Crist Commitment A Sign of Changing Times for Irish

Coming into this year many questioned whether or not Notre Dame could land a top caliber signal caller after landing uber recruit Jimmy Clausen last year. Yesterday, Charlie Weis and his staff proved those doubters wrong by landing one of this year’s most sought after quarterbacks despite having a boat load of talent at the quarterback position in the freshman and sophomore classes in 2007.

This was a very important win for Weis and company this year because it shows that they can get top prospects to commit at crowded positions with more than a promise of early playing.

In recent years Notre Dame recruiting fans scratched their heads as schools like USC and LSU kept landing prospects at very deep positions. USC has about a thousand running backs on their roster, all of whom could start at 95% of all division I schools. With LSU, its been defensive linemen who have flocked to Baton Rouge despite the Tigers having backups that could be All Americans at other schools.

This commitment for Notre Dame is very much like what we’ve watching from a distance over the last few years. Notre Dame is loaded at quarterback with Clausen, Jones, Frazer, and Sharpley. All of those quarterbacks have at least three years of eligibility left this year, yet Weis was able to secure a commitment from an elite quarterback like Crist who could have easily went to a school with a less daunting depth chart.

We’re seeing similar results for the Irish at positions like tight end and to a lesser extent running back. Notre Dame signed the #1 tight end in the country in 2006 with Konrad Reuland and then followed that up with the #2 tight end in 2007 with Mike Ragone. Already this year Weis has secured a commitment from Kyle Randolph – a five star recruit – at tight end and is looking to land another with several highly rated tight ends still heavily considering the Irish.

The fact that Notre Dame is stock piling highly rated recruits at offensive positions like quarterback and tight end, however, should come at no surprise – the Irish are producing NFL ready players at those positions.

The work Charlie Weis has done with Brady Quinn has been remarkable and despite the common belief that Quinn is overrated amongst draft “experts,” Quinn’s success at Notre Dame has brought a lot of the glamour associated with being THE quarterback of the University of Notre Dame. Notre Dame has not had a marquee guy at quarterback since the days of Ron Powlus and Rick Mirer and neither of them exactly set the world on fire once they got to the NFL. In fact if you take a look at the starting quarterbacks Notre Dame has trotted out onto the field since Powlus graduated – it’s a fairly unremarkable list.

Jarious Jackson, Eric Chappell, Arnaz Battle, Gary Godsey, Matt Lovecchio, Carlyle Holiday, Pat Dillingham. Those are the seven quarterbacks who started a game in between the Powlus and Quinn Eras at Notre Dame. Not a horrible list, but certainly not a list that would grab an recruit’s attention.

Some people will over look the significance of this commitment or say that Crist is just one recruit amongst a group that is shaping up to be a rather talented bunch, but this was a very big commitment for the Irish.

Some may argue that securing the commitment of Crist isn’t a big deal because quarterback isn’t a position of need this year for the Irish and to some extent that is true. Quarterback certainly isn’t high on the priority list for Notre Dame. Defensive tackle, linebacker, wide receiver, and offensive line certainly trump quarterback by a significant margin in terms of needs this year in recruiting, but the fact that Weis got a commitment this early from a quarterback this highly rated can’t be overlooked.

Good teams become great teams by stockpiling talent across every position and in recent years Notre Dame hasn’t been able to do that.

This commitment also tells Notre Dame fans very plain and simply what Notre Dame has to do to start attracting players at those positions they do need – produce results on the field. Notre Dame has gotten two top 100 quarterbacks from Southern California to commit before the spring game two years in a row now because quarterbacks want to play in this system.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Notre Dame has had trouble attracting elite defensive talent because the results simply have been there. When two kids from sunny California commit to spending four years in South Bend almost a year before they have kind of makes the whole weather debate people like to point to as a bit silly doesn’t it?

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