Signing day has come and gone, leaving a clearer picture of the 2009 recruiting class for the Fighting Irish. Head coach Charlie Weis and his staff reeled in the 20th-ranked class according to Rivals, and 24th-ranked class as judged by Scout. The writing staff here at ClashmoreMike.com weighs in on each recruit.
OG, 6'3", 275 pounds
7th ranked OG by Scout (four stars, No. 171 overall)
15th ranked OG by Rivals (four stars)
Jon: Alex Bullard has nice size for a high school lineman. Because he is extremely fast off the line of scrimmage, he often catches his assignment off guard with his speed and pushes them into the second and third level of the defense. However, Bullard will be facing much stronger and faster competition at the college level, which will force Bullard to not only bulk up, but keep his speed and enhance his technique. If he is able to do this, he could make a nice addition to the already populous stable of offensive linemen.
Andy: Bullard has nice size and good footwork, which should help him acclimate to the college game much more quickly than your typical incoming freshman lineman. As discussed elsewhere, his pass-blocking and technique will need some work. A very solid pickup for the Irish, Bullard should become a good option after being introduced to the speed and athleticism of the college game.
Anthony: Alex Bullard has excellent mobility and athleticism for an offensive lineman. He uses his hands well and excels at engaging linebackers at the second level. His technique can be sloppy, and will need to improve as he will inevitably face better opponents at the next level. Perhaps the weakest part of Bullard's game is pass blocking, but with his agility and hands, he should be able to develop this area of his game nicely.
TE, 6'6", 220 pounds
25th ranked TE by Scout (3 stars)
24th ranked TE by Rivals (3 stars)
Jon: Being listed at 6'6" and 220 pounds makes Eifert look much more like a wide receiver. However, for his size, he moves very well, posing a problem for opposing defenses who don't account for him as a downfield threat. Look for Eifert to put on more weight and muscle in the weight room.
He reminds me of Kyle Rudolph with his ability to catch on the run and his height gives him the ability to fare well in jump-ball situations, especially in the red zone. I don't expect Eifert to make a push for playing time his freshman year for two reasons. First, he has a long way to go to get his body in a condition to play college football. Finally, because of Ragone's injury last season, Kyle Rudolph got the bulk of playing time and I expect him to fall into the No. 1 TE spot this year again. With Ragone coming back and Fauria getting some experience, that leaves little room for another TE. However, if Weis does need to call on another TE this season, count of Eifert to get the nod over Golic.
Andy: Tyler Eifert's size is certainly a concern and I would expect Coaches Weis and Mendoza to get started on that immediately. With a fair amount of work in the weight room, I could see Eifert getting a bit of playing time down the stretch depending on the progress Ragone and Fauria make in the off-season. There certainly is room for Eifert to break into the two tight end sets that Weis is so fond of calling, with Ragone's injury and Fauria's rather lackluster play thus far.
Anthony: Right now Eifert looks a lot like current tight end Kyle Rudolph, but doesn't bring the same athleticism. He isn't ready to play major college football (questionable competition at Bishop DeWenger), but he does have a big frame that can put on weight and could become a versatile tight end for Notre Dame with some time in the weight room. Eifert moves well for his size and excels at catching the ball at its highest point, giving him the potential to be a big-time red zone weapon. His ball skills and hands are solid, the test for Eifert will be developing more size to become a more complete player.
TE, 6'4", 212 pounds
54th ranked TE by Scout (3 stars)
Unranked TE by Rivals (2 stars)
Jon: Because of Golic's relatively early verbal to Notre Dame, some might contend that his offer was a courtesy, given his family's previous involvement with Notre Dame. I tend to agree. Unless Charlie Weis sees some sliver of potential with Golic, I can't see him making much of an impact on a regular basis for Notre Dame. He is much smaller than Eifert and needs to add some muscle and weight in the weight room if he wants to play TE in college. He does have decent hands, but not better than Eifert or our current receiving TE's. I expect Golic to make his impact on the scout teams and possibly on special teams.
