Numerous sources are reporting that Zach Frazer, the Notre Dame quarterback who recently learned he was the fourth player trying to squeeze onto a depth chart that only had room for three quarterbacks, has been given permission to contact other schools in order to explore the possibility of a transfer. The news did not come as a surprise, as it has been widely speculated for months that one or more disappointed quarterbacks would transfer once Coach Weis narrowed the QB race from four to two players at the conclusion of Spring practice.
While most expected that Evan Sharpley would stay at Notre Dame to play baseball and finish his education regardless of the Spring results, and that Jimmy Clausen would stay at Notre Dame for at least a full year (Spring-Fall-Spring) before even considering a transfer, many felt that Frazer or Demetrius Jones (or both) would look at possible transfers if they found themselves at #3 or #4 on the depth chart (behind Freshman Clausen) heading into the 2007 season with highly-touted recruit Dayne Crist scheduled to arrive in 2008. The only surprise was that Coach Weis only partially tipped his hand by naming a final three quarterbacks rather than a final two, as he had said he hoped to do. Cynics have suggested that Coach Weis changed his mind and kept three quarterbacks in the mix for the 2007 season because he was concerned that he would lose two quarterbacks to transfer during the Summer, leaving the depth at quarterback dangerously shallow. More charitable observers take Charlie's word at face value and believe that all three remaining quarterbacks are in fact in the hunt for meaningful minutes in 2007.
But what of Zach Frazer? I can only wish Zach all the best. When they write the book on the Charlie Weis era, Zach Frazer should have a small chapter in it all to himself, as he was a pivotal character in the Weis story. Zach was the first big recruit landed by Coach Weis. Zach was the answer to the question: Will this former NFL assistant coach be able to bring premiere talent into the Notre Dame program when competing against experienced college head coaches in the recruiting wars? Zach Frazer was a high school junior with a big arm, big numbers, and big hype. He was rated four stars at both Rivals.com and Scout.com. His verbal commitment sent shock waves throughout the Notre Dame community and throughout college football. It served notice that Coach Weis was a serious, energetic, and aggressive recruiter. No longer would Notre Dame wait, and wait, and wait before finally tendering offers to 4- and 5-star athletes. From now on, we were going to get into the hunt early and force other programs to play catch up. With one verbal commitment from Zach Frazer, Coach Weis (and Zach) changed the perception of Notre Dame's talent level. Zach took the Irish from being a program of mostly 3-star talent with some 4-star athletes sprinkled in, to being a program with 4-star talent sprinkling in some 5-star players. After his verbal commitment, Zach continued to help build the program by actively recruiting other top talent to come to Notre Dame.
By all accounts he has worked hard on the field and in the classroom while at Notre Dame, and has been an exemplary representative of the program and the University. While Zach may still choose to remain at Notre Dame to fight for the quarterback job and get his degree, I would expect that an athlete with his talent and drive would want to pursue a chance to start at QB for somebody. And I would also assume that a 4-star Notre Dame recruit with good health and good character, who has studied under Coach Weis, would have ample opportunities available to him. Teams that have been reported to have an interest in Zach include Rutgers, Connecticut, Miami, East Carolina and Louisville.
I, for one, will miss Zach if he decides to leave. I remember how excited I was when he announced his verbal commitment to Coach Weis and Notre Dame. Under Bob Davie and Ty Willingham, such early commitments by top players was almost unheard of, and it was the first sign (to me) that Coach Weis really was going to turn the program around. I really looked forward to seeing Zach play for the Irish.
But, just as Zach's arrival heralded a new era for Notre Dame football, so will his departure. Zach's recruitment and commitment indicated that the talent level of the Irish program was about to improve significantly. The inability of such a highly-regarded recruit to crack the top 3 of the Irish depth chart at quarterback indicates that the transition to premiere talent has largely been accomplished. It is noteworthy that the Irish are losing a very good player, and a very good young man, because the talent on the team has just gotten better. If Frazer leaves, the Irish will be young at quarterback, but still deep and talented. That has not always been the case with recent transfers.
