Charlie Weis as great recruiter? Not all agree

charlie-weisOne of the memes reiterated in the recent John Walters piece on Charlie Weis is that Weis is a great, tireless recruiter. For example:

No one will likely be congratulating Weis if his tenure comes to an end in the next ten days. A thank you would be warranted, though. He has graduated 96 percent of his players, tied for tops in the FBS, and returned Notre Dame to the front lines of the five-star recruiting battles. . . .

I’ve heard differently. Sure, Notre Dame gets some big-time recruits and its name alone will always put it in the running for such guys. And, surely, there are many top-flight recruits Charlie has met with personally. But consider this odd example:

Notre Dame has officially offered one of my linebackers, but no one from Notre Dame has ever spoken to the kid nor has anyone from Notre Dame ever returned any of my calls. To put it context: Will Muschamp [of Texas] returned my call, Brent Venables [of Oklahoma] returned my call, Bud Foster [of Virginia Tech] returned my call, [Michael] Barrow [of Miami] returned my call, Nick Saban returned my call, and yet no one from Notre Dame has ever returned my call. Geewhiz Charlie, that’s not exactly the way to get a kid to choose ND over other BCS schools — and then you offer him blind without so much as making contact with any coach? No. That’s not the way to go about the business.

. . . Notre Dame has zero chance at this player. I started trying to call them about him when he was a freshman. Not pushing the kid, just trying to make a contact, as I do not send film to schools without making a contact (especially on a kid that I know¬†has 100% BCS level talent). No point in his film disc just sitting on a desk with a thousand others. And not a single coach from Notre Dame has ever returned a call in three years. Now that same kid is a Junior and he’s blue chip, [top ten] in Ohio in the 2011 class, ESPN Top 50, etc. And all of a sudden Notre Dame is interested? If he’s good enough to play at Notre Dame he’s good enough to play at other schools.

Compare that with the approach of a few other programs, including one of the names on Notre Dame’s shortlist:

Then you take programs like Cincinnati with Brian Kelly and the guy who recruits our area, Jeff Quinn [Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator]. They are completely different. They pursue a personal relationship. He sends me a text telling us good luck this Friday, he knows who we play (and he might just be reading it online but still he made the effort), he calls asking how things are going, how the kid is doing, he knows the kid’s mother, grand parent’s, sister’s name, etc. He even calls me every few weeks. Now, I know he isn’t really interested in talking to me and that it’s all about my player but still it makes a difference. Ohio State, Alabama, Virginia Tech, and others all recruit about the same way as Cincinnati. Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Michigan . . . they recruit like Notre Dame.

Obviously that’s just one account, but it’s certainly an interesting one.

  • I have followed Notre Dame recruiting for about ten years and have followed it extensively during the Weis era. You might hear the occasional story like this, but I have read way more stories about what an outstanding job Weis, Rob Ianello and staff have done. (I have to mention that Ohio has also been Jon Tenuta’s territory for the last two years and he is a notoriously unenthusiastic recruiter so that might have something to do with this story.)

    They have won battles they weren’t winning when Willingham was there. In fact, they weren’t even in the fight when Willingham was there. They have missed in recruiting and evaluating front seven talent during his tenure, but other than that, the staff put in a lot of hard work to get the Michael Floyd’s and Jimmy Clausen’s they currently have. The front seven misses have really hurt though.

  • Kilty

    As a long time Penn State fan who grew up in eastern PA surrounded by a lot of Irish fans, I remember when Notre Dame used to be considered a major recruiting rival, especially in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Looking through ND’s current class of commits on it amazes me not a single one of them has an offer from PSU (In fairness, Weis did offer a few of PSU’s commits). Have they surrendered their eastern foothold in favor of California and other ststes? Would appear so.

  • OURog

    Kind of weak to criticize a program’s recruiting ability based on one anecdotal incidence. Cincy should obviously be recruiting a kid from Ohio harder than ND, which has a much more national recruiting base.

    Weiss has done a pretty good job recruiting as a whole considering all of the circumstances. Of course it could be better. ND is a unique school that makes it hard to evaluate recruiting. One the one hand, it has excellent tradition, television coverage and national respect. On the other hand, it is a small school in a small town in the Midwest and doesn’t have the same type of facilities as Michigan or Ohio State. Plus, it has academic and religion issues that restrict some of the kids it can recruit.

    If ND wants to be a super power in football, they need to spend more money on facilities and be okay with having 50% graduation rates instead of 96%. Then, I think it would absolutely compete with the top schools in the Big 10. Until they do that, I’m not sure it is as easy to win at ND as people think.

