Countdown to Kickoff: Blue-chip freshman class

NewsCenter 16 has all the angles covered as you get ready to see the Irish take the field Saturday, September 6 against the San Diego State Aztecs.

We’ve put together a “Countdown to Kickoff” pre-season special to catch you up on the state of the Notre Dame football program heading into the 2008 season.

Today, we focus on the very impressive blue-chip freshman class, which includes eight players on the Irish two-deep roster. Plus, we look at high school seniors who’ve already made a verbal commitment to Charlie Weis for 2009.

Blue-chip freshman class
A 3-9 team almost always loses a number of recruits, but remarkably Notre Dame lost only one player this winter who had given a verbal commitment.

The incoming class of rookies is one of the most, if not the most, cohesive classes to enter Notre Dame in over three decades.

Plus, this group is extremely talented, and that fact is already showing up in terms of the Irish depth chart.

We start with Freshman Kyle Rudolph out of Cincinnati, who is now the team’s number one tight end.

But he has a lot of company from his classmates on the two-deep. Seven more rookies are listed as second-stringers.

Penn High School graduate Braxston Cave is listed as the number two center and will snap on field goals and extra points.

“I mean, it’s a great feeling, it’s something I’ve worked hard for forever, and now I’m here working hard and continuing to strive to get on the field,” says Cave. “You know I never expected to be going from 6 in the morning until 10 o’clock at night, in meetings and practice, it’s a long day, every day.”

One rookie who has turned heads since the start of camp is wide receiver Michael Floyd. He played at the same high school as former players Trevor Laws and Ryan Harris, and Floyd could be just as good.

“Just coming here, I think it’s a great thing, but I mean, I don’t know where I am right now on the depth chart or anything… you know, I’m just trying to make my way

There is a 5-star quarterback in the class: Dayne Crist of Notre Dame High School in southern California.

Charlie Weis told NewsCenter 16 during camp that Crist is not likely to play in ’08, unless there is an injury. But Crist says that’s just fine with him.

“I’m sure you can gain a lot, you know, sitting a year, I mean that’s no question. I think you, just the knowledge you have leads to being more confident, and playing faster, and more efficient. I mean, obviously, I think that year is huge, it’s just a matter of what Coach Weis wants out of me,” says Crist.

As you can see, a big reason a lot of Irish fans think 2008 will be a lot better than last year is the recruiting classes Charlie Weis and his staff have brought, and continue to bring, to Notre Dame.

Bringing in recruits for 2009
The current freshmen class we just profiled was ranked in the top five, while the upcoming crop of rookies in 2009 may attain that lofty rating too.

For the Irish staff, it’s not so much selling Notre Dame, it’s being a representative of Notre Dame.

“Yeah, because it’s easy, you just when you go out all you do is say ‘I’m from Notre Dame,’ and that takes care of itself. So you just gotta get to enough places and talk to the right people,” says Irish defensive coordinator Corwin Brown.

When you look at the high school seniors who’ve already said they’ll join the Irish in 2009, you have to start with running back Cierre Wood out of southern California.

Wood committed over the Blue and Gold weekend as the top-ranked running back in the nation. He’s a five-star talent who shows very few, if any, holes in his game.

Up front, lineman Chris Watt is rated as one of the top offensive linemen in the nation. He chose the Irish over Ohio State, Penn State and Illinois.

On defense, the New Jersey pipeline continues with linebacker Carlo Calabrese from Verona, New Jersey, who is picking the Irish over schools like Florida, Penn State, Pitt and BC.

And finally, defensive back Marlon Pollard had committed to UCLA, but a chance visit to the Notre Dame campus swung him to the Irish.

He’s one of 14 players who’ve already said they’ll call Notre Dame home beginning next summer.

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