Andy: The family connections notwithstanding, one thing that has been proven time and time again is that ranking high school players based on projected college impact is more mystery than science. While Golic isn't coming into Notre Dame with the most impressive resume, he certainly has a supportive and knowledgeable family behind him that will be pushing him to excel at all times. Golic remains a rather large project, but could make an impact on special teams where so much of success depends on intangibles like intensity and ball-hawking.
Anthony: Golic is perhaps the biggest project of this class. He needs to gain size, speed, and strength in order to contribute at the college level. While Golic does have the intangibles, I don't anticipate him being a strong contributor for the Irish.
OT, 6'5", 270 pounds
22nd ranked OT by Scout (4 stars)
24th ranked OT by Rivals (3 stars)
Jon: The thing I like about Martin is his intensity. He doesn't ever take a play off, which is key for an offensive tackle. However, sometimes his high motor works against him as he tends to over-pursue his defenders. Adding size to his frame while keeping his speed and intensity will be key to Martin's ability to translate well into college football. Honing his technique will keep him from missing blocks and put him in good position to contribute later on in his time at Notre Dame.
Andy: Another great offensive line pickup in this class, Zach Martin will again need to add some weight and strength to contribute effectively. One has to appreciate his tenacity and work ethic. The return to smash-mouth football seems much more likely with this recent crop of athletic linemen and Martin is one to watch as he blossoms into a solid contributor.
Anthony: Like the other offensive line recruits in this class, Martin has excellent athleticism. He stays low off the ball, utilizes great leverage, and plays with a high motor. He does a good job with hand position and engages defenders well. About the only knock on Martin is his strength. While he does engage well, he doesn't dominate the more physical defenders. Martin will need to add some weight and strength to contribute at the next level but certainly has the feet to play the tackle position.
RB, 5'10", 185 pounds
28th ranked RB by Scout (four stars, No. 241 overall)
10th ranked RB by Rivals (four stars, No. 242 overall)
Jon: Not many people have paid attention to Theo Riddick in this class, given the commitment of Cierre Wood. Riddick does however have some qualities in a running back that Wood does not. He seems a bit stronger than Wood. While Wood is labeled as a speedier back, I like to think of Riddick as a hybrid between speed and power. He does have good speed, but not as elusive as Wood. However, he is the stronger of the two. I like to think of him as a faster James Aldridge and see him being utilized in the same way as Aldridge—not your every down back, but certainly good for a change of pace. I don't see him making an immediate impact, but he does have potential to see the field in the future.
Andy: A great prospect, Riddick is already a very patient runner and possesses quite a bit more strength than his splashier counterpart, Cierre Wood. Lacking the speed to be considered an outside threat, it seems that Theo may be able to develop into a runner that will gather his share of third-down work. I think one item to be gleaned from ND's current stable of running backs is that we are very likely to see multiple backs garnering significant touches every game, much like the current time-sharing existing in the NFL.
Anthony: Riddick tends to be overshadowed by Cierre Wood but he is certainly a unique talent. With decisive cuts, excellent vision, and very good patience, Riddick does a very good job waiting for plays to develop. With quite a bit of power, he is often tabbed as a "between the tackles" runner, but he certainly has the capability to make defenders miss in space. If needed, he could even be moved to the defensive side of the ball as the running back position is filling up quickly with very talented bodies.
OG/OT, 6'3", 280 pounds
1st ranked OT by Scout (5 stars, No. 31 overall)
2nd ranked OG by Rivals (4 stars, No. 77 overall)
Jon: I must admit that I was thrilled when I heard that Watt gave a verbal commitment to Notre Dame. He was recruited by some top schools and it's not very hard to see why. Watt has good size and technique to be a threat on the offensive line. He is a very good run blocker but he needs to improve his pass blocking and zone blocking skills. I see him as a guard for the Irish rather than a tackle. Additionally, if he is to play as a guard on the line, I'd like to see him bulk up a little. Out of all of our offensive line recruits, I can see Watt making the earliest impact for the Irish.
