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Coach Kelly Plays the Numbers 59+20+9=88

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Just prior to fall camp kicking off in August we discussed how Coach Kelly and his staff were managing the number of commitments in the signing class of 2011 to stay within the 85 scholarship limit.

In the wake of the recent additions to this class I decided that it was time for an update.

In the time that has passed since fall camp started Coach Kelly has gained four additional commitments. The new pledges include WR George Atkinson, his twin brother CB Josh Atkinson, DE Stephon Tuitt and WR DaVaris Daniels.

The four pledges bring the total number of commitments in this recruiting cycle up to 20. This is significant as there are 68 other scholarship players currently on the roster that will be eligible for the 2011 season. So as of today the Irish are already three above the maximum 85 scholarships for 2011 if all 5th years of eligibility are granted and there is no other attrition. At the conclusion of the season some difficult choices will have to be made. That is if they have not been made already.

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

2010 ND Roster Breakdown

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 for a 5th year of eligibility. Players in BOLD were 4-5 star recruits per rivals.com. Players in BLUE are those that are in the 2 deep or see significant reps.

So what do we know?

Let’s start with the current overall numbers per class. Changes that have happened since the last time we discussed this are noted.

20 Current Commitments
19 Freshmen- S/OLB Derek Roback transferred to Ohio
17 Sophomores- WR Shaq Evans transferred to UCLA
23 Juniors- Brian Kelly granted a scholarship to former walk on QB Nate Montana
9 Seniors are eligible for a 5th year
88 TOTAL

I anticipate that Coach Kelly would like to take another 1-3 players in this class. Another Safety has to be the top priority and I would expect that coach Kelly would take another 1-2 high quality players (RB, OL, OLB most likely) if they chose ND. The absolute maximum he could take in this class would be 25 but I really don’t think he will take more than 23. Signing 23 would bring the grand total to 91 which is 6 over the 85 limit. So where will he make room?

If there is no other natural attrition the only way he might be able to do that is by denying a 5th year of eligibility to 6 of the 9 current seniors that are eligible. My take on the priority to keep those 9 players is reflected below from top to bottom. Thus if Coach Kelly were going to trim this roster tomorrow I would expect that he would do it from the bottom of this list up.

CB Gary Gray
SS Harrison Smith
OT Taylor Dever
OG Andrew Nuss
OT Matt Romine
TE Mike Ragone
DE Emeka Nwanko
LB Steve Paskorz
K Brandon Walker

Gray, Smith and Dever will be returning starters and as such I think they are safe. Everyone else is vulnerable to being bumped in favor of a new recruit.

The Variables

In addition to what I outlined above I think it is still reasonable to expect that an additional 1-2 spots will be opened up by natural attrition. Freak injuries, personal issues, or other such things could free up 1-2 scholarships by February.

As of now I am also still counting Sophomore CB E.J. Banks despite the fact that he is technically not currently on scholarship. Since E.J. is still practicing with the team I am assuming he has the opportunity to win it back at the semester. Until we know for sure I will assume that scholarship has his name on it. We also don’t know if Nate Montana’s scholarship is just a one year deal or a permanent arrangement. I suspect it is a one year deal like the ones that Weis used to award walk-ons at the end of fall camp.

The possibility that junior Tight End Kyle Rudolph and/ or junior Wide Receiver Michael Floyd will declare for the NFL draft following the 2010 season also remains. How they play over the course of the next 8 games will factor in heavily but the chances are good that at least one of these guys will be moving on.

In total that could free up anywhere from 1 to 6 additional scholarships. I’ll split the difference and say that the above scenarios will ultimately free up 3 additional slots. So instead of having to trim 6 of the 5th years after signing a class of 23 Coach Kelly would only have to trim 3.

I think Walker and Paskorz are safe bets to be trimmed and with 2 current freshman DE’s and 4 more inbound Nwanko probably isn’t far behind them.

The future of Ragone, Romine and Nuss will be directly tied to the variables in the attrition mentioned above or a decision by Coach Kelly and the staff to sign more than 23 players in February.

Clear as mud?

We will continue to keep an eye on this situation as we move towards signing day. What do you think?