With another national signing day in the books, Coach Brian Kelly and his staff finished with another solid class for 2012. While this class may not have the embarrassment of riches along the defensive line that the previous class had, it does address many key needs for the Fighting Irish moving forward. This year's class currently stands at 16 with the potential to add one more name after signing day.
While many Irish fans are a bit disappointed with the way this class finished, I will say one thing about that-don't be. Top to bottom, this class is extremely talented. I realize that the staff "missed" on a few big name recruits and had some once-committed players flip to another school. It happens both ways and is part of the whole process.
As we recently saw with Amir Carlisle transferring to Notre Dame after signing with USC last February, it may not be the end of the road.
This class features three early-entries in QB Gunner Kiel, CB Tee Shepard and DT Sheldon Day.
Recruiting Class Rankings:
ESPN: 10th (has been updated post-Greenberry)
Scout: 19th (no team above them in the rankings has fewer than 19 recruits)
Rivals: 22st (USC is the only team ranked higher with fewer recruits)
247Sports: 16th (USC is the only team ranked higher with fewer recruits)
Grades and more after the jump.
Now on to the class. This year, we are unveiling a super scientific grading system for the Notre Dame recruiting class. Our judging panel includes Whiskey, Eric, Burger and myself.
Official OFD Recruit Grading Scale:
95-100: Elite impact freshman with All-American potential
90-94: Multi-year starter with All-conference potential
85-89: Eventual starter with chance to play as underclassman
80-84: Raw prospect with decent potential but a couple years away from impact
75-79: Likely a backup
70-74: Reach by the coaching staff
Note: All Height/Weight/40 times as listed on 247Sports.com
Gunner Kiel (Columbus, IN - Columbus East) - 6'4"/210/4.65: 95
William Mahone (Youngstown, OH - Fitch) --5'11"/205/4.65: 83
KeiVarae Russell (Everett, WA - Mariner) -- 6'0"/175/4.55: 88
Justin Ferguson (Hollywood, FL - Flanagan) -- 6'1"/205/4.62: 86
Chris Brown (Charleston, SC - Hanahan) -- 6'2"/170/4.44: 84
Ronnie Stanley (Las Vegas, NV - Bishop Gorman) - 6'6"/285/5.00: 89
Mark Harrell (Charlotte, NC - Charlotte Catholic) -- 6'5"/270: 81
Scott Daly (Downers Grove, IL - Downers Grove South) -- 6'4"/230: 80
Sheldon Day (Indianapolis, IN - Warren Central) -- 6'2"/286/5.36: 91
Jarron Jones (Rochester, NY - Aquinas Institute) - 6'6"/300/5.20: 92
Romeo Okwara (Charlotte, NC - Ardrey Kell) -- 6'4"/230/4.70: 86
Tee Shepard (Fresno, CA - Washington Union) -- 6'0"/170/4.60: 95
Elijah Shumate (Ramsey, NJ - Don Bosco) -- 6'1"/185/4.50: 89
C.J. Prosise (Woodberry Forest, VA - Woodberry Forest) -- 6'2"/190: 84
John Turner (Indianapolis, IN - Cathedral) -- 6'2"/205/4.50: 78
Nicky Baratti (Spring, TX - Klein Oak) -- 6'2"/215/4.46: 83
While the overall number of recruits in this class is far below what many expected the staff to sign, it is important to remember that this is an extremely talented (albeit small) class that will address several needs. Notre Dame was able to add an elite QB, two WRs (to help offset the loss of Michael Floyd), and several DBs.
Many will want to focus on the negative aspects surrounding the 2012 recruiting class, and honestly it is hard to blame them. In my book, there were three big things that the staff came up a bit short on: numbers at WR (and losing Deontay Greenberry to Houston at the last minute certainly doesn't help), true cornerbacks (Shepard is the only true CB in the class full of safeties) and offensive tackles.
The margin for error for this class is pretty thin, meaning that several of these players need to make an impact in 2012 and 2013. This class will likely be remembered for the talent lost leading up to NSD (Decker, Darby and Greenberry), but that might not ultimately define the class. There are some very special players in this group and all are very capable players in their own right.
Finally, I will leave you with a glimmer of hope after the disappointment of February 1, 2012. There are two players that I think are sleepers and I think will be huge for the program over the next few years. I have one on offense and one on defense.
Defensive Sleeper of 2012: C.J. Prosise
I will go a bit more into my opinion on Prosise when I break down the DBs, but I think this kid will be special playing free safety in Bob Diaco's defense. I can see him playing special teams in the fall and potentially work his way into the two deep sooner than expected.
He is deceptively fast (thanks to the long strides) and is a ball hawk. I am not sure how he will do against the run and will need to hit the weights hard this spring and summer, but I have big expectations for this young man. Did I mention that he returned kicks and punts in high school? To be honest, he reminds me a bit of David Bruton.
Offensive Sleeper of 2012: Chris Brown
I know what you are thinking-I watched Brian Kelly's presser and was taken by his glowing comments about Brown. Truth is, I didn't watch it (yet) and actually was promoting Brown to the OFD team for a little while now (I think they will corroborate my story).
In short, I think this kid will be something special. His film shows great ball skills, elusiveness and a great burst in the open field. He will probably need to bulk up a bit up to around 200 lbs, but could possibly contribute from the moment he sets foot on campus.
The lower rating likely has to do with location and competition level. If he played in CA, TX or FL he would definitely be a high 4 star guy and on a lot of team's wish lists. As MouthoftheSouth put it-- "you know who else was 6'1"-ish, 180 lbs., and ran a 4.4-ish 40 coming out of high school? This guy. I'll take it."