Andy: Watt very well could end up being the MVP of this class once all is said and done. He already has great size and blocking technique, although I question how he will adapt to Notre Dame's love affair with the zone-stretch scheme. Eating at college will put some more weight on him and I expect him to tilt the scales very near 300 pounds come fall. A fantastic pickup for sure.
Anthony: Watt has very good speed and agility for a lineman. He engages linebackers at the second level as well as just about any other offensive lineman. Watt plays with an aggressive, tenacious, physical style, particularly when run blocking. He stays low and drives his legs to move the defender. He also moves well in space, something that should prove to be an asset in pass blocking. About his only drawback is over-extending his arms and body to reach defenders.
RB, 6'0", 192 pounds
6th ranked RB by Scout (four stars, No. 54 overall)
8th ranked RB by Rivals (four stars, No. 76 overall)
Jon: When watching Wood on tape, it's hard not to notice his speed and athleticism. Charlie Weis usually picks one recruit in which he singles out of the class as being his most exciting recruit to watch—last year was Armando Allen and Munir Prince the year before. I think this year's recruit will be Wood. I don't see him getting much playing time in the backfield this year given the fact that we still have four candidates vying for playing time who've been in the system for over a year.
For even more pressure, Weis requires his running backs to not only run the ball, but pick up blitzes and catch out of the backfield—all things I think that Wood will be good at, but not right away. However, it's hard not to notice his up-side and that alone will get him on the field in some capacity this year. Look for him to possibly be used like Golden Tate in kickoff returns at the very least at some point this year.
Andy: Weis' propensity to pass first and run second will undoubtedly reduce Wood's initial impact on the team. While his athleticism and speed are outstanding, and may very well result in significant playing time on special teams, I can't see him making a case for playing time at RB in the fall. The additional complication of adjusting to the oftentimes frustrating task of reading and picking up the blitz further reduces his chance to garner touches. He certainly has high upside, and will no doubt blossom into a fantastic college back, but I expect his first year to be one of study and adjustment. Hopefully he will turn a few heads through special teams.
Anthony: Cierre Wood has the ability to start from day one on campus. While he has a difficult depth chart to climb, he is arguably more talented and athletic than any running back currently on the Irish roster. Wood has top-end speed, quickness, and acceleration, averaging gaudy numbers in virtually every high school statistical category. About the only knock on Wood is his patience. He frequently uses his superior athletic ability to create yards rather than reading and waiting for his blockers.
WR, 6'2", 200 pounds
12th ranked WR by Scout (four stars, No. 127 overall)
24th ranked WR by Rivals (four stars, No. 160 overall)
Jon: Coming out of the same area as Rhema McKnight, I like to see Shaq Evans as a similar player but with more explosiveness. He is very elusive and makes people miss in open space, which is part of his appeal as a possession receiver. He also has the ability to stretch the field much in the same way as Mike Floyd or Golden Tate, which adds to his versatility as a receiver. While I'm not comfortable in predicting when he sees the field, I will say that he has the ability to contribute very early.
Andy: A fantastic and somewhat overlooked pickup in this class, Shaquelle Evans has the ability to contribute very early on in his freshman campaign. Less of a possession receiver than Rhema McKnight, Evans nevertheless will be a very solid target with his excellent route-running and hands. His ability to get downfield and run-after-the-catch will allow Evans to complement Notre Dame's current crop of receivers.
Anthony: Evans is a receiver in the Michael Floyd, Deon Walker mold. He has an excellent combination of size, speed, and athletic ability and is an exceptionally powerful route runner. While some have tabbed him as more of a possession receiver, he certainly has the ability to stretch the field and make people miss in space. Evans has great hands and is one of the few recruits in this class that could contribute right away.
DB/ATH, 5'11", 181 pounds
26th ranked S by Scout (three stars)
45th ranked ATH by Rivals (three stars)
Jon: E.J. is a very good athlete. He reminds me a lot of Darrin Walls. He is always putting himself in a good position to make plays of defense. He has very good closing speed and attacks the ball with recklessness. Given his size and speed, he is a great prospect for either a safety or a slot wide receiver and I could see him playing either. Because of the depth at both positions, look for E.J. to first make his presence known on special teams and then work his way into the mix at either position.
