2008 Recruiting Perspective: An Overview of 20 Years of Notre Dame Recruiting

There’s been quite a bit of debate over the last few weeks about whether or not this recruiting class that Notre Dame is assembling will end up ranking amongst some of the best recruiting classes in Notre Dame history. With the help of Chris94 from the football board, I have come up with this post comparing the last 20 recruiting classes using the USA Today and Parade All Americans. Granted, these teams are not necessarily the best comparison, but in looking at them we can get a very general idea of how talented each class has been perceived to be.

Recruiting Class Comparisons

’88 ’89 ’90 ’91 ’92 ’93 ’94 ’95 ’96 ’97 ’98 ’99 ’00 ’01 ’02 ’03 ’04 ’05 ’06 ’07
USA Today 2 4 3 2 3 4 0 5 2 2 2 4 1 1 2 5 0 0 6 3
Parade Magazine 5 5 5 2 1 3 0 6 3 2 4 3 2 3 1 2 1 0 5 2
TOTAL 7 9 8 4 4 7 0 11 5 4 6 7 3 4 3 7 1 0 11 5

In looking at these last 20 classes, a few years obviously stick out – mainly 1989, 1990, 1995, and 2006 when Notre Dame signees occupied at least 8 combined spots on these two All American teams so for the sake of this post, we’ll take a closer look at those four classes.


1989 All Americans

USA Today Parade
Rick Mirer (QB) Rick Mirer (QB)
Craig Hentrich (P/K) Dorsey Levens (RB)
Stuart Tyner (OL) Irv Smith (TE)
Chet Lacheta (OL) Nick Smith (LB/DE)
Craig Hentrich (K/P)

Lou Holtz brought in a total of nine USA Today and Parade All Americans, represented by seven different prospects – Rick Mirer, Irv Smith, Craig Hentrich, Stuart Tyner, Chet Lacheta, Dorsey Levens, and Nick Smith. Of those seven signees, four of them would end up to have varying levels of success in the NFL. Mirer was a three year starter for Notre Dame and was a Heisman candidate in 1991 and 1992, but never made it close enough in the voting to be invited to the Downtown Athletic Club. He would, however, be drafted #2 overall by the Seahawks and went on the win the offensive rookie of the year honors in the AFC. Mirer’s success was short lived in the NFL and he spent most of his career as a journeyman quarterback who held onto a clipboard more often than a football.

Irv Smith was a first round pick of the Saints in 1993 and had a fairly productive NFL career. Craig Hentrich was one of the best punters in the NFL during the 90’s and ended up going to to the Pro Bowl twice in his career. Dorsey Levens, who ended up transferring to Georgia Tech, also found Pro Bowl success in the NFL.

Not listed amongst the All Americans are Reggie Brooks, Demetrius DuBose, and Junior Bryant who also all went on to have productive NFL careers.


1990 All Americans

USA Today Parade
Aaron Taylor Jeff Burris
Mike McGlinn Bryant Young
Oliver Gibson Oliver Gibson
Jerome Bettis
Jim Flannigan

This class is generally considered, along with the 1995 class to be one of the last truly great Notre Dame recruiting classes. This was the senior class for the 1993 team that was simply loaded with talent. There were eight All Americans represented by seven different signees in this class amongst the two teams. What really jumps out, however, is that two potential NFL Hall of Fame members were part of the same class for Notre Dame in 1990 in Jerome Bettis and Bryant Young.

Bettis finished his professional career as the fifth leading rusher in NFL history and went two six Pro Bowls during his 13 years in the league. Young has also quietly put together a Hall of Fame worthy career with four trips to the Pro Bowl as well as being named to the NFL All 1990’s Team by the voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On top of Young and Bettis, Jeff Burris, Aaron Taylor, Mike McGlinn, Oliver Gibson, and Jim Flannigan were also represented between the Parade and USA teams. All but McGlinn went on to have successful NFL careers.

Not listed amongst the All Americans are the likes of Pete Berrich, Willie Clark, Greg Lane, Lake Dawson, Anthony Peterson, and Tim Ruddy giving Notre Dame 12 players in this class who at least had a cup of coffee in the NFL. Duplicating the mass of talent that comprised this class is going to be extremely difficult when you consider that 1/2 of the class would need to make it to the NFL.


