filer and Darius Fleming are the type of players defensive coordinator Corwin Brown needs in his defense. Those three are joined by nose tackles Brandon Newman and Hafis Williams, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, linebackers Anthony McDonald and David Posluszny, and defensive backs Robert Blanton, Jamoris Slaughter and Dan McCarthy.

Weis has proven he can recruit, bringing in top-notch classes the past two seasons. But this one may be better.

"The one thing I felt this class did better than the last two couple classes, is we filled a bunch of significant holes," Weis said. "I think that it was important, like bringing in five defensive lineman, that was significant. Bringing in four linebackers, that was significant. Bringing in three DBs was significant, but having two that could play corner or safety and have some versatility, that was significant.

"We aren't at the 15 scholarship mark on the offensive line, but getting closer to that spot and especially with getting athleticism at a couple positions that was significant. Getting some receivers and tight ends that you thought could compete early in their career, that was significant. With having lost a couple guys at the quarterback position last year, getting another front-line quarterback, I mean that was significant.

"And throwing Jonas on top of it, I think as we went in and looked at this class and tried, if you would've said you can have 23 guys, where would you put them? I probably would've came back with this number at that time. If you told me the number was 23 how many at each position do you want, so I think that was the most significant part. To not only bring in good players, but to fill a bunch of holes."

The NCAA allows a school to host 56 official visits per year. Weis and his staff don't just throw out scholarships like other programs do. They can't with the school's strict admission standards. Instead, they really evaluate a player's character, academic standing and playing ability before extending an invitation to see South Bend on their dime.

This recruiting season, Notre Dame brought in 33 players to see the campus, and obviously 23 liked it enough to make it their future home away from home.

"That's just about a 70 percent completion percentage," Weis stated.

Last year's signing day was also a good day, but at the same time there was some disappointment. A player de-committed from Notre Dame after taking a visit to another school, and two other verbal commits signed elsewhere at the last minute.

Weis declared that signing day, that he and his staff would take a new approach towards recruiting, specifically with the word commitment. If a kid interested in Notre Dame was also looking around, so would Notre Dame.

"Was I worried yes, but I felt a very strong conviction that despite the apprehension, this is the right way of doing this," Weis said. "Even if you risked having some residual negative effect, there is still a right way and wrong way of doing it. Was I worried? I'd lie if I sat there and said I wasn't apprehensive about it, but the dividends seemed to be great."

Weis' theory was definitely tested. Eighteen of the 23 players that signed, verbally committed to Notre Dame by July. Another, Omar Hunter, was the only one that ended up de-committing and picking Florida.

"With the exception of one defection, these guys really understood or bought into Notre Dame, and what Notre Dame is all about," Weis stated.

Sure, Weis and his staff used all their past pro and college successes as a selling point to why things are going to quickly turn around at Notre Dame. Obviously that attracted these recruits. But Weis always says he isn't a salesman for Notre Dame, he's a representative.

"I think at the end of the day, the things that Notre Dame stood for long before I got here still stand true," Weis said. "I think that these guys want to go somewhere and be a part of something special. I think to a man, everyone of those kids will sit there and say they think they're going to be a part of something special."


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