Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Zach's the 13th

Spots in Notre Dame's 2009 recruiting class are starting to acquire the feel of baseball stadium hot dogs (or, perhaps, tickets to see The Dark Knight): supplies are limited, get 'em while they're hot.

The latest addition came Sunday afternoon, when Indianapolis, IN offensive tackle Zach Martin chose to forsake some planned unofficial visits, plus offers from UCLA, Virginia, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky and Stanford with a pledge to become the 13th commitment and third offensive lineman. Ranked as a four-star prospect by Rivals and three-star by Scout, the 6'5", 240 lbs. Martin helps hit a big target on the recruiting board for the Irish coaches.
"I go after people," said Martin who, in addition to playing offensive line at Chatard, also plays defensive end. "I'm a vicious player."
There's a wonderful joke to be made here about a certain team in the Pacific Northwest with a certain coach that would prefer to be known as a vicious animal, but I'm gonna just let that one lay. Martin is a classic "high-ceiling" prospect coming into what will be a position of need. The projected 2008 starters at tackle have just one extra year of eligibility between them (Sam Young is a junior, Paul Duncan a senior) and there are no obvious heirs apparent on the two-deep beyond Trevor Robinson, while Matt Romine is rebounding from injury. After missing out on earlier tackle prospects such as Eric Shrive, the Irish now have one solid athlete who rates as the #1 prospect in Indiana to go with the #1 prospect in Illinois whom they just landed at guard. Not a bad little haul shaping up on the o-line, with a couple of big targets still on the board.

Taking a far-away view as recruiting gets set to step aside and make way for actual football (hooray!), the questions of whom Irish will take and at what position is developing into a numbers game. That seems odd to say when the buzz not too long ago was centering around, "Where are all the commitments?", but here we are on July 22 just as Rob Ianello promised - with plenty to talk about. Eight weeks ago it was paranoia that the Irish were sinking with the weight of that 3-9 albatross; now it's beginning to look like they'll have to start turning people away. With 13 players in the fold, the Irish figure to have the Class of '09 capped at 20, give or take - a number that's subject to change based on not only how many of those current players eligible for a fifth year will return, but also on if any of the current members of the recruiting class opt for January enrollment, in which case they count against the previous season's scholarship total. So far the only one who has confirmed his intention to enroll early has been defensive tackle Tyler Stockton, who joins recruits from previous years such as Jimmy Clausen, James Aldridge, Armando Allen, & Sean Cwynar. The fifth-year question will remain unsettled until after the end of the '08 season (though we know at least one eligible player, DJ Hord, has moved on).

As things currently stand, the Irish would like to add at least one more tackle, a wide receiver (perhaps two), plus two defensive lineman (Stockton is the lone commitment there) and another defensive back. Those numbers and positional preferences remain subject to change even now, as Stockton's plan plus the opening of a spot due to Hord's departure could see this class grow as large as 22 or 23 players, although 18 to 19 sounds more realistic. Slice it any way you want, but props to Charlie Weis and his staff for once again getting the heavy lifting out of the way before the season even starts, allowing them to go full-out in pursuit of the last few key prospects rather than scramble to line up whomever is left following the season.

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