The Fighting Irish have been doing very well on the recruiting front so far this year and have secured 16 verbal commitments for 2009 and are ranked 10th in the team rankings according to Scout.com.
So let's look at the numbers the Irish have this year and beyond...
Notre Dame is currently only using 75 out 85 available scholarships allowed by the NCAA. That's right- 10 below (Will Yeatman is still included in the 75) what the NCAA says that we can use. That's a pretty big number. How did ND get in such a jam? A 3-9 season? Maybe. But the real reasons are far more diverse. Either way, Notre Dame is 10 players short on this years roster as compared to the start of 2007. Those that are no longer with the team:
- Darell Hand DT (Medical Leave)
- D.J. Hord WR (Transfer to Missouri St. ?)
- Zach Frazer QB (Transfer to UConn)
- Demetrius Jones QB (Transfer to Cincinnati)
- Bartley Webb OL (Medical Leave)
- Matt Carufel OL (Transfer to Minnesota)
- Richard Jackson WR (Transfer to Central Florida)
- Konrad Reuland TE (Transfer to Stanford)
- Darrin Walls CB (Personal reasons)
- Munir Prince CB/RB (Transfer to Missouri)
As you can see, there are a number of different reasons why ND is down 10 schollies. Darrin Walls is scheduled to return in the Spring, so the list will take a huge spin as after Walls- no one listed was going to be a starter in 2008. That's good news, but it STILL hurts when it comes to a matter of depth.
Now, let's start peering into 2009...
The losses in 2009 include 7 starters out of the 10 players that have exhausted ALL of their eligibility.
- David Grimes WR. The Irish lose a captain and a mentor for what is otherwise a young wide receiver corps. Notre Dame does however, have a lot of talent at WR and the possible candidates to take Grimes' slot job are: Goerge West, Deion Walker, John Goodman, and of course- the possibility of a freshman.
- Justin Brown DE. Brown is a fifth year guy that has still missed the boat on making his mark at ND. He still has a chance with half of a season left, but young guys like Ethan Johnson are taking more and more of his snaps.
- Pat Kuntz DE/DT. Arguably, no one on this team has as much personality as Kuntz. His on the field leadership will be missed, but there are some young players waiting in the wings to take over his spot.
- David Bruton S. David is probably the most talented of this entire group and he has become very reliable lining up at safety snap after snap. The shoes to fill are big ones and players such as Sergio Brown and Harrison Smith will be the most likely candidates.
- Mike Turkovich LT. If Bruton is the most talented, Turkovich might be the hardest to replace. Left tackle had been an Achilles heel for the Irish line until Mike stepped in and really played well. Look for Matt Romine to be the most likely replacement, but he has a problem of staying healthy. Others will need to step up.
- Maurice Crum LB. Crum is a two time captain and a 4 year starter. No matter what your feelings are on his ability, he will be a player greatly missed. With that said, ND could get more athletic at the Jack LB spot with Steve Filer or possibly Scott Smith if he returns for a fifth year (more on that in a bit).
- Terrail Lambert CB. Lambert has been the whipping boy by the media and fans alike for 3 years now as a lot of big plays in the passing game have come in his direction. He has also made his fair share of plays and is very solid against the run. But. If Darrin Walls were playing right now, I have no doubt that Walls and McNeil would see a majority of the snaps on the corners. So, with McNeil and Walls returning next year, along with talented young players in Gary Gray and Robert Blanton and more freshman coming in... this position is LOADED.
- Paul Duncan OT.
- Steve Quinn LB.
- Ray Herring S.
That leaves 65 out of 85 scholarships for 2009. As you can see, this is a fairly productive group but they all have young talent right behind them ready to pick up the slack. And speaking of young talent, there will be another surge of it in the summer of 2009. As I have stated, 16 prospects have given their verbal commitment. Those players are:
- Cierre Wood RB
- Chris Watt OG
- Alex Bullard OG
- Tyler Stockton DT
- Carlo Calabrese LB
- Marcus Pollard CB
- Nyshier Oliver WR
- Theo Riddick RB
- Dan Fox LB
- Tyler Eifert TE
- E.J. Banks CB
- Jake Golic TE
- Zach Martin OT
- Zeke Motta LB
- Ben Turk P
- Nick Tausch K
That puts Notre Dame's numbers back to 81 out of 85 scholarships. Then, add Darrin Walls into the equation as I can't stress enough that HE WILL BE BACK IN 2009. So now that number is up to 82 out of 85 scholarships. So that means that ND now has only 3 more scholarship spots available and they have their eyes on a number of recruits plus ND will have 5 possible fifth year players. The five possible fifth years are:
- Kyle McCarthy S. This is the most likely candidate to return to ND. His play has been stellar so far and he has been perhaps the most reliable defender on this team.
