Is Notre Dame Really Full of Elite Talent?

IsmailAnalyst INovember 11, 2009

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 03: Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks to the bench for a defensive signal against the Washington Huskies on October 3, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Washington 37-30 in overtime. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


The future of Charlie Weis' job is up for debate after another disappointing season from a team supposedly stacked with talent.


Is this really true?


According to various scouting services, Weis has brought in very strong recruiting classes to South Bend over the past four seasons. So I thought I’d do a little research and see how Notre Dame compares to two elite programs, the University of Southern California and the University of Florida.


On the surface, Notre Dame’s recruiting classes seem to be in the same grade as these two powerhouse programs. Here are the average individual rankings (ESPN) for the three teams' top recruits from 2006 to 2009:


Notre Dame—82.575




Obviously, the Trojans and Gators have a slight edge in talent, but it is not a terrible disparity to the point where Notre Dame doesn’t belong in the conversation.


Also, let’s take a look at the amount of ESPN 150 top recruits and how each school fared over the past four years:


Notre Dame—37




Now this is where things begin to get a little more complicated and the recruiting of USC and especially Florida becomes stronger. Notre Dame brought in a very admirable 37 players, which is certainly among the most in the country, but Florida brought in almost three extra “star” players per recruiting class.


Those extra players make a big difference.


Most damaging of all is what kind of players are being recruited. To put it another way, Notre Dame has been relying heavily on highly ranked offensive skill position players, whereas USC and Florida have been bringing in more well balanced classes.


Out of those ESPN 150 recruits, this is the number of defenders brought in from each school:


Notre Dame—10




The disparity now becomes crystal clear and convincing. Notre Dame has been able to recruit some really great offensive players, but is struggling (as it has for 15 years) to bring in a lot of elite defensive talent.


Also, what these numbers do not take into account are JUCO transfers, a key component to adding veteran depth to recruiting classes. Both USC and Florida have brought in transfers who are currently making an impact on the field.


So while Notre Dame has begun to run with the big boys on the offensive side of the ball, it still has a lot of work to do on defense.


There has to be something said about coaching and developing talent as well, because that ultimately plays a key part in how well a football team performs every Saturday.


As well, bringing in highly ranked recruits doesn’t necessarily mean those players will live up to their talent and have a large impact on a program.


There is no doubt that Notre Dame needs to work on recruiting more impact defensive players. The cry that the Irish has “national championship” talent needs to stop.


Take a look at the current “elite” defensive recruits that are playing in South Bend:


T. Smith (Sr. LB)

R. McNeil (Sr. CB)

B. Smith (Jr. LB)

I. Williams (Jr. DT)

K. Neal (Jr. DE)

S. Filer (So. LB)

S. Fleming (So. LB)

J. Slaughter (So. CB)

E. Johnson (So. DT)

T. Stockton (Fr. DT)

M. Te’o (Fr. LB)


This is a pretty decent group of players, but it is nowhere near the level of talent of USC, Florida, or even Alabama. You’ll see the same kind of list at dozens of other programs around the country.


There’s some promise with the younger players on this list, but for all intents and purposes, Notre Dame is getting virtually zero impact performances from its top upperclassmen defensive recruits.


The inability to consistently recruit big time, blue chip defensive players has been an Achilles heal for Notre Dame for a long time.


If the administration decides to go in a different direction with a coach, they’d be well advised to bring in someone who gives them the best chance at attracting this defensive talent.