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Brian Kelly Plays the Numbers 58+14+14=86

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I can’t tell you how good it feels to be jumping back into the discussion here at One Foot Down. I have been on an OFD hiatus the last few months while I was out traipsing around the globe and having some adventures. I still owe many thanks to Eric Murtaugh and the rest of our crew here for executing the move over to SBN in my absence.

Now that I am back in the mix just in time for the 2011 season I figured there was no better way to get snapped back in than to take a hard look at the 2011 Fighting Irish Roster and the current recruiting cycle. Every year Notre Dame fans start asking “how many recruits can we take?” I will address that exact question in this post.

The bad news is that the staff is going to have to make some very tough decisions between now and February as we are already at the point where scholarships are no longer free. From this point forward every new commit will take a scholarship that another player will not be able to utilize for their 5th year of eligibility. The good news is that means we are officially back at the point where Notre Dame has a very healthy roster.

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

2011 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 to apply for a 5th year of eligibility. Players in BOLD were 4-5 star recruits per rivals.com. Players in BLUE are those that I expect to see 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

14 Current Commitments

86 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 14 of these commits sign LOI’s in February that 1 of those 14 current seniors that is eligible to apply for a 5th year will not be able to. There are obviously a few more position groups that will need some bulking up in this signing class so the number of players that don’t get the opportunity to play that 5th year is only going to increase.

My take on the priority to keep those 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.

QB Dayne Crist

C Braxton Cave

DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

SS Jamoris Slaughter

NT Sean Cwynar

WR John Goodman

FS Dan McCarthy

C Mike Golic

OG Lane Clelland

DE Hafis Williams

NT Brandon Newman

ILB Anthony McDonald

ILB David Posluszny

WR Deion Walker

There are many factors tied to Crist but the bottom line is that if he wins the starting job this year and stays healthy his return is automatic. Unless of course he’s so good that he gets drafted….

Cave, KLM, Slaughter and Cwynar will also either start or see significant reps this fall and I expect their return to be relatively automatic as well. Goodman should also see a fair number of minutes this fall and will have the added benefits of Floyd graduating and relatively limited experience behind him. Keeping Goodman around for 2012 just makes sense. If Dan McCarthy can finally shake the injury bug and become a contributor this fall he will also be smart to keep due to the current lack of numbers at safety. Even if he isn’t a major contributor this fall I could see the staff keeping him around for 2012 while the handful of current safety commits get their sea legs.

I think the remaining 7 players on the list will most likely get bumped in favor of a new recruit. I still see interior offensive linemen (G/C) as positions of need in this class but I expect the staff to land at least two recruits there and bump both Mike Golic and Lane Clelland. I expect that Hafis Williams, Brandon Newman, Anthony McDonald and David Posluzny will all be victims of the quality depth in the classes behind them. As for Deion Walker I once had high hopes for him but I think his slot is already gone.

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 7 players for a 5th year and letting the lower 7 go. That means they could take another 6 in this current recruiting class for a total of 20.

Clear as mud?

In my opinion the position groups that need to be addressed with those next 6 spots are as follows.

Interior Offensive Linemen (C/G)- At least one true center here would be huge but I would like to see 2-3 C/G types with at least one having the ability to play center.

Running Back- No brainer

Inside Linebacker- One solid prospect here would be nice.

Tight End- This is one of those positions where I hate to see us skip a year.

Quarterback- I don’t typically like skipping a year on QB’s either but if Crist is going to come back for a 5th I think we will be fine. Picking up a top line recruit in the next cycle will then be a very high priority.

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