Yesterday the roster and defensive line depth chart took another hit when defensive tackle Brandon Nicolas left the program. He may or may not have seen much playing time this year, but his departure does affect a team that now only has two scholarship players at defensive tackle in the freshman and sophomore class. The same numbers exist in the freshman and sophomore class at offensive line as well so robbing Peter to pay Paul isn't a likely solution to the dearth of scholarship lineman currently on the team.
Now, the defensive line will be thin this year, but should still have enough bodies to be effective. However, recruiting defensive lineman, specifically tackles physically capable of playing early in their career, is now that much more important.
Which brings me to a topic that has become more relevant with each departing football player: recruiting and scholarship numbers. Here's a quick rundown of where Notre Dame stands with regards to number of players and just exactly how many scholarship offers Weis will have in his quiver for the coming year.
I'm going to skip listing out the names for each grouping, but if are interested I highly recommend you check out the excellent scholarship breakdown on IrishEyes. It's not exactly up to date as I'm sure they are waiting until the end of fall camp to update position shifts and document the most recent attrition. Using this list and the official roster, let's take a look at what Notre Dame has in the way of scholarships. Please keep in mind however that these numbers could easily change tomorrow. Nothing here is set in stone and by and large I will be ignoring such likely occurances such as career ending injuries and additional transfers. Ok, disclaimers out of the way, let's get on to the numbers.
Currently, the 2005 Fighting Irish have:
8 - 5th year seniorsThat's 71 scholarship players out of a maximum of 85. Once the 8 5th years and 2 seniors use up their final season of eligibility, that will leave Notre Dame with 61 awarded scholarships out of a possible 85.
2 - Seniors with no eligibility left
14 - Seniors with 1 year of eligibility left
5 - Juniors with 2 years left
15 - Juniors with 3 years left
3 - Sophomores with 3 years left
9 - Sophomores with 4 years left
15 - Freshman with 4 years left
That means ND will have room for 24 scholarships if all 5th year eligble players return. (Note: I tackled specific rules regarding the number of scholarships in a given class at the bottom of this post.) Odds are not all 5th year eligible players will return, but given our recent losses, especially to the O-Line, many hopefully will stay. Weis has been quoted as saying he likes to keep a scholarship or two in his pocket to award to deserving walk-ons (like Brandon Harris) so let's subtract one scholarship and leave 23 available scholarships. Currently, ND already has 12 verbal commits. That leaves room for 10 more (again, assuming all 5th years come back and one scholarship is reserved for a walk-on or Travis Leitko). Sticking with that assumption, that will leave us in 2006 with:
15 - 5th year seniors (assuming Travis Leitko is back with the team)That total is 85; the maximum number of scholarship that Notre Dame can offer. Now, for the sake of recruitniks everywhere I'll take it a step further and project for 2007. Please realize though that this is somewhat like trying to predict the weather a year from now and it is highly likely that this list will be laughably wrong within a month, if not sooner.
5 - Seniors with 0 years left
16 - Seniors with 1 year left
3 -Juniors with 2 years left
9 - Juniors with 3 years left
15 - Sophomores with either 3 or 4 years left
22 - Freshman with 4 years left.
Ok, again assuming all 16 5th years come back for 2007--which, realistically, is very unlikely--Notre Dame will have room for 20 recruits (15 fifth years plus 5 seniors with 0 years left graduating). Now, that's the minimum number of scholarships that Weis will have to offer and any additional attrition after this season will only serve to increase that number. In the end, I'd have to imagine that due to 5th years not coming back, career-ending injuries, players leaving early for the NFL (it could happen), and even more transfers, we will have room for another 23-25 guys in 2007.
What all this means is that Coach Weis will have ample opportunity to fill the roster with his recruits and should he get Notre Dame off to a hot start and catch the eye of top shelf recruits everywhere, he will have plenty of available scholarships to dole out.
One last thing about scholarships, numbers, and the rules surrounds early entry for recruits. Each college football program is allowed a maximum of 85 scholarships. Additionally, each program may only sign 25 recruits per recruiting class. However, if there is room under the 85-limit, a school may enroll a recruit a semester early and that recruit will count towards the previous recruiting class total, but only if the previous class was under the 25 player-per-class limit. For example, the current freshman class has 15 members. If ND admits someone a semester early for the upcoming recruiting class, that player will count as the 16th member of the current freshman class and still leave a potential 25 open slots in the current recruiting class, assuming of course that total is still under the 85 scholarship limit. Confused yet? Here's where it gets even more convoluted. Say the following year another player wants to enroll early. He may do so, but must be counted as a member of his current recruiting class since the previous class, now freshman, maxed out the 25 number limit. Hopefully that clears things up somewhat. There may or may not be a quiz on this material later so I hope you were paying attention. Class dismissed.