ESPN Picks Notre Dame’s Top 5

ESPN’s Brian Bennett published a list of Notre Dame’s top 5 players for the 2010 season on Thursday and the list is a little interesting.

ESPN ranked rising sophomore Manti Te'o as Notre Dame's 2nd best player for 2010. (Photo - Icon SMI)

Here’s how Bennett ranked the top players for the Irish.

  1. Dayne Crist, QB (Jr)
  2. Darius Fleming, OLB (Jr)
  3. Kyle Rudolph, TE (Jr)
  4. Manti Te’o, ILB (So)
  5. Michael Floyd, WR (Jr)

ESPN also listed Armando Allen, Chris Stewart, Ethan Johnson, Ian Williams, and Kapron Lewis-Moore as the next five players for the Irish.

Bennett’s list is based primarily on potential as evidenced by Darius Fleming’s #4 ranking.  The outside linebacker led the Irish in tackles for loss in 2009, but for the most part he has still been a bit inconsistent over his first two years.  Still, based on his potential and the fact that he will be playing the scheme he was originally recruited, it’s hard to argue that Fleming is one of the top players on the Irish squad for the upcoming season.

The one glaring omission in Bennett’s list is junior offensive lineman Trevor Robinson.  Robinson, a two-year starter already, is easily Notre Dame’s most talented offensive lineman and has the potential to be one of the better linemen to come out of Notre Dame in a while.  I would place Robinson among the top 5 players in the Irish roster.

If I were to rank the top 5 players on the team for this year, I would probably swap Fleming with Ethan Johnson and have Robinson ranked at #5 with Crist just outside the top 5 largely because he is coming off of a serious knee injury and has never started a game on the college level.  While it’s been reported that Crist has been progressing wonderfully, even NFL quarterbacks are just not quite themselves in their first season back from an ACL injury.

The top 3 in Bennett’s list are pretty much dead on though.  I might consider changing up the order of Rudolph, Te’o, and Floyd a bit, but as of right now, they appear to be the three players in the Irish roster that would start for any team in the country.

If there’s one thing that is clearly obvious about this list though it’s that recruiting rankings do mean something.  Look at the players on this list.  Michael Floyd?  5 star recuit.  Manti Te’o?  Another 5-star recruit.  Rudolph?  Same deal.   In fact, all of the players listed in Bennett’s top 10 were 4 or 5-star recruits with the exception of Ian Williams.

So the next time someone suggests that recruiting rankings and star ratings don’t mean much.  Think about this list.

What’s also pretty evident from this is list is that Notre Dame does have some serious talent on the roster this fall. There are certainly areas where depth is an issue with the Irish this fall, but there is some top line talent here for Kelly to work with.

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  1. We shouldn’t be too hard on Harrison Smith. He was one of the top three tacklers on the team last year. Granted he was often out of position when playing safety, but that was more the result of poor coaching, the Brown/Tenuta disfunctional scheme, and poor tackling up front. Our safeties have had to make far too many tackles the past five years under Charlie. They have also been left on an island while our defensive front failed to put any kind of pressure on the quarterback.

  2. Hello gentlemen! Good to be back and to read your posts! I, like you, await this coming September with great anticipation. I so far REALLY like what I’m hearing about Coach Kelly. Regarding the “ranking” of NDs players, that seems like a heckuva difficult exercise. I do have to admit that I’m very skeptical about Harrison Smith. I know I know – I’ve been very hard on him over the years because he’s been a trainwreck, IMO. He will have had to have worked REEEEEAL hard to improve as much as some of the comments I’m seeing. But hey, I’m not giving any verdict and I could most certainly be wrong- just sayin’. GO IRISH!

  3. Doc,

    Thanks for lifting my spirits! You’re analysis of the situation is both charitable and informative. I did indeed overlook the fact that, as you say, we now have two additional spots open for competition and at last one more scholarship to offer a great athlete. If we can land a top 15 to top 20 class for 2011 I think we’ll be OK. In a year or two, after BK starts to pile up wins at ND, we’ll be back in the top 5 recruiting wise. Again, good insights, Doc, to keep the faithful on track. GO IRISH!

