Keeping up with the times can be challenging, and we all seem to think we have all the answers on how things should be done. Since I seem to have an opinion on everything, here's mine on recruiting and offers.
"Shouldn't we be offering more guys?"
"There has to be more tackles on our list than this."
"What are we going to do at wide receiver?"
These are common themes heard often throughout any recruiting campaign. The position might change every year, but each year there seems to be a consensus that the Irish have fallen behind at one position or another.
That may be true, but people need to understand that Notre Dame is hardly the only school that struggles from time to time to land the best players at each position every year. Plenty of teams finish outside the top 10 in recruiting, and plenty of elite programs don't always fill their needs each year when it comes to recruiting.
With Notre Dame, however, it's a unique situation. At times it seems Notre Dame can be behind in sending out official offers to players compared to other programs, but there are many reasons for that.
First, Notre Dame doesn't send out many official offers, period. Normally the Irish coaching staff will send out around 70 offers total in any given year. That number will fluctuate depending on how many scholarships are available, but most of the time it seems 70 offers is usually the normal number. Many schools send out in excess of 100 scholarships in any given recruiting season.
Second, Notre Dame appears to want to make sure everything is in order before offering a particular player. Maybe this policy is coming from the coaching staff. Maybe it comes from higher above. Regardless, ND usually wants to know a lot about their academic history, test score, and their character before officially offering a scholarship. I do think this is wise to some extent because ND shouldn't be offering kids that aren't quality citizens, good students, etc.
The problem with that is, this information takes a great deal of time to gather. Other teams at times are getting the jump on the Irish by offering much earlier and developing a relationship with the player much sooner than the Irish staff. By these schools offering earlier, they have an opportunity to speak with the kid and get the e-mail address, phone numbers and information they need, and they then develop a relationship with each prospect and their families quicker.
Another factor that comes into play, and people don't realize, is this academics information or highlight film might take a bit of time to be sent to the Irish coaching staff. Say "X" player is from the state of Alaska. Say Alaska has a great college football program. "X" player probably has a high school coach who really likes the Alaska football program. Maybe the coach even gets hired by the Alaska coaching staff during the summer to come instruct at their summer camp—a paid position. Maybe he's been doing this for years. Then all of the sudden Notre Dame comes asking for film, grades, and to speak with counselors and teachers about "X" player. If this high school coach likes the Alaska program, and likes instructing at this camp, how quickly do you think this coach will be sending along that information to Notre Dame? My guess is he probably won't be in a hurry.
For the sake of fairness, the Irish coaching staff also has "ND-friendly" coaching staffs at high schools across the country—that's just part of the business—but it comes into play when you're looking for information to offer a player.
Notre Dame probably fell a bit behind last year during the winter months on 2009 recruiting as they spent a good amount of their recruiting time securing the 2008 commitments they already had instead of prospecting for 2009, which they would do in any other year in December and January. That has got them behind a bit, but the process of how Notre Dame gets to the point of offering a kid also has pushed them further behind.
The Irish have done a nice job by rebounding and getting commitments from a pretty impressive group of prospects thus far considering the miserable season they had last year.
It needs to be said that the Irish coaching staff is one of the hardest working coaching staffs in the country when it comes to recruiting, I don't think any Irish fan can question that, but the two things I pointed out I feel kind of put them behind the eight ball early this season. Fortunately, with hard work, they're catching up and getting some impressive commitments.
Last year, when text messaging was allowed, the Notre Dame staff was easily able to develop quick relationships with all their offers and was playing on a much more level playing field. Because of the ban on texting, they were playing catch up this season.
How do you fix it?
This is just my opinion, and it needs to be said that I don't have all the factors to know if my opinion is even doable. Maybe the ND coaching staff has their hands tied and can't do what I suggest based on a policy higher up. Maybe it's not feasible for other reasons I'm not aware of.
Assuming it is possible, here is what I'd do.
I'd be doing my research on every top prospect in the country I could find for 2010. I can assure you this is already being done by the ND staff and every other coaching staff in the country right now. A good number of elite players for 2010 have already been on Notre Dame's campus for camp or unofficial visits.
I'd do everything in my power to get film and any information I could find on all the elite 2010 prospects I run across before September 1. I'd find the 25 best players I could find based on their film and need, and I'd offer them a scholarship conditional on three things: One, they meet the academic requirements to be admitted into Notre Dame. Two, they meet the citizenship requirements of Notre Dame. Three, they come visit Notre Dame and speak with the coaching staff either officially or unofficially before accepting the scholarship.
By doing this the Irish staff would get the ball rolling. They're not committed to taking anyone until they meet the requirements, but what it does do is tell the prospect that ND is definitely interested, likes what they've seen of him on film, thinks he can play at Notre Dame, and it also encourages the player to start developing a relationship with the Irish staff early.
Yes, some might not get admitted. Some might not meet the citizenship requirement. Some might not come to campus. What do you have to lose?
Recruiting changes every year, and you have to change with the times. The process of qualifying recruits before you offer them puts the Irish at risk of falling behind early in the recruiting process. Obviously the qualifying has to be done, but I do think there are ways around the current situation where they can get into the game while still not committing to an offer they can't follow through on. Initial communication is the key, just as Weis explains to these recruits what he expects from them when they commit to Notre Dame.
The good news is I think you'll see the Irish be pretty aggressive on September 1. They probably won't offer 25 kids as I suggest, but I bet it's a double digit number. The key is to start offering early and make them conditional. I'd try to have 50 conditional offers out there by December of this year. By then they should know who many of the top 100 players will be in the country and offer accordingly. Sure, some might not be interested, but what do you have to lose if they're not, other than some postage and a bit of time? It should pay off in the end.
I'm not sure it can be done under current policy, but to stay up with the times, something will have to change. A winning season and a bowl win would certainly help as well.
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