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Signing Day Recaps: BK at ND

With national signing day approaching, a look back at the past six classes for Brian Kelly

The #1 overall recruit in the nation. Just say no to Harbaugh.
The #1 overall recruit in the nation. Just say no to Harbaugh.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Next Wednesday will already be the seventh signing day for Brian Kelly at Notre Dame. There's been some chaos, surprising commitments, sick grandmothers, and more than one player that signed elsewhere but eventually transferred to South Bend. Using 247's composite recruiting rankings, let's look at the past six classes - signing day commitments and close calls, commits that transferred, and under-the-radar recruits that ended up exceeding expectations.


Brian Kelly's first real test as Notre Dame head coach was to close out the recruiting class of 2010 that Charlie Weis had assembled - how would he fare at a top program and with the potential challenges of high admissions barriers combined with recruiting nationally? There were a few expected decommitments with the coaching change, but overall Kelly seemed to do a fine job keeping current commitments and grabbing a few high-upside recruits in the closing months.

Signing Day commitments: Matt James, who tragically died in an accident in the spring of his senior year.

Signing Day decommits/misses: No signing day decommits, but Ego Ferguson (LSU) and Christian Jones (FSU) were tough losses for a class that lacked top talent.

Switched to the Irish: Louis Nix (Miami), TJ Jones (Stanford), Kona Schwenke (BYU), Danny Spond (Colorado), Luke Massa (Cincinnati), and Derek Roback (Toledo)

Lost members of the class: Giovanni Bernard was a onetime commit that switched to North Carolina, 5-star defensive end Chris Martin had a crazy journey that included several high school changes - starting with a verbal to Notre Dame on signing day 2009, then at different times switching to Florida and Cal. Blake Leuders was an Indiana native and that ended up signing with Stanford.

Under the radar recruits: Most of this class were composite three-stars - Danny Spond was a great late find before concussions ended his career early, Bennett Jackson was the #78 wide receiver in this class, and Prince Shembo was a borderline top 400 recruit.

Lots of stars, less production?: This class only featured four top 200 recruits - Nix, TJ Jones, Christian Lombard, and Alex Welch. Welch wasn't able to have a major impact on offense, but Nix/Jones/Lombard were all longtime starters.


Brian Kelly's first full class was a resounding answer to questions about how he'd be able to recruit at Notre Dame. It featured six Top 100 players, including the highly-regarded defensive trio of Aaron Lynch, Ishaq Williams, and Stephon Tuitt.

Signing Day commitments: Troy Niklas chose the Irish over USC

Signing Day decommits/misses: Cornerback Bennett Okotcha decommitted in favor of Oklahoma two days before signing day. The top targets that the Irish missed out on included Amir Carlisle (who eventually ended up in South Bend anyway) and Savon Huggins (RB, signed with Rutgers but then transferred to Northern Iowa).

Switched to the Irish: Aaron Lynch (FSU), Everett Golson (UNC), Stephon Tuitt (Georgia Tech), Nick Martin (Kentucky), Chase Hounshell (Florida), and Ishaq Williams was temporarily Penn State-bound before Bob Diaco showed up in the early hours of the morning

Lost members of the class: Lynch transferred after his freshman year to South Florida, which fans took exceptionally well. Matt Hegarty (Oregon) and Golson (FSU) were both medical transfers. Players that were at one point committed to Notre Dame but signed elsewhere included Justice Hayes (Michigan), Jordan Prestwood (Florida State, later transferred to Notre Dame, then to Central Florida), Clay Burton (Florida), and Okotcha (Oklahoma).

Under the radar recruits: Lots of candidates here - Nick Martin (#547 nationally) and Matthias Farley (#885), and Cam McDaniel (#672) all went from unheralded recruits to eventual Irish captains. Joe Schmidt was a preferred walk-on with no 247 composite ranking or stars.

Lots of stars, less production?: Lynch was a composite 5-star and top-10 national recruit whose departure was dramatic and disappointing. Ishaq Williams was also a 5-star recruit where I'm sure lots of fans wish things had turned out differently with the "Frozen Five" suspension eventually costing him two seasons. Ben Koyack was a solid contributor but may have fallen short of expectations as the #2 tight end in this class.


This year in recruiting was a roller coaster, with a ton of top talent at one point committed to Notre Dame but sooner or later leaving the class. Thankfully for BK, the players who stayed for the most part lived up to or exceeded their recruiting rankings and fueled last seasons' success.

Signing Day commitments: Davonte Neal committed three weeks after signing day. It was weird.

Signing Day decommits/misses: Deontay Greenberry shockingly inked with Houston after talking for weeks about joining his cousin Tee Shepard in South Bend. Neither would play a snap for Notre Dame (even in spring practice). Notre Dame made a late run at Arik Armstead but couldn't pull the upset off over Oregon.

Switched to the Irish: Gunner Kiel was at one point the biggest Indiana commit of all time, then enrolled early at LSU before a last minute switch to Notre Dame. Jarron Jones was committed to Penn State

Lost members of the class: What a mess. The #1 and #2 signees in this class were Gunner Kiel and Davonte Neal, who both transferred after a year in South Bend. Tee Shepard enrolled early, then left before spring practice (and has since gone to JUCO, Ole Miss, retired, and now Miami (OH) to play for Chuck Martin). Will Mahone and Justin Ferguson also left the program after just one year. Taylor Decker was an Irish verbal before changing to Ohio State and will be a first round pick in this year's draft. Ronald Darby was committed for a few months before signing with Florida State and had a very good rookie season with the Bills. This class was a bizarre soap opera for Brian Kelly and his staff.

