Top-rated recruiting class offers Notre Dame hope
Posted: Friday January 4, 2008 1:48PM; Updated: Wednesday February 6, 2008 4:16PM
They are Charlie Weis' Angels, often talking, text messaging and instant messaging each other while rarely seeing their central communicator. Fresh-faced, fumble-free and representing the future, they see South Bend, Ind. as a football heaven, not the Hades it became during the disastrous 2007 season.
They hail from all four corners of the country. Some are sons of Domers past, others were raised Michigan and USC fans, throwing their childhood allegiances out with the leftover recruiting letters. Together they are Notre Dame's 2008 recruiting class, a talented group that Weis hopes will help lift the Irish into the future. "Coach Weis wanted forward-thinking, smart guys who want to win a title sooner rather than later," says Dayne Crist, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound quarterback from Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, Calif. who will join 13 other future Domers in Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl. "We're already getting to know each other across the country and encouraging each other to be ready for Notre Dame."
Over the last year, as Weis and his current players endured a bowl-less 3-9 season, the coach continued to secure verbal commitments. "I don't think the losses got to those who committed before the season," says Mike Golic Jr., a 6-5, 265-pound offensive lineman and son of a former Notre Dame player, Mike Sr., from Northwest Catholic (West Hartford, Conn.).
By all accounts, this recruiting class is Weis's best. Five of the 21 recruits currently committed to the Irish are ranked among the SI/TAKKLE.com Top 100, including highly-touted, athletic tight end Kyle Rudolph (6-6, 230) from Elder (Cincinnati) and Lincoln (Portland, Ore.) defensive end Ethan Johnson (6-4, 266). Though many committed last spring, more enlisted during the Irish's hapless season. Shortly after the 38-0 drubbing to USC, running back Jonas Gray of Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.), who was in Notre Dame Stadium for the rout, offered his verbal commitment.
"I have been evaluating for 30 years, and this is their best class since 1990 when they produced five first-round NFL draft picks," says CSTV recruiting analyst Tom Lemming.
Crist's choice is the most intriguing. A USC fan growing up, he visited 15-20 college campuses (all but five unofficially) during his recruitment, whittling his list down to LSU and Notre Dame before giving his Irish aye. A class behind Jimmy Clausen, Crist, who attended Chaminade Middle School with Clausen before Clausen's family moved 15 minutes away, did not seriously consider Notre Dame until Clausen sent him encouraging text messages in February of his junior year. During subsequent visits, Crist spent time with Clausen in his off-campus house. "Notre Dame wasn't on my radar until Jimmy contacted me," says Crist, who is a finalist to be the Army's Player of the Year, which Clausen won last year. "Anywhere you go, you're going to compete against other players."