  4. Shaz,

    The Bleecher Report just broke the news that Spencer Boyd is transferring to the Univ. of S. Fla. He’ll sit out a year and play for the Bulls in 2011, possibly at WR. This will hurt our DB depth in the near future unless we recruit another quality player for the CB position this year. I’m beginning to despair a bit at our transfers and near misses in this recruiting cycle. We need a top 15 type class to build talent and recruiting momentum in the future.

    1. Shaz & Rob – My two favorites on this site – keep the faith. Boyd has a two-year old son and there must be some vitiation issues going on here, and he was struggling in the classroom and agreed to stay through summer school to get his mind back in the books. He belongs with his son and Skip Holtz will take good care of him. Chris Badger will come back as a (probably married) 20-year old freshman similar to what BYU and Utah have been working with for years. This opens a few holes for the “Athletes” that were recruited (Spond & Roback) and Collinsworth was a safety as well. What this also does is open up two more spots for the February 2011 recruiting class and this could be one of our best recruiting classes ever. 11 ESPN Top 150 candidates still considering us at this point, and we might get half of them. After we have a great season (when Mark May even says it is possible, you have to believe) watch for us to grab some key skill players for the class of 2012.

      1. Doc,

        Totally off topic. Speaking of Collinsworth. What about the senior Collinsworth for the NBC booth for ND games? I know, I know. He’s on the NFL Sunday night team. But we can always hope to replace the current anti-ND and jinx team currently in place.

      2. It is time for a change there as well. They’d never do it – would be like having Mike Golic doing it. We are in for a new ride my friend. No more running out of gas in the second half. I believe our defense will be back again. Also the spread will open up lanes for counter plays and Armondo Allen and Cierre Wood will have outstanding years in rushing as long as we can keep Crist healthy and protected. Manti will be a beast, as will Filer and Fleming and Smith. Speaking of Smiths, Harrison Smith will have an outstanding year as well. Chuck Martin will have that whole defensive backfield working like a fine machine. As Shaz mentioned earlier, there was a big conflict between Tenuta and Brown last year. Everyone is on the same page with Kelly. He is the right kind of guy.

      3. Anybody new in the broadcast booth for NBC would be great.
        Hammonds and Haden have gotten
        really stale. It’s gotten so bad for me, that I turn the sound off on my TV during the game, and listen to the play by play from the radio broadcast!
        Those two are better suited for golf or bowling.
        We need a couple of guys that can add some fire and excitement.
        Like Michael “Let’s get ready to Rummble” Buffer (commentary) and Ric Flare (Play by play WOOOOOOOOO!)

      4. Doc,

        thanks for the update. I didn’t know that Boyd was a father or that he attended summer school. It’s been said many times before, that ND isn’t for everyone. It makes no sence for a player to come here, be miserable, and not see the field because of acedemic struggles.
        While Badger will return, I think the time missed from the strenth and conditioning program as a freshmen will hurt him in the long run. But like I said before, I can’t blame the young man for following his religious beliefs.
        Only 50 days until kick-off.
        Go Irish, Beat Purdue!

      5. Shazamrock, I agree my man. I have felt the same way since the beginning. We need a change. Hammonds used to do SEC basketball, I don’t know how he ended up in South Bend.

  5. Was wondering if anyone had any info on our two lost players from the secondary. Freshmen Chris Badger and Spencer Boyd?
    One day Badger was solid, then out of nowhere he ops out to do a 2 yr church mission. Now I don’t have anything agianst a young man following his faith. It just seemed to come out of left field with no warning.
    Boyd on the other hand goes through the whole recruiting process, then gets cold feet at the last minute?
    I don’t know if anyone tried to talk him out of it, but it seems like almost every year we have one of these “home sick” defections. He sounds like a scared little boy to me. Maybe it’s better that he’s not here. I don’t think we need that kind of attitude in our locker room at this point.
    It’s just a pitty he to waste everyone’s time.

  6. you have a misspelling in your article that you should change. (spelled would woudl) other than that you are still the man and i love reading your in depth perspective on ND football.

