The Recruiting Recap Series rolls on! Today we examine Charlie Weis's first two full recruiting cycles, the classes that were supposed to be the building blocks to a sustained "Return to Glory."
Class of 2006
Rivals Ranking: #8
Number of Recruits: 28
Arrival Score: 69 (#1 since 2002)
Major Contributors: 4
Transfers/Never Played: 13
Contribution Pct.: 43%
Exit Score: 18
Cat 1 – NONE
Cat 2 – Young, Stewart, Walls, Olsen
Cat 3 – Wenger, Aldridge, Brown, T. Smith, Ryan, Richardson, Parris, McNeil
Cat 4 – West, Gordon, Gallup
Cat 5 – Burkhart, Carufel, Frazer, Gaines, Jackson, Jones, Mullen, Prince, Reuland, Schmidt, Wade, Webb, Yeatman
Fans may be surprised to see that the Class of 2006 checked in as the highest rated incoming class in terms of the grading metric we're using. A big reason for that was the fact that there were a whopping 28 recruits in this haul thanks to a chance in Notre Dame policy that allowed for the first group of early enrollees.
This group was much ballyhooed by every recruiting service and reestablished the Irish as players on the national recruiting scene. Charlie Weis secured two Rivals Top 100 quarterbacks, added six highly rated offensive linemen (including 5-star Sam Young from Florida) to a position in dire need of reinforcements, and landed highly rated skill players on both sides of the ball.
Unfortunately this group turned out to be the most highly overrated group of the last ten years. The attrition it went through was staggering: a whopping 13 players either transferred or never saw the field and less than 50% made a noteworthy contribution. This was an instance where the recruiting services whiffed on their evaluations and the coaching staff failed in helping the players overachieve.
When their time on-campus was complete there was not one play who fell in the "superstar" category, the only group since 2002 (obviously other than 2010 and the current one) that failed to produce one. The minimal impact of what was supposed to be a key class in the resurrection and rebuilding of the program set the table for the failures of 2008 and 2009.
Class of 2007
Rivals Ranking: #8
Number of Recruits: 18
Arrival Score: 49 (T-#5 since 2002)
Major Contributors: 5
Transfers/Never Played: 1
Contribution Pct.: 66%
Exit Score: 39
Cat 1 – Clausen, Tate, Allen
Cat 2 – I. Williams, G. Gray, B. Smith, H. Smith, Dever
Cat 3 – Hughes, Kamara, Neal, Ragone
Cat 4 – Romine, Paskorz, Nwankwo, Nuss, Walker
Cat 5 – Nagel
Almost an entire year before signing day 2007 Notre Dame landed its biggest recruit: the nation's top-rated signal caller, Jimmy Clausen. This was significant not only because Charlie Weis had reeled in the #1 player in the country, but he plucked him from Southern Cal and Pete Carroll's backyard. Weis would pull similar robberies in Florida (Armando Allen) and Tennessee (Golden Tate and Harrison Smith) which seemed to further validate the fact that Notre Dame was more than capable of hanging with the big boys on the recruiting trail.
The combination of Clausen and Tate dazzled fans before they both took their talents to the NFL after their junior years. In their final year in South Bend, they each had arguably the best season in Irish History for their respective positions. On the other side of the ball the quartet of Ian Williams, Brian Smith, Gary Gray, and Harrison Smith all started three years (Gray and Harrison are penciled in to start their third in 2011) and played key roles in turning around a dreadful defense during their senior season.
The most surprising bust of the class was most likely offensive tackle Matt Romine. Irish fans had high hopes for him to step in right away and challenge for a starting spot after a stellar performance at the Army All-American Bowl, but injuries and inconsistency derailed him and he never made a significant impact.
This group was low on numbers but relatively high on contribution. With the exception of the 2003 class, 2007 had the highest contribution percentage of the last 10 years at 66%. It's just a shame ND fans were robbed of the senior years of one of the three most prolific duos in Irish passing history (along with Quinn-Samardzija and Huarte-Snow).