Gray Commit Huge for Notre Dame Defensive Backfield

( – With the blowout loss to Michigan this past weekend, comparisons to Willingham’s second year were bound to come up.  People will point out that Weis, like Willingham, is now just 11-4 after 15 games on the sidelines.  The commitment of Gary Gray on Monday, however, shows just how different a place the Notre Dame program is now than it was in 2003 during Willingham’s second season.

Willingham, like Weis, had a great recruiting class after his first full season.  Willingham had just finished the season 10-3 and brought in a class that included names like Quinn, Samardzija, Zbikowski, Abiamiri, etc.  Ty could not follow up that first class with another strong class after the Irish stumbled out of the start block in 2003.

On the other hand, Weis is flourishing in his second year in the recruiting department despite suffering a rather humbling home loss to Michigan this past weekend.

Gary Gray, a five star recruit according to, was on hand for the beating the Irish took this weekend, but still committed to the Irish during his visit which is a testament to Weis and his staff’s ability to recruit.

The last few years Notre Dame’s inability to stop the passing game has been well documented and discussed ad nauseum.  It appeared as though the Irish were turning the corner in this department after two games this year, but then Michigan wide out Mario Manningham torched the Irish secondary for three touchdowns and all of a sudden, the Notre Dame secondary is under intense scrutiny again.

Last year Charlie Weis signed a pair of lock down corners in Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil.  Walls has already seen plenty of action this year and will most likely continue to see more time as the season progresses.  Gray, like Walls and McNeil, is an elite cover corner prospect and will join this year’s freshman duo to give the Irish a set of corners unlike any other they’ve had in years.

Getting a commitment from a prospect like Gray is huge for the Irish because of the difficulty Notre Dame has had recruiting skill position players in the past.  With Gray on board, the Irish will have at least three top notch corner prospects on the roster for next year in the freshman and sophomore classes.

One off the major differences between Notre Dame and the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, Auburn, etc right now is depth.  The Irish are thin at a lot of positions which makes this recruiting class critical for Weis and his staff.  Take a look at the USC roster and see how they stockpile blue-chip recruits and its easy to see how they have fallen off very little after all the talent they lost after last year.

Being able to get a five starter recruit to commit after a disappointing loss such as the one Notre Dame suffered Saturday is something the two regimes had trouble doing.  Both Davie and Willingham didn’t have much trouble recruiting when they won, they had trouble, however, recruiting when they lost.

Weis is starting to fill the cupboards back up, cupboards that were a bit bare when he took over.  He has done an excellent job coaching the talent he has, but games like the  Michigan loss show us just how important having depth at all positions is.

There is still a lot of work to be done, both on the field and on the recruiting trail, but commitments from prospects like Gray are a clear sign that despite the disappointing loss this past weekend, Weis definitely has this program headed in the right direction.  The Irish still need to get some help at wide receiver, linebacker, and along the lines in this class, but so far, so good.

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