- Evan Sharpley QB. Weis likes Evan and Evan has been good to the program, but a budding baseball career and the fact that Dayne Crist and even a kid named Montana are right behind Clausen as Jimmy enters his Junior year means that a return from Sharpley is unlikely.
- Asaph Schwaap FB. Schwaap has been playing well this year because he hasn't been asked to run the ball. He has blocked very well, but a philosophy switch in formations by Weis and the fact that ND can use a number of other guys at the position means that a fifth year is also unlikely.
- Scott Smith LB. Scott has been a good role player and special teams player these past few years, but that fact is, is that ND has a lot of young talent behind him and are recruiting even more ( more on that in a bit). His return is also unlikely.
- Kevin Washington LB. Kevin has not seen the field almost at all since his arrival in South Bend. His return is not even an option.
So I have to say that only Kyle McCarthy has a shot at returning for Notre Dame next year and that is where this gets really interesting. If McCarthy would return that would put ND at 83 out of 85 scholarships. That means that Notre Dame would only have two more open scholarships for 2009. Two scholarships for what looks to me as a five player recruitment. Those five are:
- Shaquelle Evans WR. Evans was a soft verbal to USC until his visit to ND. He then dropped his commit to USC and put ND at the top of the list. Evans will most likely commit to ND, but with a lot of WR's, and young ones at that, all ready on the roster- Evans may have to commit soon to still have a spot and something tells me that he already has in private.
- Manti Te'o LB. Manti is a premier linebacker and one that Weis is recruiting personally. Weis made the trip out to Hawaii to visit Te'o this past weekend. The Irish are still in the hunt, but there is one variable that really intrigues me. Te'o is a Mormon and intends on taking his two year mission. If he takes the mission right away, his scholarship won't count until 2011.
- Xavier Nixon OT. Notre Dame looks to be out of the race, but they are still going after Xavier hard to come to ND for an official visit. Nixon is a prize that the Irish staff has been after from day one and he represents a real need at left tackle. If he wants a spot, ND would certainly oblige.
- Jelani Jenkins LB. Jelani is another big time linebacker recruit that Irish coaches and fans are drooling over. Jenkins has trimmed his list to 15 schools and ND is on that list. He has not set any official visits up yet, and doesn't seem to be in any rush. Will there still be a spot open for Jelani when he does decide.
- Chris Bonds DT. Bonds, in my opinion, may be the most important recruit left on the board. Adams is a big time defensive tackle and the Irish are always in need of more. Bonds had a great time on his visit to ND and has the Irish listed amongst his leaders. This is still a very hard get for the Irish, but they are doing everything they can to get Bonds in a 24k Gold helmet.
So five of those guys to fill out 2 spots if McCarthy returns or 3 of those guys if McCarthy doesn't return. There is also another development that is going on within the team right now that may affect the roster in 2009 and even in 2008.
Luke Schmidt FB has been suffering from really bad headaches brought on by a concussion. Luke has had a history of concussions and it may cause him to never play again. This is purely speculative and nothing has been released officially. I am just saying that it is possible due to the nature of concussions that he may not play again. He would then be granted a medical, and like recent Irish players Abdel Banda and Bartley Webb he would remain at ND but his scholarship would not count towards the 85. If that is the case ND could technically land 3 0r 4 of these prospects. And if Te'o is one of them and takes his mission, they could could take 4 or even all five.
These scenarios may be unlikely, but they are possible. Recruiting won't end until signing day and ND has had some bad history that goes along with signing day in the past. Any way you slice it, the Irish are going to fill out their 85 scholarships for 2009, it's just a matter of who and how. The fact of the matter is that Notre Dame is moving forward with Weis at the helm with upgrading its overall talent level. And that is good enough for me to know. No matter who else climbs aboard the train.
(Editors note: If you are new to Subway Domer or if you need a refresher, I have two features that I do every year that may help you understand Fighting Irish recruiting. My Recruiting Spectacular: 2007 & 2008. And the State of Recruiting 2007 & 2008.)