May 1, 2013, 7:08 AM EDT
While draft day might have been disappointing for some graduating Notre Dame players, it’s far from that when you’re looking at the overall health of the football program. The six Irish players drafted last week is another data-point that shows the talent on the roster, and the health of the program, is on the rise. After years of underachieving or overassessing the talent on the roster, the Irish had a performance on draft day befitting a twelve-win football team.
In the past, top recruiting classes inked by Irish coaching staffs rarely turned into NFL Draft picks. But over the past two years, the Irish are churning out draft picks — and high ones as well — at the level of an elite college program.
Outside of SEC programs Alabama, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina, only Florida State and Oklahoma have had more draft picks over the past two seasons. The Irish’s three first round draft picks — Michael Floyd, Harrison Smith and Tyler Eifert — were only bested by Alabama, who stands alone at the top of the personnel pyramid with seven first rounders the past two seasons.
To take a closer look at where the Irish stood this year, let’s look at the draft selections of the top fifteen programs in the final AP poll. We’ll look at both number of players selected and top 100 draft picks.
FINAL AP POLL
1. Alabama: 9 picks (5 top 100)
2. Oregon: 5 picks (3 top 100)
3. Ohio State: 3 picks (1 top 100)
4. Notre Dame: 6 picks (2 top 100)
5. Georgia: 8 picks (4 top 100)
6. Texas A&M: 5 (3 top 100)
7. Stanford: 3 (1 top 100)
8. South Carolina: 7 (1 top 100)
9. Florida: 8 (4 top 100)
10. Florida State 11 (5 top 100)
11. Clemson: 4 (1 top 100)
12. Kansas State: 3
13. Louisville: 0
14. LSU: 9 (6 top 100)
15. Oklahoma: 6 (1 top 100)
Credit should be given to not just Brian Kelly, but Charlie Weis. The ten players drafted over the past two seasons were recruited by Weis and developed by Kelly. After too many underwhelming results coming from celebrated recruiting class, we finally saw the merging of top-shelf recruiting and excellent player development.
Even better news for the Irish is what looks to be the future. As we finally exit the multi-month march that has become draft season, some “experts” have started to look forward and take their stabs at way-too-early prospects for the 2014 draft. And they are usually filled with Irish players.
One name most ID as a sure-fire first round pick is Louis Nix. As the microscope gets closer and closer, Nix will need to answer questions about his conditioning and combine measureables, but game tape and production, not to mention scarcity at his position, make Lou all but likely to leave behind his fifth year at enter next year’s draft after graduating and hear his named called in the first round.
While he won’t be ready to graduate, Stephon Tuitt also will have a decision to make. Most eyes are on South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney as the draft’s most dangerous defensive end, but some teams might actually prefer the skillset Tuitt possesses. At 6-foot-6 and over 300 pounds, Tuitt is a prototype 3-4 defensive end, possessing pass rush skills but also the bulk and versatility to play anywhere along a defensive front. Tuitt is on the record (and just as importantly, so is his mother) that he’s staying four years and graduating, but any decision will likely be made after next season.
With Nix and Tuitt ranked as the No. 1 and No. 2 defensive tackle and end respectively, here’s a quick look at CBS Sports’ positional rankings for the NFL Draft, which will likely change completely by this time next year:
Zack Martin – #4 OT
TJ Jones – #4 WR
Bennett Jackson – #5 CB
Chris Watt – #9 OG
Prince Shembo – #11 OLB
Dan Fox – #13 ILB
Players like Danny Spond and Carlo Calabrese could likely work their way into the draftable conversation as well, and a guy like Chris Watt looks underrated at first glance.
Of course, all of this is a long way from happening, and speculation like is more often ends up laughable than prescient. (Remember when Brian Smith was the No. 2 outside linebacker on Mel Kiper’s board? Or Matt Barkley being the lock for the No. 1 pick in August?)
But it also serves notice that the Irish football program is much closer to an elite program than many people think.
Jul 27, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT
It didn’t take long for Brian VanGorder to put his stamp on the Notre Dame defense. And before he coached a single game or practice for Brian Kelly, VanGorder went out and identified freshman defensive tackle Pete Mokwuah. Irish A-to-Z continues as we profile the Staten Island native.
Jul 26, 2014, 11:17 AM EDT
Notre Dame will continue to recruit Chicago for top football talent. And in sophomore Colin McGovern, the Irish landed one of the area’s top offensive linemen. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at one of the bigger surprises on the Irish roster.
