Casual college football fans throughout the country are going to be asking the same question Saturday night: why is Notre Dame playing a home game in San Antonio, Texas?
Because Charlie Weis is the most dynamic and innovative recruiter in the nation.
Nobody has figured out how to reach recruits in the far hinterlands of national recruiting and then convince said recruits to come to South Bend, Indiana more successfully than Charlie Weis.
Nobody has invaded the traditional power-centers of American high school football so abruptly and forcefully as Charlie Weis has over the past five years.
Charlie Weis is to college football recruiting as James Brown was to show business, and it’s paying off. Notre Dame currently has the type of talent that rivals the vast majority of major college football powers. The Irish have the foundation for a national title contender and it’s all due to CW.
The Irish have averaged a No. 10 ranking in both the Rivals and Scout.com team recruiting analysis over the past five years. Coach Weis put together the consensus No. 2 class in 2008, back-to-back top ten classes in 2006 and 2007, and currently has the seventeen verbal commitments for the class of 2010 ranked at No. 10 in the nation.
Now let’s be honest, the facilities aren’t bad. Notre Dame has put millions into the athletic fields, training centers, and on-campus sports-related buildings. But, this IS northern Indiana.
South Bend is a lovely little town of 110,000 people near the banks of Lake Michigan. The average snowfall each year is just a flake over 81 inches. The average high (I said “high”) in January is 31 degrees. It once hit -22 Fahrenheit.
In short, it can be Alaska-cold. Frosty has a winter chalet on North Main Street. There’s not much “south” in South Bend.
And yet, Manti Te’o made the trek from Hawaii last June to begin his Notre Dame experience. The number one linebacker recruit in the nation gave up year-round tropical climates (and USC and BYU) for a winter of bone-chilling forecasts, high academic standards, and the daily pressure of Domer Nation.
The pipeline between St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida and the University of Notre Dame has already produced Sam Young, Dan Wenger, Ben Turk, and Jordan Cowart. With the recent signing of STA's four-star running back Giovanni Bernard and fellow FLA'ers Lo Wood and Spencer Boyd, ND continues to pull big-time talent out of the Sunshine State.
Jimmy Clausen, Shaq Evans, and Cierre Wood all left beautiful California for Notre Dame. What’s more impressive is that each of them are highly regarded skill position guys who turned down USC and UCLA to come to the great Midwest. These “glam-position” guys gave up the glitz of SoCal to spend four years in Indiana.
The SEC controls the southeast. The Pac-10 dominates the west coast. The Big 12 rules the southland. So how does Notre Dame continue to thrive in those areas?
Poor Ty Willingham couldn’t even keep a program with eleven national championships in the recruiting Top-25. Bob Davie couldn’t consistently recruit big states beyond his native Pennsylvania and his adopted home of Texas.
Meanwhile, Coach Weis maintains a roster filled with geographic diversity. He’s pulled eight kids from California, seven from Florida, four from Texas, and a combined eight from the SEC centers of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
CW signed Deon Walker and Andrew Nuss away from Hokie/Mountaineer/Cavalier country in Virginia.
Charlie got Harrison Smith and Golden Tate out of the Volunteer State.
The Irish sign enough players out of traditional breeding grounds in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to make RichRod, The Sweater Vest, and JoePa pull their hair out.
The NDizing of Ethan Johnson sent a whole gaggle of Ducks and a pack of Beavers to the brink of rain-induced madness.
In comparison, over 90 players on Mack Brown’s University of Texas team roster hail from the Lonestar State. Over 70 Southern Cal players come from California. Urban Meyer’s Gators are disproportionately Floridian.
In fact, of the top 100 players in the Class of 2010, seventeen hail from Florida, fifteen from California, twelve from Texas, seven combined from Pennsylvania and Ohio, and five from South Carolina.
That sure makes the work of Urban, Pete, Mack, Joe, Rich, and the Ole’ Ball Coach a heckuva lot easier.
As for Indiana? Only two players in the entire ESPN Top 150. Sorry Charlie.
When National Signing Day comes Coach Weis does more with less. He’s from a northern school without a conference affiliation that constantly maintains the highest of academic standards. In addition, he doesn’t have the name recognition that comes with a National Championship or twenty-plus years of college coaching.
Despite all of that the University of Notre Dame, under the leadership of Charlie Weis, continuously pulls in top recruits, elite recruiting classes, and enough talent to be in the BCS conversation almost every fall.
Notre Dame should enjoy its trip to San Antonio this weekend. They should throttle the Washington State Cougars by three touchdowns. In the meantime, Charlie Weis should welcome a new era of Irish recruits into the Notre Dame tradition as dozens of Texas’s best high school players flock to the Alamodome with ND tickets in their hand.
As of Saturday, Charlie Weis will start to prove he can recruit Texas.
Charlie Weis has already proven he can recruit nationally.
Face it college football world, Charlie Weis is the best recruiter in the land.
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