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FOOTBALL RECRUITING ANALYSIS: Turbulent Recruiting Year Ends

Ken Fowler | Wednesday, February 7, 2007

It’s over.

Notre Dame’s recruiting season, which began with two early surprise commitments, picked up a full head of steam when California quarterback Jimmy Clausen said he was coming to South Bend and then sputtered with lost battles and a notable de-commitment, ends today.

Twenty players are expected to sign national letters of intent this morning to play for Notre Dame and coach Charlie Weis.

For the Irish, the new players will mark the second straight top-10 class according to Tom Lemming, the national recruiting analyst for CSTV.

On one end is Armando Allen, a 5-foot-10 running back from a Miami suburb. On the other is Chris Little, a 6-foot-5, 340-pound tackle from Jeffersonville, Ga.

In between are the coveted Clausen, an Italian kid named Ragone from Weis’ old Jersey stomping grounds and a wide receiver from Tennessee with a name that destined him for Golden glory.

The Irish are expected to land only two defensive linemen – end Kerry Neal and tackle Ian Williams – but will grab two running backs, two receivers and five offensive linemen. And the one quarterback everyone wanted but only Weis got.

It’s the second straight year the Irish will bring in two top tailbacks, and this year’s receivers compare favorably to last year’s group. What’s more, after receiving a bare cupboard on the offensive line, Weis restocked the shelves with six big men last year and this year’s five.

But the recruiting saga this year was more moving than most. Clausen’s commitment helped the Irish reel in the top offensive recruits, Lemming said, but the Irish experienced frustration on the defensive side of the ball.

Linebacker Chris Donald passed on the Irish and will stay in state to be a Volunteer. Lineman Will Blackwell of West Monroe, La., chose LSU after the Sugar Bowl. Lineman Martez Wilson of Chicago will sign with Ron Zook and Illinois, while Anaheim linebacker Chris Galippo will go to USC.

The worst for Notre Dame, though, was losing defensive end Justin Trattou of Ramsey, N.J. Lemming doesn’t have him rated in his top 100, but Scout.com ranks him as the fourth best defensive end prospect in the country. He committed to Notre Dame in June but visited Florida Jan. 19 and soon thereafter told Weis he’d be going to Florida instead.

The Irish picked up two verbal commitments after Trattou’s switch, but linebacker Brian Smith and kicker Brandon Walker don’t enter as difference makers the way Trattou could have.

But starting today, Trattou and Donald, Blackwell and Wilson, Galippo and everyone else will mean nothing to Notre Dame unless they see the field against the Irish. Notre Dame will continue striding in the Red Queen race that is recruiting, forgetting the past and looking at the future.

The recruits who sign today will talk to media only once or twice between now and their sophomore seasons, and the continual rebuilding focus will shift to a new year of high school players. Analysts and coaches are already following current juniors destined to make an impact in Division I.

But today, the Irish can be happy with what they’ve got. The next national signing day is a long way away.