1995 All Americans

USA Today Parade
Jimmy Friday Jimmy Friday
Kory Minor Kory Minor
Tim Ridder Tim Ridder
Mike Rosenthal Mike Rosenthal
Jerry Wisne Jerry Wisne
Autry Denson

This 1995 class is the pretty much the epitome of the era of under utilized talent known as the tenure of Bob Davie. Five players (Jimmy Friday, Kory Minor, Tim Ridder, Mike Rosenthal, Jerry Wisne) were listed on both the USA Today and Parade teams and a sixth (Autry Denson) was listed on the Parade team. Despite the talent, this group produced just one steady NFL player – Rosenthal. Quite a few prospects in this class ended up having very brief stints in the NFL, but nothing worth mentioning really.

A lot of these guys cracked the line up early such as Kory Minor who started as a freshman, but never really improved much from there. Denson, the most successful recruit in the class, is the leading rusher in Notre Dame history, but despite holding that accolade most observers do not think of Denson when considering the great running backs that have played for the Irish.

Bob Davie’s five seasons as head coach of Notre Dame served as a career grave yard for a lot of high school All Americans and this class may be the epitome of that. While Lou Holtz is credited with recruiting this class, he only served as their coach for just the 1995 and 1996 seasons while Davie had them for 1997 and 1998. Furthermore, Davie was the defensive coordinator for Minor and Friday during Holtz’s last two years as well.


2006 All Americans

USA Today Parade
Chris Stewart James Aldridge
Konrad Reuland Konrad Reuland
Sam Young Sam Young
Darrin Walls Matt Carufel
Toryan Smith Demetrius Jones
Matt Carufel

Charlie Weis’s first full recruiting class at Notre Dame produced 11 All Americans between Parade and USA Today from eight different players – Chris Stewart, Konrad Reuland, Sam Young, Darrin Walls, Toryan Smith, James Aldridge, Demetrius Jones, and Matt Carufel.

This class is just starting to make its impact felt at Notre Dame, but already its starting to seem like this class could end up producing quite a few college stars as well as its fair share of NFL players. As true sophomores in 2007, the eight players listed in these two All American classes should all be at least second on the depth chart at their respective positions and several could earn starting roles.

Jones could end up as the starting quarterback for the Irish while Carufel is a likely candidate to take over one of the open guard positions along the offensive line. Sam Young already spent his entire freshman season as a starter at right tackle for the Irish and will stay there this year. Smith should also challenge Joe Brockington for the remaining inside linebacker spot next to Maurice Crum.


This brings us to this year’s recruiting class which could certainly challenge any of these classes in the number of All American accolades, but in order to match the success of the class of 1990, some of these talented prospects are going to have to achieve greatness on both the college and professional levels.

In looking at the current commitments Notre Dame has gained, certainly there are a number of players who could find their names on either the Parade or USA Today team this year. Ethan Johnson, Kyle Rudolph, Omar Hunter, Anthony McDonald, Darius Flemming, Dayne Crist, Sean Cywnar, Robert Blanton, Jamoris Slaughter,Lane Clelland, and Dan McCarthy come to mind as likely All American candidates. Throw in names like Michael Floyd, Trevor Robinson, Steve Filer, Etienne Sabino, and Marcus Fortson – all of whom Notre Dame is still very actively recruiting – and its conceivable that at least on paper this year’s class could be on par or better than any in the last 20 years. As we’ve seen by looking at the other four classes, however, it will be a long time until we can really tell just how good this class truly is.

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  1. TNIRISH – I agree Denson was all heart, but I bet if you ask Notre Dame fans to rank the following ND running backs – Reggie Brooks, Julius Jones, Jerome Bettis, and Autry Denson – Denson would come up 4th on the majority of those rankings (and yes Im aware Betties played mostly fullback).

    My point is, Denson ranks as the all time leader in rushing mainly because he was a 3 1/2 year starter. Had Jones or Brooks had the same opportunity, they would have very likely gained as many yards as Denson.

  2. Frank – I like the report but I find it hard to believe that most fans do not think of Autry Denson as one of the greatest running backs in ND history. The game at Texas I really feel that he willed us to win and was one of the few bright spots in the Davie era.

    I will always fondly remember him.

  3. Thanks Dixie, I was thinking of Smith played for the 49ers at the end of his career. It’s fixed now.

  4. Frank,
    Once quick correction for you: Irv Smith was drafted in the first round of the 1993 draft by the New Orleans Saints, not the San Francisco 49ers

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