The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have several big problems that need solved, but one that sticks out- that ALWAYS sticks out, has to do with recruiting. This isn’t rocket science- hell... it’s not even earth science 101 with Dr. Carl Ojala.
Better players yield better results.
The problem with that statement is that it is a generality, and generally speaking, Notre Dame doesn’t have a recruiting problem. Notre Dame was ranked by the 247 composite rankings over the past four years as:
- 2013 #5
- 2014 #11
- 2015 #13
- 2016 #15
That’s not awful. It certainly isn’t 2-5 against a soft schedule awful, so people’s case against coaching can probably be strengthened here, but there is a problem not seen in those rankings (which are generally viewed as weak by Notre Dame fans).
The problem is, and with few exceptions, on the defensive side of the ball. Elite defensive linemen and safeties seem to look at Notre Dame’s virtually open positions (meaning: there is playing time to be had- lot’s of it) and run away with their hair on fire rather than attract these kids to Notre Dame.
There are always exceptions to the rule, and a few have been signed over the years, but over the recent years that matter, Notre Dame has signed more project players than any team in a serious search of a college football playoff should sign.
Notre Dame took another hit in this cause last week when Donovan Jeter decommitted from Notre Dame. He stated at the time that Notre Dame was still his number one school... until he visited Michigan over the weekend and Jeter offered the Michigan Wolverines his commitment.
He also offered a few quotes that will raise eyebrows from the Irish faithful (rumors of a lack of a required second foreign language credit be damned), but if you have been paying attention over the past 7 years, it won’t surprise you:
“I started thinking, ‘Michigan is undefeated and Notre Dame is 2-5.’”
“He doesn’t act like he’s important. … He’s real down to earth and humble. He’s easy to talk to. Talking to Brian Kelly wasn’t fun. It wasn’t cool. You have to make an appointment just to go to his office. Coach Harbaugh has an open-door policy. Every one of Michigan’s coaches has an open-door policy.”
First of all, winning is important to elite recruits. They didn’t kick ass their entire high school career to go to floundering schools or schools with the perception of being in a dumpster fire of any type.
Secondly, these elite recruits want and need (in their mind) absolute attention from the main man in charge. Brian Kelly has been known to keep these guys at an arms length- even if it is unintentional.
It’s as simple as that.
When Notre Dame played for a national title, they had elite defensive players like Stephon Tuitt and Loius Nix on the line and some guy named Manti Te’o right behind them. If it wasn’t for crazy is what crazy is, Aaron Lynch would have been on that line too.
Notre Dame has some good players right now, but nowhere in the same stratosphere as the guys I just mentioned. Teams that Notre Dame wants to be in the conversation with like Ohio State and Alabama, get those players year in and year out.
This is a problem, and needs addressed, but it’s a problem that appears to have no end in sight. It won’t take one good recruiting class, it will take two good recruiting classes with elite defensive players to start to fix this. It will take two more right after them to fully absolve the situation.
That’s a tall order for a school and a program that has offered no evidence that they can achieve said goal.