After not being able to pull off any upsets during their atrocious 3-9 season, Notre Dame and Charlie Weis pulled off a huge one in the off-season: The nation’s #1 recruiting class, and the best collection of talent coming to South Bend since the early 90’s.
Being heralded as “Charlie’s Angels,” this class features a great deal of talent on both sides of the ball and in many positions of need for the Irish. They are also already an incredibly tight group of friends, who all motivated to come in and turn around the program.
Below is an overview of 23 incoming freshman (may end up as 24, depending on where 4-star RB Milton Knox decides). I have ordered them by their combined rankings through the 3 most popular recruiting sources (rivals.com, scout.com and CSTV’s Tom Lemming). The stars represent their highest rating from any of the 3 sources, and I’ve noted if they were Top 100. For those unfamiliar with recruiting, here is my explanation of the star rankings from a previous post about how Ty Willingham set the program back years with his recruiting.
5-star: Elite talent, usually only 30 make this grade. Potential game-changer and likely NFL prospect
4-star: Top or near top in their state. Top 10-15 in their position in the country. Quality starter for a high-end program, huge get for a lower-end program.
3-star: Quality player, likely to go to a school like Michigan State, Purdue, Oregon St., etc…
2-star: Happy to get an offer from a D-I school
1. Michael Floyd, WR – #13 overall in the country by Tom Lemming, Army All-American
Was the only Junior on Tom Lemming’s AA team last year. 2-time MN Player of the Year. Parade All-American. USA Today All-American. A top-3 WR in the country and an potential game-breaker. In the Army All-American H.S. Game, he was the best receiver on the field, catching 4 passes for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns. His body control, hands, and deceptive quickness have many comparing him to Larry Fitzgerald. I will be very surprised if he does not see the field as a freshman.
2. Kyle Rudolph, TE – #19 overall in the country by Lemming, Army All-American
The #1 TE prospect in the country, hands down. USA Today All-American. Rudolph is 6’7” and has incredible athleticism and hands for someone his size. May not contribute this year, but based on scouting reports, he may be the best TE in the country by his senior year.
3. Dayne Crist, QB – #8 overall in the country by Lemming, Army All-American
Parade All-American. For the second straight year, Charlie Weis picked the best QB in California right out from under Pete Carroll and USC. Crist was the starting QB and was named Captain of the West team in the Army All-American Bowl. He is as good a prospect as Jimmy Clausen was last year. He is actually bigger and has stronger arm than Clausen, but is not quite as accurate. Expect him to redshirt and become the QB once Clausen graduates.
4. Ethan Johnson, DE – #32 overall by Rivals.com, Army All-American
Widely considered to be the best prospect in the Pacific Northwest, Johnson is ranked as the 2nd strongest DE in the country. He is known for his high energy and relentless pursuit. Add that to his considerable talent and potential, and he could be a star in the 3-4. And like many ND recruits, he’s a very bright kid:
“‘If you’re killing on the football field but none of your football players are graduating, why do I want to go to that school?” said Johnson, who for the past two summers interned at the Portland law firm Stahancyk, Kent, Johnson & Hook. “It’s a school. You go ’cause you want to get an education first.”At Michigan, he found out there was one other player in the business program. “And he was the punter,” Johnson said, laughing. “Is there anything else I can say about that?”‘
5. Darius Fleming, LB – #31 overall by Lemming, Army All-American
Next to Michael Floyd, this is the recruit I am most excited about in this class. He is perfectly suited to play the OLB/DE spot in the 3-4 defense and has the skills to be a true play-maker for our defense. He also improved throughout the year and seemed to rise up the rankings every time they were updated. Like Floyd, he may see the field next year.
6. Trevor Robinson, OG – #37 overall by Rivals.com, Army All-American
USA Today All-American. Punishing, physical offensive guard that dominated in the all-star games. Many believe he in the best OG prospect in the country, and considering how our OL played last year, he’s a very important addition. Great run-blocker and very strong.
