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Is SI really jumping on the ND bandwagon?

Feb 8, 2011, 3:38 PM EST

Kelly Sombrero

Maybe it’s the dearth of college football news after a roller coaster Signing Day, but Stewart Mandel over at SI.com had an incredibly complimentary column about Brian Kelly’s recruiting class and how it could produce a “return to prominence.”

(Apparently, SI is gun shy of using the ol’ “Return to Glory” slogan, too. Can’t say I blame them.)

Mandel, who was burned when he hopped on the Irish bandwagon back in 2006, seemingly had it with picking the Irish to succeed, even supporting a Pat Fitzgerald quote and calling the Northwestern football program on par with the Irish at the tail end of the 2009 season.

The quote of record from Mandel’s piece back then:

“Even though we’re similar academically, we’re in a little different boat as Stanford and Notre Dame,” said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. “We’ve been consistently winning since 1995. They’re still saying they can do it, but we’re doing it.”

(Major aside: I’ll be the first to chuckle at Fitzgerald’s comments, and I already addressed them head-on back in November ’09. What Northwestern is doing is admirable, but it’s far from a top-flight football program, winning only nine games once since the turn of the century and scheduling absolute patsies in the non-conference portion of their schedule.)

Oh what a difference a coaching change and a recruiting class filled with elite defensive players makes… Almost begrudgingly, Mandel himself turns a blind eye on past recruiting classes filled with offensive blue-chippers and instead looked at the trio of Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt, and Ishaq Williams as proof that Brian Kelly and his coaching staff have put together the pieces needed to bring the Irish football program back into relevance.

Non-Notre Dame fans have every reason to be skeptical of yet another celebrated recruiting class. Several of Weis’ most highly rated signees never came close to meeting the hype, fueling the theory that perhaps Notre Dame five-star recruits are like Duke McDonald’s All-Americans: their status comes with the school.

But there’s reason to believe this class will turn out differently than those before it.

“I think Brian Kelly will coach some of these guys better than Charlie Weis did,” said Scout.com’s Wallace. “He knows how to teach a college player better. He knows how to develop personnel at this level. He turned that team around [last year] and they’re riding momentum.”

Coming off their first eight-win season in four years, it’s not unreasonable to think the Irish could earn a BCS bowl berth in Kelly’s second season. They’ve earned three over the past 13 seasons. Much will depend on the development of whomever wins the quarterback derby, but Notre Dame will surround that player with as many as 18 guys with starting experience, including star receiver Floyd, All-America caliber linebacker Mant’i Teo and fourth-year starting safety Smith.

The difference between the Champs Sports Bowl and the Orange Bowl could come down to whether incoming freshmen like Lynch, Tuitt and Williams (who could become a hybrid linebacker in Diaco’s 3-4 defense) can provide an immediate impact.

“If I didn’t come here knowing I have the chance to start as a freshman, maybe I wouldn’t be [working] as crazy as I am in the weight room,” said early enrollee Lynch. “I’m going crazy because I want to play this year coming up.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find a Notre Dame fan that wasn’t jumping for joy when Charlie Weis inked the mega-recruiting classes of 2006 and 2007, and while there may not be a archive to prove it, I too was too star-crazed to realize the strategic imbalances that plagued those two classes.

That said, while Mandel is pointing to this season’s recruiting successes as a reason why the Irish have a shot to make it to the BCS in Brian Kelly’s second season, he should be pointing to Charlie Weis’ success inking the 2008 recruiting class, which provided starters like Robert Blanton, Braxston Cave, Dayne Crist, Sean Cwynar, Darius Fleming, Michael Floyd, Ethan Johnson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Trevor Robinson and Jamoris Slaughter to the roster, with intriguing wildcards like Steve Filer and Jonas Gray potentially becoming the difference makers many expected them to be.

Still, with 8 months to go until the Irish actually take the field again, it’s good to see that it isn’t just Irish fans feeling optimistic about the direction of the Irish football program.

