May 7, 2013 // Notre Dame Football

Who Had the Best OL Class in 2013? You’ll Never Guess.

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Notre Dame Spring Game 2013

Apr 20, 2013; Notre Dame, IN, USA; The Notre Dame Fighting Irish take the field for the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

When I was little and learning about the game of football, which is a passion in my family, my father taught me football’s golden rule: line play wins championships. I listened to his advice, processed it, and then dismissed it completely.

Boring! Totally and completely boring. Linemen don’t touch the football, I reasoned. They stand around and get in the way of the players who make a difference, like the quarterback and wide receivers. That logic likely didn’t sit too well with my father, a former starting defensive lineman on his state championship-winning high school team. But he had his revenge. While playing Strat-O-Matic football, a strategic football board game with a long history in our family, I spent the majority of my time trying to figure out why I would routinely trail by several touchdowns while my father simply smiled. Eventually conceding defeat, the message was received: line play wins championships.

While an elite quarterback is an advantage for any team, it matters little if the QB has no time to throw. With a great offensive line, even a quarterback like Trent Dilfer can snag a championship ring. So it was with much excitement that Notre Dame signed one of the best offensive line hauls in 2013, and with the recent commitment of New Jersey offensive line standout, Quenton Nelson, ND is on pace to have another elite OL class in 2014.

But just how well has ND’s offensive line recruiting been going in the past two seasons? It’s hard to gauge without other classes as comparison. For example, many outlets gave Michigan the title of the best offensive line class in 2013. While ND and Michigan both signed elite recruits in the trenches, it appears head-to-head comparisons have not been done. So who really gained signatures from the best offensive line pool? The answer is surprising.

To gain an accurate picture of offensive line recruiting, I examined signed offensive linemen from the Class of 2013 for each program that made up the top ten recruiting classes. To combat the fact teams sign different numbers of offensive linemen depending on their needs in any given year, the average star ranking of each program’s line class was used to determine the overall talent level of each class signed. While star rankings don’t always give the most accurate picture of a player’s future (Notre Dame All-American tight end and 1st round draft selection, Tyler Eifert, was only a 3-star), using average star ranking gives the most accurate look into each team’s class.

Recruiting Class of 2013

Rank

Team

Number of OL Commits

Average Star Ranking

1

UCLA

7

3.85

2-t

Notre Dame

5

3.75

2-t

LSU

4

3.75

2-t

Mississippi

4

3.75

3-t

Michigan

6

3.5

3-t

Auburn

2

3.5

3-t

Ohio State

2

3.5

4

Alabama

4

3.25

5

Florida

5

3.00

The results of the offensive line comparison were extremely revealing. Notre Dame didn’t sign the best offensive line class and neither did the Wolverines. The UCLA Bruins took home the recruiting title, an unexpected turn. But what really stands out for Irish fans is the incredible job Brian Kelly and staff did at bringing in top-notch talent. The Alabama Crimson Tide have won 3 national championships in 4 seasons, and Nick Saban managed to sign 4 offensive linemen, with 3 of the 4 being mere 3-star recruits. Kelly and company outdid Saban, signing four 4-stars and only one 3-star in the trenches. Out-recruiting Saban along the offensive line is a major accomplishment.

Notre Dame managed to sign the second best offensive line class in 2013. But how are the Fighting Irish proceeding so far in offensive line recruiting for 2014? While it’s still very early in the process, we can get a glimpse into how the current offensive line recruiting class is shaping up.

Recruiting Class of 2014

Rank

Team

Number of OL Commits

Average Star Ranking

1-t

Notre Dame

3

4.00

1-t

LSU

2

4.00

2-t

Michigan

2

3.5

2-t

Mississippi

2

3.5

3-t

Florida

3

3.00

3-t

Tennessee

2

3.00

3-t

Florida State

1

3.00

3-t

Louisville

1

3.00

3-t

Texas

1

3.00

3-t

Texas A&M

1

3.00

If championships are won by line play, Brian Kelly has put Notre Dame in a position to be a dominant force once again. ND tied for the second best offensive line haul in the nation in 2013 and currently sits tied with LSU for the number one offensive line class in 2014. The expectation heading into this comparison was that Notre Dame had done well, but in reality the Fighting Irish have been dominant on the recruiting trail.

The future of Notre Dame’s line is as bright as any program in America.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles as well as co-founded a nationally-featured non-profit organization. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24 hours a day. Scott can be reached at scottjanssenhp@gmail.com.