  • Eric

    The Capstone Report…..
    “Rich Rod recruits like Tommy Tuberville. “….Tubs had the recruits to spank on the bammers, handle UGA, and go toe to toe with LSU and UF. Ignorant comment from homer redneck blogger in west alabama.

    The bammers are flocking to read any news on the Weis/ND situation…..cause they know Irish are going to be gloating over their new boy while watching the Iron Bowl and SEC Championship Game. As it has been said before, the Irish want the best and the 2008 AP Coach of the Year with BCS experience ain’t Brian Kelly.

  • Brian

    ND has excellent facilities. A new football complex (although I think the weight room is shared) was opened just a couple years ago. They have an indoor practice field with new field turf and two outdoor practice fields (one field turf, one natural grass). It’s not on a level of Texas (with a ridiculous player’s lounge, etc.), but actuall compares pretty favorably to the Atlanta Falcons’ facilities, on an only slightly smaller scale. Facilities are not a problem–probably among the top 15 in the country.

  • Capstone Report

    Eric, Auburn patron saint/coach Pat Dye said that Tommy Tuberville didn’t recruit for his last three years at Auburn. According to the Birmingham News, “Tommy (Tuberville) went three years without recruiting.” (link: )

    Name calling doesn’t change facts.

    I do think Tuberville is one of the best coaches available this year. Even though he was lazy/complacent his last few seasons, Tuberville is a very good game coach and when motivated can recruit.

    As for Saban & Notre Dame, they should call him. I don’t think they will.

  • Mike

    Lord knows I’m no fan of Charlie Weis. But this article is a little off, particularly for Smart Football. I read this blog because it provides real, dispassionate, hard-nosed, statistical analysis of football – so it’s surprising to see a couple of anecdotes dug up to make this or that point about Weis’s recruiting. Isn’t it possible that ND just isn’t very interested in these particular players? Who knows why they’d just throw out an offer to someone they weren’t going to actively pursue. But to say that a couple of dropped balls mean that the recruiting at ND is bad across the boards? That doesn’t seem justifiable.

    I think the more damning thing is that Weis has these “great” recruiting classes, but can’t seem to win as frequently as other teams who have similarly “great” classes. That suggests there’s either a problem with the talent he’s putting together, or with his coaching. An analysis looking into this issue would probably be interesting. But I don’t think these stories mean much of anything…

  • Brad

    As someone close to the program, I sincerely doubt ND will even think about Nick Saban. Its not going to happen. They will probably make a cursory call to Meyer, but then its gonna be Brian Kelly all the way. He is a Boston-raised Irish Catholic, and runs a good clean program, and wins everywhere he goes.

    As for the recruiting, I wouldn’t agree. Weis has been an excellent recruiter. He has been extremely personal with the recruits, handles in house situations quietly and respectfully, and has won big time recruiting battles against the likes of Florida and Southern Cal. That NEVER happened under Willingham, or even Davie. The lasting legacy of Charlie Weis will be that he proved to people that Notre Dame CAN bring in the talent still. I really have a feeling that he may wind up being our Ron Zook if someone can come in after him (Kelly) and be successful right away.

  • Jay

    Where’s the link to the article about the high school coach that is crying because Charlie isn’t calling to chat?

    Seems to me like the high school coach is enjoying the phone calls from Brian Kelly, and may be a Bearcat homer. I notice that he takes a couple shots at two other Big East schools (Pitt and West Virginia), while he’s putting down Notre Dame’s recruiting. Maybe, just maybe he wants “his player” to stay close to home.

  • OG

    Weis is recruiting, but does it really matter when he’s losing to Navy?

    P.S. Send tapes to mid-major schools as well. XD

  • Aboojum

    Brian Kelly may seem like a strong fit. He is a Catholic and he’s Irish and he will reify the culture of the institution and so forth. And certainly he is a winner. But, Notre Dame is at a crossroads for this program. If they are to stay relevant as a very elite power in college football they have to hit a home run with this next hire. I am not convinced Brian Kelly is the man.

    He has never beaten a Top 20 team. He has had many opportunities but he hasn’t broken through. However, who knows, he might break through and beat Pitt, if they are still a Top 20 team (and even if they lose to WVU they should be). But his system and his record are not quite there.

    I personally think Notre Dame needs a Nick Saban, Kirk Ferentz, Gary Patterson (numerous wins over top 20 teams) type coach who believes in defense and can run a pro style offense with the occasional elite QB and skill people on offense. Weis proved that a great offense dominated team is not the path to glory.

