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Notre Dame Football Recruiting: 3-Stars developing into 5-Stars under Brian Kelly

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It’s not common — but it happens

Rice v Notre Dame

Every time the Notre Dame Fighting Irish get a commitment from a 3-Star player, half of the fans bitch about it not being a 5-Star while the other half hype them up to be a 5-Star in the making. It’s not an isolated phenomenon to the Notre Dame bubble — this happens with most of the top 15 programs in the nation (except maybe with the Alabama Crimson Tide).

During the Brian Kelly era, there has been a lot of criticism about Brian Kelly not being able to sign enough elite 5-Star talents to the program. It’s a valid complaint, and one that we know makes a difference between contending for a national championship and actually winning one. Perhaps, however, there hasn’t been enough talk about how players have developed under Brian Kelly. 44 Brian Kelly coached players have been drafted from Notre Dame since 2011 and 9 of them went in the first round. Those are pretty good numbers.

Still... the 3-Star talk does get misconstrued and often times it is misrepresented altogether. Let’s be perfectly clear here. These players were NOT 3-Star recruits — they were 4-Star recruits:

  • WR / S / RB C.J. Prosise
  • WR Will Fuller
  • RB Josh Adams

Despite consistent references by fans as “_________ was a 3-Star.” Those three were decidedly not, and because so, the list of “3-Stars that became 5-Stars under Brian Kelly” is much shorter than some may think. And what do I mean by “became 5-Stars under Brian Kelly”? Quite simply, it’s a 3-Star recruit that had a massive impact on the Notre Dame football program — something a real 5-Star recruit would do.

I guess in other words, if this player was a 5-Star coming into Notre Dame — no one would have been surprised by their production.

So let’s get into it. All rankings are via the 247 Composite

The Major Players

Tight End, Tyler Eifert

Eifert was a part of the 2009 Notre Dame recruiting class. The Fort Wayne native was the 583rd ranked prospect in the country, and very much the prototypical 3-Star player. Eifert almost didn’t even have a start to his career with a back injury that was considered to possibly be career ending. He was able to overcome that, and in his final two years at Notre Dame, Tyler amassed almost 1500 yards receiving and 9 touchdowns. He was a Mackey Award finalist in 2011 and won the Mackey Award in 2012.

Notre Dame v Pittsburgh Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Offensive Lineman, Nick Martin

Matin followed his older brother Zack to Notre Dame as part of the 2011 recruiting class. Martin was the 529th ranked prospect in the nation, and there weren’t a lot of indicators that Martin would become a major player for the Irish. In 2013 Nick became a starter on the offensive line, and remained one over the next two years. Martin mostly played center — but did play some guard when needed, and he was a two year captain for the Irish. Martin had an exceptional career at Notre Dame and was drafted by the Texans in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Texas v Notre Dame

Cornerback, Julian Love

Love was a member of the 2016 recruiting class — the class that really helped the Irish bounce back from the 4-8 first year that they had to the college football playoffs in 2018. Love was the 480th ranked player in the country, and was ranked a full 23 spots lower in the cornerback ratings to Troy Pride Jr. Love became a starter in his freshman year in game 5, and never looked back. Julian was a Freshman All-American, a 2nd team All-American in 2017, and a Consensus All-American in 2018 — as well as a finalist for the Thorpe Award. He left Notre Dame as the school’s all-time leader in pass break-ups.

Citrus Bowl presented by Overton’s - LSU v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Up-And-Coming Players

Linebacker, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

JOK came to Notre Dame as an athlete and the 457th player overall. It was a slow start for Jeremiah in his first two years, but in 2019 he took over as the starting ROVER and became a star on the defense. Wu tied for the team lead in tackles with 80 and lead the team with 13.5 TFL which included 5.5 sacks. While he could have an incredible season in 2020 and leave for the NFL Draft, another year in 2021 could make him an absolute superstar. It’s all right there for him.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 Camping World Bowl - Notre Dame v Iowa State Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tight End, Tommy Tremble

As the 490th ranked recruit in the 2018 recruiting class, Tremble was ranked 7 spots below another Irish commit George Takacs at tight end. The Georgia native took a redshirt in his freshman year, but became a big part of the Notre Dame offense in 2019 as the fourth leading receiver. He started in place of an injured Cole Kmet in the first two games of the season, and if Kmet would have been out for the year — there is no doubt in my mind he would have improved upon his 183 yards and 4 touchdowns. In a way, Tremble’s production in his first year was a lot like Eifert’s — with 169 yards less receiving yards, but with double the amount of touchdowns. Tremble could very well be THE man at tight end in 2020 and beyond for the Irish which would make him part of the TEU legacy.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Notre Dame at Stanford Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A Solid Recent History

With that list, you have 3 players that did the thing — and then 2 that I believe are on their way. Here are 5 more players that were rated as 3-Stars coming into Notre Dame that became 5-Star caliber players by the time they left Notre Dame.

It should be noted that in the 2021 247 Composite rankings, 3-Stars begin at #341.

  • 2001 DE Justin Tuck (Actually unranked on the 247 Composite)
  • 2003 TE John Carlson #367
  • 2003 WR Jeff Samardzija #293
  • 2004 RB Darius Walker #284
  • 2007 DB Harrison Smith #264