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Football: Highly touted freshman class beginning to show promise

Joe Meixell | Thursday, October 30, 2008

More than half of Notre Dame’s freshmen class met each other on January 5, 2008.

15 of the team’s 27 freshmen were invited to San Antonio that week for the Army All-America Bowl for graduating high school players.

“We spent that week together down there and we kind of had our Notre Dame group and then there was everyone else,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “I think that played a more role in our class coming so close together.”

The highly-touted group continued to stay in touch with one another throughout the summer to talk about how excited they were to get to South Bend and get things rolling. Once they arrived, they didn’t waste much time.

Rudolph is only one of several freshmen who have played a major role in Notre Dame’s 5-2 start this season. He has been listed as the No. 1 tight end since week one and currently has 14 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

Those numbers make him the second leading freshman receiver on the team behind wide receiver Michael Floyd. Floyd, who has 31 catches for 533 yards, was also in San Antonio at the All-America Bowl.

“It was a good way to get to know all my teammates, getting to know them all then really helped out,” he said.

The freshman from Saint Paul, Minn. hauled in his team leading fifth touchdown against Washington to set a record for freshman receivers. He is also only one catch away from breaking sophomore Duval Kamara’s freshman receptions record.

The fast start for one of the most impressive freshmen classes in the country is due in a big way to the camaraderie the team was able to develop before they came to campus.

“We were already close enough so when we’re working out and pushing one another you’re not like, ‘Ok who’s this guy pushing me,’ it’s more like ‘Ok this is my teammate, this is my buddy, so we were able to all push one another pretty hard,” Rudolph said.

The class knew long before they arrived that they had the chance to be something special. That’s why none of the recruits, who had their pick of the nation’s top colleges, backed down even after the dismal 3-9 season in 2007. Several players said they were asked relentlessly if they would change their minds, but they all had the same response – no way.

“I had a lot of people ask me about that, but I knew that Notre Dame with all it offered was too good to pass up,” quarterback Dayne Crist said.

Crist threw for over 2,000 yards as a senior year at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Cal. Last year and was ranked the third best quarterback prospect by Scout.com. He has yet to see the field this year, but said he was content learning the offense and waiting for his chance to perform with his classmates.

“There are a lot of really unselfish guys. Guys who just really want to be part of something special,” Rudolph said.

After a 6-2 start with major contributions from the frosh on both sides of the ball, they seem to have made the right decision.