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Coach Brian Kelly- Assembling the First Class

When Brian Kelly was hired there was much discussion amongst Notre Dame fans about whether or not he would be able to recruit with the big boys.

The fan base seemed divided between those that were optimistic and others that had their doubts.

Talk of "RKGs" and some curious late additions to the 2010 signing class only increased the concern amongst that latter contingent of the fan base.

In the last few months those concerns seem to have eased a bit. Coach Kelly and his staff hit the recruiting trail hard and have won a few recruiting battles in the back yards of Michigan, Ohio State, and most notably Florida. The class of 2011 currently consists of 16 prospects that are predominantly of the 3-4 star variety according to the various recruiting services.

Yesterday we talked in depth about how I expect Coach Kelly to stay under the 85 scholarship limit and today I want to talk a bit about the class itself. I will approach this from a class needs standpoint vice a player bio perspective.

When this recruiting cycle started Coach Kelly himself said that he and the staff were going to focus on the defense in this class. The below quote is straight from the conclusion of his signing day presser this past February.

So that gives you a glimpse. You can see that we've added what we consider some outstanding offensive linemen. I think the area as we continue to move forward, we have to continue to build our defensive line pool, especially at the end position.

That is going to be absolutely crucial for us moving forward next year and looking at 2011. Our scholarship allotment is really going to have to look towards the defensive end position. We feel like we're set inside. There's a number of players that are going to be able to help us on the inside.

We've got to get bigger and stronger on the edge of our defense, more athletic on the edge of our defense. I think those are two absolutely crucial needs for us moving forward after this class.

He wasn’t kidding. Look at the position breakdown of the 16 current commits.

3 Defensive Ends
3 Outside Linebackers
1 Inside Linebacker
3 Defensive Backs
1 Running Back
1 Tight End
3 Offensive Linemen
1 Kicker

When we discussed the numbers yesterday I mentioned that I expect the staff to add another 3-5 players to this class. With the positions above plugged into our eligibility chart I see the first of those remaining three slots going to a receiver, an interior offensive lineman and a safety. I think the staff will sit on those two additional spots just in case any 4-5 star type players want to jump on board at the last minute.

Now let’s take a quick look at the 16 current commits by position group. Next to their names is a list of a few other programs that also sought their services. That can sometimes tell us as much if not more than their current star ratings.

This class has none on board and it really isn’t an issue. Crist and Montana both have 3 years of eligibility remaining and there are also 3 true freshmen in the chute. I expect Coach Kelly will sign at least 1 if not 2 QBs in the next class.

Running Back
Justice Hayes 5-10 180 Grand Blanc, MI (Mich State, Michigan, Iowa, Tenn)

With the addition of Hayes Notre Dame will have a four star back in each class entering 2011. The Irish roster is in great shape at RB.

No true FB/H-Backs are on the list but this was one of those positions that was very tough for me to decipher in the spring. Hughes and Burger will obviously be in the mix this fall but this is also one of those positions where those 230lb "athletes" that Coach Kelly likes so much could easily appear at any time.

Wide Receiver
With 10 scholarship receivers in the current sophomore through junior classes this is not a priority position in this cycle. I expect that once the offense starts to click this fall that Coach Kelly will be able to pick up at least one highly touted prospect here. Several already have offers and both Kasen Williams and DaVaris Daniels are still in play. Williams will decide before his season kicks off and Daniels is one of those highly touted prospects that could be a bonus last minute commitment.

Tight End
Ben Koyak 6-5 230 Oil City, PA (Ohio St, Penn St, Oklahoma, USC)

The Tight End U streak continues. Koyak will be another very good one.

Offensive Line
Conor Hanratty 6-5, 300 New Canaan, CT (BC, FSU, Stanford)
Jordan Prestwood 6-6, 273 Plant City, FL (USC, Florida, FSU, Bama, Auburn)
Matthew Hegarty 6-5, 265 Aztec, NM (USC, Texas, OU)

All three of these guys play Tackle in high school but I have heard rumblings that the staff likes Hanratty as a Guard. That said Kelly proved in the spring that he will move offensive linemen around to get the best 5 guys on the field so I am not too overly concerned about the C/G/T mix in this group. One more solid pickup would round this group out nicely and several prospects hold offers.

Defensive End
Brad Carrico 6-5, 250 Dublin, OH (Cincy, Purdue, Kentucky, West Virginia)
Tony Springmann 6-6, 270 Ft Wayne, IN (Purdue, Mich St, BC)
Aaron Lynch 6-6, 266 Cape Coral, FL (Florida, FSU, Miami, Bama, LSU)

This is a solid group of physical players that all make profile and could develop into serious physical specimens. Lynch is an elite recruit that could make an impact in the 2 deep early.

Nose Tackle
None but with the transition to a 3-4 there is already a long line behind Ian Williams.

Inside Linebacker
Jarrett Grace 6-3, 230 Cincinnati, OH (Cincy, West Virginia, Mich St)

Only one inside backer in this class is fine. Posluszny, McDonald, Te’o, Calabrese and Moore will all have at least 2 years of eligibility remaining when Grace hits campus. I anticipate the staff will try to pick up at least 2 inside backers in the next cycle.

Outside Linebacker
Clay Burton 6-4, 235 Venice, FL (Clemson, FSU, GT, Tenn, LSU)
Ben Councell 6-5, 225 Asheville, NC (UNC, NC St, South Carolina, GT, Auburn)
Anthony Rabasa 6-3, 235 Miami, FL (Florida, FSU, Miami, LSU)

This is a solid group of outside linebackers that address a position of need. All three are tweener defensive ends that will fit well as outside backers in a 3-4 system.

Strong Safety
None as of yet but I expect the staff will fill this void before signing day. Chris Badger elected to take his mission now and will return in 2012 which opens up a great opportunity for a prospect to step into the mix next fall. Should Harrison Smith not return for some reason in 2011 this pickup becomes even more critical to back up Zeke Motta.

Free Safety
Eilar Hardy 6-1, 180 Pickerington, OH (Mich St, Cincy, Wisconsin)

Hardy plays corner in high school but projects as a free safety. This is a critical pickup with no current freshmen or sophomore free safeties currently on the roster. An additional commitment from a player that can play either SS or FS would also be nice.

Matthias Farley 6-1, 185Charlotte, NC (UNC, NC St, Wisconsin, UCLA)
Jalen Brown 5-11, 175 Irving, TX (TAMU, Texas Tech, Nebraska)

These two corners are also critical as there will only be 4 other scholarship corners on the roster in 2011.

Kyle Brindza 6-1, 198 Canton, MI (Michigan)

Great kickers are critical. Brindza has a big leg with the potential to provide both touchbacks and long range field goals. Good pickup.

With less than a week until fall camp begins that is where the Irish currently stand for the class of 2011. I don’t spend a ton of time talking recruiting on here and it is honestly due to nothing more than time constraints. That said I do keep an eye on it and I hope that the combination of this post and the one I did yesterday about Coach Kelly working with the 85 man scholarship limit provided a decent frame of reference as to where the staff is with recruiting heading into the season. I likely won’t address it again in this much detail until the season ends and we start gearing up for signing day.

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