A perfect example would be at interior defensive line this season. In the 2004 recruiting class, who would now be fifth-year seniors, the Irish landed zero interior defensive linemen. In 2005 Notre Dame landed two, Pat Kuntz and Derrell Hand. In 2006 they landed one, Paddy Mullen. In reality, Paddy Mullen was supposed to be a tight end…..at best a defensive end and had rarely played defense until his senior season.
Hand obviously got hurt, so that leaves only Kuntz and Mullen as the two possible candidates in the fifth-year senior, senior and junior class to be able to man the defensive line. Obviously this is a big problem for the Irish heading into the 2008 season.
As you can see, filling needs is vital to the future of your program. Notre Dame has had some impressive recruiting campaigns in the recent past, but to get to that elite level they need to have an excellent recruiting class every year as the competition has and will.
One question I get asked often is about the numbers of recruiting. How many running backs will Notre Dame take? How many offensive linemen? It's really too early to predict the exact numbers, but I do have a general idea on how many the Irish staff would like to take at each position.
Here's a look at how the Irish would like to fill their needs this year. Understand that nothing is set in stone at this point, and as players change positions, leave the program, suffer career-ending injuries, these numbers will change.
At quarterback the plan was to take a quarterback this year. We know this because Notre Dame has offered a number already. However, the Irish appear to be getting to a point where they may not take a quarterback this year.
Notre Dame needs to find three things in a quarterback this year. The first being to find a player that will stick around for his entire college career. It would do little good to have a player commit and then two years down the road get beat out by another quarterback and transfer. This has happened far too often to Notre Dame in the past, and we've seen how it can come back to haunt them later on.
The second thing they need to find in a quarterback is a guy who can play and play at a high level. Since the Irish are down to two scholarship players at quarterback after next season, this third quarterback has to be someone you can put into the game. You don't want to take a player for "depth" if you're afraid to put him in the game. If your fear is the Irish won't have someone to put in the game in case of injury, why take a quarterback who might not be able to play at a high level if you do have to put him in the game?
The third thing the Irish need to find in a quarterback this year if they take one is a guy who can legitimately compete with those on campus and those that will come afterwards. Competition brings out the best in people, and if "X" quarterback can't compete with the others, there's no point in taking "X."
Right now I don't think Notre Dame has found a guy that can fit all three qualifications mentioned above. And if you can't find one, it's better to save the scholarship for next year when the Irish have a good chance to land another elite quarterback. Next year this quarterback would have the opportunity to redshirt his first year and then start three years even if he doesn't beat Dayne Crist out for the job. That's attractive to any quarterback, and likely why the Irish might wait for a quarterback until next season.
At running back I believe the Irish are done. That doesn't mean they will completely stop recruiting running backs as you never know what will happen with recruiting, but I do believe the plan was to land two running backs, and I'm certain they're thrilled with the two already committed. It's possible another player may be added who plays running back but could play another position like defensive back or receiver.
Fullback is a possibility for the Irish this season, but thus far not a single name has surfaced. Not many players want to play fullback in college, so that makes finding a player at this position all the more difficult. I know the Irish are looking, but so far they haven't had much success here. Maybe May evaluations did produce a prospect, but thus far a name hasn't come to light.
At wide receiver I believe the Irish would like to take two. But like at the quarterback position, the Irish had an excellent wide receiver class last year, and that has impacted recruiting a bit this year when it comes to elite wide receivers. The most important need for Notre Dame this year is to add an elite player with speed. Uzoma Nwachukwu, Shaquelle Evans and Reuben Randle would all fit that need, but I expect a few more names added to the mix.
The Irish have landed one tight end in Jake Golic, but they may not be done at the position. At this point I can't say for certain they'll look at another tight end, but I also wouldn't rule the possibility out at this point.
At offensive line Notre Dame would like to add four players. Ideally I think the Irish staff would love to land three offensive tackles and one guard, but I also think they'll be happy with two tackles and two guards. The most pressing need is left tackle, and Xavier Nixon and Xavier Su'a-Filo are the two most likely candidates. Alex Bullard and Chris Watt look to be the most promising at offensive guard with Bullard expected to be on Notre Dame's campus tomorrow. Four elite guys with good quickness would be ideal. I do expect you'll see more offers going out to offensive linemen this week.
At the interior defensive line position I think the Irish would like to add one more player to go along with commitment Tyler Stockton. That may be difficult for them to do, but I'm sure they'd love to add another top prospect here. Once again I think you'll see a new name or two surface at interior defensive line in the next few days.
Defensive end is another position the Irish will likely add two players in 2008. Anthony LaLota appears to be the most likely candidate at this point, and plans to visit Notre Dame again this summer. After LaLota there's a host of others who have been on campus or plan to this summer, but I wouldn't say the Irish are the leader for any at this point. I expect another name or two to be added soon to the list of prospects.
Linebacker will be interesting to follow. Notre Dame already has a commitment from four-star prospect Carlo Calabrese. Besides Calabrese, the Irish are also in very good shape with Dan Fox. If Fox were to commit early to the Irish, and that's very possible, Notre Dame can then play the waiting game for other elite prospects left on their board like Manti Te'o, Jelani Jenkins and Frankie Telfort. Landing Fox would put the Irish in great shape at linebacker, and most importantly, it would give them a good chance to fill important needs at a critical position this year in recruiting for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame has struggled over the years landing elite corner prospects until just recently. Don't expect the Irish to settle on their recent good fortune this recruiting class. Notre Dame will be after two top corner prospects, and I expect a few names to be added to the mix. Right now Notre Dame appears to have a solid shot at both Brandon McGee and E.J. Banks, but they'll need to add a few more names to the mix soon. I expect that to happen this week.
Don't be surprised if the Irish only take on safety in the 2009 recruiting class. It's true that many of Notre Dame's current safeties are upper classmen, but many also believe Jamoris Slaughter might end up at safety, which would be one of the main reasons Notre Dame only takes one safety in this class. The Irish do have some solid prospects thus far, but may add a name or two to the prospect list in the future.
I frequently get asked about Notre Dame's kicker and punter situation in regards to recruiting. It's clear the Irish would like to add a kicker with the offer to Dustin Hopkins recently, but I'm also hearing the Irish may be in the market for a punter as well this year. Notre Dame is certainly pleased with the progress of Eric Maust as a punter, but Maust also has excelled on the mound for the Irish baseball team, and he may be drafted next season. We haven't heard a name yet, but don't be surprised if the Irish offer a punter at some point as well.
So here's how it breaks down for those keeping score. When I say "0-1" that means they'll take either zero players or one. The swing positions will be if they don't find a fullback, they may take another linebacker or a punter, etc…
The Numbers Game
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