Monday, February 7, 2011

ND Recruiting: A Ten Year Recap (Part II)

It's time for installment two of five in the ten year recap of Irish Recruiting. Today we examine the classes of 2004 and 2005. After reviewing them you'll begin to understand why everything went horribly wrong in the '07-'08 campaigns.

Click here to read the first part of the series that outlines the scoring system for "Hype" and "Reality" and breaks down the 2002 and 2003 classes.

Class of 2004

Rivals Ranking: #32
Number of Recruits: 16
5-Stars: 0
4-Stars: 3
3-Stars: 9
2-Stars: 6
Arrival Score: 33 (#9 since 2002)

Superstars: 1
Major Contributors: 1
Contributors: 2
Non-Descript/Liability: 3
Transfers/Never Played: 9
Contribution Pct.: 25%
Exit Score: 5

Cat 1 – Walker
Cat 2 – Crum
Cat 3 – Lambert, J. Brown
Cat 4 – Vernaglia, Jabbie, Ferrine
Cat 5 – Banda, Bragg, Duerson, Hoskins, Incarnato, Kadous, Nicholas, Talley, Wolke

Here is where the wheels came off for Ty Willingham.

After suffering through a losing season punctuated with a beat down in the Carrier Dome in the final game, Willingham earned the dubious distinction of landing one of the worst classes in Notre Dame history. When they arrived on campus there was little-to-no hype. By the time they left, they had somehow found a way to crawl under the bar despite it being set almost comically low.

Darius Walker and Maurice Crum were the only two players to make a significant contribution during their time on campus. Walker burst onto the scene in the second game of his freshman season when the Irish upset a top ten ranked Michigan team. He ended up holding down the starting job for three years before entering the draft early (he was not selected). Crum surprisingly emerged as a starter his sophomore season and evolved into one of the quiet leaders of the defense.

When perusing the list of names in this class Notre Dame fans can't help but shake their heads. This failure was the root of the 2007 disaster. When less than 13% of a class fails to make a significant contribution and more than half either transfers, quits the team, or disappears on the depth chart then there are going to be serious repercussions. Unfortunately those repercussions reared their ugly heads when this class entered their senior season to the tune of nine losses, the most in Notre Dame history.

Class of 2005

Rivals Ranking: #40
Number of Recruits: 15
5-Stars: 0
4-Stars: 2
3-Stars: 11
2-Stars: 2
Arrival Score: 30 (#10 since 2002)

Superstars: 2
Major Contributors: 4
Contributors: 2
Non-Descript/Liability: 4
Transfers/Never Played: 3
Contribution Pct.: 53%
Exit Score: 25

Cat 1 – Bruton, McCarthy
Cat 2 – Duncan, Turkovich, Kuntz, Grimes
Cat 3 – Herring, Schwapp
Cat 4 – Hand, Quinn, Sharpley, Smith
Cat 5 – Hiben, Washington, Hord

If the wheels came off in the 2004 recruiting cycle then the resulting tailspin manifested itself in 2005. When Charlie Weis walked in the door, Notre Dame was in the midst of a dreadful recruiting class–and that was before the national media storm that engulfed South Bend after the "racially driven firing of Ty Willingham."

The few highly touted recruits Willingham had seduced over the phone on the back nine of his rounds at the Warren Course (Lawrence Jackson, Brandon Harrison, etc) quickly fled, leaving Weis with the recruiting equivalent of the Hindenburg wreckage to survey.

Rather than stack the class with low level prospects late in the game, he decided to cut losses and signed only 15 players. From this small group a surprisingly solid core emerged. Safeties David Bruton and Kyle McCarthy both helped anchor Irish secondaries from '07-'09, Paul Duncan and Mike Turkovich both emerged late in their careers as solid starters, and Patrick Kuntz evolved into one of the hardest working, productive, and like-able defensive linemen of the decade.

Unfortunately those small contributions did not make up for almost half the class making impact whatsoever. The class was so small it was almost like Notre Dame was on self-imposed probation. When seven of the fifteen recruits flopped it combined with the Class of 2004 to create a crater that set the program back at least 2-3 years.


  1. After seeing how bad these 2 classes were, I constantly ask myself....How in the world did Ty Willingham
    a) actually have 3 winning seasons at Stanford, and
    b) get the HC job at Washington?

    I'm still in shock at how bad this past decade was.

    At this point Kelly just needs to do his job and we'll surpass the last decade.

  2. >Rather than stack the class with low level prospects late in the game, he decided to cut losses and signed only 15 players<............Always thought Charlie made a dreadful mistake not taking more players in this class, especially knowing the skimpy previous classes. He ended up running out of linemen two years later............A call to Tom Lemming would have gotten him a list of a dozen underrated 3 star offensive and defensive linemen, who had heart, and would have come to ND for the asking.........................

  3. I agree anonymous that grabbing a few more players probably would've been wise, but I think something that played a major role in that was the fact that he was still coaching the Pats at the time and didn't have the opportunity to really hit the recruiting trail to dig up new leads.

    I have a hard timing believing/thinking that with Charlie's ego he would've leaned on anyone like Lemming for direction on talent evaluation.