Comments to this Article

  • LucasCorso commented on May 7th, 2013 at 9:30 am

    I’m guessing Saban signed great players, regardless of star ratings.

    [Reply]

  • Toulmin H. Brown commented on May 7th, 2013 at 11:13 am

    The teams Notre Dame may fight in the BCS NC 2013-14 include Alabama, UGA, tOSU, Stanford, Texas A & M, LSU (Mettenberger must develop).

    In 2012-13 N.D.’s lines (both offense + defense) are/were superb. Alabama was able to open up the BCS NC game by completing play action passes to gain needed first downs & got the close officiating calls (The Tyler Eifert catch that was deemed a incompletion) Alabama did not bully the ND line however the passing D forced a Irish defeat.

    Notre Dame is rolling in 2013.

    The recruiting is excellent, the athletes are promising & the Irish are fighting hard. I anticipate a great year.

    [Reply]

    ND Southy replied on May 7th, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Think it is time for you to get over the Eifert catch or no catch. Who cares, we weren’t winning that game period. They were BETTER than we were. Judgment calls happen, sometimes you get them sometimes you don’t.

    [Reply]

    duranko replied on May 7th, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Southy there’s a famous story told about Sammy Baugh’s post game comments after the 1940 Chapionship when the Bears beat Baugh’s Redskins by 73-0.

    There was a play early in the game when Baugh hit a receiver in the end zone and the receiver dropped it, and the Skins didn’t score.

    A reporter asked Baugh how he thought the game would have come out if the receiver had caught the pass for the TD. Without batting an eye, Baugh deadpanned “The final would have been 73-7.” True then, true now.

    [Reply]

    Toulmin H. Brown replied on May 7th, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Alabama is not any better than Oklahoma. Yes they have Joe Namath and his New York, New York associates supporting them legally & IMHO otherwise.

    I stand by belief that were Eifert given the all American catch he clearly made Notre Dame ties the game 7-7 & the fight/war is on.

    “Answering” the challenge, engaging the opponent. Let the know-it-alls I here spout off otherwise. Let us all engage in the “spit venom till they’re content.” Notre Dame was and is superior to the Joe Namath bought puppets.

    (while I’ at it)
    ND beat USC in 2005 & was robbed that evening of a potential run for the BCS NC 2006 in Pasadena.

    Toulmin H. Brown replied on May 7th, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I DISLIKE THE CRIMSON

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on May 8th, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Ok, I’ll play the hypothetical game as well. ND is called for an unsportsmanlike penalty in OT versus Pitt as we had two players with the same jersey number on the field. Pitt is awarded a new set of downs and wins the game. ND goes 11-1 and does not play in the NC.

    Shazamrock replied on May 8th, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Can I play too?

    As you say.. Pitt gets an extra set of downs, but in true Pitt fashion they finally get called for holding Louis Nix and a 10 yard penilty wiping out a game winning TD.
    On the next play they try a trick play they call “Really Little Giants” but their QB get blind-sided by the Prince of Pain on a blitz… their QB bumbles, he stumbles, and he fumbles the ball and then WHAMY! it’s scooped up by Manti Teo who returns it for the game winning TD while dragging tackelers along with him into the endzone in a rain of cheers and confetti that makes the ESPN highlight plays of the year and propelling him to win the Heisman Trophy and the team to a 12-0 regular season finish, where they play, and win, the National Championship game against a Alabama team who 90% of their starters are suspended for huffin antler dust.
    Manti Teo is then named MVP and goes on to be first player selected in the 2013 NFL draft and marry’s is long time Hawaiin girlfriend Commoniwannalayya!

    I love happy endings!

    HURLS replied on May 9th, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    “I dislike the Crimson”? Well what the H has Harvard ever done to you!?!?!?

  • ARMAC commented on May 7th, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Three elements are necessary to build an elite program: the ability to recruit top-rank talent, the ability to develop that talent, and the ability to coach that talent on game day.

    The 2012 season was an outstanding example of the last two. Kelly and his staff found ways to win close games. They shuffled quarterbacks, taught on the run, played keep-away, mastered the clock, and relied on the team’s strengths while disguising its weaknesses.

    We know from Kelly’s previous record that he brought these skills with him. We did not know about his ability to recruit.

