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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: Let’s Talk About 5-Star Prospects

There is a 5-star shortage in South Bend. I know you know.

Michgan State Spartans v Notre Dame Fighting Irish Photo by John Gress/Getty Images

When 2017’s National Signing Day had finally come to a finish, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were sitting with the #11 ranked program according to the team rankings from 247 Sports. Eleven, after a 4-8 season and two months of utter chaos in terms of coaching moves and stability. Although the Irish lost a few commits in the process, they gained six more recruits in mere days. It was a hot finish, and one of the better finishes in the country.

The problem is that it was met with a lot of disdain from the Notre Dame fanbase. The #11 ranked team in the recruiting rankings had some “haters” out there despite the amazing finish.

But, why?

Zero Stars In The Book of Seamus McGillahan Class of 1974

Well, once again the Irish weren’t able to get a commitment from a 5-star prospect and that’s just not acceptable. Keep in mind that most of these people don’t really pay much attention to recruiting throughout the process, but they line up on signing day to critique the program. The thing is though...their beef is legit. Notre Dame hasn’t signed a 5-star prospect since 2013, and none are currently committed in the 2018 class.

Rare As Real Grass Up North

Notre Dame has signed only thirteen 5-star prospects since 2000, and none are currently committed to Notre Dame in the 2018 class. They have signed 169 4-stars in that same time for a total of 182 4-star and 5-star recruits (this includes the committed prospects for 2018).

It’s not as if all of those 5-stars were giants at Notre Dame, but a good portion of them had great careers with the Irish.

Notre Dame 5-Stars Since 2000
247 Sports

Is This Normal?

Eighteen years of data can make anything look normal, so the question provides a fairly vague answer. For those fans that remember the days of Holtz, this lack of production on the 5-star hunt isn’t normal. Back then, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lou signed about six 5-stars a class (or more, but I’m only using data from the Internet age of recruiting that stretches back to 2000). How Lou Holtz left Notre Dame with only one national championship is both criminal and mind-boggling.

No, we are well past the days of comparing the program to Holtz. The recruiting legacy that Holtz left at Notre Dame now haunts us- but we shouldn’t be comparing the recent efforts to the glory days of old. We can compare it to other programs across the country- and that’s exactly what I did.

4-star & 5-star recruits since 2000
247 Sports

***Editor’s Note: The above graph has total 5-stars in blue and total amount of the combined 4-star and 5-star recruits in gold. The 4-star total is the bigger number minus the smaller number. Duh.***

I compared Notre Dame to 9 other programs: the Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines, Southern California Trojans, Stanford Cardinal, Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles, Penn State Nittany Lions, and Oklahoma Sooners. These programs constitute a collection of national champions, rivals on the field, and rivals in the recruiting war. I’m sure there are other programs we could use- but these schools are what I chose.

Looking At A Long Time

Seventeen years worth of data is quite a bit to chew, but I don’t think it alters much in terms of our recent situation. Additionally, I think it adds to any discussion about Notre Dame and its decline in this recent era. With that said, there are some very big difference between the Irish and USC, Alabama, Ohio State, and Florida State — teams that have all won one or more titles in this time span. In fact, those combined 4 schools have won half of the titles during this era.

Oklahoma won a title in 2000, but hasn’t since. Michigan hasn’t won a title in this time span either. Of the 9 teams in comparison to Notre Dame on this list, the Sooners and Wolverines are the two teams that have a 4-star/5-star profile most similar to the Irish.

The Outlier

The outlier in all of this is Clemson. No, it’s not Stanford or Penn State as neither has won a title, but those Clemson Tigers have made itself an exception. This, however, is where the 17 years worth of data truly skews the what we have seen on the field over the past 4 years.

Athlon recently published an article comparing the recent recruiting efforts between Notre Dame and Clemson. Clemson and Notre Dame are remarkably close in this regard, and statistically... the Irish have the edge.

Notre Dame VS Clemson 2013-2015

And yet... Clemson just won the national championship by beating recruiting god Alabama. Go figure.

Okay, So What’s This All Mean?

Clearly the Irish need to do a better job of attracting 5-star talent to South Bend. I mean, it’s not rocket science. Some Irish fans look to Stanford as the model, but what in the hell have they really won? The answer is: Nothing that I really care about. I care about winning titles, and although there are certainly exceptions to the rule, the teams that are signing 5-stars on a consistent basis are the ones playing for titles and winning them.

Notre Dame certainly has the potential to win a lot of games recruiting the way that they have been. But to get over the hump (I’ll allow 30 seconds of laughter for looking at 4-8 as merely a “hump”), they need more elite talent. This is nothing new, but I thought looking at the data would provide a clearer look at where the Irish stand against the rest of the country.

There are ZERO five stars heading into 2017, and even if the Irish can get a 5-star or two in the 2018 class, the roster will once again be lean on that elite talent in 2018 and 2019.

Just thought you should know.