7. Steve Filer, LB – #35 overall by Lemming, Army All-American
Parade All-American. Filer was one the first players targeted by the Irish staff, and that is always a good indicator of how important they think a player is. Another good indicator is when you are named Illinois’ player of the year. Filer is an elite athlete who has great instincts and is always around the ball.
8. Deion Walker, WR – #58 overall by Scout.com, Under-Armor All-American
All year, Walker was rated as a 5-star player by Rivals, Scout and Lemming. However, injuries kept him out of the all-star games, and allowed some other players who were able to play, to pass him. It’s not that he lost the star, it’s that other earned it. Doesn’t matter though, losing the 5th star doesn’t change the fact that this kid is fast, really, really fast.
9. Jonas Gray, RB – #72 overall by Rivals.com, Army All-American
Parade All-American. Big, physical back with moves, Gray joins a very talented, but unproven ND backfield. You can never get enough running backs with his type of ability. Was limited during the Army All-American Bowl due to injury.
10. Sean Cwynar, DE – #96 overall by Lemming, Army All-American
Notre Dame fans will love Cwynar. No one, and I mean, no one will outwork him. His incredible effort might get him in the DE rotation as early as this year.
11. Robert Blanton, DB – #90 overall by Lemming, Army All-American
Good corner/safety prospect who showed during the Army Bowl that he could hang with the best receivers in the country.
12. Jamoris Slaughter, DB – Under-Armor All-American
Don’t even try to think of a better name for a Safety, because you won’t be able to. Comes from Georgia, and the in-state Bulldogs were sorry to see him go. He and Blanton added to ND’s recruiting haul from the last couple years will make for an elite defensive backfield.
13. Braxston Cave, OL – Under-Armor All-American
The biggest contribution Cave may have made to this class was hosting so many recruits in his nearby home. Without him, I don’t think this class would be as tightly knit as it is. On the football field, he is the strongest player in the class with a 400+ bench, and really impressed scouts with his all-star game performances.
14. Anthony McDonald, LB – Army All-American
Anthony’s dad, Mike, played at USC and then in the NFL. Thankfully, his USC-ties didn’t factor in his decision as he chose the Irish over the Trojans. McDonald was strong and quick enough that he also played OT for one of the best teams in California.
15. Dan McCarthy, S –
Brother of current Irish safety Kyle McCarthy, Dan picked the Irish over Ohio State. He is very, very fast and compares to NFL-prospect Tom Zbikowski. Was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Ohio. He recently had neck surgery and may or may not play football this year.
16. Joseph Fauria, TE –
You think that Kyle Rudolph is a tall TE prospect? Well, he’s still looking
an inch up at 6’8” Joseph Fauria. Joseph is the nephew of former NFL TE Christian Fauria.
17. Brandon Newman, NT- Army All-American
There may not be a more important recruit in this class than Newman. He is a HUGE NT, and having a dominant player in that position is critical for the 3-4. He was a 3-star player most of the year, but played very well at the Army Bowl and showed that he is much more than a big body. He also has a phenomenal personality and it’s worth tracking down some interviews with him.
18. Lane Clelland, OT – #99 overall by Lemming, Army All-American
Was ranked in many top-100’s during the year because of his excellent technique. However, at the all-star games, it was apparent he needs to put on some bulk before he can compete at the next level. He’s got the frame for it, and it’s a lot easier to add weight than learn the position.
19. Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE-
At 6’4”, 240, Lewis-Moore is a great physical specimen. He is very raw, but could be very, very good with some quality coaching. Initially committed to Texas A&M, but when he woke up the next morning, he called Weis and asked if his scholarship was still available.
20. John Goodman, WR – Army All-American
John Goodman is not the 20th best player in this class, but Rivals dropped him to a 3-star, so for the purpose of these rankings, he is. Why is it so puzzling that Rivals would drop him? Well, they did so right after the Army Bowl where EVERY trick play ran by the East relied on Goodman’s athleticism, and he also caught a TD pass. Go figure. He is one of the best “after-the-catch” receivers in the country.
