Friday, October 10, 2008

Recruiting Needs for Speed

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! "It" in this case being the addition of two more players to Notre Dame's 2013 recruiting haul. First, from the shores of Jersey comes Nyshier Oliver, a one-time commitment to the Tennessee Vols who rates as an "athlete" but will likely start his ND career as a wide receiver; secondly, from Vero Beach, FL comes Zeke Motta, a load-bearing safety who rates as the most physical player at his position according to Rivals.com.

It sure seemed like recruiting was going to level off this season, and while this class won't be reaching the heights of a consensus #1 groups like last year, both Oliver and Motta continue a recent trend of picking up players who may not be tied down to one position. They have the physical skills to compete at several, much like current playmaker Golden Tate (principally a running back in high school who basically decided for ND's coaches that they should recruit him at receiver), safety/linebacker Harrison Smith, and fellow '13 commits Theo Riddick and E.J. Banks. Assuming Rivals can be trusted in reporting such things, Oliver stands to join Riddick as the fastest member of this pledge class with a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash. That comes after the Irish signed 8 players who clocked a 4.5 or better last season (it was 5 in the current sophomore class and 9 in the current junior class).

For a point of contrast, USC's current junior class had 14 signees at 4.5 and under, though that inclues several players who transferred, such as Emmanuel Moody & Jamere Holland (for further contrast, the '06 class at Notre Dame also lost three speedsters due to transfer - Munir Prince, Demetrius Jones, and Richard Jackson). More significant to me was the following: two of the players in that class who are now universally hailed as among USC's fastest and most athletic on both sides of the ball, running back CJ Gable and safety Taylor Mays, were not among those who came in under the magic "4.5". That underscores another point: 'speed' and 'game speed' are two very different animals and the first doesn't always translate into the second. That's why all those people who figured NFL teams ought to be trying to lure Usain Bolt into a camp were being laughed at by pro scouts. Just because a guy is fast doesn't mean he knows how to play.

I'll tell you this much though - Notre Dame keeps adding, at a far stronger clip than in the not-so-distant past, the speed and athleticism that closes the gap on teams like USC. Let's just hope they can develop into guys that know how to play.

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