Because of this problem, it's difficult to look at one recruiting class and judge the success or failure. You should look at two classes to get a better understanding. The 2003 class is not yet finished so I will be doing a little guessing as well. If you look at the two together, Notre Dame have done very well at most positions but are struggling at linebacker.
To put together a great team, I think you need one star player at each position every two years. The hope is you sign two potential star players and one works out while the other adds quality depth. If you aren't successful, you will start to see some cracks in the armor. Notre Dame currently has some star players and they are a large part of the reason Notre Dame is 10-2. What the Irish are seriously lacking is quality depth. Deficiency in recruiting in the past classes has put the Irish in a difficult situation. It appears that Ty and his staff are trying to fix the problem with good balance between classes. Let's look at it.
I have never been a fan of taking two quarterbacks in one class. The temptation is always there but the staff resisted the temptation this year. That should mean good balance in quarterback recruiting for years to come.
Quarterback2002 signee Chris Olsen
2003 signee Brady Quinn
Notre Dame has done something they haven't done in a long time. They recruited one quarterback each year, both have talent and their strengths fit the system. Notre Dame beat Miami and a host of other schools for Olsen. They also beat Ohio State, Tennessee and Michigan for Quinn. Both players have all the skills to become the starter after Carlyle Holiday leaves. Quinn is probably lighter on his feet and Olsen is a coach's son, which is always a bonus. Notre Dame should be in good shape here.
Running back2002 signees Jeff Jenkins and Nate Schiccatano
2003 signees David Marrero and Travis Thomas
2003 hopefuls Reggie Bush, Brian Dennison
The 2002 class of Jenkins and Schiccatano brought a lot of size to the position. Jenkins is bullish and runs with power between the tackles. Schiccatano is a bigger back who could be very effective in a one back set. These two players could move sometime in the future but they are good athletes and can contribute. I would not be surprised to see Jenkins move to fullback in the future.
2003 seems to be about speed at running back. The film of David Marrero is very impressive and David brings the home run to the Notre Dame backfield. He is very fast, quick and has good lateral movement. He is also something very special in the return game. Thomas is a bigger back in the Ryan Grant/Tony Fisher mold. I hear he is a physical runner with a quick first step.
The 2003 hopefuls seem to focus on speed as well. Bush has enough speed and cutting ability to make your head spin. Dennison is also a speed back. I think the Notre Dame staff realized they needed a major upgrade in home run ability and either of these backs would be a nice addition to the class. If they land either, I think they addressed depth and speed very well.
Fullback2002 signee nobody
2003 signee Ashley McConnell
The Irish had to land at least one fullback in this class. Jenkins or Rashon Powers Neal could move here as well. With fullback, you need one great one, a guy who can add depth and you are pretty much set. I think McConnell will be the horse of the future. He was the #1 guy so they did well here.
Tight Ends2002 signees Anthony Fasano and Marcus Freeman
2003 signee John Carlson
2003 hopeful Greg Olsen
Holy tight ends!!! When I was at Notre Dame fall camp, I was impressed with both Fasano and Freeman. Freeman was probably more athletic (most athletic TE on the team) but Fasano catches everything. Both were solid players and could contribute. I think one or both could move and help out at other positions.
The 2003 class seems to address speed as well. Carlson and Olsen are known as very athletic tight ends that can get down field and past the linebackers into the zone. Notre Dame has lacked that mid-field threat for a while and this should keep the linebackers honest. Notre Dame looks great with Olsen so hopefully they sign both. If they do, I think they have done quite well.
Wide Receiver2002 signees Maurice Stovall and Rhema McKnight
2003 signees Chinedum Ndukwe and Jeff Samardzija
2003 hopefuls Mark Bradford and Chase Anastasio
You can't do much better than Stovall and McKnight. Both should make a lot of big plays for Notre Dame in the future. While Ndukwe and Samardzija won't get the same hype as Stovall and McKnight, what I really like these two is that the staff had a good look at them at camp. They offered both players knowing full well that both would likely accept. They didn't offer one and wait on the other so that tells me that they really liked both players.
Either Mark Bradford or Chase Anastasio would be a nice addition to the class. I have heard Anastasio has the speed and athletic talent to play corner so he could be a nice addition. Bradford has Nike camp verified 4.40 speed and he is a very thick and physical receiver on film. Landing one of these two along with the 4 mentioned would be very good.
Offensive Line2002 signees Bob Morton, James Bonelli, Jamie Ryan and Scott Raridon
2003 signees Ryan Harris
2003 hopefuls John Sullivan, Mike Jones, Joe Thomas and Jeff Zuttah
The Irish are very thin at quality depth right now because of the phantom OL class where they failed to sign a single offensive lineman (2000). The 2002 class will have to grow up very fast. Morton will challenge for the starting spot at OC next year. Jamie Ryan looked like a beast on film. Bonelli and Raridon were both recruited by the top programs as well.The 2003 class looks great if they land 4 of these guys. Harris is very key because he can play left tackle. Joe Thomas would be very nice because he can as well. Mike Jones can either tackle or guard. Sullivan will either be an offensive center or guard and Zuttah could play either tackle or guard. It's too early to tell how they have done. If the Irish can land 3 out of the 4, they did very well because these were the top guys very early. Sullivan should commit soon. There isn't much margin for error but Notre Dame is very high on the lists of the others.
