Thanksgiving List

It's been a tough year for Notre Dame football fans, but as you carve your bird today, there is still plenty to be thankful for.

The Sophomore Class: Ranked as the 11th-ranked recruiting class by Scout.com back in 2007, 12 of the 18 scholarship players are starters or significant contributors. The other five figure into Notre Dame's long-term plans, and Aaron Nagel has transferred to Northwestern.

With the cupboard being left bare by former Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham in his last couple recruiting classes, it's been two seasons since Notre Dame has had a strong group of upperclassmen. That should change, and with that, it can't help but be evident on the field.

Say thanks for Kerry Neal, Jimmy Clausen, Mike Ragone, Duval Kamara, Steve Paskorz, Andrew Nuss, Gary Gray, Emeka Nwankwo, Armando Allen, Ian Williams, Golden Tate, Taylor Dever, Harrison Smith, Matt Romine, Robert Hughes, Brian Smith and Brandon Walker. Those sophomores not only will impact Notre Dame on football Saturdays, but they also do a good job in recruiting and promoting the program.

Michael Floyd: What a splash the freshman receiver has made. An injury against Navy is going to stop Floyd from reaching 1,000 yards receiving, but the talented player from St. Paul, Minn., will be an All-American candidate as early as next season. With 702 yards receiving and seven touchdowns in his first year, the numbers could be very eye-popping next fall as this offense continues to mature.

The Rest Of The Freshman Class: Scout.com's top-ranked recruiting class a year ago, the 2008 group already has seen nine players get on the field, with eight of them making an impact. Next season, look for most of the others to get in on the act.

Finally, some depth and talent at the same time is on the way.

Say thanks for all 23-scholarship players.

Recruiting in 2009: Despite all the recent negativity, Notre Dame is putting together yet another top-10 class. Seventeen talented players have already said they want to be a part of this class, and a few more are still looking hard at the program.

See above: Finally, some depth and talent are on the way.

Say thanks and a prayer, that this class holds together.

Recruiting in 2010: Just like the 2008 class, there is a lot of talent in the Midwest, and that helps the Irish recruit regionally with this crop. Regardless of record, Notre Dame is a regular name in these households, and it appears the Irish are off to a good start with current prep juniors.

Brian Polian: The Notre Dame assistant coach has done a great job of recruiting the West Coast, and getting the Irish name inside those high schools.

Mike Anello: The former walk-on, playing hard on every special teams snap.

Kyle McCarthy: Already with 96 tackles, who knows how many big plays have been avoided defensively with the senior safety playing great assignment football.

A soft schedule in 2009: If the players develop from this year to next, the Irish are in perfect position to return to the BCS.

Bowl Eligibility: Another opportunity to snap the postseason losing streak.

A combination of all of the above, should lead to a much longer list next Thanksgiving.


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