Under the radar recruits: Romeo Okwara, CJ Prosise, and Chris Brown were composite three stars that turned in great performances throughout 2015 and should be drafted in May. While they were highly rated, with the losses in this class it was critical that the remaining signees live up to their potential, and the #3-7 composite ND recruits of this class (Elijah Shumate, Sheldon Day, Ronnie Stanley, KeiVarae Russell, Jarron Jones) have had great careers.

Lots of stars, less production?: Not much to see here - the top rated recruits either stayed and were successful or left.


Vanderdoes is essentially a name on par with "Voledmort" for Notre Dame message boards, but for a brief period of time it looked like the Irish would add him to a very strong and deep defensive line rotation that already featured Nix, Day, Tuitt, Ishaq, and Jarron Jones. A few top signees that haven't panned out for one reason or another - Vanderdoes, Greg Bryant, Max Redfield - have kept this class at "good" rather than "great" so far.

Signing Day commitments: Eddie Vanderdoes ...

Signing Day decommits/misses: No decommits, no negative surprises on signing day itself. Kylie Fitts was a late defensive line target but committed to UCLA and has since transferred to Utah.

Switched to the Irish: Greg Bryant originally committed to Oklahoma, Max Redfield to USC, Durham Smythe switched from Texas to Notre Dame, and Doug Randolph was a one-time Stanford verbal, and Will Fuller decommitted from Penn State

Lost members of the class: The Vanderdoes saga does not need to be repeated but was the largest loss from this class. Transfers include Bryant (now heading to UAB after a year at JUCO) and Rashad Kinlaw.  Tight end Mike Heuerman and linebacker Michael Deeb both received medical hardship waivers before the 2015 season. Alex Anzalone had one of the more bizarre recruitments I can remember - he originally committed to Ohio State, then learned that a creepy registered sex offender had been allowed access to recruits (and posed for pictures with them), later verballed to Notre Dame, then late in the process decommitted again and immediately enrolled at Florida.

Under the radar recruits: Will Fuller was a low four-star recruit, ranked in the 247 composite as the 41st WR in the class. Corey Robinson has had high and low points in South Bend, but has been a very solid contributor for the #20 recruit in the class.

Lots of stars, less production?: Max Redfield has yet to live up to his five-star potential, but has a year left for those keeping their fingers crossed for a Jonas Gray/Maurice Stovall breakout. A trio of highly rated offensive linemen - John Montelus, Hunter Bivin, and Colin McGovern - haven't seen significant playing time yet in a stacked position group.


This class lacked the headlining star power of the previous few signing days, but hopes to make up for it with quality depth. It did not feature any top 50 recruits, but featured 11 ranked between #50-250 nationally.

Signing Day commitments: Daniel Cage

Signing Day decommits/misses: No decommits, but a few costly misses. The Irish were probably the runner-up for JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has been an instant-impact guy at USC and earned 1st team All Pac-12 honors as a sophomore. Same with Michiah Quick, who signed with Oklahoma (more like Fres-oh-no, am I right?)

Switched to the Irish: Jhonny Williams was originally a Mizzou verbal, and Drue Tranquill was committed to Purdue before a Notre Dame offer changed things

Lost members of the class: Elijah Hood (RB, UNC) chose to stay close to home but would have been a huge help with the attrition at running back in 2015.  Jhonny Williams transferred to Toledo, and Tyler Luatua recently decided to head to BYU.

Under the radar recruits: DeShone Kizer's first year after redshirting puts his standing in this class far higher than his #232 national composite ranking. It's still early but Daniel Cage, Jonathan Bonner and Greer Martini have seen early playing time and have bright futures for the #16-18 recruits by composite rank in this class.

Lots of stars, less production?: It's still far too early to write any player from this class off as a disappointment, but the #1 and #3 ranked recruits from this Irish class haven't met lofty expectations so far. Nyles Morgan will get his shot at starting in 2016 with the departure of Joe Schmidt (imagine that sentence making sense on signing day 2014), and it's likely now or never time for Justin Brent after redshirting this past season and making a switch from WR to RB.


There's still time for some surprises, but so far this class has been relatively drama-free and shown a lot of potential. The Irish continued to stockpile top offensive linemen and skill position players for the offense - we'll see how well this class can solve recent issues with depth in the secondary and edge rushers.

Signing Day commitments: Dexter Williams, Equanimeous St. Brown

Signing Day decommits/misses: No decommits, no real surprises - Arrington Farrar, Justin Reid, and Nathan Meadors were low-probability recruits down the stretch and all inked elsewhere.

Switched to the Irish: Williams was a former Miami commit, Aliz'e Jones a long-time UCLA verbal (although Notre Dame may have been the most likely destination for much of that time), Shaun Crawford originally was headed to Ann Arbor, Josh Barajas changed up from the Irish to Penn State and then back again, Brandon Wimbush was committed to Penn State as well. Whew.

Lost members of the class: Blake Barnett (QB, Alabama) stung but Brandon Wimbush provided a terrific alternative. Bo Wallace signed his LOI but never made it to South Bend, and is now enrolled at Arizona State.

Under the radar recruits: It's far too early for most of this group, but Josh Adams definitely looks far better than the #26 running back in the class. Ashton White and Nick Coleman received high praise from Brian Kelly in fall camp and both three-star corners could be under the radar steals.

Lots of stars, less production?: No reasons for concern yet, although it was a less than ideal first season for some of this class's top recruits. Brandon Wimbush (the top composite recruit) had to burn his redshirt after Malik Zaire's injury, and Shaun Crawford (#5 recruit in the class by 247 composite) tore his ACL in fall camp. But early rumblings and signs from Aliz'e Jones, Tristen Hoge, Dexter Williams, Jerry Tillery, and Equanimeous St. Brown have all been very positive.