Few Irish fans have forgotten C.J. Leak's signing day surprise, the event that began the death spiral that was quarterback recruiting under Bob Davie. After indicating that he would sign with Notre Dame, Leak opted for Wake Forest on February 2, 1999, leaving Notre Dame without a quarterback in that class. Davie responded by signing four quarterbacks the following year. Although Abram Elam was always headed for defense, the glut of remaining quarterbacks - Matt LoVecchio, Carlyle Holiday, and Jared Clark - led to another quarterback-less class the following year. Everyone knows what happened next - LoVecchio transferred, Clark moved to tight end, and our backup quarterback was a walk-on. For the next three years.
In large part, this problem began when Davie allowed a recruit - Leak - to dictate the terms of his recruitment to Davie. While no coach can expect to take a "my way or the highway" approach with every recruit and expect to reel in a stable full of five-stars, a good recruiter will know when it is time to press a recruit for a decision. This appears to be what happened with Notre Dame's kicker recruitment this year. While kicker is not a glamour position, many title hopes have been doomed by missed kicks. And as was seen in the Pittsburgh game, Notre Dame could use some help on kick-offs.
Given D.J. Fitzpatrick's fifth-year status, kicker was an important position in this year's recruiting class. Notre Dame had its eye on Kai Forbath, Scout.com's highest-rated kicker and the only kicker to appear in ESPN's list of top 150 recruits. Obviously, Notre Dame would have been delighted to land Forbath, who was reportedly down to Notre Dame and UCLA. However, Forbath was a native of southern California, and waiting on a native Californian to choose between ND and the local school can be a risky proposition. Could Notre Dame afford to do this given its need for a kicker in this class?
Apparently Charlie Weis answered this question in the negative. According to a recent LA Daily News article, Weis imposed a deadline on Forbath:
Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks' Kai Forbath, the nation's top-rated placekicker by some scouting services, said late Tuesday night he gave UCLA a non-binding oral commitment.I think Weis made the right call. If Forbath really did "always see himself at UCLA," then it is far better for Notre Dame to find out now, when there is still time to land an excellent prospect like Ryan Burkhart. Admittedly, it's possible that Forbath's words are colored by recent events. However, I think Weis was wise to probe Forbath's willingness to leave California early rather than be surprised on signing day. Particularly when resolving this question allowed Weis to lock up Burkhart before another program grabbed him.
Forbath said he made the decision after turning down a scholarship offer from Notre Dame, adding Irish coach Charlie Weis gave him a Sunday deadline to make a decision.
"It leaves me with UCLA," Forbath said. "I think this is what's best for me now. I kind of always saw myself at UCLA."