Third-year Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly has his team undefeated, ranked third in the nation and in contention for a national title.
First-year Kansas coach Charlie Weis, fired by Notre Dame five years into a 10-year contract, can’t be left out of the conversation entirely when discussing the revival of Fighting Irish football. Weis left Kelly with strong talent to develop.
Eight of the 11 starters on offense were recruited to Notre Dame by Weis: Linemen Braxston Cave, Mike Golic, Zack Martin and Chris Watt; tight end Tyler Eifert; wide receivers John Goodman and Robby Toma; running back Theo Riddick.
Eifert leads the Irish in receiving yards (341) and touchdowns (three) and Riddick leads the team in rushing yards and is tied for the team lead with four rushing touchdowns. Senior Cierre Wood, another Weis recruit, ranks second with 467 rushing yards and averages 6.5 yards per carry.
On defense, in addition to high-character Heisman Trophy candidate Manti Te’o, an inside linebacker, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, outside linebacker Dan Fox and safety Zeke Motta are Weis recruits.
Weis has some lingering bitterness about getting fired by his alma mater, but that doesn’t mean he’s wishing ill on the Fighting Irish. I asked him at a press conference earlier this month whether he was happy for his recruits.
“I’ll always root for anyone who I ever recruited,” Weis said. “I’ll never, ever root against them, you know, so I find enjoyment in their success.”
Weis won’t have the rich ND football tradition to dangle when he recruits for Kansas, but the ability to judge talent is such an underrated aspect of recruiting.
As well as the Irish offensive line has performed this season, that suggests Weis knows how to evaluate the position. With fifth-year seniors Trevor Marongelli, Duane Zlatnik and Tanner Hawkinson anchoring this season’s line, Weis needs to score big at the position immediately.