June 10, 2009

Nick Montana commits to Washington. People are bent out of shape about this? Really?

With the news that Nick Montana has committed to Steve Sarkisian and the Washington Huskies, I'll start by saying that I wish him the best of luck. Any time Joe Montana's kid is going somewhere to play college football, he'll have a fan in me. I think he made a good decision to go up to Washington to help build their program. Locker is going to be a junior this year I believe, so Montana probably will have an opportunity to be the guy in Seattle as soon as 2011 for the next three years. Sarkisian is a pretty darn good young quarterback coach who was a standout player at BYU and learned at the knee of Norm Chow. Just look at what he did with Mark Sanchez last year.

If Montana is any good, he's going to come out of Washington with three years of starting experience in the Pac 10. Washington is probably going to start stockpiling some talent in the next few years (partially because there will be tons of playing time available), so Montana might actually become the point man for a little Huskies renaissance. Maybe he leads them back to a bowl game and maybe even gets them to a Rose Bowl someday. If all those things happen for him, he'll probably have a great chance to play in the NFL. In terms of tradition and playing time and location and quality of competition, he made a great decision for himself.

Here's the only question I have about Nick Montana though. Is he any good?? I've watched all of his highlight tapes, and I can't say that I'm blown away by him. He has pretty good mobility and probably has the smarts to pick up an offense, but he's got a very light arm and is rail thin. When you compare his arm coming out of high school to someone like Clausen or Crist or even Andrew Hendrix, the difference is noticeable. Look at how many balls his receivers have to slow up on to catch. I'm not some guy who falls in love with arm strength (it's the most overrated quality for an NFL quarterback), but I also don't want a rag arm back there.

Then you get to the level of competition that he's playing against. Oaks Christian is a tiny school in California. For the most part, they are running roughshod over a bunch of DIII patsies. Has Nick Montana ever been hit?? Look at the DBs and linebackers when you watch highlights of Montana. It's a bunch of tiny white guys. I know Oaks Christian has a bunch of talent on their roster, but they run around these other DIII teams like they are playing against air.

Would I have been happy to land Nick Montana?? Of course. He's a legacy with some level of potential, and it would be cool to see a Montana run out of that tunnel someday as the starting quarterback at Notre Dame. However, the impression that I've gotten from people who really watch a lot of high school football in that region is that Nick Montana is not an elite quarterback prospect. The USC people didn't really seem to even be interested in him.

That brings me to ND fans. Ahhhhh, the ND fanbase. No fanbase gets more worked up over nothing than our fanbase. I log onto NDNation to get some reaction to the Montana decision, and of course there are people on there ready to jump off a building. PANIC!! Oh no! Montana is going to UW! Everything is falling apart! We've lost out on 10 quarterbacks in a row! We might be starting a walk-on in 2012! We're doomed! Fire Weis!

Are people really serious with this stuff or are they just using it as a way to take some potshots at Charlie Weis?? How is the sky falling because we lost out on Nick Montana??

Newsflash: WE HAVE TWO FIVE STAR QUARTERBACKS ON THE ROSTER!! Jimmy Clausen is a true junior who is 99% likely to be back in 2010. Even if Nick Montana was the second coming of Peyton Manning, he wouldn't be seeing the field until 2011 at the earliest.

And that's before you get to Dayne Crist. Remember the five star quarterback that we already have on the roster with four years of eligibility left?? Dayne Crist is going to be the starting quarterback for Notre Dame in 2011 and probably 2012 as well.

Nick Montana isn't dumb. He sees the depth chart working against him. If he arrived at ND in 2010, he would obviously not be seeing the field in 2010 or 2011. Unless Dayne Crist went pro with a year of eligibility left, Montana probably wouldn't be starting in 2012 either. That means that he'd be just getting on the field in 2013, and that's assuming that we didn't recruit someone better than him in the class of 2011. If we found some Crist/Clausen type stud in that class, it's entirely possible that Montana would go his entire career at ND without seeing the field. Why go through all that when you can go to Washington and be virtually guaranteed to start by 2011??

The bottom line is that teams with two five star quarterbacks already on the roster with multiple years of eligibility are not going to be able to attract big time quarterback talent every single year. These recruits want to play. If they are going to sit the bench at ND for four years, they are probably going to look around at other options. Quarterback is a unique position for recruiting in the sense that only one quarterback is going to play. It's not like Montana could get worked into the game. Unless you're starting, you're not going to play.

For a big time recruit, it's hard to willingly go to a school where you are going to sit on the bench for 3-4 years before getting your chance. The USC situation of bringing in five star QBs every year is a very unique situation. They are the only school in the country that can pull that off. Heck, look at Ohio State's qb situation. They have Terrelle Pryor for the next two years and absolutely no clue who will be starting after that. They don't have a legit backup on the roster and certainly no one of the quality of Dayne Crist lingering in the background on the depth chart. When you are recruiting QBs, it's hard to attract elite talent unless you have available playing time for them within the first couple years of them getting onto campus.

And besides, ND is currently recruiting a four star quarterback named Andrew Hendrix. I've watched his highlight tapes, and he looks better than Montana. He's 6'3, 220 with a good arm and athletic ability and has played at Moeller in the one of the best high school football leagues in the Midwest. There are DI prospects all over the Greater Catholic League. Just looking at ND alone, we've landed Kyle Rudolph, Alex Welch, and Rocky Boiman all out of the GCL in the last decade or so. Any time we can bring in a Cincy guy, I'm always happy about that.

