Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 7, 2013 Issue

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

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the fifth quarter lou somogyi Matt James, tragically died in a spring break accident prior to enrolling. Five others are no longer playing because of health problems, most notably outside linebacker Danny Spond and offensive tackle Tate Nichols. Suddenly, it might not even be considered top 25. • The juniors were much higher ranked, between No. 7-10. But now subtract Freshman All-American defensive end Aaron Lynch (South Florida) and much-coveted spread quarterback Everett Golson (academics) … and do you still consider it top 10? That's not even including two other linemen (Chase Hounshell and Brad Carrico) sidelined by injuries the past two years, and top backup defensive end Tony Springmann shelved by knee surgery this season. • The sophomore class saw only 17 players sign in 2012, and it was ranked mainly from No. 17-22. Its three mostheralded players in the group are no longer here: quarterback Gunner Kiel (Cincinnati), wideout Davonte' Neal (Arizona) and cornerback Tee Shepard (Holmes Community College in Mississippi). That's not even including season-ending surgery to safety Nick Baratti and the transfer of receiver Justin Ferguson (Western Michigan) that leaves 12 available bodies. Still think it's a top-25 group? Add up the four previous classes and you will probably find an aggregate, solid 9-3 and top-25 group … but probably not top 10. Granted, attrition takes place everywhere, but SEC schools have been notorious for grayshirting (a delayed version of redshirting that can circum- vent "oversigning"), and junior college options also can help fill some voids. Other schools give scholarships, too. Once you get to the sixth to 40th ratings in recruiting, there's probably not much separation. From there, it's player development, fitting into a system and attrition. This year's freshman class was a bona fide top-five group — but that was before five-star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes bolted to UCLA (he had 11 tackles through three games with the Bruins). True, it's just one loss, but it goes to filling a vital need area. The Irish signed only two defensive linemen in 2012 (Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones, whom most scouts thought was a better offensive line prospect) and two this season (Isaac Rochell and Jacob Matuska). This puts you a bit behind the eight ball down the road, especially if junior Stephon Tuitt turns pro after this season. Same at inside linebacker. The Irish signed one in 2011 (Jarrett Grace), none in 2012 and one in 2013 (Michael Deeb). That leaves a small margin of error at that position in years to come — but recruiting rankings generally aren't evaluated by "needs." Yes, Notre Dame usually will have a top-10 rated recruiting class. That doesn't necessarily mean that what you see in February is what you will get in the fall in the ensuing years. ✦ Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at

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