David Wolke, Chris Olsen, and Matt LoVecchio left the program when they realized that they would not be the starting QB at Notre Dame. David Wolke was a 2- or 3- star recruit who left when he lost the back-up QB job to Evan Sharpley after Spring practices in 2006. He is now competing for the starting QB job at Western Kentucky University. Chris Olsen (star ratings unknown) abruptly transferred to the University of Virginia in August of 2003 when he held the #2 position on the depth chart behind starter Carlyle Holiday. The loss was surprising, but may have had more to do with the performance of freshman Brady Quinn than anything else. Olsen's brother, tight end Greg, decided to transfer to the University that shall not be named within days of Chris' decision. Chris eventually earned a starting job at UVA for the 2006 season, only to lose the job midway through the year. LoVecchio, a 1-star recruit, transferred to Indiana University in the Summer of 2002 after losing his starting job to Carlyle Holiday. At IU he eventually became the starter and put up decent numbers while leading the Hoosiers to a total of five wins in the 2003 and 2004 seasons combined.
Prior to the arrival of Charlie Weis, Notre Dame was losing 1- 2- and 3-star quarterbacks to transfer when they learned they either weren't going to be the starter (LoVecchio) or weren't going to be the primary back-up QB (Wolke, Olsen). Notre Dame now expects to lose a 4-star quarterback who can't crack the top 3 positions on the depth chart. That is a dramatic change, and we ironically owe that change, at least in part, to Zach Frazer.
So Zach, if you decide to go, I just want to say thanks, good luck, and I really hope you play your way onto the field somewhere. As long as it isn't the University which shall not be named.
ADDED 6/13: OC Domer welcomes our new visitors from NDLNA.com, DomerDomain.com, Subway Domer and Irish Universe! A special thanks to Subway Domer, Sir John at Domer Domain, and Irishman at Irish Universe for the links and the kind words.
AND ANOTHER THING (6/13): Some commenters at DomerDomain (and at NDNation.com) think my thoughts on the possibility of Demetrius Jones and/or Jimmy Clausen transferring are unreasonable. I think we all agree that Sharpley probably stays at ND no matter what. He's older, and he plays baseball. Would Clausen transfer after just one year? Is that crazy talk? Two words for you: Zach Frazer. Frazer is transferring after just one year in the program. Why wouldn't Clausen? If Clausen found himself behind Frazer or Jones going into the Fall of 2007, and if either of those guys had a monster year for the Irish, and if the Spring session in 2008 merely solidified Jones or Frazer as the starter, with Dayne Crist as the new kid on the block, why wouldn't Clausen transfer? Is it because he's a more loyal Notre Dame man than Zach Frazer? No, as soon as Jimmy Clausen concludes that he isn't ever likely to be "the man" at Notre Dame, he will be gone. Clausen plans to play in the NFL, and you don't get to the NFL by sitting the bench. The same reasoning holds true for Demetrius Jones. A lot of people assume that Demetrius will simply change positions to wide receiver if he isn't going to be the Irish QB. Why would anyone assume that? He has said he wants to be a quarterback. If he is talented enough to play QB, why would he be any less likely than Clausen or Frazer to transfer for a chance to be a starting QB? I could very well be wrong, but I don't think my analysis is unreasonable. As for Coach Weis' motives in narrowing to 3 QBs instead of 2, I'm willing to take him at his word, as he's always been a straight shooter. But I felt I owed it to the readers to point out a very common theory, especially when that theory makes some sense.
TWO MORE WORDS (6/14): Rick Clausen. Jimmy's brother Rick transferred from LSU to Tennessee for playing time reasons. Who thinks that the most talented of the Clausen brothers wouldn't follow suit if that is what he thought he had to do to get onto the field? Would it be after one year? Two years? Who knows? I personally think (TOTAL B.S. SPECULATION ALERT!!) that the Clausens and Weis have an understanding that Jimmy would give it two years at Notre Dame before transferring. That's a possible redshirt year and one year of eligibility burned, which would leave him one year of eligibility to burn on transfer and two years to play wherever he landed.