Defensive Line2002 signees Derek Landri, Dan Santucci, Travis Leitko, Chris Frome and Brian Mattes
2003 signees Trevor Laws
2003 hopefuls Victor Abiamiri and Emmanual Awofedju
The Irish landed a lot of numbers last year for defensive line. Derek Landri was obviously the big catch. Everything I have heard suggests that Dan Santucci is going to surprise a lot of people. Travis Leitko impressed me a great deal with his effort and attitude at camp and should develop into a strong side defensive end. I have heard less about Frome and Mattes but they are freshman. Somebody from this group could move to add depth to the offensive line.
Trevor Laws was a big commitment for the Irish. It appears that Notre Dame will have two inside rocks that can get to the quarterback. Dan Santucci should provide depth. Hopefully one of Leitko, Frome or Mattes develops into a quality defensive end but the Irish need a speed rusher here. Abiamiri would be great but I hear a lot of good things about Awofedju as well from my friend Jamie Newberg. He said he has a great frame and the similar quickness and skill as Victor. Notre Dame must sign either one and it looks good for Abiamiri.
Linebacker2002 signees ZERO
2003 signees Nick Borseti and Joe Brockington
2003 hopefuls Wesley Jefferson, Mitchell Thomas and Mark Washington
"Houston, we have a problem." We cannot blame Coach Willingham for the lack of linebacker prospects in the 2002 class. He didn't have time to develop a relationship with the class of 2002 as the coach of Notre Dame. This will hurt however unless Notre Dame can get some very talented players who can develop quickly. I do believe some players might move here to help add some depth.
Nick Borseti brings the nasty to the position. He will play MLB likely and is known as a big hitter with great instincts. He is a big guy at 6-4, 220 pounds and might grow into a defensive end position. Brockington was recruited as a WLB. He has speed and quickness and should fill in for Brandon Hoyte after he is gone. Notre Dame needs an OLB prospect. The only man on the board appears to be Thomas. Wesley Jefferson is a MLB prospect and Washington is also a MLB prospect but could play defensive end as well. I think Notre Dame would love to land 2 more linebackers in this class. No matter whom they sign, they will have a great opportunity to play a lot of football at Notre Dame.
Safety2002 signee Jake Carney
2003 signee Freddie Parish
2003 hopefuls Tom Zbikowski, Ira Guilford
Jake Carney wasn't considered a top guy but he sure received a lot of reps in fall camp. That could have been from a lack of numbers but he looked quick and he would hit. Freddie Parish was a very big commitment for Notre Dame. Freddie is going to be a great player for Notre Dame.
Tom Zbikowski is obviously a great athlete but just started playing safety this year. He brings a lot of athleticism to the position. Ira Guilford would also be a great surprise. He does want a shot at tailback however but he will likely end up playing safety. I hear that Guilford is a big hitter with good speed. Ohio State appears to be the competition here. Zbikowski looks the most likely here. If they can land either, they added one star player and a couple that could develop into star players.
Cornerback2002 signee Mike Richardson
2003 signee Isaiah Gardner
2003 hopefuls Ambrose Wooden, Labrose Hedgemon, Kenny Scott
Mike Richardson really surprised me with his athleticism. He also showed nice body control in coverage and good ball recognition skills. He was in good position to make the play and had his head turned around. I think Ty and his staff got a steal in Richardson but it's a little too early to tell.
Isaiah Gardner mainly played tailback in high school. He did play corner this year however and I have heard he looked very good there. Isaiah told me he didn't allow a completed pass all year although he missed a few games. Running backs usually have good hips so hopefully they got a steal here as well.
Ambrose Wooden looks the most likely for the hopefuls. I do believe he will sign and he brings some great speed to the position. Notre Dame offered LaBrose Hedgemon very early so he is a player they like quite a bit. It should be either Notre Dame or Auburn for him. I don't think Notre Dame has much of a shot at Kenny Scott at all. They need to add a player to go along with Gardner. If Notre Dame can sign both Hedgemon and Wooden, don't be surprised if they do. Corner has been a hard position for Notre Dame to recruit so you take them when you can get them.Conclusion
If you look at the two classes assuming this staff closes like we expect, they would address the needs at most positions very well. My theory of one star player at each position every other year looks promising as well.QB Either Quinn or Olsen will surely be able to get it done
TB Marrero is a great start, add Bush and that is two. Thomas could be the bigger back they need to go with speed. Add Shiccatano and Jenkins and you have depth and great talent.
WR Stovall and Rhema are two. Bradford could be three as could Ndukwe or Samardzija.
TE Olsen would surely be one. The others would add depth and don't count any of them out.
OL Very hard to say here. Morton looks to be a stud. Ryan really impressed me on film. Harris was wanted by Miami, so is Sullivan, Joe Thomas ran a 4.79 at ND camp. All the rest add depth and could be the real stars.
DL Landri is one. Leitko was a big recruit. Santucci looks to be a surprise. Laws is another and Victor Abiamiri would certainly be one. The Irish need to land Abiamiri.
LB Here is where they lack. Wesley Jefferson would be one. Brockington and Borseti should be good players but they need help.
S I think Parish is one for certain. Zbikowski might be, Carney could be.
CB I think Mike Richardson could be a star. We have to hope another or two is found in Gardner, Hedgemon and Wooden.
I find it interesting that we seem to be in better shape on offense than defense if the offensive line situation shapes up like we hope. Should be fun to watch this all unfold.