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Notre Dame Mailbag: Ask Lou

Question: Four years ago, I never would have guessed that Fort Wayne, Ind., three-star prospect Tyler Eifer would develop into a first-round pick. Is he the most unlikely first-round pick at Notre Dame you can remember?

Former three-star tight end prospect Tyler Eifert morphed into a first-round pick.

What if we had told you in any of the years from 2009 and even prior to 2011 that safety Harrison Smith would be taken in the first round?

Prior to the 2011 season, then Irish safeties coach Chuck Martin stated that when he first arrived here, Smith was maybe the most maligned player he'd ever been around. Smith was aligned at outside linebacker during portions of his career before settling in at safety in 2010. I don’t know if he was even perceived as a free agent possibility back then, never mind the 29th pick in the 2012 first round.

Smith went on to have an outstanding rookie season with the Minnestoa Vikings, recording 103 tackles and 11 passes defended while returning two of his three interceptions for touchdowns.

Here are six others, “Wow, who would have thunk?” first-round selections from Notre Dame the past 50 years:

1999: Luke Petitgout (offensive tackle) — He came from tiny Delaware as a tight end, and purportedly in his first team meeting he fell asleep while head coach Lou Holtz was speaking. He gradually ascended to become a starting offensive tackle, where he was overshadowed his senior year by the other starting tackle, second-team Associated Press All-American Mike Rosenthal. Yet come the draft several months later, Petitgout was the 19th overall pick and Rosenthal was selected in the fifth round.

1989: Andy Heck (OT) — Maybe a late-round prospect at tight end after his junior year, Heck was converted to left offensive tackle after freshman Derek Brown — the Parade magazine Player of the Year — committed to the Irish. Under new tight ends/tackle coach Joe Moore, Heck developed into a first-round pick (No. 15 overall) during a national title season.

1986: Eric Dorsey (DT) — Considered an underachiever and “too nice” his first three seasons when he totaled 44 tackles (four for loss), he exploded his senior year with 87 tackles (15 for loss) to become the top pick of the New York Giants (19th overall).

1984: Greg Bell (RB) — Injured most of his college career, Bell totaled only 123 yards as a junior and 169 yards as a senior — but awed everyone with his workout numbers to become the No. 26 overall pick. He led the NFL in scoring in 1988 and 1989.

1967: Paul Seiler (OT) — From a small town in Iowa, he didn't start as a sophomore or junior, but as a senior for the national champs he played well enough to be the 12th pick — ahead of Alan Page at No. 15.

1965: Jack Snow (WR) — A reserve halfback for the 2-7 Irish in 1963, he carried the ball three times and caught seven passes. The following season under new boss Ara Parseghian, Snow slimmed down to play wideout, grabbed a school-record 60 passes on a team awarded the MacArthur Bowl (emblematic of a national title) and placed fifth in the Heisman balloting. He was the No. 8 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Question: I think many football fans would agree that the top five programs of all time based on many factors are Notre Dame, Alabama, Oklahoma, USC and Michigan. In 2012, Notre Dame defeated Michigan, Oklahoma and USC in the same season, and had a crack at getting a fourth scalp for a clean sweep. Did Notre Dame in 2012 do something no one had ever done before?

No other team played the other four in the same year, but USC in 1978 also defeated three like Notre Dame did in 2012:

• USC defeated No. 1 Alabama in Birmingham, 24-14, on Sept. 23.

• The Trojans rallied to beat No. 8 Notre Dame in the regular-season finale, 27-25, on a controversial call on quarterback Paul McDonald that wiped out a sack and a recovered fumble by defensive tackle Jeff Weston. USC kicked the game-winning field goal with two seconds left to end that drive.

• Finally in the Rose Bowl, USC defeated No. 5 Michigan, 17-10. That also had controversy when tailback Charles White scored a TD when it clearly appeared he had fumbled the ball before crossing the plane of the goal line.

Bottom line is USC won all three games. It did not play 11-1 Oklahoma that season. The Trojans shared the national title with Alabama — despite beating it head-to-head — because the Crimson Tide vanquished No. 1 Penn State in the Sugar Bowl, 14-7.

Question: What is the most transfers/players leaving the team Notre Dame has ever had in one offseason?

There were a couple dozen that had to leave for World War II in 1943-44, but that's a unique circumstance that shouldn't be in the conversation.

When you say “leaving the team,” we’re construing it to mean they left of their own volition or doing (academic issues).

During the 1988 spring, Notre Dame saw the transfer of starting guard Jeff Pearson, a couple of receivers on the two-deep in Bobby Carpenter and Pierre Martin, running back Linc Coleman and even another wideout in Brian Dowler. So that's five, which eclipses the three this spring with quarterback Gunner Kiel and wideouts Davonte’ Neal and Justin Ferguson. Carpenter, who transferred to Syracuse, and Coleman, who ended up at Baylor, went on to play in the NFL.

The 2004 recruiting class, which had only 17 players, ended up with merely seven wrapping up their careers as Notre Dame football players. But that included injuries and running back Darius Walker leaving after his junior year to turn pro.

The following year, only 10 of the 15 recruits remained with the program. So that left you a total of 17 players in two classes — self-imposed probation is what we called it — and helped partly explain the 3-9 train wreck in 2007, the year those classes were seniors and juniors.

The 2006 class with 28 players had more than a half-dozen leave the program, but not all in the same year.

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