Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Team Recruiting Countdown: No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2008 Haul: 23 signees, 9 Athlon Consensus 100

Scouting Report:

It is not difficult to see where improvements need to be made on this Notre Dame team. The Irish finished last (119th) in total offense in 2007. Notre Dame also ranked at or near the bottom in terms of sacks allowed and yards lost (due to sacks). Needless to say, Weis could use a lot of different pieces.

To address the issues of protection, Weis went out and signed four, possibly five, offensive lineman. Trevor Robinson (Omaha, Neb.) and Lane Clelland (Owings Mills, Md.) will add much needed talent to the Sam Young led group. At center, Braxston Cave (Mishawaka, Ind.) could end up as the top center prospect in the nation and Mike Golic (Bristol, Ct.) clearly has solid bloodlines as his father played for the Irish and Philadelphia Eagles.

The O-line was supplemented nicely with two solid tight end prospects. Kyle Rudolph (Cincinnati, Ohio) is arguably the best tight end in the nation and Joseph Fauria (Encino, Calif.) has the skills and size (6-8, 260) to end up at tackle. Both positions could use the help, so a guy like Fauria will prove invaluable.

Speaking of pass catchers, the wideouts that head to South Bend are excellent. Mike Floyd (St. Paul, Minn.) is in the conversation for 2nd best wide receiver prospect in the nation behind Alabama’s Julio Jones. Floyd is the best prospect to come out of the state of Minnesota since Joe Mauer. Deion Walker (Christchurch, Va.) saw his stock slip a bit near the end of the year but is still very talented. John Goodman (Fort Wayne, Ind.) rounds out the trio. All three are 6-4.

The question now becomes who will be throwing them the ball. The nation’s top prospect a year ago was Jimmy Claussen, but he will compete with newcomer Dayne Crist (Sherman Oaks, Calif.). Claussen clearly has the advantage with one year of experience (if you want to call it that) but Crist has the physical tools (6-5 with a rocket arm) and mental make-up to really press Claussen for the starting gig.

The Irish have yet to sign a game-breaker at running back under Charlie Weis. They are, however, stock piling talented, Big 10 style runners. Jonas Gray (Detroit, Mich.), much like James Aldridge and Robert Hughes, is a bigger, more powerful runner. Gray has more talent than both Aldridge and Hughes. Look for the running back by committee theory to only get more muddled in South Bend. The talent is there, though.

The O-line was not the only ‘line’ that needed help in this class. The defensive front got a huge boost from the ’08 class. Five defensive lineman and four linebackers head to Notre Dame this year. End Ethan Johnson (Portland, Ore.) is the top player in the state of Oregon and is the most talented of the group. Brandon Newman (Louisville, Ky.) and Sean Cwynar (Woodstock, Ill.) add two massive bodies to the interior of the D-line. At linebacker, the top player in the state of Illinois, Steven Filer (Chicago), Crist’s teammate in California, Anthony McDonald, and the hybrid talent Darius Fleming (Chicago, Ill.) create a formidable group of tacklers. Former Penn State superstar Paul Posluszny’s younger brother David is also a part of this group. The genetics are unquestionable.

Three solid defensive backs look to sure up a porous secondary. Robert Blanton (Matthews, N.C.) is the most talented. Dan McCarthy (Youngstown, Ohio) is a brilliant leader and heady player but has some serious injury issues that may force him out of football all together. Jamoris Slaughter (Stone Mountain, Ga.) is a very strong blend of size and speed.

It is no surprise that Notre Dame can go out and recruit nationally. Players from 17 different states head to South Bend, Ind – only two from the Irish’s home state of Indiana. The top player in Oregon (Johnson), Minnesota (Floyd), Illinois (Filer), and Michigan (Gray) all picked Notre Dame. In addition, a top-5 talent from Maryland (Clelland), North Carolina (Blanton), Kentucky (Newman), Indiana (Cave), Nebraska (Robinson) and Illinois (Fleming/Cwynar) also will be calling South Bend home.

Top Prospect: Dayne Crist – QB – Sherman Oaks, Calif. (6-5, 225) AC100 No. 20

Crist may be the best pure quarterback in the nation. He is very similar in stature and physical ability to Ballwin quarterback Blaine Gabbert. He is not quite as mobile as Gabbert but does have some sneaky athleticism. Much like Ben Roethlisberger, he has an uncanny way of maneuvering away from the pass rush.

What separates Crist from most quarterback prospects is his superior arm strength and pocket poise. He can make every throw on the football field and does it standing tall in the pocket, even in the face of pressure. Although he has nice snap on the ball, Crist does a great job of throwing softer, catchable balls when the situation calls for it.

When it comes to mechanics and technique, Charlie Weis may want to work on Crist’s consistency. He shows flashes of perfect footwork, throwing motion and movements but will need to work on repeating those perfect reps with more consistency. Crist played as much under center as he did in the shotgun, so the transition to more of a pro-style offense should not be an issue.

Best of the Rest:

Mike Floyd – WR – St. Paul, Minn. (6-3, 200) AC100 No. 13
Kyle Rudolph – TE – Cincinnati, Ohio (6-6, 230) AC100 No. 26
Ethan Johnson – DE – Portland, Ore. (6-4, 260) AC100 No. 36
Deion Walker – WR – Christchurch, Va. (6-2, 186) AC100 No. 67
Jonas Gray – RB – Detroit, Mich. (5-10, 218) AC100 No. 70
Steven Filer – LB – Chicago, Ill. (6-3, 225) AC100 No. 78
Trevor Robinson – OL – Omaha, Neb. (6-6, 300) AC100 No. 85
Darius Fleming – LB/DE – Chicago, Ill. (6-2, 230) AC100 No. 90
Braxston Cave – C – Mishawaka, Ind. (6-4, 295)
Sean Cwynar – DT – Woodstock, Ill. (6-4, 280)

Sleeper: David Posluszny – LB – Aliquippa, Penn. (6-1, 210)

The younger brother of NFL first rounder Paul, Posluszny is much like his older counterpart in terms of recruiting evaluation. Both were underrated by most recruiting services. Little Poz is smaller in stature than his brother but has the same natural football instincts. His solid production comes from great work ethic, coach-ability and persistent attitude. He will be a classic over-achiever in college.

No comments: