Notre Dame haters who love to hate Charlie Weis are always quick to point out that Weis can't win with his own players and that his success was a result of great recruiting by Tyrone Willingham. That is a clear misunderstanding of the facts and players involved.
When Weis first took over, he actually had a mix of players that were recruited by Bob Davie and Willingham. The best defensive player on that team was Justin Tuck. He has gone on to be a Pro Bowler for the Giants. He was a Davie recruit.
A couple of other players who were key players were Anthony Fasano and Maurice Stovall. These two guys came in at about the time of the transition. Nobody really knows for sure whether they were Davie or Willingham recruits.
The point is that the players from that team coached by Weis came from two previous coaches. However, it is only Willingham who gets the credit for being a recruiter.
I will give him credit for Darius Walker, Trevor Laws, and Tom Zbikowski. However, Willingham's two best recruits were Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija, and I give him credit for neither.
Quinn is a Catholic from Dublin, Ohio. He always wanted to come to Notre Dame and would have come no matter who the coach was.
Samardzija was recruited to play both football and baseball. Therefore, who knows who really recruited him? Since his career choice has been with the Cubs, I would guess the baseball coach was the key component. Besides, Willingham hardly played him anyway. It was Weis who recognized his true talent.
During Weis' second year, Tuck was gone and the defense was suspect. They couldn't match up to Michigan, USC, or LSU. It turns out that great recruiting by Willingham wasn't so great after all. That defense had a lot of holes in it thanks to Willingham.
On offense, Fasano and Stovall had graduated and gone to the NFL. All Quinn had left was Samardzija and Walker. Those three carried that team, and as I mentioned, the only recruit I credit to Willingham is Walker.
Along with those three was a young upstart receiver named David Grimes, who was actually a Weis recruit. Grimes didn't catch a lot of balls that year, but the ones he did were big. The long bomb from Quinn to him in the back of the end zone against Navy is one that I will always remember.
Then came the 3-9 year in which the team had the last remnants of Willingham's recruits. It was a combination of Weis' and Willingham's recruits. It was a disaster.
Now after rebuilding is over, all of Willingham's players are gone, and the Irish can go forward without them.
Another thing to remember is that Willingham's success in South Bend came as a result of Bob Davie recruits. Willingham was supposed to be a guru of the West Coast offense, and yet it was the defense that got the team to an 8-0 record. Several Irish fans thought that it was a mirage because it was a struggling 8-0 team. It fell apart late in the year.
Willingham never really got his offense going consistently for three years. With these same players, it took Weis a quarter to get them going.
Then Willingham went to Washington, and that team got worse. The only recruit he got that was worth noting was Jake Locker. He really left a mess for Steve Sarkisian to clean up.
In 2009, Irish fans expect Weis and Notre Dame to kill what is left of the myth of Tyrone Willingham once and for all.