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Notre Dame Recruiting: Kelly Reloads and Remolds theIrish

Whiskey has done an admirable job in discussing how Coach Kelly and his staff could manage scholarship numbers in the class of 2011 and keep within the 85 scholarship limit (link). All the changes in the last month merit a review.

In the time that has passed since our last update, the Irish have had four decommitments - Justice Hayes (RB), Aaron Lynch (DE), Jordan Prestwood (OT), and Clay Burton (OLB). Coach Kelly has gained three additional commitments. The new pledges include Cam McDaniels (RB), Everett Golson (QB)and Bennett Okotcha (DB). E.J. Banks (CB) is no longer enrolled at ND.

The four decommits and three pledges bring the total number of commitments in this recruiting cycle to 19. 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 one above the maximum 85 scholarships for 2011 -- if all nine of the players eligible to come back for fifth years are granted and there is no other attrition.

Here's the eligibility chart for the Irish at the link below, using Whiskey's breakdown and adjusting for recent changes.

Notre Dame Eligibility Chart

Breakdown by Classes

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

19 Current Commitments
19 Freshmen- S/OLB Derek Roback transferred to Ohio
16 Sophomores- WR Shaq Evans transferred to UCLA, E.J. Banks is not enrolled
23 Juniors- Brian Kelly granted a scholarship to former walk on QB Nate Montana
9 Seniors are eligible for a 5th year

Whiskey has noted in a prior article: "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
OT 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."

I totally agree on his evaluation.

Should Coach Kelly could offer only those three returning starters, the Irish scholarship total would be reduced to 80 with the flexibility to add five more players.

Adapting to Change

Kelly and his staff, especially recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin, have shown an ability to move swiftly to fill vacancies left by decommitments. In effect, McDaniel replaces Hayes and Okotcha replaces Banks. For RB and CB, the Irish commitment list is where it was a month ago.

Cam McDaniel helped lead an undefeated Coppell to the Texas 5A semifinals with a 158 yards/game and scoring over 16 points/game. His teammate, Bennett Okotcha, switched his commitment from Wisconsin to Notre Dame. Even after a thrilling loss by one point to powerhouse Trinity, Coppell is ranked sixteenth best team in the nation. Despite missing some of his senior year due to injury, Everett Golson has thrown for 151 passing touchdowns in his career, ranking him fifth all-time. His completion percentage is over 62% and has passed for 72 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions in his last two years. Golson will be the perfect QB to groom for Kelly's offense - and intends on playing point guard for the Irish basketball team.

Coach Kelly has quickly targeted replacements for OT, DE, and OLB and the needs for those positions are still there. For the five remaining scholarship offers, here are our current commits and top recruiting prospects by position:

Defensive Line

Committed: Brad Carrico, Tony Springmann, Stephon Tuitt (Need 1 more)

At DE, Troy Niklas, 6-6, 245 pounds, 4.70 in 40, has emerged as a top target. Niklas has been classified as a TE, OT and DE by recruiting services. Notre Dame, Stanford and USC are Troy's final three and each are recruiting him at different positions. USC needs OL and sees him at OT. Stanford wants him at TE to fit into Harbaugh's schemes. Notre Dame is recruiting him at his most natural position, DE in a 3-4 system. But like two Irish commits, Springmann and Carrico, Niklas has the versatility to play either side of the ball. All Niklas's Official Visits remain - Stanford (1/14), USC (1/21), ND (1/28)

Brennan Scarlett, 6-4,245 pounds, 4.96 in 40, is the other DE prospect on the Irish radar. Brennan has played inside linebacker and tight end in addition to defensive end in high school, but projects as a DE. Rivals ranks Brennan as the ninth best strongside defensive end in the nation, despite some injuries. Scarlett visited Notre Dame for the Utah game and was hosted by fellow Portland, Oregon native, Ethan Johnson. Brennan was impressed enough to rank Notre Dame in his top two schools with Cal, though his final five list also includes Stanford, USC, and UCLA. Since then, Cal received commitments from two top defensive ends - Todd Barr (#5 Weakside DE and Jason Gibson, #11 Strongside DE (Rivals). Scarlett's Official Visits: three are completed,USC -11/5, ND - 11/12, Cal - 11/19. No further official visits have been announced yet. He plans his announcement after Christmas break.

If both Niklas and Scarlett were to commit to Notre Dame, expect Springmann or Carrico to switch to the offensive line. By targeting such versatile athletes, Kelly has the flexibility to moving Scarlett to inside linebacker, though defensive end would be his most natural position.


Outside Linebackers Committed: Anthony Rabasa, Ben Councell (Need 1 more)

Ishaq Williams (above), 6'6", 220 pounds, 4.65 in the 40, has been a top OLB target for the Irish for quite a while. The Brooklyn native is a natural pass rusher from the edge and the second ranked Weakside DE (Rivals). Ishaq would give the Irish the speed and versatility on the outside and projects as a perfect fit for an OLB in the 3-4 defense of the Irish. Everyone remarks on his high character. He comes from a strong family atmosphere and has had to deal with personal family tragedy last April. Ishaq has narrowed his finalists to Notre Dame, where he spent three days last week, Syracuse and Penn State. He has been very impressed with the Irish and with Syracuse, where both his parents went to college. Alabama and USC are pushing for his commitment, but he has not scheduled visits with either. Should Williams choose the Irish, expect his ability to disrupt an opponent's offense to remind you of Justin Tuck. Ishaq may choose his college at the Army All-American game. Official Visits - Notre Dame - 12/8, Syracuse - 12-10.

