How Important is a 5th Star?


The great programs win with line play, a lesson Notre Dame fans learned rather painfully in the BCS National Championship game last month when Alabama gashed its way through the Irish defensive line. While Notre Dame’s defensive front is the best it’s been in many years, Brian Kelly and staff were given a clear example by Nick Saban on how much more work is left to be done to raise the crystal trophy, both on and off the field. The Crimson Tide has secured a Rivals 5-star commitment from defensive end Jonathan Allen, and continued their dominant line push this weekend by hosting 5-star defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes from California. The fact Notre Dame has entered the Vanderdoes sweepstakes illustrates the message was received.

This was to be a light but effective recruiting year for Notre Dame along the defensive front (next year the Irish will likely recruit three-to-four linemen). The Fighting Irish took only two defensive linemen in 2013 in Rivals 3-star Jacob Matuska from Ohio and 4-star Georgia native Isaac Rochell. And while the position may be low in number, it certainly isn’t low in quality. Matuska chose Notre Dame over offers from Michigan, Nebraska and Oklahoma, and Rochell possessed offers from nearly every SEC program, including Alabama. With Vanderdoes’ decision date looming, and uncertainty surrounding his eventual destination, many Irish fans have begun lamenting what a significant blow it would be if the Irish lose out to USC, UCLA or Alabama for his services, given his 5-star status. While securing a commitment from the California native would be a major coup – Vanderdoes’ offer sheet is as lengthy as they come – the actual history of 5-star defensive end recruits is rather uninspired.

Since 2006, there have been 16 Rivals 5-star defensive line recruits.


Eddie Jones, DE, Texas (undrafted)
Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma (1st round, 3rd pick)
Robert Rose, DE, Ohio State (undrafted)
Ricky Sapp, DE, Clemson (5th round)
Brandon Warren, DE, Florida State (In 2012 played his final year of college football at Northern Alabama)
Al Woods, DT, LSU (4th round)


Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina (2nd round)
Torrey Davis, DT, Florida (undrafted)
Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida (2nd round)
Everson Griffen, DE, USC (4th round)
Ben Martin, DE, Tennessee (undrafted)
Martez Wilson, DE, Illinois (3rd round)


Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson (2nd round)
Marcus Forston, DE, Miami (undrafted)
R.J. Washington, DE, Oklahoma (Not on draft boards)
Omar Hunter, DT, Florida (projected 6-7th round)

In 2006, there were six 5-star recruits. Out of those 6, only 3 made the NFL. Eddie Jones and Robert Rose went undrafted, though Rose had a few stints on NFL practice squads and in the CFL. Brandon Warren from Florida State exhausted his final collegiate eligibility this fall at Northern Alabama. Al Woods was drafted in the 4th round by the New Orleans Saints and has been a journeyman in the NFL ever since, and Ricky Sapp, a 5th round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, was just recently bumped up from the Jets’ practice squad. Only Gerald McCoy has been an NFL mainstay, making the Pro Bowl this year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The 5-star recruits from 2007 enjoyed better success, as 4 out of the 6 have moved on to the NFL and are solid contributors, though none have emerged as stars like McCoy. Ben Martin went undrafted and Torrey Davis left the Florida football program after an arrest stemming from a violation of his probation for driving on a suspended license.

The 2008 class had only four 5-star defensive linemen, with many Notre Dame fans likely to recognize the one-time Irish commitment and eventual Florida signee, Omar Hunter. This class was rather anemic in stature. Though Bowers was a 2nd round pick, Forston was undrafted, and R.J. Washington from Oklahoma is not being discussed actively by draft experts. Omar Hunter, according to one NFL draft website, is projected as a 6th or 7th round draft selection.

Overall, out of 16 Rivals 5-star defensive linemen, only 8 have been drafted into the NFL, four of which were 2nd round selections or higher. Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma is the only 1st round selection.

Make no mistake, adding 5-star recruit Eddie Vanderdoes would be a major victory for Notre Dame’s program, but not because he possesses five golden stars next to his name.

You may also like


  1. fxm,

    If only the Steelers can have a draft this year like ND’s recruiting class “Stiller Nation” will be happy!

