On Friday, California WR Shaq Evans committed to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. I was sitting in front of my computer as it happened and I thought to myself, "Maybe I should post this next week." So here I am a half a week later posting about a commitment from Evans. I will save you the usual rhetoric found in a commitment post from me as I'm sure you have all read about 4 or 5 of these already. I do recommend the post from Blue-Gray Sky (What don't they do well?) on Shaq's verbal pledge to ND.
Irish fans have been waiting a long time for this commit as Evans was one of the top targets at his position on ND's board, and the rest of the country for that matter. But I just can't seem to get myself jumping in the air and headbutting my dog from across the room. I was expecting this.
Save me the time and carpel-tunnel and find me a school that has recruited a better crop of wide receivers since the incoming class of 2007 than Notre Dame. What USC is to running back recruiting, I would say it is safe to say, Notre Dame is to wide receiver recruiting... or at least on its way. Check these numbers out:
- Golden Tate 4**** (2007)
- Duval Kamara 4**** (2007)
- Mike Floyd 5***** (2008)
- Deion Walker 4**** (2008)
- John Goodman 4**** (2008)
- Nyshier Oliver 4 **** (2009)
- Shaq Evans 4**** (2009)
Okay maybe it's not exactly like USC with all of their 5 star guys, but the list is still very impressive and I would venture that every team in the country covets two or more of these guys. What is even more impressive is how much Tate and Kamara have contributed to the team in the last two years as freshman and now sophomores, and how Mike Floyd has took the country by storm in his freshman year. (BTW- Macklin and Crabtree were both considered freshman by the media last year while if they were at ND they would have been considered as sophomores).
That's great and all, but the Shaq Evans Effect is something that I find in my Blue & Gold soul as a wanting feeling. Something's missing. As well as ND has done on the recruiting trail with WR's in the past 3 classes (as long as Oliver and Evans stay true- they are both decommits from Tennessee and USC respectively) they have been missing out on some top talent along both the defensive line and the offensive line.
The junior class (incoming class of 2006) was full of offensive lineman that were very highly rated and it was one of Notre dames best OL hauls (star power) in a long time. Those guys are:
- Sam Young 5*****
- Matt Carufel 4****
- Dan Wenger 4****
- Chris Stewart 4****
- Eric Olsen 4****
- Bartley Webb 4****
Bartley Webb has since been placed on a medical and Matt Carufel transferred to Minnesota. Five of those 6 have started for ND (including Carufel in 2007) and Sam Young has started every game in his Fighting Irish career.
It may be a fair statement to say that this class of OL has been somewhat of a disappointment. But, they still have 3 or 4 games this year and all of their senior season to change our minds. I fear poor coaching along the offensive line and a lack of aggressiveness have hindered their performance.
The three classes after that one are not nearly as big individually, but they still contain the same amount of star power and potential.
- Matt Romine 4**** (2007)
- Taylor Dever 4**** (2007)
- Emeka Nwankwo 4**** (2007)
- Andrew Nuss 3*** (2007)
- Trevor Robinson 4**** (2008)
- Lane Cleland 3*** (2008)
- Braxton Cave 4**** (2008)
- Mike Golic Jr. 3*** (2008)
- Zack Martin 3*** (2009)
- Chris Watt 5***** (2009)
- Alex Bullard 4**** (2009)
Nwankwo and Nuss have both been utilized as defensive lineman and I believe Nuss is back with the offensive line. The scary thing is that off all of these guys from 2006-2009, the only TRUE left tackle on the list is Lane Cleland. One LT from a list of 17! It doesn't look any better for the Irish on the LT front for the incoming class of 2009 as their #1 target, Xavier Nixon, is looking elsewhere and the Irish are pretty much out of it right now.
The numbers are impressive, especially when you look at the Willingham years of offensive line recruiting- or lack there of, but they have still been missing on the all important back side blocking of a left tackle. That is a red flag.
The defensive line is the other area of concern as the Irish have made it a habit to miss out on the premier defensive tackles that qualify to get into ND and also on defensive ends, although the later looks to be getting a little better.
The defensive tackles since the incoming class of 2007 include:
- Ian Williams 3*** (2007)
- Brandon Newman 4**** (2008)
- Hafis Williams 3*** (2008)
- Sean Cwynar 4**** (2008)
- Tyler Stockton 4**** (2009)
This area of recruiting has been a major concern for Irish fans for quite a while, but ND made up a little ground after a disastrous 2005-2006 haul of only 2 defensive tackles (Hand and Kuntz) where both players were in the 2005 class and only one is still with the team (Kuntz). Williams has been a staple since mid 2007, but none of the current DT's listed have played yet. This position looks very thin in depth if the Irish are going to use more of a 4-3, and a bit too small if they use a 3-4.
The defensive end recruiting has been similarly unimpressive, but that opinion may change next year. The Irish brought these players in with the 2007-2009 haul:
- Kerry Neal 4**** (2007)
- Kapron Lewis-Moore 3*** (2008)
- Ethan Johnson 5***** (2008)
- Darius Flemming 4**** (2008)
The Irish have failed to land a commitment from a defensive end in the 2009 class, but still have a shot at a few of them. From the list above Neal, Flemming, and Johnson are playing out of position this year. Neal is a DE that is better suited right now as a WLB, Flemming is a DE that is better suited as a SLB, and Johnson is playing as more of a DT this year.
What does all of this mean and why have I just written a post on the Shaq Evans commitment when I rambled on and on about the offensive and defensive lines?
Well, this: Notre Dame is doing a stellar job of recruiting explosive players on offense at the skill positions and they are doing well with their back 7/8 on defense, but they go nowhere without the support of the big men in front of them. The Shaq Evans Effect is the feeling I have now when I see another skilled guy commit. I'm feeling... "I wish this guy was 4 inches taller and added 150 pounds, then we could use that speed at LT." I am craving lineman like a lineman craves a 24 hour Old Country Buffet.
I'm happy for Evans and I can't wait to see him in a Gold Helmet. I guess I just need more.
Welcome To ND Shaq!!!