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Notre Dame Mailbag: Ask Lou

In the last 10 years, 25 percent of players drafted by the NFL came from only 12 schools. USC led the list with 70, all the way to Tennessee at No. 12 with 42. Notre Dame is not listed. It seems Notre Dame’s recruiting has been overrated. Help me, but it seems that all but two classes were ranked in the top 10 over those years and some even in the top five.

Notre Dame’s upgrade in recruiting the last few years has been because of improvement along the defensive line, including Stephon Tuitt (above).

We assume the 10 years you mean are 2000-09, because the 2009 one, led by linebacker Manti Te'o and tight end Tyler Eifert, is the most recent one to get drafted.

In 1998 and 1999, Notre Dame had back-to-back top-five classes, led by people such as Anthony Weaver and David Givens in 1998, and then Jeff Faine, Julius Jones and Gerome Sapp in 1999. Those two classes had a total of 18 players drafted by the NFL, including a former walk-on from the soccer team, All-American cornerback Shane Walton. Many were seniors during the 8-0 start in 2002, but then the recruiting worm turned.

• Notre Dame’s recruiting started slipping some at the turn of the century, after Bob Davie’s 5-7 season in his third year (1999). Neither the 2000 nor the 2001 hauls received any top-10 rankings, a first at the school since we began tracking them in 1978. Both the 2000 and 2001 harvests had two players drafted apiece, notably defensive end Justin Tuck in 2005.

• The 2002 class was better — ranked in the top 15 — but still not quite up to past standards. Five players were drafted from the class, led by tight end Anthony Fasano in the second round and Maurice Stovall in the third.

• The 2003 class turned out to be the best and was ranked anywhere from top five to as low as No. 11. It played a huge role while carrying Notre Dame to BCS bids in 2005 and 2006 during their junior and senior years. It featured one first-round pick (quarterback Brady Quinn), three in the second round (defensive linemen Victor Abiamiri and Trevor Laws, plus tight end John Carlson), two in the third (offensive tackle Ryan Harris and safety Tom Zbikowski), and two late-round choices who became NFL starters, if not a mainstay, in center John Sullivan and safety Chinedum Ndukwe. Wideout Jeff Samardzija also would have been drafted had he not opted for Major League Baseball.

• The 2004 and 2005 recruiting classes were, hands down, the two worst in Notre Dame history. The 2004 class signed only 17 recruits, lost 10 people to attrition and had no one drafted. The 2005 haul was the smallest ever at the school with 15 players and had one drafted (safety David Bruton). Neither class was ranked in the top 25, which is unprecedented.

• The 28-man class in 2006 was ranked anywhere from No. 3 to No. 11 and considered top 10 overall, but it seemed to get high rating mainly because of volume. The only two players to get drafted were sixth-round offensive linemen Sam Young and Eric Olsen.

• The 2007 class also made the top 10, but while it had a lot of French pastry with quarterback Jimmy Clausen, wide receiver Golden Tate and speedy running back Armando Allen, it had virtually zero meat and potatoes along the lines.

The top-10 recruiting rankings in 2006 and 2007 were a little misleading because the Irish struck out on pretty much all their top targets along the defensive line. Recruiting rankings don't always take into account the “need factor,” and often just look at star rankings. The Irish badly, badly missed along the defensive line during the four years from 2004-07, but it didn't always show in the “ratings.”

• The 2008 group, led by wideout Michael Floyd, tight end Kyle Rudolph, quarterback Dayne Crist and guard Trevor Robinson — plus five defensive line prospects, including Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore — was rated No. 2 by three of the four major services (behind Alabama), and No. 9 by ESPN. Alabama’s class won two national titles; Notre Dame’s went 29-22 in the four years from 2008-11. (Lewis-Moore, center Braxston Cave and guard Mike Golic Jr. did help the 2012 team as fifth-year seniors.)

The 2009 and 2010 hauls were generally rated from 15th to 25th, while the 2011 group (the current juniors led by defensive end Stephon Tuitt) was around No. 7.

The 2012 harvest was around 10th to 22nd — but that was with quarterback Gunner Kiel, wide receiver Justin Ferguson and cornerback Tee Shepard, and no wideout in DaVonte’ Neal (who is gone anyway), so we doubt it would be top 25 now because all are no longer with the program.

This year’s group was rated no lower than fourth.

How many players did Charlie Weis recruit that are still on the 2013 roster?

By our count, there are 16 remaining who verbally committed to Weis when he was still the head coach.

First, there are the six fifth-year seniors: left tackle Zack Martin, left guard Chris Watt, inside linebackers Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox, nose guard Tyler Stockton and kicker Nick Tausch.

Next, there are the 10 recruits from 2010 who originally committed to Weis and then followed up when Brian Kelly was hired on Dec. 9, 2009: quarterbacks Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix, wide receiver Daniel Smith, tight end Alex Welch, offensive tackle Christian Lombard, defensive end Justin Utupo, outside linebacker/end Prince Shembo, inside linebacker Kendall Moore, and cornerbacks Bennett Jackson and Lo Wood.

Other 2013 season seniors from that class such as linebacker Danny Spond, wide receiver TJ Jones, quarterback turned wideout Luke Massa, safety Austin Collinsworth, offensive lineman Bruce Heggie and defensive lineman Kona Schwenke came aboard after Kelly was hired.

Nose guard Louis Nix III actually committed in the interim between Weis’ firing and Kelly’s hiring. You don’t see that happen much.

Who were all the former Notre Dame players that beat the Irish as a head coach at another school?

This was most prevalent in the 1930s when former Notre Dame head coach Knute Rockne (1918-30) had dozens of his former players serving as head coaches. The most prominent was Frank Leahy, who received his start at Boston College in 1939 before taking the Notre Dame job in 1941.

Skip Holtz (class of 1987, walk-on for father Lou) and his South Florida Bulls stunned Notre Dame 23-20 in the 2011 opener.

• Gerry DiNardo (class of 1975, All-American guard) led LSU to a 27-9 win in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 28, 1997.

• Eddie Anderson (class of 1922, All-American end under Rockne) coached Iowa to a 7-0 victory in 1940 and a 7-6 triumph in 1939, his first year on the job.

• Jack Chevigny (class of 1929), defeated Notre Dame in former head coach Elmer Layden’s (one of the Four Horsemen) debut in 1934, 7-6. Chevigny later died while serving in World War II.

• In 1933, two class of 1925 members and “Seven Mules” on the 1924 national champs led victories against Anderson’s 3-5-1 Irish in back-to-back weeks. Edgar “Rip” Miller, the 1924 right tackle, guided Navy to a 7-0 victory while Noble Kizer, the right guard in 1924, steered Purdue to a 19-0 conquest.

Notre Dame head coach Hunk Anderson was fired after the season and replaced by former Four Horseman Layden.

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