The 2009 recruiting class doesn't possess as much "star power" as the 2008 No. 1-ranked class, but there certainly are a good number of elite players in this class that will definitely make a big impact at Notre Dame throughout their careers.
It's rare more than nine or 10 players in any class play a significant role on the field for the Irish, so Notre Dame only needs to land eight or nine elite players that can match up well with the competition's best eight or nine players from any class. When you look at the class this way, Notre Dame did quite well. But depth is important, and the Irish are lacking depth in this 2009 class.
Let's take a look at both classes combined and see how they've been filling their needs over the past two years.
2008: 5-star Dayne Crist
Comments: With the presence of two five-star quarterbacks in the two previous classes, the Irish were going to struggle landing a great player. They landed nobody, but that might not be a bad thing. Quarterback will be a huge need next year, but with a year separating Crist and the eventual signee(s) in 2010, the Irish have a great shot at signing another elite quarterback, which is very important as the Irish lack depth at the position. Landing a quality quarterback is a must in 2010, and I expect the Irish to sign two. You won't find much better than Crist, however, and why I give it such a high grade.
2008: 4-star Jonas Gray
2009: 4-star Cierre Wood, 4-star Theo Riddick
Comments: The Irish have a wealth of talent and numbers at running back, so numbers weren't important in this class, but talent and speed were. The Irish picked up two truly outstanding candidates this season. Wood has the knack for making the big plays, and Riddick is a highly underrated running back with both speed and the ability to run inside. The Irish couldn't have done much better. Combined with the power and speed of Gray, this group is loaded with talent. The one area they could have done better was at fullback, but we're not sure how much fullback will be used in the future of the Weis offense.
2008: 5-star Michael Floyd, 4-star John Goodman, 4-star Deion Walker
2009: 4-star Shaquelle Evans
Comments: Again, the Irish didn't need a lot of commitments for 2009, but talent was a must and Shaquelle Evans certainly brings that. The previous class was also full of both talent and playmaking ability, and Floyd has emerged as one of the nation's best young receivers. The Irish probably would have liked to land another speedy receiver, but Evans is a guy who can probably play right away. The Irish will likely take four receivers next season, but they signed a fantastic player in this class.
2008: 5-star Kyle Rudolph, 4-star Joseph Fauria
2009: 3-star Jake Golic, 3-star Tyler Eiffert
Comments: Obviously Rudolph is quite the talent. He's already made a big impact for the Irish, and could end up being one of the best tight ends to ever play at Notre Dame. Fauria also brings excellent size and quickness to the position. Look for him to emerge this season. Both Golic and Eiffert are players who have some growing to do, but they both move well for their size. Neither is considered an elite player, but both possess some skills that can add to the tight end position. Tight end will be a need again next year, but it wasn't a huge need for Notre Dame this season.
2008: 4-star Braxston Cave, 3-star Lane Clelland, 4-star Trevor Robinson, 3-star Mike Golic
2009: 4-star Zach Martin, 5-star Chris Watt, 4-star Alex Bullard, 2-star Jordan Cowart
Comments: The Irish certainly added a lot of talent to their interior offensive line pool with these two classes, they also landed a couple of outstanding tackles. However, left tackle is a big concern, and I'm not sure they landed a true left tackle in either class. As we've seen recently, it only takes one guy missing his assignment to stall the Notre Dame offense. The good news is Notre Dame landed a lot of physical football players, and that should help with Notre Dame's struggling running game. Tackle will be a big need for the Irish in 2010. I expect them to sign at least three offensive tackles this coming year.
2008: 3-star Hafis Williams, 4-star Brandon Newman, 4-star Sean Cwynar, 5-star Ethan Johnson, 3-star Kapron Lewis-Moore
2009: 4-star Tyler Stockton
Comments: This is where "rankings" don't mean much to me. For example, I'm certain that both Hafis Williams and Kapron Lewis-Moore are two players the ND coaching staff is very excited about, yet they were three-star players. I can assure you that the Irish coaching staff is very excited about both. The same can be said about the others signees in 2008, and Tyler Stockton. Notre Dame certainly added some size and quickness with this group. They added two interior players and four defensive end type in their 3-4 look, so on paper that's pretty good. As mentioned, early returns have been very positive as well. However, Notre Dame could have really used another defensive end in this last class. It wasn't a critical need, but it sure would have been nice. They'll need to add at least three defensive ends in the 2010 class with an emphasis on speed and quickness.
2008: 3-star David Posluszny, 4-star Anthony McDonald, 4-star Steve Filer, 4-star Darius Fleming
2009: 4-star Carlo Calabrese, 3-star Dan Fox, 4-star Zeke Motta, 5-star Manti Te'o
Comments: This group sure received a bump with the signing of Te'o yesterday, but it was an impressive group without Te'o. Filer and Fleming have already emerged as talents, and I've heard very good things about Anthony McDonald as well. The Irish added outstanding speed in 2009 in Te'o, Motta and Fox, and they also added a good amount of physical play among all the linebackers. It has been a very long time since the Irish had a collection of linebackers with as much talent as these two classes. The Irish defense sure looks promising in the future, and it's going to be a lot of fun to watch this group of linebackers on the field.
2008: 4-star Robert Blanton, 4-star Jamoris Slaughter, 4-star Dan McCarthy
2009: 3-star E.J. Banks
Comments: The Irish surely added some elite talent in 2008, but they were hit hard with defections in 2009. Landing neither of Jawanza Starling or Byron Moore really hurt this class, as did the defection of Marlon Pollard. Notre Dame would've been in good shape had they signed Pollard and one of the safeties, but that didn't happen and now defensive back becomes a huge need for the Irish in 2010. Talent-wise, this group is excellent, and we've already witnessed the big-play ability of Blanton. I can assure you the Irish staff is just as excited about McCarthy and Slaughter. But number-wise this group misses the mark. The Irish will need to land at least four defensive backs in 2010, and at least two safeties.
2009: 3-star Ben Turk, 3-star Nicholas Tausch, 2-star Jordan Cowart
Comments: I know that some people don't get excited about kickers, punters and long snappers, but each position is a very critical part to winning football games. The Irish landed two of their top targets in both Turk and Tausch, and the best long-snapper I've ever known based on his results. 2009 was never going to be a large class due to the 3-9 season in 2007, so landing some very talented specialists was a good idea. The Irish also landed one of the best returns specialists I've seen in recent memory is Cierre Wood, so they did a terrific job of restocking some key components to any good football team.
When you look at the two combined classes it's obvious Notre Dame has a great collection of talent in these two classes. They've filled their needs well at most positions, but some positions continue to haunt them…left tackle, defensive line and defensive back. Notre Dame has to start filling their needs every year if they're going to build an elite program. The 3-9 season hurt the 2009 recruiting class, as did the way the 2008 season ended. Winning cures all, and if Weis and his staff can build on their big bowl win and have a successful season in 2009, I think you'll see Notre Dame take that next step to becoming an elite team again.
Head coach Charlie Weis has proven he's one of the best recruiting head coaches in the country. He needs to prove he's also one of the best coaches in the country on Saturday. With the collection of talent he's assembled recently, he's got a great chance of proving that starting this season in 2009.
The future sure looks bright for Notre Dame football. If they can find their way back to the BCS next season, I think Irish fans are in for a great run over the next five years and maybe beyond.