 

  1. ndfootballfan4life - Feb 8, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    haven’t you heard, Keith? ND is “irrelevant’. I can’t wait to hear all the cries from the haters when ND is competing to play in a BCS National Championship Game in 2-4 years. Kelly will bring this program back to where it belongs. Is it September 3rd yet?

  2. bernhtp - Feb 8, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    I hate to admit it, but the term to use now is not “glory” or “prominance,” but “relevance” – relevance in terms of the national championship picture by either being a candidate ourselves or just (possibly) beating teams that are. It’s been a very long time since this level of relevance could be ascribed to the Notre Dame football program, but definitely is something that I hope and expect to happen this season. Prominance and then glory can follow once we’ve been relevant for a while.

    • 1notredamefan - Feb 8, 2011 at 7:47 PM

      I hate to sound cocky and it’s not at all what I’m trying to convey but relevance is all in the eye of the beholder… Notre Dame could lose for the next 40 yrs and we would remain relevant, if for the sole fact of our non-relevance

  3. nddc21 - Feb 8, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    While I love seeing my favorite team and alma mater on the front page of SI, this kind of article (and its clones we’ve seen over the years) always make me wince a little. Not because I don’t love my Irish, but rather because this is the exact fuel that feeds the fire of every ensuing blog post and message board commenter stating so eloquently “NOTER DAEME SUX LOLOL RUDY IS A STOOPID.” This kind of stuff is how we ND fans get a reputation for being privileged, or expecting a national championship every year. For once, just once, I’d sort of like to sneak up on the national rankings, and put together a quality season that isn’t under every microscope in the country. But I know being a part of the Notre Dame family means that I’ll never be able to have my cake and eat it too.
    So, I’d just like state to any detractors or “Nd haterz” (ugh, typing that felt awful) perusing this site that the SI article in question is not written by an ND alum, or overbearing ND fan. It is written by an SI writer who is concerned, for the most part, with page views. So whatever your opinion is on ND, when you read Mr. Mandel’s article (or the response featured above), you are contributing to those page views. Good job.

    • bonerchamp - Feb 10, 2011 at 9:42 AM

      I am not a fan of the Irish but there is no doubt that CFB is better when they are a good team. The reason why there are so many “haters” is because ND fans demand respect yet they havent earned it. They have no big wins in a decade and when it comes to the hunt for the national title, ND is no where to be found come late October.
      Everytime ND fan thinks they have a good team, they are exposed. In ’02 it was USC, In ’05 (a very good ND team) it was USC and OSU. In ’06 the mighty Irish go 10-1 beating nobody along the way. Then play a good USC team and get rolled. Of course they should have never played in a BCS game but because the rules are set up in their favor, they go onto get embarassed by LSU. 10-1 against a bunch of average teams. 0-2 against the good teams losing by a combined score of 84-38.
      And there in lies your problem ND fan, the Mighty Irish haven’t done anything in a over a decade. They haven’t been ranked in the top 5 in 20 years. Last National Championship? 1988.
      Being so far from the glory days and being routinely exposed year after year, they are not relevant to the the National title hunt. But ND fan won’t except that.
      I never thought the media would reach that point either but guys like Herbstriet/Cowherd/Staples/CFB News have called it like it is and opened many eyes nationally….ND is nothing but a myth.
      So until ND wins a game of importance in late October/November like Auburn did 6 weeks in a row they will continue to be disrespected because no one like to be spoon fed a pile of crap.
      Sorry fellas, but Santa isn’t real either.

      • 1notredamefan - Feb 10, 2011 at 8:34 PM

        I would like to thankyou for your thoughtful post! Do you feel better? I most assuredly would hope so, taking the time to come to another teams website and give such a well put opinion about a team that is a myth…Maybe you came to wrong website, The Discovery Channel I’m sure has a place to post new ideas for Mythbusters..

  4. tedlinko - Feb 9, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    I’m as excited as anyone about the incoming class. But the reality is that if we’re going to be in the BCS picture THIS YEAR it will have more to do with BK’s ability to continue coaching up the talent that’s already been here. W saw the beginnings of that this past season and I expect it to continue. Some of the freshmen will certainly contribute, but the big payoff from this class will become evident in 2012 and beyond. The other big payoff will be if BK is able to sustain elite and balanced recruiting classes year to year because THAT is how you build a dominant program.