Jul 24, 2014, 5:42 PM EDT
Notre Dame broke the mold when they signed offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey. With a body better suited for Mike Brey’s hardwood, the Philadelphia native looked like a developmental project when he pledged his commitment to Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at Notre Dame’s starting right tackle.
Jul 24, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT
Wide receiver Will Mahone, whose future at Notre Dame is still uncertain, was sentenced to 10 days in Mahoning County jail on Wednesday stemming from an arrest in June. Mahone has been indefinitely suspended from the football team by Brian Kelly and is not enrolled at the university.
Jul 23, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT
Against just about all odds, senior Cam McDaniel led the Irish in rushing in 2013. Our latest installment in the Irish A-to-Z looks at the veteran running back, who now battles sophomores Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston for carries.
Jul 23, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
In case you haven’t been following along on social media, the installation of Notre Dame’s new synthetic surface is nearly complete. With the team from FieldTurf working this week to lay down the playing field, the Irish will have a playable field to practice on when camp begins on August 4
Jul 22, 2014, 7:17 PM EDT
A recruiting cycle before Notre Dame went hunting late for big bodies to play along the defensive line, they signed a player who might be able to fit that mold in 2014. Fresh off a redshirt, Jacob Matuska has the chance to add some much needed size and strength to Brian VanGorder’s defensive line.
Jul 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
The founding member of the 2014 recruiting class, linebacker Greer Martini enters a football program that looks decidedly different than the one he committed to back in July of 2012. Irish A-to-Z continues as we look at the freshman inside linebacker.
Jul 21, 2014, 3:22 PM EDT
No, he’s not his brother. But center Nick Martin should solidify his standing as one of the top centers in the country in 2014. After an injury ended his debut season in the starting lineup early, Martin returns healthy after knee surgery, giving Notre Dame a key anchor in the middle of Harry Hiestand’s offensive line.
Jul 21, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
After losing Troy Niklas and Alex Welch from the depth chart, Notre Dame needed to restock a position that’s been very kind to the Irish over the past few years. Irish A-to-Z continues with freshman tight end Tyler Luatua.
Jul 20, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
A year after contributing as a freshman, Cole Luke’s assignment will be a bit more ambitious in 2014. One of three cornerbacks who is expected to play major minutes, Irish A-to-Z continues with the sophomore cover man.
Jul 19, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
One of four graduate students on the Irish roster, Christian Lombard feels like he’s been a part of the Notre Dame football program for a long time. As one of Charlie Weis’ earliest commitments in the 2010 class, Lombard has seen coaching changes, position switches and injury challenges in his five years in South Bend.
Jul 19, 2014, 3:24 PM EDT
After two underwhelming seasons in South Bend, Ben Koyack finally emerged as a legitimate threat late last season. And with Troy Niklas’ unexpected departure to the NFL, Koyack has a chance to be the next in a line of impressive tight ends playing on Sundays. The Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at Notre Dame’s starting tight end.
Jul 17, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT
With just two other scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, incoming freshman DeShone Kizer begins his college career a bit closer to the playing field than any head coach would like. Our latest in Irish A-to-Z looks at Notre Dame’s quarterback from the 2014 recruiting class.
Jul 17, 2014, 12:27 PM EDT
Injuries to Louis Nix and Kona Schwenke gave Jarron Jones his shot at a new position. The rising junior took advantage of his opportunities. Our next installment in Irish A-to-Z takes a look at Notre Dame’s new starting defensive tackle.
Jul 16, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT
When Notre Dame added Torii Hunter Jr. to the roster on Signing Day 2013, the Irish did more than just add another famous father to the family section at Notre Dame Stadium. Our next installment on Irish A-to-Z looks at a rising sophomore who is healthy after entering Notre Dame with a major injury.
Jul 16, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Few football programs need a press release to discuss the markings on their home football field. But after months of wonderment by certain segments of the Irish football fanbase, the athletic department gave us an early “look” at what the new synthetic playing surface will look like when Notre Dame takes the field this fall.
Jul 15, 2014, 12:43 PM EDT
Entering his senior season, Chase Hounshell’s career has been defined by what’s kept him off the field, not his performance on it. Our next installment in Irish A-to-Z looks closer at the Ohio native who has battled back from multiple shoulder injuries.