The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had a roller coaster year in the past year and a half. It started with a bang, as the team would go 12-0 and finish the regular season #1 in the BCS standings. The elation of that triumph ended in a soul crushing thud with a terrible performance against the Alabama Crimson Tide, losing in spectacular fashion with a final score of 41-14. Sandwiched in between, of course, was the Manti Te’o fake girlfriend scandal.
Following that, the Irish fans hit another high with a strong 2013 recruiting class, highlighted by #2 ranked OLB Jaylon Smith, #1 DT Eddie Vanderdoes, and #2 RB Greg Bryant, only to have Vanderdoes de-commit for his hometown UCLA Bruins, and the season-long banishment of 2012 starting quarterback Everett Golson due to academic reasons.
The loss of Vanderdoes itself isn’t a huge blow, the Irish will still have one of the best defensive fronts in college football this year, led by standouts Louis “Irish Chocolate” Nix and Stephon Tuitt. But continuing issues with head coach Brian Kelly’s refusal to release Vanderdoes from his National Letter of Intent – regardless of whether you think Kelly is right or wrong – puts another black mark on program that has just started to come out of a decades long slumber.
But, there is some light at the end of the tunnel: All the issues above do not seem to have hindered Kelly’s success on the recruiting trail. Notre Dame has already landed 15 commitments for 2014 – currently rated #12 by ESPN.com and #9 by Rivals.com. Here’s a breakdown of who they have managed to lure to date (ESPN.com rating/Rivals.com rating):
– Elijah Hood, RB (4-star/5-star)
– Alex Bars, OT (4-star/4-star)
– Corey Holmes, WR (4-star/4-star)
– Andrew Trumbetti, DE (4-star/3-star)
– Quentin Nelson, OG (4-star/5-star)
– Greer Martini, ILB (4-star/3-star)
– Justin Brent, WR (4-star/4-star)
– Sam Mustipher, OG (4-star/4-star)
– DeShone Kizer, QB (4-star/4-star)
– Jay Hayes, DT (4-star/4-star)
– Jonathan Bonner, DE (3-star/4-star)
– Nic Weishar, TE (3-star/3-star)
– Grant Blankenship, DE (3-star/3-star)
– Jimmy Byrne, OT (3-star/4-star)
– Tyler Newsome, K (3-star/2-star)
As you peruse the list as it stands now, you’re probably thinking the same thing I am: It’s a fairly decent mix of talent along almost all areas of the team: Offense, Defense, and even a little special teams. But, as evidenced by the good-but-not-great overall class ranking, there’s not a whole lot here that blows your skirt up, so to speak. Yes, there is top tier talent on board in RB Elijah Hood (#3 overall RB) and OG Quentin Nelson (#9 overall OG). But This is a program that to maintain the moment it has gained in the early goings of the Brian Kelly era, needs to land some more knock-out blue chippers.
Ahhhh… but wait! there’s more!
Obviously there’s still a lot of time to go before National Signing Day next February. With all that time, and continued success both on and off the field, Kelly and the Irish can still land some of the top recruits out there. Among those still showing interest in Notre Dame are (position rankings per ESPN.com):
– RB Leonard Fournette (#1)
– ATH Speedy Noil (#1)
– ILB Raekwon McMillan (#1)
– WR Malachi Dupre (#1)
– TE Dalton Schultz (#1)
– CB Andree Jackson (#2)
– DE Myles Garrett (#2)
– DE Lorenzo Carter (#3)
– S Jamal Adams (#3)
– ATH John Smith (#3)
– OG Damian Mama (#3)
I’ll be keeping an eye on these as well as other prospect and will update as needed. But, for now, Brian Kelly has set a foundation for what looks to be another strong recruiting class.
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