Brian Kelly and the Irish are on a high. Riding the crest of an impressive four game winning streak to end the 2011 season, a Bob Diaco led defense that matured and dominated their opponents in the second half of the season, a top-ranked 2011 recruiting class especially in the defensive front seven, and nineteen returning starters, Brian Kelly and his staff intend on riding that wave of momentum and capitalizing with Notre Dame's 2012 recruiting class. The significance of this class cannot be understated. With this class, Kelly could potentially fill all of the positional holes, build further recruiting momentum, and take the Irish into a recruiting model that moves from rebuilding to an established model with only yearly needs.
Needs and Numbers
We expect a class of 20 starting with six 5th years and seven Seniors without eligibility after this upcoming season. Of the fourteen Seniors with eligibility left, let's hypothetically take half for 5th years. Of course, that could be less. Right now that would give us twenty in the 2012 class.
The 2012 recruiting class needs start up the middle - RB, C/OG, NT, S - to either fill holes left due to more pressing needs for the 2011 class or graduation. Our Roster Breakdown shows the holes left from recruiting over the years at C, OG, NT, CB, S. LS is also a consideration with this class.
Three offensive linemen - Dever, Nuss and Robinson - will have used up their eligibility, leaving ten offensive linemen. Kelly could move any of three new commits - Carrico, Hounshell or Springmann - to the offensive side. Only Cave is a true center two years of eligibility left. Three defensive backs - Gray, Smith and Blanton - will be in their last years, leaving ten defensive backs counting Jackson and Collinsworth. The speed with which they can adapt to their new positions will be crucial for depth in 2011 and impact in 2012.
Some other notes - Kelly has one scholarship left to fill out his 85 total. The staff may give that one to Joe Schmidt, ILB, who was granted preferred walk-on status in the 2011 class. Chris Badger, S, is scheduled to return from his mission in 2012. Attrition and transfers can always be a factor before Signing Day in February, but so far this team looks solid.
With both starting CBs (Blanton, Gray) exhausting their eligibility and Michael Floyd moving on to the NFL after 2011, the opportunities for early playing time for stud prospects at those positions is tremendous. Lo Wood is the only other CB with significant experience at the position. Tee Shepard is considered one of the top cornerbacks nationally, but another is needed.
I would fill the projected class at the following positions:
QB - 1
RB - 2
WR - 2
TE - 1
OL - 4 (Verbal Commit - Taylor Decker, OT)
DE - 2
NT - 1
ILB - 1
OLB - 2
S - 2
CB - 2 (Verbal Commit - Tee Shepard)
If either Chris Badger fills the need at Safety and/or Austin Collingsworth develops quickly, the Irish may take only one. Kelly's staff has been talking with the top LS early on in the process.
Verbal Offers and National Recruiting
According to IUB at Gold Helmet, Kelly has verbally offered 99 prospects in 24 states with the recruiting hotbeds of Florida (16), Texas (14), Ohio (13) and California (11) accounting for more than half (54) of the offers. Maryland (5), Georgia (4), Arizona (4), Illinois (3), Michigan (3), New Jersey (3), North Carolina (3) and Washington (3) are in the next group.
At this time last year, all offers were written offers. This year written offers go out on August 1st. Some of the verbal offers may not translate into written offers at that time. Some offers may only be actionable when a prospect takes a visit to Notre Dame.
Taking all that into account, Notre Dame's 2012 class may end up having the same amount of written offers as last year - 124.
Using the 247 database for comparisons, Notre Dame has verbally offered 92 prospects, Alabama - 80, Florida - 78, Auburn - 67, Michigan - 61, Michigan State - 52, USC - 43, Ohio State - 39, Oklahoma - 38, Stanford - 35, Texas - 27, and Oregon - 11.
Offers By Position
The highest number of offers by Brian Kelly and his staff by position per Gold Helmet (link above) are:
19 Offensive Tackles (1 Committed to ND, 2 Committed Elsewhere)
18 Wide Receivers (4 Committed Elsewhere)
13 Defensive Ends (8 Weakside DEs and 5 Strongside DEs - 1 Committed Elsewhere)
8 Defensive Tackles (1 Committed Elsewhere)
5 Cornerbacks (1 Committed to ND)
8 Athletes (1 Committed Elsewhere)
Of the "Athlete" offers, most are targeting DB positional needs, though many now play WR in their high school. WRs in Kelly's philosophy of the recruiting "Skill" athletes can be switched to DBs. The emphasis is also on recruiting speed.
Kelly tends to recruit OTs for Offensive Linemen in his spread offense, ideally preferring the taller ones with longer wingspan and quick feet for his OTs like Tate Nichols and Taylor Decker. The shorter, mobile OTs may be moved inside to OG. High school positions for the DEs often mean the Weakside DEs may move to Outside Linebackers in Diaco's 3-4 whose defensive ends are usually both larger DEs.
Kelly, Diaco, Martin and the staff have demonstrated their ability to target the best prospects for the Irish and to quickly move to backup plans, if necessary. Over the spring and summer, much will change in recruiting players for this class. Prospects are evidencing a lot of interest in being a part of Brian Kelly's Irish. Irish fans' confidence is returning to optimistic levels.
Tee Shepard and Taylor Decker give Notre Dame's 2012 a great start not only for their talent, but also fill positions of need. I'll examine some of the prospects for the class at each position with upcoming articles.
What do you think?