Andy: Banks' speed is his most prominent attribute, which could result in him seeing time as a slot receiver or being used in the backfield a la Golden Tate. Possessing a good sense for the ball, he also shows some promise as a safety, but it will probably take one or two years of development to get him in position to see the field.
Anthony: About the only thing holding E.J. back from being a higher rated prospect is his size. Banks possesses exceptional speed, agility, quickness, and skills that make him an excellent safety or corner prospect as well as a weapon with the ball in the open field. Not many players will catch Banks from behind, something that may make it difficult for Weis to keep him away from a slot receiver position.
LB, 6'2", 225 pounds
14th ranked LB by Scout (four stars, #234 overall)
25th ranked LB by Rivals (three stars)
Jon: If Charlie Weis has anything to say about Carlo, he'll talk about his New Jersey toughness. This is only one of the major upsides to Carlo and his style of play. Carlo is only listed at 225 but he looks like a Mack Truck. He speed isn't something to write home about, but at the very least, the Irish have gained a very tough run blocker. I could see Carlo playing inside linebacker but he looks big enough to play DE. With his size and strength, Carlo will become a very punishing tackler—something the Irish desperately need.
Andy: A tough-nosed recruit out of Weis' home state of New Jersey, Calabrese is one of a handful of talented linebacking recruits in this class. His tenacity and passion, as well as his chiseled physique, will undoubtedly result in inspired play from those around him. While speed is an issue, Carlo's run-stopping power will make him a force to be reckoned with.
Anthony: Calabrese is a coach's dream, with intangibles that elevate the play of those around him. He plays with intensity, toughness, and motor that are second to none. While he doesn't possess elite speed, Calabrese makes up for it with instinct and determination. He punishes the ball carrier by utilizing leverage and driving through tackles. He also has exceptional strength. Calabrese won't be an inside linebacker that runs sideline-to-sideline, but the Irish have notched an inside run stuffer with a long mean streak.
LB, 6'4", 219 pounds
22nd ranked WLB by Scout (three stars)
13th ranked OLB by Rivals (four stars)
Jon: Dan Fox comes into Notre Dame with the proper attributes to be a solid linebacker. But, as is the case with most of the other players in this class, he will need to not only develop his skills, but he will also need to develop his body in order to be an impact on the defensive side of the ball. One thing he already has is quickness and height. These two things combined make him a very effective pass rusher off the edge. Additionally, his speed allows him to drop back into coverage to pick up the screen pass or the tight end.
Andy: Fox's speed lends itself more to the safety position and I honestly would not be surprised to see the defensive staff make a switch with him before he sees significant playing time. Out of all the linebacker prospects in this class, I would see Fox as having the highest percentage chance of not playing his native position in high school at Notre Dame. He'll undoubtedly need time to develop at whichever position he eventually occupies, but Fox has the tools necessary to fill in any talent gaps on the defensive side of the ball required.
Anthony: Fox is somewhat of an enigma. He has the straight-line speed to play safety, but the size to be a linebacker. At 6'4", he runs well in space and is comfortable making tackles in the open field. He will need to add size to line up at linebacker, as well as improve his lateral movement. His height could also be an asset pass rushing on the outside. Like most of the linebackers in this class, Fox has the physical tools to be a solid player, but will need time to develop.
LB, 6'2", 207 pounds
10th ranked WLB by Scout (four stars, No. 179 overall)
5th ranked OLB by Rivals (four stars, No. 54 overall)
Jon: Zeke is probably the most punishing tackler that the Irish have landed in this recruiting cycle. When he hits a ball carrier or a blocker, he literally moves that person backwards before driving them into the ground. He is a very versatile player in that his speed makes him fit into the secondary, but his size and aggressiveness makes him an ideal candidate for an outside linebacker. With Harrison Smith likely moving into the secondary, look for Zeke to fill his spot on the field if he can develop his knowledge of Corwin Brown's defense. However, because he enrolled early at Notre Dame, he has a head start on most of the other recruits, which can only bode well for him.
