Blue and Gold Illustrated

Jan. 1, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 61 of 63

62 JAN. 1, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T he results from the early signing period Dec. 16-18 were as predictable as the sun's rise in the East. Who could have ever fig- ured that Alabama would once again be No. 1 (yes, my tongue is about to burst through my cheek)? That made it seven times in the last 11 recruiting cycles. Ohio State, No. 2? Yes, the Buckeyes, the clos- est thing to a southern school above the Mason-Dixon line, have had the No. 2 slot three of the last five years on the recruiting trail. Clemson? Well, it was an "off" year for the Tigers with a No. 7 finish in the early signing portion. However, they did place No. 2 last year with a group that included a nation-high five five-star recruits. The trend for the Tigers also has been quality over quantity. Three of their last five classes had 18 or fewer players signed, but the proportion of five- and four-star players is superb. For example, six of the 17 signed in 2018 were five-star prospects, nota- bly quarterback Trevor Lawrence. That's basically your "Big Three" of college football, although more so for Alabama and Clemson. LSU and Georgia are also regulars in the top five when it comes to re- cruiting rankings, which often results in some chiding of them as under- achievers on the field. Still, LSU broke through with a national title in 2019 to end the four-year stranglehold by Alabama and Clemson, and Georgia nearly achieved it in 2017 before losing to the Crimson Tide in overtime. That brings us to Notre Dame, which for the second time in three years has crashed the College Foot- ball Playoff party. Both times, the Fighting Irish are not taken as seriously as the oth- ers. Two years ago they were an 11.5-point underdog to Clemson (the Tigers won 30-3), and this year — as of Dec. 21 — they are a 19.5-point underdog to Alabama. A major reason for that is because they often recruit on a "different aisle" than the Big Three. Under Brian Kelly and Co., their reputa- tion is more about mining the solid three-star prospects who become diamonds, a la 2020 Butkus Award winner Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who originally committed to home- state Virginia before choosing the Irish over Michigan State on National Signing Day. He redshirted as a 17-year-old freshman to develop more, played sparingly only the first two games as a 2018 sophomore before getting injured … and now here he is as a prospective first-round NFL Draft pick next spring. A No. 9 recruiting rating (so far) for Notre Dame this December was a celebration of "cracking the top 10" after usually ranking from No. 11 through No. 22 the past seven years. In other words, what would be a letdown recruiting campaign at the Big Three is mostly uplifting for the Fighting Irish. And therein lies the difference between the extremely few that can be elite, and a group of about six or seven that are high-quality top-10 programs as Notre Dame has been the past four years, constantly knock- ing on that top-tier door but not quite yet gaining admit- tance into the club. There was a crashing of the gate with the conquest of Clemson on Nov. 7, but resi- dence in the elite quarters is not about one victory. Rather it's about consistently achiev- ing it over years, perhaps even a decade. Still, for anyone to infer that Notre Dame isn't on a level playing field when it comes to recruiting is like listening to the guy moaning about the Freon in his Rolls-Royce not being up to standards. The Irish possess the re- cruiting budget to scour the country for the correct fits and have the wherewithal that 98 percent of the other schools don't. Do you think schools like Pittsburgh, Boston College, Purdue, etc., past or present regulars on the Irish slate, would actually send a coach to Hawai'i every Monday just to be seen for about a minute? Not a lot of schools have such resources or budgets. And even if you do, that is not a guarantee of building a football juggernaut. Just ask Texas, USC or Miami, who are in tremendous re- cruiting territories and have superb football history, but haven't flour- ished for more than a decade. Notre Dame has what we would classify as "first-world" football problems. It has more resources, tradition and overall appeal than 98 percent of the other Football Bowl Subdivision schools, and the devel- opmental program overseen by Kelly and his staff has been laudable the past four years. Regardless, it will always be judged against the other two percent, or more specifically the Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State operations. For now, keep knocking on the door until it can fall. ✦ First-World Problems In Recruiting THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at The Fighting Irish have developed a reputation for mining solid three-star prospects who become diamonds, such as senior rover Jeremiah Owusu- Koramoah. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Jan. 1, 2021