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Football: Good news, bad news

Chris Hine | Wednesday, February 6, 2008

National Signing Day – the day die-hard fans have longed for since Notre Dame’s season of record-setting futility began – is finally here.

During a season that saw the Irish start 0-4 for the first time in school history and finish a dismal 3-9, the prospect of nabbing a top-tier recruiting class buoyed fans weighed down by depressing performances on the field.

And barring a rush of last-minute defections, fans should get their wish.

Notre Dame has the second best class lined up, according to scout.com. It has third-best according to rivals.com and No. 1 according to Tom Lemming of CSTV.

Irish coach Charlie Weis, doing his best impersonation of Illinois coach Ron Zook, managed to recruit well in a year when his team failed to perform. Luckily for the Irish, they received 18 of their 22 verbal commitments before the regular season began and managed to prevent all their prospects, aside from defensive tackle Omar Hunter, from backing out of their commitments.

Over the course of the season, the Irish coaching staff involved the recruits with the inner workings of the program, informing them via e-mail with the day-to-day operations of the team.

Nearly a year ago, the Irish received their first commitment for this class from Mike Golic Jr., son of former Irish defensive lineman Mike Golic. They received their latest commitment from Deion Walker on Jan. 5. In between, Weis gained a slew of top commitments, including scout.com’s No. 1 tight end Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota wide receiver Michael Floyd, California quarterback Dayne Crist, Oregon defensive end Ethan Johnson, and Chicago linebacker Darius Fleming, all slated to attend Notre Dame in the fall.

Last season, the Irish had three early enrollees – quarterback Jimmy Clausen, running back Armando Allen, and cornerback Gary Gray – who began attending the University last spring semester. This year, only one recruit, offensive lineman Trevor Robinson, decided to enroll early.

Part of Weis’ success recruiting this season came as a result of learning from his mistakes in the past.

After losing multiple prospects last season just before Signing Day, Charlie Weis instituted a policy that said he would revoke scholarship offers from recruits who gave their verbal commitments to the Irish, then took scheduled visits at other schools. Hunter chose to take an official visit to Florida, and Weis subsequently revoked his scholarship offer.

The rest remained committed to Notre Dame, giving even the most despairing Irish fan hope for the future.