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Brian Kelly Plays The Numbers 58+14+17=89

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We last took a close look at where Coach Kelly and the staff are in this current recruiting cycle back before the season kicked off in August.  Now that we are heading into the bye week with the season exactly one half complete I thought it would be a good time to revisit where we are with this class.

The focus of this post will be the ever popular question this time of year.  "How many recruits can we take?" 

The good news is that the roster is actually pretty healthy and the staff has already addressed the primary positions of need in this current recruiting cycle.  That said there are still going to be several tough decisions that have to be made. 

Before I go any further let me review how I derive these numbers.  Like many others I like to maintain my own eligibility chart.  The current version can be found at the link below. 

2011 ND Roster Breakdown

The rest of the discussion is after the jump.

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 to apply for a 5th year of eligibility.  Players in BOLD were 4-5 star recruits per rivals.com.  Players in BLUE are those are in the 2 deep this fall or at least see significant reps.  Players in RED have already been ruled out for the 2011 season due to injury.

So what do we know?  Let's start with the current overall numbers per class. 

24 Freshmen

19 Sophomores

15 Juniors

14 Seniors that are eligible to apply for a 5th year this spring

17 Current Commitments (Includes Chris Badger who is returning from his mission in Summer 12')

89 TOTAL

So as of today Coach Kelly is already beyond the point where scholarships are free as he is capped at 85. 

So all of this means what?

That as of today if all 17 of these commits sign LOI's in February that 4 of the 14 current seniors that are eligible to apply for a 5th year will not be able to.  The staff obviously plans on adding another couple of players to this signing class so the number of players that don't get the opportunity to play that 5th year is only going to increase between now and February. 

My take on the priority to keep those 14 seniors for a 5th year 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. 

1. C Braxton Cave

2. DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

3. S Jamoris Slaughter

4. NT Sean Cwynar

5. C Mike Golic Jr.

6. OG Lane Clelland

7. DE Hafis Williams

8. FS Dan McCarthy

9. WR John Goodman

10. QB Dayne Crist

11. NT Brandon Newman

12. ILB Anthony McDonald

13. ILB David Posluszny

14. WR Deion Walker

My rationale is below.

1-4: These guys either start or spend a significant amount of minutes on the field.  I think they are the only four true locks to come back for a 5th year.   

5-6: I think that Mike Golic Jr. and Lane Clelland also have solid chances of returning unless we pick up 1-2 more top flight offensive linemen to round out this class.  Clelland's ability to bounce back from his current knee injury could also come into play in his case specifically. 

7: Hafis Williams is still listed at the Nose but has remained a bit player in the DE rotation.  He could possibly stick around to provide quality depth for one more year.

8: Dan McCarthy has hardly played but could benefit from the lack of numbers at safety.  When combined with Jamoris Slaughter, Zeke Motta and Austin Collinsworth, McCarthy provides a 4th safety that could return in 12' with at least some game experience.  Regardless I don't really like Danny's chances.

9: John Goodman has had a difficult time carving out a role for himself on this team and with pretty solid numbers and talent behind him I don't see him being able to stick around. 

10: When I wrote this post in August Dayne Crist was #1.  Funny how things change.  In reality he is probably right there with 11-14.  I just don't see him coming back for a 5th year to hold a clipboard. 

11-14: I think it is safe to say that these guys are already gone.  Barring something truly surprising happening between now and the end of the season I don't see any of these four guys coming back.

There are obviously many things that could happen between now and February that could change my outlook here.  Breakout seasons, career ending injuries, off field issues, the NFL draft and last second changes of heart from a top line recruit could all come into play.  But as of today I see this staff keeping those top 4 players for a 5th year and letting 8-14 go.  Those players in the middle that I numbered 5-7 are on the bubble.

So based on the above I think the staff will take at least 3 more recruits in this class for a class size of 20.  That would allow 1-7 above to stick around for a 5th year.  At a max I think the staff takes 6 recruits for a total class size of 23.  In that scenario only the top 4 guys above stick around for a 5th year.

Clear as mud?

In a perfect world I would like to see the position groups below addressed with these last 3-6 scholarships.

Interior Offensive Linemen (C/G)- Another 1-2 quality players here would be huge.  We currently have 2 total Offensive Linemen in this class and small numbers of offensive linemen in a class always makes me nervous.  Their current HS positions are less important as the staff will slide guys around from T/G/C as required.

Running Back- One more good back to compliment William Mahone.  Keith Marshall would be nice.  Cue up Murtaugh's sweat pants.    

Inside Linebacker- One solid prospect here would be good.  If Manti Te'o opts to declare for the draft it becomes even more important.

Tight End- This is one of those positions where I hate to see us skip a year.  Surely some top flight recruit is watching Tyler Eifert kill it every Saturday right?  Perhaps the staff can pick up a flip here.

Quarterback- I hate skipping a class at QB especially now that I think Crist will depart.  Unfortunately there aren't really any top line prospects still on the board.  Picking up a top line recruit in the next cycle is already a very high priority.

Athlete- Who wouldn't like to see Nelson Algohor wearing a gold helmet?  Nelson visited this past weekend and seems like the definition of an RKG.  

We will continue to update our eligibility chart and this discussion as we progress through the season.  What are your thoughts?