February 3rd has come and gone. National Signing Day is in the books and there are 23 new members of the team to cheer for. What a wild ride. It seems like only yesterday we had a walk in the park against Nevada. Man those were the days. Shortly there after the season unraveled and ND made a change. To early to tell if it was the right change, but we here at Kelly Green and Gold believe it was. As I sat there in the stands after the Stanford game, trying to figure out what just happened, I knew it was time for change.
Brian Kelly has put together one hell of a class. Think about it, Brian Kelly held together what some people are calling the 14th, 19th, and 21st best class in the country. Big names like Shembo, James, Roberson, Jones and Hendrix bought into the system that Kelly and ND preach. Coach K said it best himself in his presser today, “You need time to recruit. You need success if you want to be able to continue to recruit the very best. Clearly, we did not have either one on our side this time. We will.” Kelly in a short amount of time secured commits from 12 different states to fit his system. He got his RKG’s with this class.
Some say that ND missed out on some big names. Maybe its true, maybe its not. What Kelly did was sell his program as a new coach with integrity. Florida recruits didn’t know who their coach was when Meyer quit. They didn’t know if they could trust that he would be back, but they still committed, to a coach that doesn’t know what he wants. Lane Kiffin sold snake-oil to some recruits and they bought it. After spurning his team in Knoxville and moving to USC, some players still wanted to play for him.
These are not the type of players that Kelly needs at Notre Dame. I know, I know, 5 star players are talented athletes and we should be happy to have them. I think my pops has rubbed off on me a little to much these days, but whatever happened to the old school approach. Committing to a honest program that isn’t facing NCAA sanctions, committing to a program where a coach puts his family first, committing to a school for what it stands for. Maybe its just a pipe dream but I have bought in to Kelly’s RKG mentality. The right young men to come in and represent your university and to fit your system. I think it’s something that Charlie Weis did very well as you can see with his graduation rate. Kelly went out and got the type of guys that he wanted and he did a great job of representing himself and Notre Dame.
Enough of that other nonsense, this is a football blog. Not some sappy blog about universities with values or me just trying to rationalize why recruits picked other school, lets get down to this class.
This class is starting to jump out on me on paper. Lets look at a top level run down today and dive into more depth later. 23 commits have filled out this years class. 10 four stars and 12 three stars, or 6 four stars and 15 three stars, or 9 gold stars, 1 pink star and 4 rainbows depending on which site you check your rankings at. Needless to say, this class has talent. Kelly brought in some big time commits on the offensive line. Matt James signing today pushed this class over the top. Joining Christian Lombard, they could be a force at Tackle and Guard respectively and I don’t think it will be to long before you see them line up next to each other. Also the signing of Tate Nichols, who tipped the scales at 6’7″ 292, is already projecting to be a tackle. We got a decent line haul for this year in what was an important position of need.
Defensive line got stronger again today with the addition of Kona Schwenke. Kona has instantly become KGG’s favorite player replacing Golden Tate. First, Kona shares his name with one of the best beers in the world, Kona Longboard Lager. (Yes we drank some today in his honor). Second, he spurned my hometown BYU Cougars to come and create something special in South Bend instead of Provo Utah. Trust me Kona, The Bend trumps Provo any day. Kona projects at DE and along with Justin Utopo and Louis Nix at tackle and maybe the addition of Danny Spond to the D-line, is not the world worst lineup in history. D-Line has been an issue for the Irish, lets hope some of the upperclassmen can teach these guys right away (looking at you Emeka).
Chris Badger, Spencer Boyd and Lo Wood should all end up in the defensive secondary. Badger projects at safety which was a big position of need and Spencer Boyd could add some meat and move to safety as well. Daniel Smith who played reciever in high school is 6-4, 205 could make the switch to safety as well. It would have been nice to add a Cooper or a Riley to this class but by no means should we start to panic. Lets see how the spring goes with Badger and Boyd already enrolled allowing them to participate in spring ball.
Linebackers got some great talent as well. Prince Shembo, Kendall Moore and possibly Derek Roback and Danny Spond should bring some depth to what is already considered a loaded position. Moore could move to D-end but for now he projects as a linebacker. Great additions to a stocked position already.
Four natural wide receivers committed to the Irish. Bennet Jackson, Tai-ler Jones, Austin Collinsworth and Daniel Smith all add some depth to what is an important position in Brian Kelly’s spread offense. Daniel Smith has size and still maintains 4.6 speed, but could end up at safety. Collinsworth could also add some depth to the DB position if need be. Jones and Jackson are both speedy receivers clocking in at 4.4 40 speed.
The lone get in the running back position is Cameron Roberson. Kelly loved what he saw in Roberson and applied the full court press to make sure he ended up Irish. He sent three coaches to coral the speedy Roberson and he adds depth to a talented stable of running backs. Derek Roback could also end up getting some time in the backfield with his size and speed as a 3rd down back.
Quarterback saw the addition of 5 high school QB’s. Tommy Rees is already enrolled and looking forward to spring practices. Hendrix turned down Meyer and his advances from Florida to end up with the Irish. Luke Massa, a kid out of Cincinnati should also get a crack at backing up Dayne Crist this fall. Roback and Spond look likely to head to other positions, but could play the position in an emergency.
Last but not least is Kyle Rudolph’s clone. Alex Welch is from the same high school as Rudolph and is 6’5″, 225 just like the elder statesman of the position. Welch is a pass catching TE that can line up in the slot and create mismatches for some linebackers. Bruce Heggie played some TE in high school but we expect him to end up at defensive line.
Well that about wraps up our initial thoughts about this class. Keep in mind that a transition coach who is installing a new offensive and defensive system held this class together. Kelly and staff did a great job of identifying needs that were left from the previous commits and brought in his RKG’s. I think we will be better off with this transition class than we were when Ty left the cupboard a little bare. Only time will tell with this class so check back here in 4 years for an update.
212 days until kickoff.