    Honestly, there are not a lot of options out there for ND. They will maybe spin the big prize wheel with Kelly and come up aces. I’m not convinced.

  • Jaybo

    If you can’t beat the Big East poach their coaches. This Blog feels like ND alum trying to stack the deck for Brian Kelly. Now we all know why ND is still independant.

  • DM

    I think Chris is getting ragged on for no reason here. Maybe he’s kicking a horse on his way down, but Weis’ arrogance doesn’t have me feeling sorry for him. He’s not saying, at least directly, that Weis is a poor recruiter, just that when you see these obituary-in-waiting articles that say he was an excellent recruiter, don’t believe all the hype.

  • My point in posting this is just that I thought it was instructive about how recruiting works, whether or not you think this situation is typical for Weis or just a single occurrence. I never said it was anything but.

    Most people don’t really think about what goes into good recruiting, even people who actively follow this stuff. And while there’s nothing that strange about a school not returning phone calls, I do think it is weird to officially offer a guy a scholarship and then fail to follow up or meet with him. If they don’t like him they don’t like him; weird to go the extra mile.

    I can speak for the coach here that he’s not a big homer or at least not when it comes to placing players in the right spots. But again, I am not saying I have any systematic evidence of how Weis does his recruiting. Someone speculated that this was more of a defensive thing and that Weis is more active with offensive players, etc. Again, I don’t know.

  • James

    I know exactly who Chris’s article is referring to. This linebacker is incredibly talented and OSU, Cincinnati, Alabama, etc., have been in on him for awhile now.

    His team actually just lost a playoff game two weeks ago. This linebacker plays on both sides of the ball and is always a tough player game-to-game.

    To add onto the point though, I know of another Ohio player, only in the class of 2010 who LOVES Notre Dame like crazy. This kid practically bleeds green and gold, but he does not like Charlie Weis at all. Both Jim Tressel and Brian Kelley have been making personal contact with this kid as much as is allowed by the rules- Weis infrequently.

    To be honest, I believe that Weis is an excellent football coach who isn’t built for the college level. He just isn’t a college guy. It would probably be best for everyone involved if he went back to the NFL.

  • addicted

    What I don’t understand is if Weiss’s recruiting is so great, and Willingham’s recruiting so bad, how is it that Charlie Weiss’s best years at ND were with Willingham’s recruits? This was despite the fact that they did not play a watered down schedule in the first few Weis years. as opposed to the last couple…


    Chris – I think that is a very accurate point. If you look at Weis’ recruiting and “players” he’s landed. They standout offensively, but defensively they’ve been lack luster.

    Poor defense is the reason the record is the way it is.

  • Ryan

    Who said the second and third quotes? Sources? What a strange post for smartfootball.

  • AERose

    “Poor defense is the reason the record is the way it is.”

    Well, that and (relatively) poor scoring offense. ND is top 15 in total offense but tied for 43rd in scoring offense.

    (Apropos of nothing. It just interests me how few points ND actually managed to put on the board this year.)

  • Jeff

    SmartFootball is one of my daily reads, but this is a disappointing entry. One can only assume you came by this e-mail directly from the coach or a friend of the coach? I don’t doubt its validity for the most part — I’ve read a few such accounts over the years about Notre Dame’s recruiting approach under Weis, including one where Weis apparently tried to impress a recruit by letting him wear a Super Bowl ring.

    But THIS site is better than posting anonymous, one-source e-mails from a high school coach that seems to enjoy the attention a little too much.

    I realize you used a vague disclaimer to close out the post about this being only one account, but it seems to be piling on. Not sure by any reasonable definition that anyone can claim Weis isn’t a better recruiter than Willingham, and certainly a better recruiter for skill positions than Davie.

    Weis must be doing something right. He can’t be ignoring every kid with some of the talent he’s signed since 2006. The poster above also makes a good point about Notre Dame’s national approach to recruiting and Tenuta’s less-than-enthusiastic approach to anything other than blitzing.

    Post this high school coach’s name to his comments. He feels this strongly about being ignored — he should step up to the plate. Very odd that some of Cincy’s main competitors for the kid don’t handle recruiting “the right way.”

    Just an odd post from a normally balanced and thought-provoking site. Either way, won’t stop me from reading, but this seems like a hit-and-run. It certainly doesn’t offer a rebuttal to what was mentioned in John’s piece.

  • Cabbage

    That shirt-tie combo he’s sporting looks like something the Eastern European kids wore to high school dances back in 1998.