    • bernhtp - Feb 9, 2011 at 1:24 PM

      Besides adding the new recruits and further developing existing players, it would be really wonderful if we didn’t lose our best players – starting quarterback, three best receivers, running back, DL, etc. – to injury at critical moments. Cross your fingers.

  5. footballace - Feb 9, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    Get your popcorn ready because 2011 is going to be a fun season in South Bend. The Irish have a great shot at playing in a BCS bowl game. The players the Irish signed in this class wont have an impact on the program until the 2012/2013 season.

    My philosophy on recruiting is “its not who you sign, its how you develop them that counts.” Kelly worked miracles with under the radar guys he signed at Cincinnati, so he should be able to develop blue chip athletes into stars. If he can do that then the Irish are in good shape moving forward.

    • borromini - Feb 9, 2011 at 6:07 PM

      Disagree with your philosophy…at least as how it applies to ND or any program wishing to be elite. “It’s both who you sign and how you develop them…”

  6. ndfootballfan4life - Feb 10, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these defensive front seven guys have an impact as freshman. A couple of them already have the size amd frame to compete in college football.

  7. bonerchamp - Feb 10, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    I am not a fan of the Irish but there is no doubt that CFB is better when they are a good team. The reason why there are so many “haters” is because ND fans demand respect yet they havent earned it. They have no big wins in a decade and when it comes to the hunt for the national title, ND is no where to be found come late October.
    Everytime ND fan thinks they have a good team, they are exposed. In ’02 it was USC, In ’05 (a very good ND team) it was USC and OSU. In ’06 the mighty Irish go 10-1 beating nobody along the way. Then play a good USC team and get rolled. Of course they should have never played in a BCS game but because the rules are set up in their favor, they go onto get embarassed by LSU. 10-1 against a bunch of average teams. 0-2 against the good teams losing by a combined score of 84-38.
    And there in lies your problem ND fan, the Mighty Irish haven’t done anything in a over a decade. They haven’t been ranked in the top 5 in 20 years. Last National Championship? 1988.
    Being so far from the glory days and being routinely exposed year after year, they are not relevant to the the National title hunt. But ND fan won’t except that.
    I never thought the media would reach that point either but guys like Herbstriet/Cowherd/Staples/CFB News have called it like it is and opened many eyes nationally….ND is nothing but a myth.
    So until ND wins a game of importance in late October/November like Auburn did 6 weeks in a row they will continue to be disrespected because no one like to be spoon fed a pile of crap.
    Sorry fellas, but Santa isn’t real either.

  8. 1historian - Feb 12, 2011 at 9:14 AM

    The rule of three – 3rd year into the program.

  9. 1historian - Feb 12, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    Speaking as someone who went to ND in 1961, flunked out, went into the service, (listened to the 1966 USC game on a short-wave in the mid-east), came back, flunked out again, etc:

    Notre Dame used to be a place where 1st and 2nd generation Catholic immigrants worked to send their kids to give them a good education with a good solid CATHOLIC background that would give them the tools they needed to get a foot on the first rung of the ladder.

    IMO that is no longer the case. The last time I was on campus was about 9 or 10 years ago. The reason was that the play ‘The Vagina Monologues’ was making its annual stop on campus, which is bad enough, but the fact that it was opening on Ash Wednesday at Washington Hall was the clincher. So, with a few other old farts, I went to the campus to protest. All we wanted to do was pass out some leaflets indicating our displeasure. We went to Mass at the Balilica and put the leaflets in the pews and then sat down to say a Rosary. About 2 minutes later we were told – politely – that we could not pass out the leaflets.

    Today at Notre Dame there seems to be a sense of entitlement, a sense of arrogance that is most unseemly.

    That having been said I STILL love the place and I can’t wait for September – if Grace Kelly comes to the home games how can they lose?

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