  7. The Irish will be as good as the lines play (offense and defense). Robinson and Stewart are crucial to any offensive success. Crist was not overly impressive in the few opportunities given him, save one awesome pass against Washington St. He will do okay this year, but his best football is a year away. Floyd is a beast, but he will have the best corners on him all season with a safety over the top and not be as productive as some believe. Te’o is the real deal and he will explode this season. Rudolph will be the big play guy this year, and in my humble opinion the #1 player for the Irish at years end. I see a good year, 9-3 maybe 10-2 with a nice bowl game (both of the previous coaches managed to win at least nine games in year one). The real story of coach BK is two years away, can he recruit, motivate, develop and win in year three (the previous two coaches could not).

    1. I find it so exciting to talk about Irish DEFENSE. I’m really feeling like our D-line will do well this year.

      We have kids who were recruited to play a 34 defense actually playing the positions they were brought in to fill.

      Plus they have had 7 months of development under Kelly’s strength and conditioning coach. This guy seems to be able to drive his athletes to an entirely new level.

      Very exciting. However, we’ll find out on game day how much of Kelly’s vision has rubbed off on our Irish team and how good they really are.

      Hopefully I’ll be able to get excited and cheer on a tough Irish Defense this upcoming season!

      1. IC,
        I never understood the whole Corwin Brown – Jon Tenuta therory. Too many cooks in the kitchen if you ask me.
        The talent that ND had on defense was better than their 89th ranking nationally last year.
        Outside of a dominating defensive tackle, I like this defense. Kelly’s incoming defensive coaches know poor tackling and a weak pass rush when they see it. They will get it fixed.
        They had better considering that Kelly likes to run a no huddle offence.

  8. I’m not doubting Crist’s potential, but ranking him as one of ND’s top five or even ten players is premature.

    Teo has already shown his ability, erratic though it was, along with Rudolph and Floyd, but when looking at Crist’s body of work there is nothing to take note of. He’s thrown a third of his passes at the feet of his receivers, has one touchdown (spectacular) and one interception and a torn ACL and now has a new offense to learn. Not much to go on. He is basically an incoming freshman with an injury and tons of potential.

  9. Crist has only shown one pass where he could be seen as a talent. Other than that, his resume is just not there for this list of top five or even top ten. Crist can only be seen as a player who if he does well will propel the Irish O, but if he does poorly, the RB’s will propel the Irish O. We can only be hopeful that he is a top five talent on this team.

    I’d put AA in that spot.

    1. I think the statement about Crist is a bit off. Clausen was the #1 rated player (not QB, but player) in 07 and he had a really rough freshman year and a semi-rough sophomore year, though his stats were decent. Crist played maybe a total of 1-2 quarters all season and you think that tells us the whole story about this kid? I don’t know many QB’s that are not a bit rusty their first few games at the collegiate level. I think Crist will be fine, he may struggle this season some, but that could be just as much from his recovering knee as his lack of experience. I don’t know that I would have put him in the top 5, but I think as the season progresses, we will see good things from this young man.

  10. Very safe (boring) picks. And the omission of T.Robinson makes this list a little less credible.

  11. Points well taken, and also, it will be interesting to see who the “over-achievers” will be since player development is indeed Kelly’s claim to fame. We will need over-achievers to address depth issues primarily on defense to have a successful season.

  12. I agree with paul. If you can’t develop players especially the 2 and 3 start recruits then u will never be a great team.That makes up over half your roster.Can’t get all 5 star guys. I have hope for the Kelly era, he really stresses player development.

  13. That’s one way to spin it (the 5-star bit). Another way is that when you have a coaching staff that can recruit really well but are horrible at player development, such as the previous staff, all the players tend to (at best) remain at the level they were brought in at – the less heralded players stagnate at that level and have no real chance to blossom into the equals of the superior recruits, let alone their betters.

    1. Agreed. 100%. Weis seemed to be able to compete for top-knotch recruits but he failed to develop the kids when needed. And, most importantly, Weis and his crew did not develop the run-of-the-mill players who are not heavily recruited but are absolutely critical to the succcess of the program.

      It’s a hard job, for sure, but that was why Charlie got paid so freaking much. Perhaps, now, Kelly will come in and emphasize player development. They need to be stronger. They need to block better. They need to tackle better. They need to execute.

      Look at what Saban did at Alabama. These are 19 and 20 year old kids who can be coached and must be coached in order to succeed.

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