Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Eye on College Football examines what current hot topic the fans of one BCS team are obsessing over -- rationally or not. Today's team: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
What they're talking about is ... their 2014 recruiting class. I have to be honest, with signing day over, I figured Notre Dame fans would have moved on to either 2015 recruiting or even the quarterback battle this spring now that Everett Golson has returned to the team, but that's just not the case.
Instead they're talking about a class that finished ranked 10th in 247Sports' composite rankings this year.
Notre Dame's class this year featured 23 new players, and was headlined by kids like linebacker Nyles Morgan, receiver Justin Brent and offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars.
What they're saying is ... meh. The strangest part of all of this is that nobody seems all that excited about the class. Generally when a school is ranked in the top ten the fans are excited about it. Yet, while they aren't exactly distraught, the Irish fans on the message boards are kind of blase about the whole thing. Here's a sample of things being said on Blue Gold Illustrated and One Foot Down.
- "These rankings don't mean that much in my opinion. If you look at teams like [Michigan State], Stanford, Oregon, they're ranked in 20-30+ range every year yet they find a way to compete at close to the best level. ND gets at or near top 10 all the time but these rankings are at best educated guesses rather than science. No one knows how well these kids will be developed in the future (being coached up and the heart to compete at a higher level). There is also attrition as you have already pointed out. Some of these sites may just pump up ND recruits because it sells subscriptions."
- "At least, I've noticed Kelly gets positions of need, is balanced, the lines this year, whereas Weis would just look at stars, in skill positions for example, but leave holes all over the team and still get a top ranked team."
- "The trouble is I don't see Kelly coaching these kids up. They make the same mistakes game after game. That is, the ones that get a good look at their position. And the some get in the dog house and seem never to work their way out. While others just see to get by on talent alone and never seem to get any better. So to me, I really don't put a whole lot in the recruiting class. When recruited they come in, some will fall by the way side and others get buried in the program and a few will make. There is no telling who will be the players that will make it. You need an honest try outs at every position, even the ones that have anointed starters. Good competition never hurts."
- "High school rankings are for the most part joke. Depends what level of schools they played in high school, the area (the state where in the state) they come from. Some kids level out talent wise in high or when they get to college. Sometime a kid that does get ballyhoo in high [school] can be a better prospect. Tough to measure heart and try. Try in a kid is more important that anything. Of course try and heart go hand in hand."
- "No five-stars. I guess every coaching staff has their blind spots. FIRE KELLY!" (This poster was joking.)
- "What I really find interesting is how much has changed with recruiting at ND under Brian Kelly. Here we are as Notre Dame fans debating whether this recruiting class has potential to have several players that will be starters and make an impact or if this class is just for depth and pretty much none of these players will log any meaningful playing time. This class would have caused Willingham to wet his pants when he was the head coach at ND. I can hear him right now saying that this recruiting class is “a hole in one!” Am I right or am I right?"
And what we're thinking is ... maybe they've just learned not to get excited about recruiting rankings? As was alluded to in one of the excerpts above, Notre Dame had plenty of highly-rated recruiting classes under Charlie Weis, and it didn't exactly do the team a lot of good. In fact, Notre Dame's recruiting class is typically one of the higher-rated classes in the country, but that hasn't led to any national titles in the last quarter of a century.
And I think this is the smart approach to take. Yes, Notre Dame had a strong class this year, and a strong class in 2013 (ranked fifth), but there will be a lot of change in South Bend this season. Just about all of the major factors in the Notre Dame team that played for a national title after the 2012 season are gone. So while these latest recruiting classes certainly give Irish fans a reason to be optimistic going forward, the players in those classes still need to prove it on the field.
If they do, then Notre Dame fans will get truly excited about what they've landed.