Tyrone Willingham is expected to announce the signing of 22 players for the 2003 football recruiting class at a press conference today at 3:30 PM eastern standard time. All 22 have verbally committed to Notre Dame and are expected to sign and fax their letters of intent today.
The Irish staff were able to land some big commitments from some of the top players in the country led by the top tight end in the country Greg Olsen. Olsen is the brother of current Notre Dame player and quarterback Chris Olsen. Other top prospects include defensive end Victor Abiamiri, quarterback Brady Quinn, offensive linemen Ryan Harris and John Sullivan, wide receiver Ambrose Wooden, defensive lineman Trevor Laws, running backs Travis Thomas and Isaiah Gardner and defensive backs Tommy Zbikowski and Freddie Parish.
Insiders.com's rating system of players ranges from one to five stars with five being the best. The Irish were able to land one five-star player, 12 four-star players and nine 3-star players in the 2003 class. The 2003 recruiting class should be ranked in the top five by Insiders.com and could be considered one of the best classes in recent memory.
Notre Dame was able to address some needs at linebacker with the signing of Mitchell Thomas, Dwight Stephenson, Nick Boresti and Joe Brockington. The Irish did not sign a linebacker in the 2002 class so numbers as well as talent were needed. These four prospects should be an upgrade in both depth and talent. Mitchell Thomas has some very impressive speed and athletic ability on film and looks to me like the best linebacker they have signed in many years.
Notre Dame was also able to land their two top targets on the defensive line. Trevor Laws was the number one target for the interior defensive line and Victor Abiamiri was the top target for defensive end. With 4 defensive linemen in the 2002 class last year, defensive line was not a major numbers priority but the Notre Dame staff hit a homerun with the two they have signed. Laws has tremendous quickness for a big man and was just as impressive on film as 5-star recruit Derek Landri last year. Both Laws and Abiamiri are considered to have the talent to play on Sundays.
The commitment of quarterback Brady Quinn was also needed. Quinn should fit the Bill Diedrick offense like a glove and possesses all the tools necessary to be the classic drop back quarterback for the future. The Irish were able to win his signature over schools such as Ohio State, Michigan, Tennnesee and South Carolina. Quinn shows good arm strength an accuracy on film and looked very impressive with his mechanics. He has all the talent to be a great quarterback for the Irish in the future.
The Irish were also able to land a group of athletes that can play a number of positions. Tommy Zbikowski was recruited as a corner prospect but could end up at safety or wide receiver in the future. Freddie Parish can play either corner or safety but will start out at corner. Ambrose Wooden will start out at wide receiver but could be a corner prospect in the future. Chase Anastasio will also start at wide receiver but could play corner or safety. Isaiah Gardner was recruited to play corner but could switch back to his high school position of tailback. LaBrose Hedgemon was recruited specifically to play corner. These 5 athletes give Notre Dame a lot of flexibility to find the best position for each player and none should be forced into a position out of need.
With four offensive linemen signed in the 2002 class, the Irish didn't need a large number of prospects. The Irish have addressed depth concerns with the move of Matt Root to offensive tackle. Brian Mattes and Jeff Thompson have also moved to the offensive line. Notre Dame did need to land some quality linemen and were able to secure commitments from two of the best in the country. John Sullivan is widely considered the top center prospect in the country and was the #1 target for the interior. Ryan Harris was also considered one of the top left tackle prospects in the country. Both Harris and Sullivan had offers from the top programs in the country and should be future stars along the offensive line.
The Irish were also able to land their #1 target at fullback in Ashley McConnell. McConnell was the only fullback offered by Notre Dame and his signature helps fill a void with the loss of all three fullbacks on the Irish roster. Travis Thomas also was a 4-star prospect signed at tailback. Thomas should add depth to the Irish running back position.
The Irish really hit a homerun at tight end signing two of their top targets in Greg Olsen and John Carlson. Both Olsen and Carlson are considered the tight ends of the future. Both have athletic ability that can stretch the field and create problems for opposing defenses. Olsen is considered the prize jewel of this class and should have a fine future ahead of him. Carlson, while not rated as highly, is considered a great catch as well.
The Irish also added much needed depth at wide receiver. Jeff Samardzija and Chinedum Ndukwe both attended Notre Dame camp and were offered shortly after. The Irish staff obviously saw something they liked in both players to offer them early in the process. Ambrose Wooden could be the deep-threat the Irish are looking for with his 4.3 speed. Wooden played quarterback in high school but should be able to make the switch like Arnaz Battle did for the Irish. Anastastio will also start at wide receiver and is said to have the athleticism and speed to play corner. The Irish hit yet another homerun with their wide receivers.
The Notre Dame staff were also able to address the departure of punter Joey Hildbold with the signing of Geoff Price. Price was injured most of the year but had attended Notre Dame camp the last two years. The staff knows exactly what to expect from Price. Price is rumored to have a booming leg and was considered the #1 prospect at punter. He should compete for the starting job as soon as he walks on campus.
Tyrone Willingham and his staff have to be celebrating today because this is the best class the Irish have signed in many years. The overall athletic ability of these players should place Notre Dame right in the hunt for the National Championship in talent. It is a very good day to be an Irish fan.
Notre Dame fans welcome
Running BacksTravis Thomas
Wide ReceiversJeff Samardzija
Tight EndsGreg Olsen
Offensive LinemenJohn Sullivan
Defensive LinemenTrevor Laws
Defensive BacksFreddie Parish