There has been much lamenting and teeth gnashing over the past few months after the decommitment of Ronald Darby and early departure of Tee Shepard. Opinions on how many corners they needed to take and the exact impact of missing out on two of the highest rated recruits from 2012 have been all over the place.
The staff has been addressing the issue through roster changes (Cam McDaniel moving from RB to CB, Jamoris Slaughter cross-training at corner) and recruiting (already receiving verbal commits from Devin Butler and Rashad Kinlaw). It appears that CBK is set to take three corners and a safety in the 2013 class to help address the depth (and hopefully move Run CMC back to offense).
Though many won't want to listen to me continue to reiterate that the depth at the position is fine for 2012, it is important to note that issues with depth at corner are nothing new to the program over the past few years. In 2010, the staff relied on a three man rotation of Darrin Walls, Gary Gray and Robert Blanton. Last fall, Gray and Blanton took nearly all the significant minutes and left mop-up duty to Bennett Jackson, Lo Wood and Josh Atkinson.
By examining the last four recruiting classes (below), you can see that missing on the cornerback position through recruiting is old news for the coaching staff. Over those four classes, a total of seven cornerbacks were at one time committed or enrolled at Notre Dame, only to de-commit or leave for one reason or another.
Oh cornerbacks, where have you gone?
Note: For sake of brevity and consistency, I used Rival's rankings for the players. Did you expect more?
EJ Banks (Pittsburgh, PA - Montour) was a 3 star recruit who signed with the 2009 class. He was listed as an athlete by Rivals (#45 Overall) and enrolled early (along with Zeke Motta and Tyler Stockton). Banks left Notre Dame in Dec 2010 and has since transferred to Pitt, where he will be eligible this fall.
Marlon Pollard (San Bernardino, CA - Cajon) was a 4 star recruit (#14 CB, #150 Overall) who eventually ended up at
Notre Dame West UCLA. Pollard originally committed to UCLA only to switch to Notre Dame (and eventually switch back). If that wasn't enough, Pollard left UCLA and is currently at Eastern Michigan, where he tallied 54 tackles and 8 passes defended along with a 5.9 yds per punt return in 2011.
Toney Hurd, Jr (Missouri City, TX - Marshall) was a 3 star recruit (#47 CB) who eventually signed with Texas A&M. He saw action in every game as a freshman in 2010, totaling 8 tackles. As a sophomore, he tallied 20 tackles and 1 PBU. He is expected to give depth at both CB and S for the Aggies this fall.
Spencer Boyd (Cape Coral, FL - Cape Coral) was a 3 star recruit (#39 CB) who enrolled early in 2010 along with Tommy Rees, Lo Wood, TJ Jones and Chris Badger left school after the spring semester. He transferred to South Florida due to family issues. Boyd totaled 4 tackles in 2011 for the Bulls.
Bennett Okotcha (Coppell, TX - Coppell) was a 3 star recruit (#64 CB) and former high school teammate of Cam McDaniel. Okotcha was a one-time verbal to Wisconsin before flipping to the Irish, only to end up at Oklahoma after a late offer from and visit to Norman. He red-shirted in 2011 and is expected to compete for playing time in the fall.
Ronald Darby (Oxon Hill, MD - Potomac) was a 4 star recruit (#2 CB, #68 Overall) and long-time verbal commitment to Notre Dame through most of the 2012 cycle. Darby eventually ended up signing with Florida State, thanks in part to their track program. The story is well documented elsewhere and far too fresh in Irish fan's memories for me to rehash more than that.
Tee Shepard (Fresno, CA - Washington Union) was also a 4 star recruit (#4 CB, #76 Overall) and only added to the consternation felt in the wake of the Darby de-commitment. He left the university mid-way through the Spring Semester for reported health reasons and is pursuing other schools currently.