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Notre Dame Football

ISD Top 25: Charlie Weis Era 5-1

May 18, 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. 5 through No. 1 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
ISD Top 25: Charlie Weis Era 15-11
ISD Top 25: Charlie Weis Era 10-6

5. Trevor Laws – Defensive Line 

Irish Sports Daily
DE Trevor Laws

As part of the great 2003 recruiting class, Laws was a big part of the success of the 2005 and 2006 seasons under Charlie Weis. But with most of the players from that class off the NFL, he was one of the only players left as a 5th year senior in 2007. He made the most of it with a fantastic final season.

Despite the struggles in the win column that year, the defense finished 25th in the nation in yards per play. Laws was the biggest reason why as a constant force with a ridiculous 112 tackles from his defensive end spot in the Irish 3-4 defense. If not for the lack of team success, he would have been in contention to win numerous post-season awards.

His relentless motor didn't just pop up in year 5. He was in the backfield a number of times as a three-technique in '06 (9.5 tackles for loss). There hasn't been a better duo at defensive tackle than him and Derek Landri to wear blue and gold since Landri graduated. 

Career Stats
224 tackles
10 sacks
22.5 tackles for loss
10 passes defensed
2 forced fumbles
4 fumble recoveries
6 blocked kicks
2007 Most Valuable Player

4. Brady Quinn – Quarterback 

Irish Sports Daily
QB Brady Quinn 

Brady Quinn built a legacy at Notre Dame that won’t soon be forgotten. The Dublin (Ohio) native set 36 school records during his four seasons as the starting quarterback for the Irish. 

Weis’ arrival was crucial for Quinn’s development as he passed for more than 110 yards per game in 2005 but also raised his touchdowns from 17 to 32. For his efforts, Quinn was named  2005 AP All-America Team as a third-team quarterback and the 2006 All-American Team as a second-team quarterback. Quinn received the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the nation's top passer of the 2005 season
Quinn exploded for 37 touchdowns his senior season while throwing for 3,426 yards and just seven interceptions. The 6-foot-4, 232-pounder won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Maxwell Award, Cingular All-American Player of the Year and AP second-team All-American. 

Career Stats 
49 career games
1,602 career passing attempts 
11,762 passing yards 
101 total touchdowns 

3. Jimmy Clausen – Quarterback 

Irish Sports Daily
QB Jimmy Clausen

It was extremely difficult to choose Clausen over Quinn, but Clausen gets the edge by the slimmest of margins. Mostly because his peak was at a higher level even if his overall production was not quite as good. 
The numbers in the final thirteen games of his Notre Dame career are on a different level. Including the 2008 Hawaii Bowl, Clausen threw for 33 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions. He completed 69% of his passes over that time, had six games of 300 yards or more, and his average yards per attempt was 9.2. That was per attempt, not per completion.

In 2009 he was second in the nation in passing efficiency, fifth in yards per game, sixth in yards per attempt, fourth in completion percentage, and eighth in touchdowns. And he did it all behind a line not nearly as good as anyone the Irish had under Brian Kelly. 

Unfortunately, the defense (103rd in yards per play) and running game (3.84 yards per carry) didn't provide much support to his prolific season. If they did, he might have been invited to New York as a Heisman finalist. His year was that good, but the season for the team as a whole was not. 

Career Stats
8,148 yards passing
7.3 yards per attempt
62.6 completion percentage
60 touchdowns
27 interceptions
5 rushing touchdowns
2nd in Notre Dame history in passing yards
6th best single season in passing yards
3rd in career passing touchdowns
4th ('09) and 7th ('08) in single-season passing touchdowns
2009 co-MVP of the team with Golden Tate
2008 co-MVP of the Hawaii Bowl with Golden Tate
2009 2nd team All-American by CBS Sportsline

2. Jeff Samardzija – Wide Receiver 

Irish Sports Daily
WR Jeff Samardzija

The two-sport start might have gone with baseball but “The Shark” dominated on the gridiron during his time in South Bend. 

Samardzija recorded 24 catches over his first two seasons, but he became a household name in 2005. As a junior, Samardzija caught 77 balls for 1,125 yards and 15 touchdowns, which allowed him to become a consensus All-American. 

In his final season, Samardzija recorded 78 catches for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns. There were many highlights for Samardzija, but the game-winning touchdown catch and run against UCLA stands out above the rest. 

Career Stats
49 career games
179 receptions
2,593 receiving yards 
27 touchdowns

1. Golden Tate – Wide Receiver 

Irish Sports Daily
WR Golden Tate 

Notre Dame fans have been blessed over the years by getting to watch dozens of electric football players. Some stand out above the rest, though, and Golden Tate fits into that category. He was the most exciting football player to wear blue and gold since Rocket Ismail.

It wasn't just the big moments with Tate although there are plenty worth mentioning. The dive into the Michigan State band, the Hail Mary catch at the end of the half against Washington State, and him shrugging off a Taylor Mayes hit against USC on a touchdown catch are memories many fans will never forget. Those were just small pieces in his brilliant Notre Dame career. He was so much more than those flashes.

He may have had the strongest hands of any Irish receiver in recent memory, and he was dynamic after the catch. Will Fuller may be the only one who could match him as a deep threat as well. Tate really could do it all including returning punts and contribute in the running game.

He was the best receiver in college football in his final season, and I'm not sure if/when we will ever see numbers like he put up. 93 catches, 1,496 yards receiving and 18 total touchdowns (15 receiving, two rushing, and one punt return) sets the bar incredibly high for anyone else to reach. And it was so good that his previous 1,080-yard season with 11 total touchdowns is almost an afterthought.

Some didn't like the swagger he played with, but he more than backed it up on the field. He's number one on this list and right up there with the best receivers in Notre Dame history.

Career Stats
157 catches (tied for 5th in Notre Dame history)
2,707 receiving yards (2nd)
26 receiving touchdowns (4th)
227 yards rushing
3 rushing touchdowns
11.0 yards per punt return
1 punt return touchdown
2009 co-MVP of the team with Jimmy Clausen
2008 co-MVP of the Hawaii Bowl with Jimmy Clausen
2009 Unanimous All-American
2009 Biletnikoff winner as the best receiver in the nation.

Top 25 Players of the Charlie Weis Era 

1. Golden Tate 
2. Jeff Samardzija
3 Jimmy Clausen
4. Brady Quinn
5. Trevor Laws
6. Tom Zbikowski
7. Ryan Harris
8. Darius Walker
9. Victor Abiamiri
10. Derek Landri
11. John Sullivan
12. Maurice Stovall
13. Rhema McKnight
14. Chinedum Ndukwe
15. John Carlson
16. David Bruton
17. Eric Olsen
18. Kyle McCarthy
19. Anthony Fasano
20. Mike Richardson
21. Kyle Rudolph
22. Sam Young
23. Darrin Walls
24. Mike Anello
25. Brandon Hoyte

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