Column | Weis had talent to win big at ND — no matter what he says

Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis removes his headset in reaction to game action in the second half of an NCAA college football game with Michigan, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009, in Ann Arbor. Michigan upset No. 18 Notre Dame 38-34. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
Tony Ding/AP photo

Anytime you hear Charlie Weis talking, check the self-serving meter. It’s probably bumping on max.

The former Notre Dame head coach recently offered excuses on winning at Notre Dame. The school’s tough academics standards rule out too many talented players, he claimed as a guest on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.”

Maybe with you as the coach, Charlie, but let’s look at your time at Notre Dame — including the overlapping talent you inherited from Tyrone Willingham and passed on to Brian Kelly.

You recruited enough talent for Notre Dame to go 12-0 in the 2012 regular season. The Irish earned a Bowl Championship Series national championship game bid against eventual champion Alabama. Six 2012 Irish players were taken in the 2013 NFL draft. Notre Dame football is routinely among the Top 10 schools in graduation rates, and 2012 was no exception at No. 9.

The difference, though, was you were gone by 2012. Kelly coached your recruits on a roster led by redshirt seniors, seniors and juniors.

At first, Weis won at Notre Dame, but he was coaching players he inherited from Willingham. Weis’ first two teams went 9-3 and 10-3. But, according to Weis’ theory, the Irish were suddenly too smart; his last three teams went 3-9, 7-6 and 6-6.

Weis was canned after his 6-6 season in 2009. That roster featured four NFL draft picks.

These days, Weis is probably feeling confident in his theory now that Kelly is trying to bounce back from a 4-8 season.

“You need to know when you go in there it’s a different program,” Weis told Cowherd. “It’s different. Grades and going to school and getting your degree are going to matter. High character is going to matter. Football is going to matter.

“I always used to say in recruiting there are three things involved: one, character; two, academics; and three, can you play? If you’re missing any of those ingredients, you can’t play there.”

Then he added this gibberish:

“If you’re high character and get good grades and can’t play, then you can’t play; if you can play and have high character but can’t read or write, you can’t play; if you can read and write and play but you’re in trouble all the time, you can’t play.”

Geez, with such obstacles, how did Weis manage to field an 85-man scholarship roster?

Certainly, Notre Dame has higher academic requirements than most Power 5 schools, but most schools don’t pull in as many 5-star and 4-star recruits as the Irish. There aren’t too many Saturdays the Irish line up with inferior talent.

Notre Dame routinely deflates the hopes of just about any school chasing 5-star and 4-star recruits once the Irish enter the picture. According to Rivals.com team rankings, the Irish’s 2017 class was ranked No. 13 with eight 4-stars; 2016, No. 13 with 12 4-stars; 2015, No. 11 with 13 4-stars; and 2014, No. 11 with 10 4-stars.

That’s not as many as Alabama or Ohio State, but it’s enough to compete for a national title.

Clemson won the 2016 national title with a senior class that arrived as freshman in 2013 ranked No. 14 in the nation with 10 4-stars and a junior class that embarked in 2014 ranked No. 13 with seven 4-stars (including quarterback Deshaun Watson).

Weis had similar ranked talent on his roster, but it’s what the coach does with that talent that matters.

A more impending hurdle to a national title is Notre Dame’s conference independent status. Clemson lost a regular-season game to an unranked team, but winning the ACC Atlantic Division and ACC Conference championship game earned the Tigers a College Football Playoff berth.

Don’t forget that Weis, once he got a second chance as a head coach at Kansas, self-servingly disparaged his players in the wake of a 1-11 record his first season, in 2012. As he hit the 2013 recruiting trail, he told potential recruits: “Have you seen the pile of crap out there?”

Kansas went 3-9 the next year, then 2-2 before the Jayhawks had had enough of his bluster.

Weis might have learned how to talk bluntly when he was a Bill Parcells assistant coach with the New York Giants and from Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots, but they’re Super Bowl champions. Weis rode their coattails to become a college head coach, but he didn’t learn how to develop a team like a head coach. That’s the difference between an offensive coordinator and a head coach.

Weis’ evaluation of hurdles Notre Dame faces isn’t Parcells/Belichick blunt talk. It’s self-serving gibberish.

Follow Tom Shanahan’s FanRag Sports stories on Twitter @shanny4055



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