Andy: Like Calabrese, Zeke Motta is one tough character. A sure-fingered tackler, Motta doesn't miss often and will likely be called on to contribute toward the second half of his freshman campaign. One thing that would stunt this progression is how quickly Motta can learn and become comfortable in the sometimes contrarian defensive styles of Corwin Brown and Jon Tenuta. His early enrollment will only help with his development and I expect him to be a positive freshman influence on the 2009 Irish team.
Anthony: Motta is a tackling machine and very similar to Calabrese in playing style. Whether it is in open space or stuffing the run, Motta doesn't miss many tackles. He has excellent range and good size, two things that make him an attractive safety or linebacker prospect. It is highly likely he will play a role similar to what Harrison Smith did in 2008, as he has the ability to cover receivers in space. Motta is aggressive, instinctive, and seeks out the ball with a vengeance. About the only negative for Zeke is a lack of pure speed, but he makes up for it with decisive play and tenacity.
DT, 6'1", 290 pounds
13th ranked DT by Scout (four stars, No. 121 overall)
16th ranked DT by Rivals (four stars, No. 193 overall)
Jon: Along a thinning defensive line, Tyler Stockton will be a welcome addition. He, along with Zeke Motta, has enrolled at Notre Dame early and he can only benefit from this decision. Not only will Stockton be able to familiarize himself with the defensive schemes that Corwin Brown uses, but he will also have the benefit of a semester's worth of strength and conditioning and he will be able to participate in spring practice. Stockton is probably the player in this class that needs physical development the least. Look for Stockton to make an immediate impact on the defensive line like Ian Williams did his freshman year.
Andy: As the lone defensive line recruit from this year's class, the coaching staff nevertheless must feel fairly proud of recruiting this talent to the team. Stockton's impressive size and weight should not be a hindrance to his immediate impact and his ability to leverage offensive linemen out the gate will be a welcome addition to a line often criticized for its inability to record sacks.
Anthony: Stockton is a force to be reckoned with in the center of a defensive line. He explodes off the ball, stays low, and uses his hands very well, all assets defending against the run. However, he also has the athleticism to be an effective inside pass rusher. With a good motor, and physical play, Stockton will be desperately needed to contribute along the defensive line.
LB, 6'2", 225 pounds
1st ranked SLB by Scout (five stars, No. 6 overall)
2nd ranked ILB by Rivals (five stars, No. 12 overall)
Jon: Te'o is probably the best defensive recruit that the Irish have signed in nearly 20 years. His versatility will make him a force to be reckoned with once he stops on the field in Notre Dame Stadium. Even though Te'o is not enrolling early at Notre Dame, I have no doubt that he will hit the ground running in the summer and should make an immediate impact on the defense. It will be interesting to see how Tenuta shapes Te'o as a linebacker. I have no doubt that if he does not make an immediate impact on the defense his freshman year, he will be seeing significant playing time by his sophomore year.
Andy: Unquestionably the star of this recruiting class, the buzz is already swarming around this Hawaiian recruit. With Weis' assurances of time off for his two-year Mormon mission, Te'o should make waves before his significant time off. An athletic specimen, Te'o's versatility is probably his most attractive quality, especially for schemers like Weis and Tenuta. He has the speed and coverage abilities to move to the edges, as well as the strength and size to stop the run. The largest coup of the draft.
Anthony: Manti is as good of an athlete as you will find at the linebacker position. He has the size, strength, and toughness to stuff the run as well as the speed, quickness, and lateral movement to run sideline-to-sideline and play in pass coverage. Manti is a defensive coordinator's dream not only because his athleticism makes him incredibly versatile, but also because he has the football acumen to read and react well. On top of this, Te'o has all the intangibles coveted by Notre Dame. Bringing him in on signing day was a huge get for the Irish program.
