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Smithwick on Rock's House looked at our recruiting rankings, and the rankings of our opponents for the Soph-Senior classes:
1-LSU: 3-year AVG(2003-2005):Rivals-8.3, Scout-7.7
2-Michigan: 3-year AVG: Rivals-9.3 , Scout-5
3-ND: 3-year Avg(2003-2005)- Rivals-28, Scout-20.7
4-Penn State: 3-year AVG: Rivals- 44 (19.5 w/o 2003), Scout- 30
5-Illinois: 3-year AVG: Rivals- 43.6, Scout- 40
We won't even go near USC.
Notre Dame averaged right around 25th in the country for its top three classes on the field -- and note that almost no one is left from the 2004 class that was ranked even higher than it should have been. The Junior and Sophomore classes (as noted ad nauseum) are black holes of talent.
Notre Dame's played above it's talent level the last two years. 10-3 may not be good enough, but at this point, it should be. Notre Dame got into a bowl over its head based on reputation and fan base and got beat bad by possibly the most talented team outside of South Central or Columbus. ND is a good team that could have beaten almost any team out of the top five, but it's just not a great team. As most will tell you, LSU was the most talented team in the SEC this year.
But what about Boise State and Rutgers -- they don't have the players ND does?
This argument is a canard. First, Boise State would not be undefeated with Notre Dame's schedule. Second, there are teams that catch lightning in a bottle every year. Sometimes, unexpectantly, team's mesh.
If a coach can sustain it every year against a top schedule, then talk to me. Otherwise this is a rather useless argument -- not to take away from the excellent coaching jobs at both schools.
Six losses in two years is at the high end of the expectation curve, IMO. We beat teams with equal or less talent (and depth of talent) and lost to teams with substantially better talent. That's good coaching that righted the ship that was sailing off the edge. As I wrote previously, we were on the verge of a virtual death penalty after years of poor and unevenly poor recruiting. When Urban Meyer (I know, I know) said he could win quicker at Florida, this is what he was talking about.
Dan Wetzel summed it up this way:
Weis has, in essense, stopped the bleeding of five loss and losing seasons and more importantly worked his ass off to beat out teams like USC and Florida for the nation's top recruits. And they're coming:
If Notre Dame (10-3) ever is going to return to the national elite, ever going to truly compete for that national championship that Weis wants to win yesterday, it isn't going to hinge on whether the big guy can coach.
Oh, he can coach. The first half when he took a decidedly average football team and kept it in the game proved that. It might be fun for all the Irish haters to watch him pace around as his defense gets scorched deep again, but the reality remains that the Irish are an exceptionally well-coached team.
They just aren't a very talented one.
The Irish don't have enough good players to hang with anyone that does.
Only bringing in the kind of elite athletes, both in quality and quantity, who can change that will determine whether Notre Dame ever gets back to the pinnacle of college football. Weis inherited a program that had hit a tailspin in recruiting
that still affects everything. He never publicly would blame Tyrone Willingham,
but the reality is the former coach's final three recruiting classes delivered
just a single five-star recruit (defensive end Victor Abiamiri), according to
Rivals.com. Then Weis' first class, when he was still offensive coordinator of
the New England Patriots and couldn't devote to the task full time, was average at best and landed no elite prospects.
Those are the program's sophomores, juniors, seniors and fifth-year
players. Those guys are the core of the team, the recruits that are good enough
to beat Penn State and Georgia Tech but simply can't compete with Ohio State,
Michigan, Southern California and LSU.
The country's top quarterback, two top five receivers, the top tight end and one of the top speed backs in the country are coming to Notre Dame this year via the college draft known as recruiting. On defense Justin Trattou, Gary Gray, Ian Williams, Kerry Neal and Harrison Smith are on board... all four star or higher prospects. Notre Dame still has a shot at the #1 LB in the country in Chris Donald, top five DE Ben Martin and Louisiana DT Will Blackwell.
No matter what happens, this will be Notre Dame's second straight top ten recruiting class, which would make it almost 20 places higher, on average, than what is currently on the field.
And most importantly, Weis will finally have his guys with his attitude -- the residue of the Willingham years affected more than just the talent base. The sting of the bowl loss will soon fade toward optimism based in reality and not hopeful expectation. But while we're talking expectation, expect a much nastier and more talented football team to come out of South Bend despite lower media expectations. Notre Dame will finish in the top 5 in 08 and surprise most of you with a top 15 finish next year.
~ The Rock
P.S. As JVan noted, LSU adjusted to take away the outside runs that were so effective in the first half.