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Notre Dame Football Recruiting 101 – A Blueprint for the Future

The boys here at OFD have asked me to join the crew and take on the role of resident football recruiting guy. By no stretch of the imagination do I consider myself an "expert" in the field, but like most fans, I do follow the incoming class and dream of what the coaching staff can do with the talent they assemble every February.

Since I have been tasked with following this ever-changing aspect to the Irish football program, I thought it might be best to start at the beginning. And by beginning, I mean an opinion-filled discourse on what I would do if recruiting were up to me. I think this is an important first step, since my analysis will be based on the perceived needs in the program.

While I am sure Brian Kelly and his staff have their own approach on how to fill this magical 85 on an annual basis, here is how I would approach the task if I were anywhere near qualified to do so:

The Ground Rules:

Target 20 players/year with five 5th year seniors annually to get to the 85 limit. Obviously, the staff will have to fill in the occasional extra player or two each year based on attrition (transfers, early NFL draft enrollees, injuries).

More after the jump.

The Five Step Strategy:

Step 1: Minimally, you need to be three deep at any one position. Given you have 11 on offense and 11 on defense, which makes for 66 scholarships right off the bat. Here is a breakdown:

Offensive Line (15): 15 OL

Offensive Skill (18): 3 QB, 3 RB, 3 TE, 9 WR

Defensive Line (9): 6 DE, 3 NG

Linebackers (12): 6 OLB, 6 ILB

Secondary (12): 6 CB, 6 S

This only tells part of the story. Within many positions, you need different skill sets from each player. Take WR as an example. You have three positions that are not exactly interchangeable. Same goes for the LB corps. For the sake of brevity, I won't get into all the particulars here.

Running Total: 66

Step 2: Add additional depth at the offensive skill positions.

Here are positions that require an additional player: QB, 2 RB, TE, WR.

Running Total: 71

Step 3: Add additional depth on the defense.

The NG/NT position is a tough one to fill for the 3-4 defense at the college level, and freshman are rarely able to step in and contribute right away. Also, OLBs that fit the scheme are difficult to find, so you recruit the ones you can when you can. The addition of a couple of DBs and another DE won't hurt either.

Here are the positions for additional depth: NG, OLB, DE, DB

Running Total: 75

Step 4: Special Teams. Ideally you need at least two place kickers and two punters on scholarship at a time in case of injury. If you can recruit a player who does both, that saves a scholarship-but let's assume that is the exception and not the rule. Add a scholarship for a long snapper (once the exception, now the rule).

Positions: 2 K, 2 P, 1 LS

Running Total: 80

As you can see, we only have 5 scholarships remaining.

Step 5: Instead of reserving scholarships for particular positions, I would call the remaining five available the "coaches choice." These are for the difference makers, the 5 star athletes that don't come along that often. If you can land one a year of the truly elite players (the Floyds and T'eos of the world) then you are doing pretty well as a recruiter.

Running Total: 85

There, we finally have arrived at the NCAA limit for football scholarships. Just to review, here are the numbers at each position:

Offensive Line (15): 15 OL

Offensive Skill (23): 4 QB, 5 RB, 4 TE, 10 WR

Defensive Line (11): 7 DE, 4 NG

Linebackers (13): 7 OLB, 6 ILB

Secondary (13): 6 CB, 6 S, 1 DB (non-specific, depending on talent available)

Special Teams (5): 2 K, 2 P,1 LS

Difference Makers (5)

Assuming that KLM, Slaughter, Cave, Cwynar and Golic are all back for 5th years, here are the current numbers (based on current positions and commitments):

Position (Target Number):

Offensive Line (15): 14 OL

Offensive Skill (23): 3 QB, 5 RB, 4 TE, 10 WR

Defensive Line (11): 6 DE, 5 NG (I have Day at NG, not DE)

Linebackers (13): 6 OLB, 8 ILB

Secondary (13): 6 CB, 7 S

Special Teams (5): 2 K, 1 P, 2 LS

Based on all of my assumptions, there are 6 scholarships left for 2012 and a few obvious needs, namely OL, QB, and DE. The other 3 scholarships should be focused on the "difference makers" and based on the small 2012 senior class (15), it wouldn't surprise me to see Kelly & staff bring back a few more 5th year seniors to help bolster the recruiting efforts in 2013 if they miss on some of the targeted talent.

Next week, I will break down the targeted recruits at the positions of need and start to review the commits (by position) that will sign in February.