21. David Posluszny, LB –
It is REALLY saying something that we have to get to the 21st player in this class to find the first player without a 4-star rating. And it’s saying even more that that player happens to be the younger brother of former 3-star prospect and 2-time national defensive player of the year, Paul Posluszny.
22. Mike Golic Jr., OL – Army All-American
Not bad when one of your 3-star prospects in the starting center in the Army All-American Bowl. Yes, this is Mike Golic’s son. His other son, Jake, is a TE prospect for ’09.
23. Hafis Williams, NT –
At 6’3”, 285 lbs, Hafis is a big kid at a position of need. There really isn’t a
whole lot of tape of him, so he comes in as kind of a mystery. However, I’ll take as many 3-star NT as we can get our hands on.
This class gives Notre Dame alums, and subway-alums, a-lot to be excited for in the upcoming years. The turn around will not be immediate and I anticipate some growing pains in 2008. But the elite athletes are making their way back to South Bend, after a couple years of wondering the country. Hopefully, and “hope” is all a sports fan needs, this is the start of something big.
Class Stats, Courtesy of UND.com
Among the 23 players are:
- Four members of the Parade prep All-America team – quarterback Dayne Crist, linebacker Steve Filer, wide receiver Michael Floyd and running back Jonas Gray.
- Five players who received All-America accolades from USA Today – first-team selections Robinson, Floyd and tight end Kyle Rudolph, plus second-team picks Filer and defensive back Dan McCarthy.
- Eleven players rated among the top 100 nationally by CSTV and Tom Lemming – Crist (eighth), Floyd (13th), Rudolph (19th), linebacker Darius Fleming (31st), Filer (35th), defensive lineman Ethan Johnson (51st), Robinson (64th), wide receiver Deion Walker (76th), Cwynar (86th), defensive back Robert Blanton (90th) and offensive lineman Lane Clelland (99th).
- Seven players rated among the top 100 nationally by Rivals.com – Rudolph (20th), Crist (25th), Floyd (27th), Johnson (32nd), Robinson (37th), Gray (72nd) and Fleming (89th).
- Seven players rated among the top 100 nationally by Scout.com – Floyd (16th), Rudolph (21st), Crist (45th), Johnson (49th), Fleming (56th), Walker (58th) and Filer (72nd).
- Seven players rated among the top 100 nationally by Sports Illustrated/TAKKLE.com – Walker (22nd), Rudolph (23rd), Filer (24th), Johnson (26th), Floyd (28th), Crist (45th) and linebacker Anthony McDonald (68th).
- Ten players rated among the top 150 nationally on the ESPN 150 list – Crist (22nd), Floyd (29th), Johnson (82nd), defensive back Jamoris Slaughter (86th), Gray (89th), Fleming (94th), Walker (103rd), Rudolph (105th), Filer (115th) and offensive lineman Braxston Cave (125th).
- Eight players named to the EA Sports All-American Team – Filer and Floyd (both first-team picks), Robinson (second team), Crist, Goodman, Gray, McCarthy and Rudolph (all third-team selections).
- Fifteen players selected for the U.S. Army All-America Bowl in San Antonio last month -defensive back Robert Blanton, Clelland, Crist, Cwynar, Filer, Fleming, Floyd, offensive lineman Mike Golic, wide receiver John Goodman, Gray, Johnson, McDonald, defensive lineman Brandon Newman, Robinson and Rudolph.
- Three players selected for the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando last month – Cave, Slaughter and Walker.
- Seven players named to Detroit Free Press Best in the Midwest team – Rudolph (second), Floyd (third), Filer (seventh), Gray (13th), Fleming (17th), Cwynar (18th) and Goodman (20th).
- Three players named Gatorade Player of the Year in thier home states – Filer (Illinois), Floyd (Minnesota), McCarthy (Ohio).