Jon: Te'o is an incredible pick up for the Irish this year. His pure athleticism makes him a high-profile player before he steps on Notre Dame's campus. Additionally, it will be interesting to see how Zeke Motta fits into the defense. His intensity is something that the defense needs. However, I think that from purely a recruit that fills the biggest need, Tyler Stockton was this class' biggest acquisition. In fact, the need was so great that the Irish could have stood to get a few more defensive line recruits. Hopefully, Stockton can make an immediate impact on the line and can do well to give Ian Williams a bit of a rest throughout some games.
Andy: The brain-dead answer is Manti Te'o. Arguably one of the most talented defensive prospects in the country, Te'o will make an impressive impact on an Irish defense that needs more players of his caliber. In fact, the entire crop of linebacking recruits in this class is enough to make any defensive coordinator envious. It is a comforting feeling to know the the future heart of the Irish defense is in good standing.
Anthony: From a pure athletic standpoint, Cierre Wood is as sure of a prospect as the Irish have grabbed in recent memory. He has the ability to contribute in the running and passing game, as well as on special teams as a returner. But the biggest haul had to be getting Te'o on signing day. Manti is an exceptional athlete for his size and arguably the biggest defensive recruit for Notre Dame in the last 20 years.
Jon: Notre Dame's biggest miss in this year's recruiting class was Anthony LaLota. Even though the Irish have been out of the mix for a little while with Anthony, they were considered one of the front runners, along with Michigan (whom he signed with), for quite some time. LaLota could have filled a void on our defensive line that we desperately need. Tyler Stockton does some good to fill that void, but the problem could have been remedied that much more with another stand-out recruit like LaLota on the list.
Andy: The obvious miss in this class is a quality defensive line recruit. While Notre Dame has some hope early, Anthony LaLota ended up opting to play up north. Additionally, the Irish secondary could've used some help in this class and received only one tenuous recruit. It seems as though Notre Dame's preference to recruit quality athletes by talent and not through position may end up coming back to haunt us in a few years as athletic defensive players may be asked to play out of position to fill personnel problems.
Anthony: The biggest miss in this class is another solid defensive line prospect (or two). Despite the success along the defensive line in 2008, the Irish are still dangerously thin in both quantity and quality at the defensive tackle and end positions. It seems that Weis' recruiting along the defensive line mirrors that of his predecessor along the offensive line. Without at least one more solid defensive line prospect in this class, it cannot be considered great.
Jon: With a third great recruiting class in the books, the Irish can now breathe a little easier. The good thing about this class is that none of these players needs to feel like they need to step into a starting role or a be a major contributor right away. The upside to this class is that it has many recruits who may not need to develop into college players. Manti Te'o, Shaq Evans, Zeke Motta, and Tyler Stockton are all players who could see some considerable playing time if they are as good as advertised.
The other major positive to this class is that Weis has picked up a few good offensive line recruits. It is paramount in college football to continue to add to the offensive line so you are not caught with your pants down (see Notre Dame Football 2007). Luckily, Weis recognizes this and has continued to recruit well to get bodies in the trenches for the Irish. This is a very solid class for Charlie Weis—certainly not 20th or 24th. I would rate this class at about No. 12 in the nation, especially with the acquisition of Te'o.
Andy: Notre Dame put forth a solid effort in this recruiting cycle and this current crop of recruits should feel secure in the knowledge that none of them need to come in and be immediately relied on to contribute or fill gaps in the current team. With an offensive group that has the skills in place to perform at a high level with a season or less of conditioning and experience, and a defensive group that includes several players that will make an impact with their attitude or play in their freshman outing, this class should be seen as an overall success for the Irish. While not quite as high a profile as 2007 and 2008, if this is as gloomy as the recruiting outlook under Weis gets, Notre Dame fans are in for a relatively painless and steady cycle of talent through the program.
Anthony: I think this is an average-to-good class for the Irish. Many of the recruits will not be able to contribute right away, but due to Weis' recruiting efforts over the past few seasons Notre Dame can afford a few players who are projects and take some time to develop. There are, however, several excellent athletes in this class. Wood, Evans, Motta, and Stockton all have immediate impact potential due to their athleticism. Additionally, the offensive line recruits boast excellent athleticism for players with their size.