With National Signing Day just over a week away, Notre Dame appears to be limping down the final stretch.

Sunday evening, the fragile vessel that is the Notre Dame football program sprung a few more leaks, with the defections of highly-regarded Indiana defensive end Blake Leuders and talented running back Giovanni Bernard.

Losing Leuders stings because he plays along the defensive line and appears destined for defensive end, a position at which the Irish are woefully depleted. Leuders was snatched away by the same gentlemen who recruited him to play for Notre Dame: Brian Polian and Randy Hart, both of whom are now employed by Stanford, which is where Leuders will now enroll.

Leuders, it seems, opted for familiarity with the coaching staff, even if it means he will be playing at a home venue which is frequented by fewer congregants than a community-theater production. That is not to say that Stanford is a poor selection; it is simply an odd change of course for a kid who played in Notre Dame's backyard, a kid who talked about a desire to compete for National Championships.

Jim Harbaugh is a fine football coach. His team runs the football and plays a physical brand of football that I wish were once-again present at Notre Dame. His program has bullied Southern Cal two out of the last three seasons. But he will not call Palo Alto home much longer. Even with Harbaugh, Stanford cannot win a National Championship. They simply will never be able to recruit enough depth in order to do so. At Notre Dame, Leuders would have a chance to win the National Championship Georgia, serif; line-height: normal; font-size: 16px; ">even if the naysayers at ESPN believe otherwise.

Bernard, who played at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, announced yesterday that he would re-open his recruitment, with Oregon State and North Carolina as possible destinations for the powerfully-built tailback. Bernard hasn't ruled out the possibility that he could eventually sign with Notre Dame on Signing Day, which is next Wednesday, but it appears likely that he could end up somewhere else.

Watching Bernard's film, you can see a tailback in the Autry Denson mold, a back with a squatty frame and shifty moves, lacking top-end speed. Denson, of course, had a tremendous career at Notre Dame, finishing his four years as the all-time leading rusher in Notre Dame history.

That said, Bernard is a running back, and running backs are much easier to find than dominant defensive linemen, which is what Leuders may eventually become.