    Whether a team is number one or number seven in any recruiting year does not matter much. It reflects the difference in ranking a few players. What we now know is that Kelly can match the elite in recruiting.

    An offensive line recruited today means dominance years into the future. We have a lot to look forward to.

    [Reply]

    Toulmin H. Brown replied on May 7th, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    N.D.’S talent is tops.

    [Reply]

  • D-Train 65 commented on May 8th, 2013 at 1:09 am

    Just a “small” point. Every time you see a recruits story after it there is a list of the “contact/recruiting” coach from that particular school. I have never seen any of the coaches listed showing the name Brian Kelly. In actual fact Kelly only talks to the recruit AFTER one of his Asst. Coaches has done the hard yards eg “sitting outside Ishaq Williams at 4 in the morning to get him for ND. Pretty sure BK would have been at home snugged up in his bed so not sure the comments re: “Kelly sure can recruit” is entirely accurate. What he can do is hire guys who can RECRUIT and then he takes the credit it would appear from many of these texts. Just wanted to set the record straight. It is not Kelly who is “driving the miles” to sign the blue chippers out there but his HARD-WORKING assistants.

    [Reply]

    Ron Burgundy replied on May 8th, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Well, if you would like BK to violate NCAA rules and visit recruits then let’s go ahead. Head coaches are only permitted a limited number of on-site visits with recruits. Once players get to school they will spend a vast majority of their time with their position coach and coordinator. That’s why the kids have the relationship with the asst coach.

    [Reply]

    D-Train 65 replied on May 9th, 2013 at 2:44 am

    Ron and Rob I have no problem with BK’s role in the recruiting scenario but the reality is if the Asst coaches do not find the keys to each recruit and his parents when they first establish contact then there will probably never be any “visits” for BK to “Ultimately talk to them.” Regarding NCAA rules and Head coaches visits irregardless of how many or few visits the NCAA allows a head coach (I am not aware that there are such rules in place by the way)and I recruit athletes here in Australia for US universities for the last 22 years, the head coach of any team football, basketball etc is not going to spend any time in season going on visits per se due to time consstraints. A Charlie Weiss did visit Teo after the bowl game in Hawaii and BK did some visits after USC game last year from memory but not usually any during the season. This means if any kid is going to hear from any school either by phone or in person it will usually be after a relationship has been established by assistants. If your assts stuff that role up then there will not be much chance for the Head coach to “wow” them with his conversation. Cheers

    [Reply]

    Rob replied on May 8th, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Many recruits have credited Brian Kelly with their reasoning for coming to ND. They may get recruited to visit the school by the assistant coaches but Kelly is the one that they ultimately want to talk to before they decide. And Kelly tells his coaches who to recruit so it’s not like he has nothing to do with the great recruiting classes that ND has had the last 3 years.

    [Reply]

  • Jimbo commented on May 8th, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    These star rankings are many times a shot in the dark. I do not take much stock in them at all.

    [Reply]

    Rob replied on May 8th, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    They are sometimes but more often than not, the recruiting analysts know a little something about football talent and they are spot on. If you look at ND’s roster, the players that have had the most success were mostly the 4 and 5 star guys. Eifert is an exception but TE’s don’t often get rated very high. Nix was a 4 star, Tuitt a 5 star on a few services, Shembo 4 star, Manti 5 star, Floyd 5 star, Rudolph 5 star, Clausen 5 star, etc. We have a lot of 5 star talent coming to South Bend in June and I sure as hell hope that most of them live up to their star level.

    [Reply]

    ARMAC replied on May 9th, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Star rankings are based on measurables and performance at the high school level and in showcases around the country. But we have to keep in mind that they are still opinions rather than facts. An individual player can exceed expectations or fall short.

    Rankings are most reliable in aggregate. With comparable coaching, a team of four-stars will be better than a team of three-stars.

    Kelly and his staff are bringing in players as good as any in the country, and when the 2013/2014 classes join the team, nobody will be able to put more talent on the field. The good ol’ days are right around the corner.

    [Reply]

  • ND Southy commented on May 8th, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    RIP Asaph!

    [Reply]

    Jack replied on May 9th, 2013 at 7:54 am

    From what I read he embodied all that the University stands for. I pray for his family in their time of need.

    [Reply]

    SteelfanRob replied on May 9th, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Amen, Southy, Amen! Too young to go, way too young!

    My mom passed away almost 2 years ago from NHL. What a terrible disease!

    [Reply]

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