  2. As much as I hate the “star system” on recruits, the whole idea of a 4 vs. a 5 star, you can’t argue with the fact that according to some of the rankings, ESPN and, Bama has won the title 5 of the last 6 years in the recruit rankings. So, I would just assume be on top of the “experts” list as well.

  3. By the way, I saw Brian Kelly in Carmel, CA on Monday night. He attended a party that I valed cars at. He is playing in this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament. Did he hold his press conference for the 2013 signing day in South Bend?

  4. Jack,

    I really wasn’t pointing at you.

    But you’re right about what it would mean to land Vanderdoes. Forget about the final rankings. Who cares?! Pat is right about getting too caught up about who finishes #1 or #10. The reason getting Vanderdoes is key is for what it means for the future of our D line. We’d have Nix’s heir in place and ready to go. I think Vanderdoes gets a ton of playing time with ND as a freshman. A couple of sources have him as a strong ND lean right now. But who knows.

    Go Irish!

    1. SteelFanRob,

      I know it wasn’t meant at me. JC always busts on me for being a pessimist. I also could care about ratings, but Eddie would boost D-line depth and give a great front seven.

      1. Jack,

        I am truely sorry, Mea Culpa, I will never bust you again on being a pessimist.

        Here come our beloved Irish!

    1. Steelfan,

      I thought when he was the last one he wasn’t going to sign. You were right and now hopefully that D-lineman commits. If he commits to ND this will be the best class they signed since Floyd’s class.

  5. Shaz,


    There are underrated 3 stars and overrated 5 stars. Just like there are All-Pro UFAs and 1st Round NFL Draft busts. None of this is a perfect science. So do we just throw out scouting and rankings altogether? I’m sure you’re not suggesting that.

    The “RKG” approach, if you will, like that of all big-time programs, looks first and foremost at athletic talent. Let’s not kid ourselves about that. Is the kid big, strong, fast? Now, it doesn’t end there. Is the kid smart, hard-working, teachable, etc. BTW: Most ranking services also take into account such intangibles, as well as what system best fits a given prospect. Yes, we’re recruited a few 3 star kids (some have now gotten a 4th star in some services, such as C. Robinson). But BK and his staff has focused on 4-5 star guys. Will they get all of them. No. But that doesn’t mean that BK and his staff has ignored the top ranked players.

    Again, just because a kid is a stud recruit doesn’t mean he’s lazy or a cancer. ND will not recruit those types, bottom line. If they make a mistake, as with A. Lynch or T. Sheprad they’ll let the kid walk. That’s the right thing to do. What ND should never do is fall victim to thinking recruiting is a matter of either character or athletic skill. A matter of taking only hard-working 2-3 stars over equally motivated 4-5 stars. Now, if it comes down to a 3 star athlete with all the intangibles and a 5 star recruit who’s a prima donna, then give me the 3 star player any day of the week.

  6. With attempting to develoup any team, I think it all starts with excellent scouting.

    I know there have been numerous “3 star” players who were graded a bit lower for no other reason than they came from smallers schools, or played against, or in, what is offten percieved as a weaker conference, weaker competition, or a weaker schedule.

    Many of them go on to the NFL and even the Hall of Fame.

    I have also seen numerous “5-star” guys that I wouldn’t give a plug nickle for. Lazy, conceeded, me-first, cry baby’s who couldn’t take a hit and were nothing more than a cancer in the locker room.

    I think Brian Kelly and his staff get it right most of the time with their “RKG’s” approach.

  7. Should’ve said who cares if those 2-3 star recruits aren’t big, strong, fast. After all, what matters is they’re Rah, Rah types. Who cares if they can’t lift or run.

  8. JC,

    Are you sure? According to Patrick, we’re wrong. All we need is a bunch of high character, 2-3 star recruits who really work hard. Who cares if they’re big, strong, fast. ND just needs finesse guys who know their Latin really well.

