(UHND.com) — Wednesday marked the end of a crazy year in Notre Dame recruiting, a year which saw the Irish return to prominence off the field as they had on the field this past season. Notre Dame returned to the top 5 in recruiting this year after a two year hiatus when the Irish finished outside the top 20. Charlie Weis and his staff went head to head with the best in the country and came away big winners.
I went into detail about each player individually on the UHND Blog earlier which you can view using these links (Offensive Players | Defensive Players), but for now I’m going to talk more big picture.
A year ago Notre Dame signed just 15 kids because Weis and the staff didn’t want to fill the class with throw in recruits that didn’t fit the system or just weren’t up to their expectations. They could have thrown in a couple recruits at the end of last season to make it a little easier on themselves this year, but they wanted top notch recruits so they held off and the gamble paid off.
Notre Dame signed 27 recruits this year and will get a 28th in the form of Will Yeatman who will be on a lacrosse schollie his freshman year. The 28 recruits brought in weren’t just brought in to fill numbers either, all of them had offers from other elite programs and all fit into Weis’ system.
The Irish lack depth along the offensive line due to horrendous recruiting jobs done along the line during the Willingham Era making offensive line a priority in this class. Weis responded by signing 6 blue chip offensive linemen — Sam Young, Matt Carufel, Chris Stewart, Eric Olsen, Bartley Webb, and Daniel Wenger. All 6 were very highly recruited and all were on different top 100 lists giving the Irish their single best offensive line class in many years.
The Fiesta Bowl showed that while the Irish improved this year the secondary was still in need of an infusion of talent. To remedy this Notre Dame signed two lock down, elite corners in Raeshon McNeil and Darrin Walls. McNeil stole the show defensively at the All American Bowl by blanketing West receivers. Walls missed the game due to injury but is regarded as one of the best corners in the country.
Notre Dame bolstered its offensive backfield as well with an outstanding trio of running backs in James Aldridge, Munir Prince, and Luke Schmidt. Aldridge is an elite back who can change direction without losing a step. He also has the size to run through tackles. Prince is the game-breaker of the group with excellent speed and agility. Schmidt meanwhile is just the best fullback prospect in the country who is coming off back to back 2,000 yard seasons — not a bad group of backs huh?
And how can I forget the two quarterbacks in the class — Demetrius Jones and Zach Frazer. Frazer, the traditional drop back passer, and Jones, the dual threat quarterback, are both top 10 quarterbacks talent wise and both could be extremely dangerous under the tutelage of Charlie Weis.
Rounding out the offense is the #1 tight end in the country Konrad Reuland who Notre Dame beat USC for and a group of versatile receivers made up of Richard Jackson, Barry Gallup, Robby Parris, and George West. Gallup and West are the smaller, fast receivers while Parris and Jackson each measure in at over 6’3”.
It wasn’t all homeruns for the staff this year. There were some misses along the way, especially along the defensive line. Micah Johnson, Butch Lewis, and Gerald McCoy were all big time targets along the defensive line and the Irish missed out on all three. Paddy Mullen will be used at DT when he arrives to Notre Dame, but missing out on McCoy and Lewis was big because it did leave a hole in this class.
Across the board however, Notre Dame won more of the important battles than they lost. For instance, Notre Dame missed out on Steve Brown early one, but responded by signing McNeil and Walls at corner. The Irish also missed out on some of the bigger name receivers, but still signed a very solid crop of receivers.
Look at this year as a starting point for Weis, because I don’t see Notre Dame finishing any worse than this for a while with Weis in charge. Notre Dame is already in line for a lot of top prospects for the class of 2007 including super recruit Jimmy Clausen.
Recruiting has become a year round effort and Weis and staff have been busy working on next year’s class. Weis already held a junior day for the class of 2007 which should pay dividends for Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts. Weis will be busy working on next year’s recruiting class this offseason, not his slice — what a difference a year makes.