Notre Dame Football

ISD Top 25: Charlie Weis Era 15-11

May 16, 2018

ISD decided to rank the Top 25 players for the last five Irish head coaches---Brian Kelly, Charlie Weis, Tyrone Willingham, Bob Davie and Lou Holtz.  This was quite an undertaking, but we thought we'd have fun as a staff doing it, and we felt our readers would enjoy it as well.  

We will start this week with our Top 25 for Charlie Weis, and throughout the spring and summer, we will be releasing the other Top 25 for the other coaches as well.  

We know there will be a lot of debate about this moving forward, and that's great because everyone has different opinions.  

We also ranked each player by how much impact they had on the teams they played for.  It had nothing to do with NFL potential or overall talent...simply the results based on their performance while at Notre Dame.  

Understanding that, here are ISD's rankings of the No. 15 through No. 11 players for the Charlie Weis era.  We will release the rest as the week goes on finishing with our No. 5 through No. 1 on Friday.  

Please feel free to discuss our rankings by posting your comments below.  Feel free to discuss how you feel they should be ranked, and ask any questions you may have of our staff or our rankings.  

ISD Top 25: Charlie Weis Era 25-21
ISD Top 25: Charlie Weis Era 20-16

15. John Carlson – Tight End 

Irish Sports Daily
TE John Carlson 

The third tight end on the list, it's tough to give the edge to any of them. Carlson is the highest on the list because he had a little more production and he played almost his entire career under Weis. 

His 2006 season was at the time the second best season ever for a tight end regarding receiving yards and receptions (47 catches for 634 yards) despite missing two games due to injury. While Anthony Fasano might have had a slight edge as a blocker, it was close between the two, and they were a terrific duo in two tight end sets on the 2005 squad.

Terrail Lambert had those huge moments in the 4th quarter of the Michigan State comeback victory, but Carlson had a monster game that contributed to what was probably the best win for Weis at Notre Dame. His 62-yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter and his 121-yard performance overall were critical pieces that helped them come out with the win.

It's unfortunate that his fifth year wasn't as productive, but that largely had to do with the players around him. He led the team in yards and receptions that season and was one of the only bright spots on offense all season.

Career Stats
31 starts
100 receptions
1,093 yards
8 touchdowns
2006 2nd team Sports Illustrated All-American
2006 John Mackey Award Finalist
2007 team captain

14. Chinedum Ndukwe – Safety 

Irish Sports Daily
S Chinedum Ndukwe

If Notre Dame needed a play, Ndukwe made it. If Notre Dame neede a pick me up, Ndukwe made it. 

The former Dublin Coffman (Ohio) star arrived at Notre Dame with his high school quarterback Brady Quinn. Ndukwe played in 12 games as a freshman and made three catches for 14 yards, but moved to safety in the spring. 

As a sophomore, Nduke made seven tackles, broke up one pass and forced a fumble in 12 games, which was mostly on special teams. 

In 2005, 6-foot-2, 219-pounder started 12 games and was part of seven turnovers as he had four fumble recoveries, two interceptions and forced a fumble, while also making 52 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.  

Ndukwe recorded 98 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and two interceptions as a senior. The ability to make big plays made it easy to put Ndukwe in the Top 15. 

Career Stats 
46 career games 
157 career tackles
3.0 tackles for loss
1.0 sacks 
4 interceptions

13. Rhema McKnight – Wide Receiver 

Irish Sports Daily
WR Rhema McKnight

A knee injury forced McKnight out of the lineup in 2005, but that allowed for him to come back for a fifth year in 2006 where he had a terrific final season. He led the team in touchdowns with 15 and was a great compliment to Jeff Samardzija. That number remains tied for the most in a single season by a Notre Dame receiver.

With more attention paid to Samardzija after his breakout year in '05, it allowed for McKnight to be featured prominently. He finished with 67 catches and 907 yards while also making a big difference as a blocker in the running game. 

His injury took away some of his previous explosiveness, but his ability to separate and track the ball in the red zone was exceptional. 

Career Stats
170 catches
2,777 yards
13.4 yards per reception
22 touchdowns (tied for 5th all-time with Derrick Mayes)

12. Maurice Stovall – Wide Receiver 

Irish Sports Daily
WR Maurice Stovall

Big plays. Jump balls. Touchdowns. Maurice Stovall was 

The U.S. Army All-American played in all 13 games as a true freshman. He was named to The Sporting News freshman All-America team as he pulled in 18 receptions for 312 yards, including a 41-yard catch against Michigan. 

In his sophomore season, Stovall finished third on the team with 22 catches for 421 yards and three touchdowns. He also made 10 tackles on special teams. Against Purdue, Stovall caught nine passes for 171 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown. 

Stovall started nine games with eight starts in 2004. He made 21 catches for 313 yards and one touchdown. 

As a senior, Stovall caught 69passes for 1,149 yards and 11 touchdowns. It was a nice year, but it was highlighted by a four-touchdown performance against BYU. Against Stanford. Against Navy, Stovall grabbed eight passes for 130 yards and three touchdowns. 

Career Stats 
46 career games 
130 receptions 
2,195 receiving yards 
18 touchdowns 

11. John Sullivan – Center 

Irish Sports Daily
C John Sullivan

Ty Willingham didn't do much right at Notre Dame, but he did help put together a 2003 recruiting class that was responsible for much of Weis' success in his first two seasons. Sullivan was part of that class and was one of a few that started over 40 games in his career.

Most of those came under Weis, and he was a critical piece of the offensive line from 2005-2007. He wasn't a dominating presence, but not many centers not named Jeff Faine are. Instead, he was a great technician that was consistently good even when things around him weren't (like in 2007). 

The prolific success of those early Weis offenses does not happen without Sullivan's presence middle of the line. 

Career Stats
43 starts
2007 team captain
2007 Guardian of the Year as Top Offensive Lineman

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