    To build the kind of team you’re describing, JC, we’ll need a lot of stout athletes. I guess BK is wrong going after all those big-time recruits. What does he know? We have Patrick telling us we’ll be fine without them. We’ll by fine with a bunch of Rah, Rah, types who’ll just try to do their best. Gee, JC, stop being so demanding! Who really wants stud OL and RBs to play smash mouth when we can get some nice young boys from the choir and be just fine?! I don’t know, JC, I wouldn’t want to get big, bad Patrick mad at you. He’ll call you Vinny Cerrato! Doesn’t that scare you to death?

    1. RobbyRobert,

      Only you scare me with your patented antagonistic behavior, coupled with all the sensational embellishments you have in your extensive armamentarium. Hmmm….like fallacious? Hahahaha!

      I guess birds of a feather flock together. Yep, it’s going to be a dynamic year again!

      Here come our beloved Irish!

      1. JC,

        Yep, it’s going to be a very dynamic year. But we’ll try to be less antagonistic ;)!

        How about it, JC? We’re still in on Smash Mouth, back to the future football?

      2. Amen Rob Amen,

        Obsessive focus on “fun depth charts and literary masterpieces are only vaporous abstractions along the way! Hahaha!

        Here come our beloved Irish!

  9. The phenomenally successful efforts of BK building towards a ‘Saban Style Team,’ without question, is paying big rewards in a short period of time. BK hit the obvious nail on the head before the Bama game: “We are going to find out where we are at!” Foreknowing, we were likely not there yet.

    The formative influences of BK’s multidisciplinary approach will indeed lead us to a NEW HYBRID MODEL ‘Saban Style.’ A BALANCED-SMASH-FACE-FOOTBALL-TEAM! ….Ready for a primetime Championship game.

    BK has already demonstrated the propencity to recruit bigger, faster, taller and stronger lineman that will ensure we are still in the BCS conversation this year and beyond.

    As I view it, solid logic embraces all the THUNDEROUSLY CRUSHING BLOWS BAMA DELIVERED TO ND! Therefore, beyond the fun depth charts, BK will seriously develop and emulate Bama’s POWER-RUN-GAME and SPECIAL TEAMS this YEAR! Mark my words, BK is definately a bright guy, just think of the possibilities this year.

    Here come our beloved Irish!

  10. Jaylon Ramsey to FSU, Jaon Hatcher to Kenyucky, Nico Falah to Washington, and Torrodney Prevot to Texas A & M, also rumors of Ty Isaac to ND

  11. The argument is not what happens to these players in the NFL. The point is what happens to teams which have the best recruits. Those that recruit the best consistently win, witness the SEC or USC under Pete Carroll. Back in the day when ND had its pick of the best talent in the country and had no scholarship limits or Title IX restrictions, guess what, it won. It won often and often won big. Why? Because it recruited the best players. Now, were these talented athletes left to their own devices. No! They were also coached up by the likes of Ara, Devine, and Holtz. Again why do we need to continue on either or thinking instead of both and? ND can and should BOTH recruit the best talent AND then coach that talent up when it gets to S. Bend. I have faith in BK that he’s doing both and doing both well. I trust that in a few years BK will make some here see the error of their either or thinking when both recruiting and coaching lead us to the NC. As for smash mouth football, some of us here have been calling for some version of it for some time. O fads like the Pistol or the Spread may come and go, but old-time smash mouth football will never go out of style.

  12. The number of stars plays some role, but it is not the end-all be-all in recruiting. I live in Penn State country and PSU’s defensive coaches have always been excellent at recruiting for needs and developing their defense (esp. with linebackers). Getting a class of 4 and 5 stars is important, I think, to the future success of ND against the likes of Alabama. But you have to have the coaching staff to develop that talent. I think Kelly’s staff is up to the challenge, personally.

    Kelly’s staff has done a good job recruiting this year. He is not just recruiting skill and needs, but size too. You have to get big kids on the OL and DL if you are going to win national championships. Oregon’s offense may be exciting to watch, but at the end of the day, it’s good old fashioned smash mouth football that wins the crystal trophy. And you need size to play smash mouth. I think Kelly has gotten that message loud and clear.

  13. Some people are just irremediably naive, not to mention ungracious. You just can’t help the delusional and ill-informed.

