National Signing Day is less than a week away, and with recruits making last minute pledges or undergoing changes of heart, fans are left with the annual question: do recruiting rankings matter? Talent evaluation is a subjective game, and with recruiting becoming big business, numerous outlets exist with different opinions and star rankings for the next generation of college players. The yearly debate has been exacerbated by a recent report that both the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks have more two-star recruits on their Super Bowl squads than four and five-stars, though the USA Today provided excellent context to such a finding.
Speculation isn’t a spectator’s sport, so why not roll up our sleeves and reach through the muck to find the recruits who saw their stock rise the most in the Notre Dame in the Class of 2014.
There is a litany of contenders. Deshone Kizer’s performance at the Elite 11 saw his rankings increase. Corey Holmes and Sam Mustipher made late pushes in some services as well. While all the aforementioned are excellent candidates, the recruits whose stock rose the most over the year are covered below.
- Position: Wide Receiver
- Vitals: 6’1”, 196 lbs
- Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Best Offers: Louisville, N/A
Justin Brent committed to Notre Dame on July 9th, 2012, a full 18 months before officially enrolling this month as an early entrant. Though given a four-star ranking by Rivals, little was known of Brent other than the fact he was given four-star status with very few listed offers (Rivals, to date, still only has Brent listed as having offers from Notre Dame and Louisville).
The initial feeling was Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly has snagged a local recruit with his heart set on staying close to home. That opinion was erased during the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Chicago this past summer when Brent separated himself from the competition. Brent then went on to make the Dream Team at Nike’s The Opening in July.
“Among the top talent in the country, Brent’s athleticism, speed and attention to detail allowed him to create space and become a favorite target of the quarterbacks in Chicago,” said Josh Helmholdt, Rivals.com Midwest analyst.
Brent’s showing at camp circuits saw him climb over 100 spots on the Rivals rankings before finally settling as the 84th best high school player in the country in the Class of 2014.
- Position: Tight End
- Vitals: 6’5”, 230 lbs
- Hometown: Midlothian, Illinois
- Best Offers: Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma
When Nic Weishar committed to Notre Dame in April of 2013, Kelly and staff landed a big bodied Rivals three-star athlete with a strong offer sheet. Weishar fell more into the long term project mold than a freshman with instant impact ability – a nice supplemental piece while the Irish coaching staff continued to chase blue chip tight end and eventual Notre Dame verbal, Tyler Luatua.
Weishar has since changed that misperception.
Weishar’s high school, Marist, began to give him more wide receiver looks, which has paid major dividends. Weishar was able to haul in 11 receptions for 142 yards and three touchdowns with Rivals recruiting analysts in attendance, a display that did not go unrewarded when Weishar earned his fourth-star in December. His production continued into the Army All-America Bowl with a strong and impressive week of practice.
Weishar has transitioned from a provider of depth to a potential candidate to continue Notre Dame’s status as Tight End U.
- Position: Defensive End
- Vitals: 6’5”, 249 lbs
- Hometown: Demarest, New Jersey
- Best Offers: Florida, Florida State, Miami
Andrew Trumbetti is in the same category as Justin Brent and Nic Weishar with one major exception: while Brent and Weishar were rewarded with a bump in their recruiting positions, Trumbetti has remained a three-star on Rivals. The real question is why.
Trumbetti’s three-star status certainly isn’t for a lack of elite offers, which include reigning national champions, Florida State. The Florida Gators pushed hard for Trumbetti’s commitment before ultimately falling short when Andrew committed to Notre Dame, his favorite program as a child.
Perhaps the fourth-star snub was due to Andrew having played on a high school squad that endured a rough season, lowering his recruiting profile. Demarest High School is a participant of the Big North Conference, home of national powerhouses Don Bosco Prep and Paramus, and they struggle to compete given their smaller size.
It’s also possible Trumbetti stayed at the three-star mark due to questions about his size, with one Rivals analyst speculating his stature to be closer to 6’3” than his listed 6’5” frame. Whatever the reason may be, doubts as to his ability melted away in the Orlando sunshine at the Under Armour All-America game. Trumbetti more than held his own, winning the Under Armour All-America Game Lineman Challenge by defeating some of the nation’s very best.
The stellar showings from under-the-radar recruits Justin Brent, Nic Weishar and Andrew Trumbetti are highlighting Brian Kelly and staff’s ability to spot talent and establish important relationships ahead of the competition.
Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, as well as appeared on MSNBC as a sports contributor. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24 hours a day. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.