Tyrone Willingham’s Stamp on Irish Fading, For Now

Notre Dame, Ind (UHND.com) – With the transfer of David Wolke, 11 Notre Dame players have now left the Irish football team since Charlie Weis took over 18 months ago. Not all have left the university entirely, but with each defection, Tyrone Willingham’s stamp on this team is fading fast. That is of course, until the overall lack of depth caused by Willingham’s recruiting catches up with the Irish.

Overall, two players from this year’s senior class have left – Freddie Parish and LaBrose Hedgemon; eight players from the junior class – Chauncey Incarnato, John Kadous, Tregg Duerson, Chris Vaughn, Junior Jabbie, Justin Hoskins, and Brandon Nicolas; and one from the sophomore class – Joey Hiben.

Players such as Joey Hiben and Tregg Duerson have remained enrolled at Notre Dame but have simply left the football team. Hiben cited his reason for leaving as needing to focus on his architecture degree.

Others, like Wolke have left to pursue their football careers at other schools. Wolke’s transfer in particular was because of the increase in talent that Weis has developed in his 18 months on the job.

For the last two years Wolke has been the backup for Notre Dame, but with the players Weis has brought in, he has dropped on the depth chart. In fairness to Willingham, Evan Sharpley committed while Ty was the coach, but if Sharpley were his only competition, Wolke would probably still be at Notre Dame. The two extremely talented freshman, Zach Frazer and Demetrius Jones, most likely had a little bit to do with Wolke’s decision to transfer.

While it’s a good sign of the overall talent level at Notre Dame that players are leaving because they can’t get on the field, the lack of depth that this situation creates will allow Tyrone Willingham’s presence to be felt on this team next year when the senior class will have just nine players left and the junior class will have just 14 players.

While I am confident in the coaching staff’s ability to develop the young talent they have brought in in time for next season, the fact that Weis and staff will go to battle with just 21 players in his junior and senior classes combined next year is reason enough to continue to harp on the lousy job that Willingham and his staff did while at Notre Dame.

You can call it sour grapes or whatever other term you’d like to use. Or, you can call it what it is – the simple truth that Willingham’s inability to recruit effectively was reason enough for his dismissal last year.

Now while Notre Dame has a legit chance at a national championship run this year, the Irish will need to break in a new quarterback, at least three new offensive linemen, and their top two wide receivers on offense alone in 2007.

Ok, so it may be a bit early to worry about the 2007 season beings as camp hasn’t even started for the 2006 season, but it still warrants discussing now since the pundits who based Notre Dame to firing Willingham in the first place are sure to have a field day if the Irish struggle out of the gates with all the new starters in ’07.

The only silver lining here is that Weis has shown he is prepared for anything and I am sure he and his staff are aware of the depth issues that will exist in 2007 and while they may not admit it openly, it’d definitely in the back of their minds.

Weis has also shown that he is willing to work harder than any other coach which is good since Willingham created a lot more work with his last two classes. So while Willingham is practicing his chipping and putting next off-season, Weis will be busy working to fix the mistakes of those before him.

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