    How many titles has the SEC won now? How many of those titles were won with classes full of 2 and 3 star players? Easy enough questions to answer.

    How about we dig a little deeper and wider and not just look at DL or OL or LBs or CBs. What about a holistic approach that looks at overall recruiting classes and then compares them with on-field success over the last 7 years (corresponding to the the SEC reign of terror).

    1. Actually, if you look at how both Notre Dame and Alabama’s defensive lines ranked coming out of high school, ND’s starting defensive line was more highly ranked than Alabama’s. Just a “for what it’s worth.”

      While it’s no doubt better to have a more highly-ranked player, there is enough evidence to show rankings are just a glimpse into potential. Look at the rankings above: 16 5-star defensive linemen and only 4 ended up going in the 2nd round or higher. Half didn’t even make the NFL. There are other variables (player development, desire, scheme, maturity, etc) that are far more pressing than what star is next to a player’s name.

    2. Scott, great post. I can’t wait to read SteelFanRobs, errr, I mean Vinny Cerrato’s, reply to the facts of “star ranking” vs ultimate development.

      1. One last time, Pat, since you seem not to able to get it through your thick skull, I don’t see the issue as a matter of “rankings” versus “player development.” I see it as both recruiting the best talent possible and then developing that talent. It’s a lot easier to take a bunch of 4 and 5 star recruits (who also meet the other criteria to play at ND) and build a powerhouse team than it is to try to do that with 2 and 3 star recruits. (Ask Ty Willingham about the latter strategy?)

        Since you seem to know everything (although you hypocritically accuse others of that) how many times has a dynasty been built with 2 and 3 star recruits? Let’s just look at Alabama. How many titles have they won of late? How many top 5 recruiting classes have they had during that time? Did you see Saban on ESPN U today? He may not be you, Patrick, in terms of his football acumen, but he talked about how important it was to recruit the best talent available. Does Saban mean to suggest that coaching isn’t important? Of course not! But unlike Patrick, he also recognizes that great players make a coaches job easier.

        Now, Patrick, rather than resort to your usual brand of passive-aggressive name calling, why not make a factual statement for a change. Here’s my challenge to you. Compare the top SEC teams’ latest recruiting classes (say the last 7 years)and then compare the final BCS standings over the same time. If you see no connections then I’ll concede your points.

        BTW: You are also a very ungracious person, Patrick. I’ve repeatedly tried to give you credit on a few things in the spirit of good will so we can move on and yet you insist on resorting to personal insults. Speaks volumes as to your character.

  14. PPPlllleeeeasssseeee! There most definitley is a strong correlation between recruiting rankings and eventual success in the final BCS rankings. Development, both on and off the field, along the way clearly is important, as is hunger, discipline, drive, etc. A 5 star typically has the immedidate physical tools, to perform at the BCS level, and I’d much rather see Kelly and staff trying to develop a kid with all the tools than recruiting a bunch of projects. Anyone thinking ND is going to get back to prominence; however, with recruiting classes outside the top 10 is naive.

    1. westcoastirishfan,

      You’re a reasonable man. You clearly aren’t the victim of fallacious either or logic some here seem incapable of overcoming.

      I’d say ND needs to recruit to 5 classes and not just top 10.

  15. Hold on a second, so you’re telling me that even though a recruit is rated a 5-Star, he isn’t guaranteed All-America status, a first round NFL draft choice, and Super Bowl Champion within 3 years?

    That goes against the propaganda I hear from some on here. And considering their impressive trophy cases, littered with AP National Titles, #1 recruiting classes, conference championships, and bowl games wins, I must respectfully disagree. 5 Star status means everything. It cures all, including hunger, poverty and rainy days.

    Sarcasm aside, thanks Scott, for posting some cold, hard facts that a “star rating” doesn’t guarantee a damn thing. It looks good on paper, but I’ll repeat again (for the bandwagon star-rating gazers), development trumps rating every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

  16. I agree with your assessment. DL much like OL dominate in High school which makes the look a lot better. You have to have potential to grow as an OL/DL and they must project well into your system for them to succeed

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button