The State of California is a hotbed for college football recruiting. It’s an extremely large state, and with enough talent to boast the second most NFL players with 192 (Florida leads with 203). In fact, California football recruits form the base for almost all of the Pac-12. After that, many mid-major programs have feasted on “leftovers” inside the Golden State (Boise State is one such school).
And even after all of that, national powers such as Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and others still pull recruits out of California. It’s a gold mine.
But is it really a gold mine for the Golden Domers? The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have made recruiting in the state of California a top priority for many years. So much so, the Irish always schedule a game in the state to end the season (USC in even years and Stanford in odd years) so they can go right to work on the recruiting trail. But has the work paid off? Have they got more than just a couple of golden nuggets?
Since 2007, Notre Dame has signed 21 players from the state of California. After 10 years of hard work, they have only managed to average 2 recruits a year. With the way that the Irish recruit nationally, having 8-10 players on the roster from California each year makes that state one of the biggest feeder states for Notre Dame. So, 2 a year average is fair, I suppose. However, we should be more interested in what those players have brought to Notre Dame.
Here are all 21 players that have signed. This doesn’t include 2017 early enrollee, Aaron Banks, nor does it include Joe Schmidt (Schmidt, of course, was a walk-on that earned a scholarship).
California Recruits 2007-2016
|EQ St. Brown||CJ Sanders||Tyler Luatua|
|Eddie Vanderdoes||Max Redfield||Tee Shepard|
|Troy Niklas||G. Atkinson||J. Atkinson|
|Cam Roberson||Justin Utupo||Shaq Evans|
|Cierre Wood||Joe Fauria||Dayne Crist|
|Anthony McDonald||Taylor Dever||Jimmy Clausen|
|Javon McKinley||DJ Morgan||Ian Book|
That’s a pretty weak list.
One player never played due to injury.
- Cam Roberson
Three players were freshman in 2016
- Javon McKinley
- Ian Book
- DJ Morgan
Five players were either dismissed from Notre Dame or transferred to another school.
- Eddie Vanderdoes
- Max Redfield
- Tee Shepard
- Shaq Evans
- Joseph Fauria
None of this seems worthy of such priority.
Looking at this list reminds me of a scene from The West Wing. In that scene, POTUS is at Camp David for peace talks with Israel and Palestine. It’s an unpopular move that came after a terrorist attack in Israel that killed American diplomats. The first day of talks went poorly, and Joshua Lyman asks President Bartlett, “should we be here?” Bartlett dismisses Josh from the room, and after a few days, all sides agree to a settlement. That’s a win for POTUS, right? Well, perhaps not as more chaos ensues once the U.S. gets involved in peace-keeping.
I wonder... should we be here? Should Notre Dame be recruiting California so hard, or should they concentrate more in the midwest and Texas? The rate of return seems pretty low after 10 years. I’m not saying the Irish have struck out here, but after 10 years, I can count only 5 or 6 players that made or are making a difference for the better (and 2 of those players are current sophomores):
- Jimmy Clausen
- Troy Niklas
- Cierre Wood
- Equanimeous St. Brown
- George Atkinson III
- C.J. Sanders
This recruiting cycle has one player from California signed, with Aaron Banks. There are still a handful of players in play, but this is another year of putting a TON in and not getting quite as much out. How much longer can this continue?
The argument can be made that without these efforts statewide, Notre Dame’s roster would look much different. That same argument can be made that it can be either a good thing- or a bad thing. It’s hard to really sat since we don’t yet have the ability to travel back in time.
My concern here, is that I believe Notre Dame should go in a different direction than what they are currently doing in California. With the hires of Chip Long, DelVaughn Alexander, and Brian Polian- I see the Irish doubling down here. Hopefully it works, but recent history says otherwise.