Still a Weis guy

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

WATCH VIDEO: Terry Bowden on the future for Weis and four other coaches under pressure.

WATCH VIDEO: Terry Bowden on the future for Weis and four other coaches under pressure.

WATCH VIDEO: Terry Bowden on the future for Weis and four other coaches under pressure.

Shortly after arriving at Notre Dame, Charlie Weis promised his new players that "every game you will have a decided schematic advantage," according to Sports Illustrated.

Weeks later, he shrugged off the shortcomings of his first recruiting class, which he cobbled together while doubling as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator, and took a shot at his future coaching opponents.

"They've had the advantage in recruiting because I came late," Weis said in February 2005. "Now it is X's and O's. Let's see who has the advantage now."

These quotes will either make you laugh or cringe now, depending on your opinion of 1-8 Notre Dame.

So, too, could Weis' latest bluster, which he's been repeating even as the ugly losses pile up.

"Let me just say people better enjoy (beating us) now, have their fun now," he cryptically warns.

Before that one gets written off as more Big Charlie braggadocio, understand two things about the maturation of Charlie Weis, college football coach.

First, by now, he must realize the college game is about, as the old adage goes, "the Jimmys and Joes, not the X's and O's."

Second, he's in the process of rounding up a stunning array of Jimmys and Joes who absolutely defy the current state of his program.

Somehow in perhaps Notre Dame's worst season, the Irish have the nation's No. 1 recruiting class.

What's been a mess on the field has been a marvel on the recruiting trail, an almost impossible-to-fathom juxtaposition of current misery and future possibilities.

And, quite amazingly, somehow it keeps getting better.

Consider the weekend of Oct. 20, when Southern California humiliated ND 38-0. Despite the lopsided loss, Weis landed commitments from two standout recruits visiting South Bend: Running back Jonas Gray and wide receiver Michael Floyd, the top-rated players from Michigan and Minnesota, respectively.

Notre Dame has commitments from two of the nation's top 20 prospects, or five-star players, according to It also has commitments from 15 more players rated in the top 250, or four-star prospects.

Plus, Weis isn't done. An additional 15 four-star recruits are still considering Notre Dame.

For the casual observer, four- and five-star recruits are how great teams are built. Not all of them pan out, of course, and lower-rated players often develop, but generally, the more higher-rated players you get, the better your chances and depth.

The Irish have 17 such prospects committed thus far. In comparison, Florida's top-rated class last year featured 20 four- and five-star recruits.

Of course, Florida was coming off a national championship. Notre Dame could still wind up 1-11. That's why this is so stunning.

Back in 2004 and 2005, the last year of Tyrone Willingham and the first class of Weis, Notre Dame signed just two such prime recruits each year. Those are the program's seniors and juniors, which doesn't excuse the 1-8 record, but is worth noting.

It's a long way until national signing day in February, and until then, these commitments aren't binding. But it says something when four-star defensive end Ethan Johnson of Portland, Ore. reasserts his commitment to ND, a team having its worst season, over in-state program Oregon, which is having arguably its best.

Weis has lined up No. 1 players from six states, including Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota, which means he is taking it right to the Big Ten.

Lots of rival fans hate the way Weis talks, the way he carries himself, the way he runs his program. But 18-year-old football stars apparently eat it up. Weis' last two classes were ranked in the top 10 nationally.

So maybe his latest bravado isn't as ridiculous as his original pomposity. Back then he was fresh off the staff of Bill Belichick, who likes to mock college offenses as little more than off-tackle runs and fly patterns. At some level, Belichick's correct.

In the NFL, where the talent is relatively even, innovation is imperative. Thus the game is far more complex. That's probably why Weis figured this would be easy. He thought he knew more football than these college guys.

But in college, talent wins out. Oklahoma won for decades running the exact same wishbone offense – not because it confused anyone, but mostly because its linemen were bigger and tailbacks faster.

Weis has yet to show he is a better coach than his peers. But now, perhaps, his true talent is coming through. Not in schemes or sideline decisions, but in recruiting.

Which is why, in the midst of some of the darkest days in Notre Dame history, just when you'd most like to roll your eyes and laugh at "One Win Charlie" warning everyone that revenge is coming, you have to wonder if he might actually know what he's talking about this time.

Doesn't having better players count as a schematic advantage?

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