  • peachy

    Doc Saturday, among others, has shown that recruiting rankings generally correlate to on-field success over the long term. ND is an exception to that rule, and it’s fair to ask why – though I don’t know nearly enough about the situation to hazard a guess myself. (I’ve read claims that Coker’s Miami program recruited players sight-unseen based solely on their rankings, so the anecdote in this post doesn’t strike me as implausible by any means.)

  • RtownCoacher

    There are a ton of recruits out there. Chris pointed out that this was just one story. I agree that the Defense at ND has been lacking and could have won them some games with some improvements.

  • Kevin

    We have players all the time that really get the “blind” offers early on in high school. It’s the competition of other schools getting to that kid earlier that causes it. There can only be that verbal committment, but still we’ve seen it a lot. Now, the lack of follow through is a case by case situation. I’m sorry, but if you are not getting calls or return calls, the interest is not there. Maybe they were set at that position. Maybe they smelled something off the field that wasn’t worthwhile..on and on..Weis is on the hot seat so things start to get tossed around and picked it, but I honestly think he’s no better or worse than other coaches out there.

  • James

    “But THIS site is better than posting anonymous, one-source e-mails from a high school coach that seems to enjoy the attention a little too much.”

    Trust me, this coach has no need to get attention from an anonymous quote online. His teams consistently get enough attention for him- he’s a darn good coach.

  • Steel Hop

    I found the story a little odd particularly given there was not attachment or link to the coaches point. ND recruits nationally – one of the few schools that can and has to recruit that way – so maybe it overlooked a kid in the Cincy/Ohio area whereas Cincy and OSU pretty hone in on local kids.

    Second, ND just can’t give out scholarships because it has restricts placed on it by the administration – one issue most other schools don’t have to face. A recruit has to academically qualify before a scholarship can be extended to a recruit. Maybe the kid had terrible grades or took low end classes that meant ND and/or Weis didn’t even want to waste their time recruiting a kid that might not even get into ND and his junior year he was close enough academically for ND to look at. That of course doesn’t prohibit contact and developing a relationship but there are only so many recruits a school can look at.

    Though, I do agree with the overall premise, that Weis’s recruiting at ND should not be considered as good as it is advertised. The current senior class was reportedly stellar but after 4 years would be considered one of the least talent to go through ND. They are not very good (the ones that stayed) with I would say only one real potential NFL player. All the rest of the class was either severally overrated or wasn’t developed while at ND.

  • Jeff

    That may be so, James, but we’ll never know. The post itself lacks anything to judge what makes the coach an expert other than he has seen his his fair share of BCS-level talent, supposedly.

    And the way the coach refers to Weis personally shows he has an agenda: “Gee whiz, Charlie …”

    “Notre Dame has zero chance at this player.”

    One, the recruit is free to choose where he plays football. How much input the coach has is up to said recruit/family. Two, did the coach WANT him to have a shot and Notre Dame and now is pissed he didn’t get a call back?

    Either way, Weis is gone. If Notre Dame lands Kelly or Stoops, something tells me Ohio won’t be ignored and this coach might find his feelings soothed.

  • Dan

    Notre Dame recruits linebackers? Could have fooled me.

  • Mark

    How could anyone include WVU in a group labeled as impersonal? I’ve heard more complaints about Bill Stewart than I can count but his one huge plus is the way he makes recruiting such a personable experience. That’s the one thing most that even his critics will give him credit for.

  • This is a familiar story only because you hear pretty much the exact same story from all over the place about just about every other program in the country too.

    The idea that this story is being propped up on Smart Football boggles the mind. Nobody in the world is more ready to move on from the Weis era than I am, but I just can’t even see this story as anything but piling onto the “Weeeeee! Get your licks in on Charlie and enjoy the linkage!” bandwagon.

    You’re are far better than this. I really thought you’d give us some statistical breakdowns of perceived ability when Charlie signs his guys versus their output on the field in college. But an anonymous annecdote? Isn’t that the stuff of

  • Lawnmower8

    Strange material for The numbers do not support the accusation(s), whether linebackers (Te’o, etc.) or players from Ohio (McCarthy, etc.):

