1. What are your impressions of ND's move to the ACC for Olympic sports and the 5 games/season commitment in football? How will this impact recruiting?
It is a good move for Notre Dame both academically and athletically. The Big East is clearly not the place to be. It's a decent geographic fit, though the Big Ten is clearly the best in that category. ACC basketball is very good, particularly with the addition of Pitt and Syracuse.
Plus, Notre Dame is now well positioned to join a familiar league if the future necessitates such a move. As far as the recruiting impact, I'll save myself some typing and link my initial piece on point, in which I said it won't hurt the Irish on the recruiting trail, but probably won't help as much as some think.
2. Brian Kelly and his staff had a very successful spring and summer recruiting. What do you think changed this year over the previous two?
I think being at Notre Dame now for a few years has helped. Kelly and his staff have established relationships with high school coaches and have been on prospects for a while.
But more than that, I think we've seem a total shift not only at Notre Dame, but everywhere. Recruiting keeps happening earlier and earlier. I wrote about this in early August after LSU offered a kid entering the 8th grade. A late start means that a school might never get a shot at a kid. I do think it can be tough for rigorous academic schools like Notre Dame, however, because it's difficult to project how a kid will progress academically after just a few semesters of high school coursework.
3. Which of ND's verbal commitments have you been most impressed with?
How much time do we have? I really like this class, both because of its athleticism, but also because of the background of many of these kids. Some classes have great potential, but also a high chance of busting. I don't see that with this group. This is a class with a high ceiling.
The linebackers are an excellent group.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith is a total freak. I saw him at the IMG Invitational in Bradenton and someone commented that you don't often see kids like him up North, to which I responded that you don't often see kids like that anywhere. Period. When he went and successfully covered some of the shiftiest receivers in the state while basically playing cornerback, I was sold. He'll wreck three or four offensive gameplans a year when he gets into his career.
I'm a big fan of Alex Anzalone. Nice kid, and I had the chance to speak with his parents at The Opening. They're very grounded, which is unlike a lot of recruit parents, and I think that'll help Anzalone succeed. He has a great frame and was quicker in space than I thought he'd be.
Oh, and Doug Randolph and Michael Deeb are two more huge linebackers who I also think of highly. Mattingly could also play linebacker in my opinion, though many services list him as a tight end.
Notre Dame is building a defense with elite size. They're in the range with Alabama, Georgia, Florida State, Ohio State and Texas in that regard.
Tight end Mike Heuerman has a brother at Ohio State. That helps him because his brother has already been through the process and will be there to give him advice should he have any issues early with the college process.
I also think having the sons of Torii Hunter and David Robinson is a positive. Not only are they talented (especially Hunter, who opened our eyes at The Opening), but also because they've been around pro sports. Big college football is a business, and I think those two have an understanding of how things work.
Then there's the offensive line, with five commitments, at least three of which are consensus four-star recruits. It's important to bring in a lot of bodies along the offensive line.
Oh, and I really like Jamel James. Very nice and smart kid.
4. ND stands at 21 verbal commitments right now. Given there are only a few spots left, where do you see those going? Any predictions?
As you mentioned, there are only a handful of spots remaining. With two or three (depending on Fuller's position), I'd like Notre Dame to go after another defensive back or two. Teams haven't exactly exposed the Irish in that area this season, but it remains a bit of a concern there in my mind after some defections and injuries. Oh, and defensive line. The Irish could use another impact 300-pounder on that side of the football.
More than anything, though, I wonder if Notre Dame won't hold a few spots until late. The Irish have already won coin flip games against Michigan and Michigan State, and avoided the potential letdown loss against Purdue. With some remaining teams on the schedule falling apart due to injuries or otherwise, the Irish have a good shot at a much better record than originally expected, and they can sell progress as a program to recruits. Don't be surprised if Notre Dame catches the eye of some elite prospects who were previously off the radar completely.
5. High school players seem to be committing earlier and earlier every year. Is this trend sustainable? What do you think is driving this?
Is it sustainable? Absent a no-contact rule for underclassmen, I have no idea how you stop it, or if it should be stopped at all. I do think they should allow prospects to be offered in writing during the spring of their sophomore seasons, though.
Many thanks to Bud for taking the time to answer our questions. You can follow him on Twitter @SBNRecruiting as well as read all of his college football coverage HERE.