The Recruiting ‘States Of Notre Dame: 29-25
What have been the greatest and most productive states for recruiting in Notre Dame's football history? Our countdown from 50 to 1 is based on these criteria:
• Quantity from the state who have seen game action for Notre Dame.
• Quality and depth of athletes from the state throughout history.
• Impact made on the program in the past, present and how it's on the rise or decline in the future.
Our countdown will begin with states that have had the least impact over the years, move to ones where you can put together a Top 10 list of famous players, and eventually an overall Top 10 where an all-time team at every position - and even a strong second or third team - can be formed.
The number in parentheses represents the amount of players from the state who saw game action. Today is dominated by the Midlands region, or what used to be known as "Big 8" country.
29. West Virginia (21)
There have been many workmanlike figures here - apropos for this coal mining state - and we like its relative balance over the decades.
Wally Fromhart (Moundsville) started at quarterback in 1934-35, center Herb Coleman (Chester) was the starting center for the 1943 national champs and hiked the ball to Heisman winners Angelo Bertelli and John Lujack, linebacker/guard Jack Alessandrini (Charleston) was the captain of the 1952 team that finished No. 3 in the nation, and 1966-68 center Tim Monty (St. Albans) maximized his abilities.
Our nod for best player goes to 1995-98 linebacker Bobbie Howard (Rand). Ultra-laconic with the media, the 5-10 linebacker was elected as a captain for his combination of leadership, skill, smarts and ability to uplift the play of others. In his last two seasons he recorded 209 stops (14 for lost yardage), broke up seven passes and grabbed two interceptions, returning one for an 89-yard score his senior year during a thrilling 39-36 win over LSU.
And to think, many people thought he was offered a scholarship to lure high school teammate Randy Moss - whose career at Notre Dame ended before it ever began.
This state has hit a dry spell after signing fullback Chris Yura in 1999 and receiver Ronnie Rodamer in 2000.
28. Colorado (21)
There has been little star power over the years, but defensive lineman Mike Gann (Lakewood) is the exception with a stellar career from 1981-84. After originally opting for Oklahoma, where he was born, Gann flipped to Notre Dame prior to head coach Gerry Faust's first season. The three-year starter recorded 165 tackles with 21 sacks en route to becoming a second-round pick and starting 117 times during a nine-year NFL career. As a senior in 1984 for the 7-5 Irish, he recorded a remarkable 10 of the 15 team sacks.
Honorable mention to recent outside linebacker Danny Spond (Littleton), an unsung hero on the superb 2012 defense.
27. Missouri (36)
While the numbers are relatively high, the overall impact has been low. Our No. 1 player from the "Show Me" state is 1988-90 left guard Tim Ryan (Kansas City), who was a freshman linebacker in 1987 before he was shifted to offensive guard in the spring to help replace all five starters along the line. He became a three-year starter, highlighted by the 23-game winning streak in 1988-89 and the '88 national title.
The most publicized recruit was 1982 Parade magazine Player of the Year Alvin Miller, a game-breaking receiver whose college career never took flight because of chronic injuries.
Current sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bonner this year could become the 37th player from Missouri to see action at Notre Dame.
26. Kansas (19)
Although it has had only about half the number of players Missouri has, Kansas' production has been a litle better and more consistent over time, dating back to fullbacks Chet Wynne (Norton) and Elmer Wynne (Topeka), starting fullbacks for Knute Rockne teams in the 1920s.
Our top player is 1945-48 center Bill Walsh (Shawnee Mission), who started as a true freshman in 1945, was beat out by second-team All-American George Strohmeyer in 1946 - and then beat out Strohmeyer the next year for the 1947 national champs, on maybe the greatest assembly of talent in college football history. He also started in 1948 before playing six years in the NFL.
A close runner-up is 1965-67 three-year starting outside linebacker Dave Martin (Roeland Park), who like Walsh was overshadowed on one of the most dominant defenses ever, the 1966 national champs. He recorded more than 200 career tackles and was also strong in pass coverage. The most recent player was 2007-10 linebacker Brian Smith (Overland Park), who had 200 tackles and four interceptions.
25. Oklahoma (30)
The Sooner State cracked our top 25 because of the star power provided by three players on elite teams.
Defensive tackle Mike Fanning (Tulsa) gets our nod as the best ever to come from the Sooner State. A standout heavyweight wrestler, he set the school record in pins (20) as a freshman, started for the 1973 national champs and was the ninth pick of the NFL Draft after an All-America senior year.
Offensively, backfield brothers Tony and Reggie Brooks (Tulsa) provided much excitement from 1987-92. Tony had the more consistent career from start to finish, highlighted by the 1988 national title as a sophomore and currently ranking 11th on the all-time rushing chart with 2,274 yards and 5.4 yards per carry.
Younger brother Reggie as a senior in 1992 might have had the greatest single season ever by a Notre Dame running back, rushing for 1,343 yards while averaging a jaw-dropping 8.0 yards per carry, making a diving catch for a two-point conversion in the 11th-hour win over Penn State and finishing fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
Two future pros also played along the offensive line the past 20 years: 1995-98 guard Jerry Wisne (Tulsa) and 1999-02 guard Sean Mahan (1999-02).
The Recruiting Future
The location isn't bad, but these are not prime areas for Notre Dame. Landing about two players over a five-year period from the Midlands might be the ceiling. Under Brian Kelly the past five recruiting campaigns, the duo features Colorado's Spond in 2010 (a last-minute addition) and Bonner from Chesterfield, Mo. In 2014.
The top prospect this year for the Irish from this region are the top two players from Kansas, defensive ends Amani Bledsoe (Lawrence) and Xavier Kelly (Wichita), who recently took an unofficial visit to Nore Dame.
This are won't and can't be ignored, but a greater interest will be placed on the Southeast, Southwest, Midwest and West.
Next: No. 24, as we beging counting states down individually because of their better depth.