Anthony Chickillo, a Soft Miami verbal, has been looking around since Miami fired Shannon. He would be a third generation Hurricane. He has not scheduled a visit to Notre Dame, though he has talked about it, and is more likely to stay in Florida with UF or FSU if he does not reaffirm his Miami commitment.

Chase Hounshell, a Florida verbal commit, recently had an official visit with the Irish, but does not seem like a likely candidate.

Inside Linebacker Committed: Jarrett Grace. Shane Ray affirmed earlier commitment to Missouri after visits to both Notre Dame and Missouri.


Safety Committed: Eilar Hardy (Possibly 1 more)

Other DBs Committed: Josh Atkinson, Jalen Brown, Matthias Farley, Bennett Okotcha

Wayne Lyons, 6'0", 190 pounds, 4.55 in 40, is a top safety who still has Notre Dame among his top six with Stanford, Nebraska, Florida, UCLA, and Michigan, but the Irish may not be among his top three. Many were surprised that ND was still in the picture, since there had been some indication that Lyons had eliminated them. Wayne has been a leader on and off the field and carries a 4.78 GPA. His decision will have as much to do about academics as football. The Irish will hold a spot open for him until his National Signing Day decision. Wayne's Official Visits have been: Notre Dame - 9/10, UCLA - 9/17, Stanford - 11-26, Michigan - 12-3, and Nebraska - 12-10.

Offensive Line

Committed: Matthew Hegarty (OT), Conor Hanratty (OG) (Need possibly 1-2 more)

Offers who are considering Notre Dame: Bryce Haynes (OC/LS), Nick Martin (OT, Committed to Kentucky), Antonio Richardson (OT), Cameron Clear (OT)

Here's where some guessing comes in. With two DL commits, Kelly could switch a lineman to offense, as discussed. Richardson had all but eliminated the Irish and has only recently said he is still including them. Clear is a tight end, who is projected as an OT in college. He seems headed for the SEC - Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and Auburn are all among his favorites. No visit to ND has been scheduled.

Nick Martin, 6'4", 260 pounds, currently remains committed to Kentucky. Nick is the brother of current Left Offensive Tackle, Zach Martin. He committed to Kentucky in August and received his ND offer in early October. Nick would be a natural right OT, but has not given any indication of his intentions.

Bryce Haynes, 6'4", 185 pounds, (OC/LS) would need to gain significant weight to compete for an offensive line position but is the top long snapper in the nation with a terrific time to the holder. Did Kelly offer because there is something wrong with Jordan Cowart, our sophomore LS? Or is he adding depth?

The Irish would seem to have some ground to make up for any offensive line recruits (Martin, Richardson, Clear). We can only speculate about Martin, who is familiar enough about ND to make a decision without an official visit. Bryce Haynes will officially visit from December 17-19th.

Running Back/Athlete

Committed: Cameron McDaniels, Running Back/Athlete

Savon Huggins, 5'11", 190 pounds, 4.55 in 40, would provide Kelly the speed, quickness and agility that his spread offense needs to explode with a dangerous running attack. Savon has the ability and versatility to get to the edge as to burst up the middle and makes defenders miss tackles. This year, he has scored almost 19 points per game with 9.99 yards per carry average. Huggins is the seventh ranked running back in the nation by Rivals and fifth best by Scout and ESPN. Savon's favorites have been Notre Dame, Rutgers and North Carolina with Auburn and USC. Huggins Official Visits have been to Notre Dame (10-15) and North Carolina (10-29) with an upcoming visit to Auburn (12-17). The New Jersey native is already familiar with Rutgers. Will Rutgers' and North Carolina's struggles this year impact his decision?

Miles Shuler, 5'10", 170 pounds, 4.38 in the 40, is a speed burner and would bring game-breaking speed to the wide receiver position. He could bring that acceleration and inability to be caught from behind that Kelly's recruiting is seeking. Shuler may be the fastest player in the nation. Imagine putting him in motion with Huggins and Golson in the backfield and DaVaris Daniels and George Atkinson as the other wide receivers. Notre Dame will receive an Official Visit from Miles from January 28-30th. Miles's final three are Notre Dame, Rutgers, and Northwestern. Are Shuler and fellow New Jersey native Huggins coming to the same school? Only Notre Dame and Rutgers make that list.

Amir Carlisle, RB/WR, 5'10", 180 pounds, 4.43 in the 40. Want to add more speed? Carlisle is not that much slower than Shuler. A northern California native like the Atkinson brothers, Carlisle committed early in the year to Stanford, choosing at that time to stay in the Bay area. But he has been interested in the Irish since we offered early in November. He has also visited USC and Cal. But Stanford and Notre Dame are his favorites. He made an official visit to Notre Dame last week and is pondering his final choice. Amir will be an early entry, so expect his decision soon between the Cardinal and the Irish.

Five scholarships left to divide among the eight prospects above. Lyons may not be realistic. Some tough decisions may lie ahead. The Irish may only be able to take Shuler and Carlisle. Is Nick Martin a candidate or solid with Kentucky? What about offering David Ruffer a scholarship for next year? Will Nate Montana remain on scholarship in a crowded quarterback situation where he might be 4th-6th on the depth chart? Will there be any further attrition? Will both Floyd and Rudolph remain with the Irish or opt for the NFL Draft?

The sweet drama for recruitniks until National Signing Day may rival the lead-up to the Sun Bowl game with Miami. Bring it on. Irish eyes should be smiling whatever the individual outcomes on February 2nd.