Zach Frazer will walk onto the field at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday and start at quarterback, fulfilling a dream he had when he became the first high profile recruiting commitment of the Charlie Weis era.
That the dream is coming true isn’t a testament to Frazer’s patience, but merely a coincidence that Notre Dame is playing Connecticut, where Frazer transferred after his freshman season. UConn will play Notre Dame for the first time in either schools’ history.
Frazier came to Notre Dame as the hand-picked quarterback of Weis and then quarterbacks coach David Cutcliffe, the man responsible for grooming the Manning brothers. When asked to look back on Zach’s recruitment yesterday, Weis still remembered plenty.
“Zach was interesting. You know, his junior year he was surrounded by a bunch of front line players and a lot
of weapons,” Weis said. “They were really, really
good his junior year. Then they lost a lot of players going
into his senior year, and he was kind of a one-man gang. He came here and was a good player for
us. We went through a spring where things didn’t
work out in the depth chart for him, and he decided it would be in his
best interest to try to find another opportunity. It was a very cordial way he handled it. I’m glad to see him playing. I just hope he doesn’t play very well this week.”
Frazier’s wayward road was a common theme Charlie Weis’ much heralded 2006 recruiting class. Twenty-eight players gave their commitment to Notre Dame, headlined by Sam Young, James Aldridge, Matt Carufel, Demetrius Jones, Konrad Rueland and Frazer. The fact that of those blue-chip recruits only Young has turned into a front-line player shows the difficulties that come with projecting a recruiting class.
Jones, Carufel, Reuland, Richard Jackson, Munir Prince, Luke Schmidt, Bartley Webb, Jashaad Gaines, Will Yeatman, every one of those recruits came to Notre Dame and left without their promise fulfilled. For Schmidt and Webb, injuries derailed them. For Yeatman, a much-publicized fall out with a rigid Student Affairs office got in the way of a promising two-sport career. For others attrition came from transfers for various reasons.
Of the vaunted 28-member class, let’s take a look at the contributions they’ve made, working down from one to twenty-eight.
1) Sam Young: Even if he has yet to become the player many hoped, he started every game he suited up for in his Notre Dame career. I don’t think many other offensive tackles can say that.
2) Eric Olsen: Heart and soul of offensive line. Would’ve been great to let him redshirt.
3) Robby Parris: Turned into the lone offensive weapon out of this recruiting class.
4) Chris Stewart: Transformed his body to be solid contributor on offensive line. Catalyst for recruiting class as high schooler.
5) Darrin Walls: Career hasn’t been what many hoped, but still has a year left to fulfill his promise.
6) Sergio Brown: Sometimes you notice him for the wrong reasons (tackling against Pitt), but he’s one of the only play-makers on the defense.
7) Dan Wenger: Took one for the team this year while providing depth along the line. Helped start the Aquinas pipeline with Young.
8) Raeshon McNeil: A forgotten man that still ranked 11th in school history in passes broken up heading into this season.
9) John Ryan: Looked lost early in his career, but has become a nice role player at defensive end.
10) James Aldridge: A high school knee injury never let us see the five-star recruit that signed with the Irish. A valuable contributor at fullback/halfback when not injured.
11) Toryan Smith: Notre Dame’s best run-stuffing linebacker lost his job with the emergence of Manti Te’o. (Would’ve been valuable against Navy…)
12) Paddy Mullen: Recruited as a tight end, has become nice presence as goal-line nose tackle.
13) Barry Gallup: Found his niche as special teams ace/kick returner.
14) George West: Never broke through as a offensive threat, but deserves kudos as one of the school’s first early enrollees.
15) Leonard Gordon: Hybrid corner/safety that also contributes on special teams.
16) Morrice Richardson: Promising edge rusher that loss reps with the emergence of Kapron Lewis-Moore.
17) Kallen Wade: Ditto.
18) Zach Frazer: Now the starting quarterback at UConn. Can’t blame him after coming out third in the 2007 quarterback derby behind Demetrius Jones and Jimmy Clausen.
19) Luke Schmidt: Promising H-back robbed of career from lingering concussion and injury issues.
20) Will Yeatman: Two-sport threat probably won’t be donating to university after getting mistreated by Student Affairs. Transferred to Maryland to play football and lacrosse.
21) Bartley Webb: Tackle prospect lost to a career ending shoulder injury.
22) Munir Prince: Running back/cornerback transferred to Missouri after getting passed in depth chart.
23) Richard Jackson: Seldom used receiver transferred to UCF. No longer on the roster.
24) Jashaad Gaines: Seldom used safety now plays linebacker for Texas Southern.
25) Konrad Reuland: Former blue-chip recruit struggled to break through at Notre Dame and transferred to Stanford. Has five catches this season for the Cardinal.
26) Ryan Burkhart: Hometown product still on scholarship, one of four kickers on the Irish roster.
27) Matt Carufel: Promising offensive guard that transferred home to Minnesota after losing his starting job to Eric Olsen.
28) Demetrius Jones: Former team leader walked out on team after losing his starting job after one game in 2007 to Jimmy Clausen. Nearly enrolled at Northern Illinois before heading to Cincinatti, where he now plays linebacker.
It’s pretty easy to see why this Fighting Irish squad is still struggling with veteran productivity, because this class was almost a complete punt. Even it’s best player failed to live up to his potential, and guys like Robby Parris — good glue guys — shouldn’t be the top skill contributor of the group.
You can’t blame Weis for some of the injuries and attrition that took place, but if you actually go back and look at other top recruiting classes (scroll through USC’s one day), you’ll see that this kind of thing is pretty normal.
Looking at this class today, there isn’t a great defensive player on the list. Walls has the potential to be a good cornerback, but there isn’t a starting caliber front-seven player in the group, which is as good of evidence as you’d want to why this defense is struggling.