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Polian's move to Stanford could be problems for the Irish

Jan 5, 2010, 12:25 PM EDT

The reports that Brian Polian will join Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford can’t be looked at as good news for the Fighting Irish. While Polian was in charge of a special teams unit that drew the ire of some Irish fans for its inconsistent play, he was also Charlie Weis’ ace recruiter on the West Coast, doing battle with some of the top Pac-10 and national programs and coming away victorious on a number of key recruits, most notably linebacker Manti Te’o. Polian will replace one-time Notre Dame graduate assistant DJ Durkin, who is leaving Stanford to go to Florida, reportedly as the special teams and linebackers coach.

As Jim Harbaugh continues to resurrect the Stanford football program and raise their recruiting profile nationally, the Irish and Cardinal have found themselves competing for many of the same players the past few seasons. Current Notre Dame commit Blake Leuders, an Army All-American, just planned an official visit to Stanford, not exactly a heart-warming proposition for a Irish recruiting class that already lost its premiere edge player in Chris Martin. While Leuders says he’s still committed to the Irish, meeting with Harbaugh, an aggressive recruiter, and the familiar face of Brian Polian might be enough to pry another key recruit away from the Irish.

While coach Brian Kelly’s decision to let Polian go was said to be one of his hardest, it could come back to haunt him for the same reasons Florida hires Greg Mattison and Steve Addazio hurt the Irish. Having a coach on staff with extensive experience at Notre Dame gives you the ability to tell recruits what Notre Dame can’t do for you, and why a university well known for its academic and disciplinary challenges, isn’t a good fit for perspective student athletes. I have first-hand knowledge that Mattison and the Florida staff used negative tactics to help win recruiting battles against the Irish, swaying key recruits like Justin Trattou and Omar Hunter away from their commitments to Notre Dame before National Signing Day.

Polian already spoke candidly about some of the drawbacks of coaching at Notre Dame, and while he was honest and open about how much he loved his time at the university, it’s common sense for him to relay some of the challenges that student athletes encounter — whether it be Residence Life and du Lac, weather, or diversity issues — to recruits chosing between Notre Dame and Stanford. It’s never good to have someone that knows the Notre Dame recruiting playbook better than any guy currently on staff, and for Stanford that’s now the case.

Still, as a Notre Dame fan you have to be happy for Brian Polian, a coach that gave a lot to the university and logged a lot of tough hours trying to help the Irish win. Stanford is a great place — a tremendous university with elite academics — and Polian looks to have landed on his feet.

  1. NDFAN401 - Jan 5, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    Agreed Keith, It is good to see Brian Polian move on and better his position, but competing against him is truly a nightmare. Notre Dame is losing top notch talent at a rather nerve racking rate. Hopefully Mr.Kelly is formulating a plan and getting ready to implement that plan, if not, I fear the coming seasons may be frustrating and disappointing.

  2. TLNDMA - Jan 5, 2010 at 7:21 PM

    Charlie Weis learned the hard way in his recruiting battles with ex-coaches. After losing a few recruits late, “If they’re looking, we’re looking”, became his battle cry.
    My guess is Brian Kelly is well aware schools are trying to poach his players. There is also talk out there of players now looking at ND, that weren’t looking before. You have to know that Kelly has been planning his strategy for the recruiting stretch drive, since his hire.
    As it stands right now, I see no reason to even think of hitting the panic button. We may lose a player or two more. Who is to say that Kelly is not so enamored with some of Weis’s recruits (Tony Hurd).
    As far as Polian and ND recruits, he’s going to now tell them that ND is not a good fit for them. I would hope the kid would then question Polian’s sincerity.
    I realize this is a simplification of the process. My point is, we have to wait and see how this all shakes out. When it’s all said and done, if Kelly states that he has signed a “killer class”, haven’t we learned not to get too excited. I understand the importance of recruiting, especially at ND but, the games are played in the fall.

  3. MIchael - Jan 5, 2010 at 8:06 PM

    I agree 100% if Charlie had spent a little more time finding recruits with heart instead of five stars things may have ended differently. I m not saying that this year’s class didn’t have heart but no on every play and we definetly were missing some unappreciated toughness. Hopefully we will have more heart and toughness and less “stars” I can’t wait to see the players after “camp kelly”

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