If ND lands Hendrix, I'd be very pleased. It's not like he's some walk-on. He's getting recruiting by a lot of heavy hitters lately. Tennessee, Miami, etc. He seems like a real solid kid who sounds like he was blown away by his visit to ND. With his size and athletic ability, he could be the type of guy who takes the torch from Dayne Crist in 2013 and holds down the fort for a year or two.

I honestly wouldn't even be that bent out of shape if we don't land a quarterback at all in this class. It sounds like the 2011 recruiting class is loaded with stud QB prospects, so maybe it would make sense for us to wait and reel in a heavy hitter for that class. The depth chart seems to give us room to do that down the road.

2009 - Clausen (true junior), Crist (redshirt freshman, true sophomore)
2010 - Clausen (true senior), Crist (redshirt sophomore, true junior)
2011 - Crist (redshirt junior, true senior), stud 5 star freshman
2012 - Crist (redshirt senior, 5th year senior), stud 5 star (sophomore)
2013 - Stud 5 star (junior)

In other words, even if we stand pat this year and wait until next year to bring in a stud QB, we still would have a logical line of succession for 2013 and beyond. We have Crist until at least 2011 and probably 2012. I don't see why there's so much urgency. An absolute worst case scenario would be that Crist leaves for the NFL after one season as starter in 2011 (unlikely) and we're forced to start the new QB as a sophomore in 2012. That's really reason enough for all this handwringing?? The remote possibility that we might be starting a sophomore QB in 2012?? I mean, come on. That's silly.

I know you need some level of depth, but my feeling on QB depth goes like this. If your starter goes down, you're screwed anyway. I don't care who the backup is, and I'm certainly not worried about having a freshman QB as the backup in 2011.

Bottom line, ND is still in great shape in terms of the QB situation. We're set at QB for the next four seasons, and have plenty of time to land good QBs in either this 2010 class or the 2011 class.

For those of you who are using this Nick Montana commitment to Washington as some sort of opportunity to rip Weis for his recruiting, give me a break. How can anyone possibly question Weis' ability as a recruiter at this point?? The guy has been a recruiting machine ever since he walked on the ND campus, and he's somehow been able to bring in back to back high quality classes even with poor performance on the field. Weis can recruit, and he'll probably always be a great recruiter as long as he's at ND. Look at what Hendrix said about Weis. He said Weis has done an amazing job recruiting him.

Assuming that ND wins 9+ games this year (which is probably what Weis needs to do to give himself some job security), I have no doubt that Weis will bring in a top 10 recruiting class. Considering all of the obstacles of recruiting at ND (cultural fit, academic restrictions, no instate recruiting base), Weis is doing about as well as any ND coach could possibly do. Weis may not ultimately be the long term answer at head coach for ND, but I don't think it's fair to rip him for recruiting when his recruiting has practically saved the program.

So can we please get off Weis' back about every little thing? "Losing" Nick Montana to Washington should not be some black mark on Charlie Weis' record. If you want to criticize Charlie Weis for losing to Syracuse, fine by me. If you want to call him out for losing BACK TO BACK HOME GAMES TO NAVY AND AIR FORCE in 2007 (that Air Force loss is the most underrated horrific loss of the Weis era considering that we should have been looking for revenge and yet we got blown out on our home field by a team with a 5'8" white running back), I'm right there with you. If you still can't believe that Weis treated the 2007 offseason like it was some NFL minicamp to the point where we did almost no hitting before the season, I think you have every right to rip Weis endlessly for that. There are plenty of things for which you can take issue with Charlie Weis and how he has managed this program. I've been as critical of Weis as anyone for a number of egregious errors, but to call him out Nick Montana's decision to go to Washington is silly.

The only recruit that I consider a big loss at this point is Seantrel Henderson. Now that guy is a difference-making type of prospect in the Orlando Pace mold. He probably would have come in to ND and started next year. Any time you miss a chance to get one of the most dominating left tackle prospects of the last five years, it's a bummer to hear him say that he's not interested in ND. Of all the guys I wanted in this upcoming class, he was at the top of the list. It will make matters even worse if he ends up at Michigan or USC.

But you can't get everyone, and we are still in great shape for recruiting this year. Chris Martin is a five star stud, Lombard and Welch are quality commits, and we've added some WR depth. It sounds like we are in on a bunch of good players, and I think the class will really start to take off if we start off well in 2009.

One final recruiting thought: BARRY SANDERS, JR. Wow. Those are some sick moves and very reminiscent of his dad. This is quite a highlight, and some of the other videos on him are impressive. I don't know if he'd be interested or if he has his sights set on Stillwater, but if I was Weis, I'd be telling this guy that he'd be starting in South Bend from day one. Does he rock the mini fro like his dad??


Whiskey said...

Nicely done. I agree 100% across the board on Montana. The Barry Sanders Jr. piece is money too. He's only going to be a Soph this year. Scary.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Jimmy "Hummer limo" Claussen attend the same high school? Please make a better argument then. Because it's a UW recruit, now you question his skills against inferior prep competition. If he was going to ND, fans would be raving about how he sciced and diced high school secondaries up and down the field.