Brian Kelly Plays The Numbers 58+14+16=88

We last took a close look at where Coach Kelly and the staff are in this current recruiting cycle in early October.  In the recruiting realm little has changed since then with the exception of losing a single commit.  But we did gather a lot more information on the current players that will be able to apply for a 5th year of eligibility in the coming months.

The focus of this post will be the ever-popular question.  "How many recruits can we take?" 

The good news remains that the roster is actually pretty healthy and the staff has already addressed the primary positions of need in this current recruiting cycle.  That said there are still going to be several tough decisions that have to be made. 

Before I go any further let me explain how I derive these numbers.  Like many others I like to maintain my own eligibility chart.  The current version can be found at the link below. 

2011 ND Roster Breakdown (28 Nov)

Details after the jump.

There is a key at the bottom of the chart that explains how to read it.  In short, I keep the players in columns with their original signing class.  A # after a player's name indicates that he will be eligible to apply for a 5th year of eligibility.  Players in BOLD were 4-5 star recruits per rivals.com.  Players in BLUE are those are in the 2 deep this fall or at least see significant reps.  Players in RED missed significant portions of the 2011 season due to injury.

So what do we know?  Let's start with the current overall numbers per class. 

24 Freshmen

19 Sophomores

15 Juniors

14 Seniors that are eligible to apply for a 5th year this spring

16 Current Commitments (Includes Chris Badger who is returning in Summer 12')

88 TOTAL

So as of today Coach Kelly is already beyond the point where scholarships are free as he is capped at 85. 

So all of this means what?

That as of today if all 16 of these commits sign LOI's in February that only 11 of the 14 current seniors that are eligible to apply for a 5th year will be able to.  The staff obviously plans on adding more players to this signing class so the number of players that don't get the opportunity to play that 5th year is only going to increase between now and February. 

At this point I expect that the staff will take at least 4 more players to get to an even 20 in this class.  That will reduce the number of players that can be retained for a 5th year to 7.  

For this iteration of the discussion I simply divided the potential 5th-year candidates into three groups. 

Locks to come back

1. C Braxton Cave

2. DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

3. S Jamoris Slaughter

4. NT Sean Cwynar

On the fence

5. C Mike Golic Jr.

6. OG Lane Clelland

7. WR John Goodman

8. DE Hafis Williams

9. FS Dan McCarthy

Almost certainly gone

10. QB Dayne Crist

11. NT Brandon Newman

12. ILB Anthony McDonald

13. ILB David Posluszny

14. WR Deion Walker

I see the first four guys as the only true locks to come back.  I can't really envision a scenario where they don't. 

I think the staff will ultimately end up keeping a few of those players in the middle group. They could also benefit from an additional 1-2 slots opening up should underclassmen like Tyler Eifert and Manti Te'o opt to declare for the NFL draft.  

I really don't see those bottom five players coming back.  Based on the numbers right now there are already 3 slots that must be made available for incoming players.  I could see Crist transferring and playing somewhere else next season but I think those other four guys will likely be suiting up for the last time at the bowl game next month.

Clear as mud?

This is something that we will continue to keep a close eye on as we progress towards signing day.  You can also expect that we will discuss the position groups and players that we see as the most important as we round out this recruiting cycle.

What are your thoughts as of today?

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