    TOP IRISH RECRUITS, DEFENSE (WEIS ERA, 2005-2009); ranked in Top 25 by either or

    – Te’o, Manti (HI): #1 SLB (Scout); #2 ILB (Rivals)
    – Martin, Chris (CO): #2 SDE (Rivals); #3 DE (Scout)
    – Johnson, Ethan (OR): #2 SDE (Rivals); #4 DE (Scout)
    – Fleming, Darius (IL): #2 SLB (Scout); #8 OLB (Rivals)
    – Walls, Darrin (PA): #3 CB (Rivals); #7 CB (Scout)
    – Filer, Steven (IL): #4 MLB (Scout); #8 ILB (Rivals)
    – Motta, Zeke (FL): #5 OLB (Rivals); #10 WLB (Scout)
    – Gray, Gary (SC): #6 CB (Scout); #9 CB (Rivals)
    – Shembo, Prince (NC): #6 ILB (Rivals); #37 OLB (Rivals)
    – McNeil, Raeshon (NC): #7 CB (Rivals); #9 CB (Scout)
    – McDonald, Anthony (CA): #8 MLB (Scout); #11 ILB (Rivals)
    – McCarthy, Dan (OH): #8 S (Scout); #14 S (Rivals)
    – Wade, Kellen (OH): #10 WDE (Rivals); #17 DE (Scout)
    – Brown, Sergio (IL): #10 S (Scout); #32 S (Rivals)
    – Slaughter, Jamoris (GA): #11 S (Scout); #13 S (Rivals)
    – Cwynar, Sean (IL): #12 DT (Rivals); #14 DT (Scout)
    – Stockton, Tyler (NJ): #13 DT (Scout); #16 DT (Rivals)
    – Fox, Dan (OH): #13 OLB (Rivals); #22 WLB (Scout)
    – Smith, Brian (KS): #13 ILB (Rivals); #30 MLB (Scout)
    – Lewis-Moore, Kapron (TX): #13 SDE (Rivals); #32 DE (Scout)
    – Leuders, Blake (IN): #14 SDE (Rivals); #24 DE (Scout)
    – Calabrese, Carlo (NJ): #14 MLB (Scout); #25 ILB (Rivals)
    – Nagel, Aaron (IL): #14 WLB (Scout); #41 OLB (Rivals)
    – Moore, Kendall (NC): #15 MLB (Scout); #19 OLB (Rivals)
    – Blanton, Robert (NC): #15 CB (Scout); #22 S (Rivals)
    – Smith, Toryan (GA): #15 ILB (Rivals); #52 LB (Scout)
    – Newman, Brandon (KY): #16 DT (Scout); #22 DT (Rivals)
    – Smith, Scott (IL): #17 ILB (Rivals); #80 LB (Scout)
    – Neal, Kerry (NC): #18 WDE (Rivals); #31 DE (Scout)
    – Gordon, Leonard (KY): #20 S (Scout), #34 CB (Rivals)
    – Bruton, David (OH): #22 S (Scout); #36 S (Rivals)
    – Smith, Harrison (TN): #25 S (Scout), #25 ATH (Rivals)

    Recruiting was not the problem for Weis.

  • Spy Scheme

    Here is the Scoop!!

    When Urban Meyer originally talked to ND a few years back he asked for at least 12 scholarships a year at SEC academic standard levels.

    The ND establishment turned him down and he turned them down and went to Florida. Meyer is not going to leave for ND.

    Neither is Stoops or they will need to change his name to some other version that sounds a lot like his but ends in ID minus the S of course.

  • dr

    I think ND would be smart to skip the huge named guys like Saban, Stoops, and Meyer and go for somebody like Gary Patterson or Brian Kelly.

    Patterson in particular has built a perenially strong program at a private religious university. He also has competed well in recruiting even though he has to go up against Texas, OU, OSU, and to a somewhat lesser extent LSU and Arkansas.

    Kelly is also holding his own and seems to have a knack for having all of his players (starters and backups) ready to play well. He is also very familiar with recruiting in that part of the country.

    Either of these guys would probably cost less money than one of the big dudes and would probably stand just as much of a chance to successfully build up the program. Also, it seems that their integrity is more in line with ND standards than the other guys..(at least I have never heard anything bad about them)

  • Mr.Murder

    Kelly, because the clover is greener on the other side of the fence. As someone mentions, he recruits on that borderline of a mid regional school.

    Compare Notre Dame to schools that share geographic overlays for recruiting. Schools from mid majors(or higher) that border the actual map of their respective conferences. These borders overlay other major schools and recruiting turf.

    The Vols come to mind specifically.

    Suddenly Notre Dame’s middling result isn’t too bad. Unless you look at game outcomes like USC, or Navy. Ouch!

  • Rob Leboeuf

    Rich Rod and staff have been extremely classy when our staff has made visits to WVU and Michigan to learn football. He and his staff have made us feel welcome and did not look down at us like some of the other “Big Time” schools have done. They have also taken a geniune intrest in some prospective recruits from our area in Wisconsin. I do not agree with this comment at all about Michigan’s recruiting practices and how they treat coaches!! Simply not true.

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