Feb. 3, 2010
An interview with:
COACH Brian Kelly
THE MODERATOR: Coach Kelly will start with a couple quick opening comments.
COACH KELLY: Begin by stating that today and the national signing day, it has become apparent to me that the brand of Notre Dame is still very much relevant and respected throughout the country. That does not mean that you’re coming to Notre Dame.
The principles in place in recruiting are still about building quality relationships, making sure that there is a fit, whether it be academically, whether it be socially, or whether it be for a lot of these young men, whether they fit the style of play.
So I put those out to you because there are a lot of components that go into the recruiting today. And here at the University of Notre Dame, we clearly have our vision as to the kind of player that we’re going to recruit at the University of Notre Dame.
So today’s class represents that. I feel great about every one of the young men that have committed and signed to the University of Notre Dame. They come from 12 states, which is pretty indicative of the scope of recruiting at the University of Notre Dame, and that is from coast to coast.
Also, these young men were re recruited. Let’s make no mistake about that. The staff that I have here today went out and went back to basics. We met with every young man. We got into their homes. We met with their coaches. And essentially after we had determined that a great deal of these young men fit those criteria, we went about starting all over again.
Now having said that, as I mentioned, the brand of Notre Dame still carries a lot of weight. I believe that a lot of these young men were in very good stead with the University of Notre Dame even during that transition period when there was no head coach here.
So I’m not going to stand up here and take the credit for every one of these young men. Notre Dame gets a lot of the credit. But I will say this: You need time to recruit. You need success if you want to be able to continue to recruit the very best. Clearly, we did not have either one on our side this time. We will.
So the proof of our work as a staff and ultimately how I’ll be judged is going to be down the road with this class, but more importantly next year’s class as well.
I think we’ve addressed some short term needs with this class, and some long term needs. So the class will be representative of all of those areas.
It’s a good day. It’s a good day for Notre Dame football. We’ve got 23 signees. Again, they fit what we’re looking for here at the University of Notre Dame. They’re going to be able to come in and represent us in the manner that we want them to do that.
Just to give you a perspective of this class, you know, a couple of things stand out. First of all, some of those areas that we’ve always recruited in, Chicago and Illinois, continue to stay strong for us. The West Coast. We’re on the east coast in New Jersey, we’re down in Florida, and we’ve expanded to, obviously, Hawaii. I’ve got to make sure that I get that area to recruit. That’s not on the list yet, so.
But clearly you can see the reach of Notre Dame. It just happens to be that there happens to be a specific influx of players from the Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky area as well. This year I think we’ve got six. Four from the Cincinnati area, some schools that you probably know of, Moeller High School, going back to the Jerry Foust days, Crable who played here, Saint X, St. Xavier. So we’ve tapped into some areas that Notre Dame has had great success with before, and I think we’ll continue to have that kind of success.
In particular in the state of Ohio, it’s been very good for us. Brady Quinn, a lot of Ohio players that have moved over to on Notre Dame have done quite well. So you’ll see that as we move through the recruiting process here. You’re going to see some different geographical areas, and some of them, again, are those tried and true areas that we’ve recruited here at Notre Dame forever.
We hope that this becomes a class like the 1946 class. That 1946 class, for all of you that were there, as most of you in here are, that 1946 class came in and graduated without losing a football game here at the University of Notre Dame. That is the only way we want our guys to think. That they’re coming in here to win.
Not because they’re in a transition, or not because, you know, we’ll recruit better players next year. They’re coming in to be part of a program that is setting a bar high for their success when they step on this campus.
So with that, we’ll open it up to our signing day, and we’ll start. This will go alphabetically for you. We’ll start with Chris Badger from Provo, Utah.
Chris is a safety. I think the thing that stands out about Chris is his physical play. He’s spot shadowed here at number 7. Watch him come down and fill here. Again, a guy that can play off the hash, play the ball in the air, and also play physical.
Love his contact skills. Other he’s got great ball skills. Again, you can see him stepping in front of a pass here and has the athletic ability to take it in. Again, playing in half coverage, see him in his back pedal, adjusts to the ball, plays the ball in the air very well, Chris Badger.
Early enrollees, I might add, if I could stop for a second. Chris Badger is one of our mid year early enrollees. So the first five guys that you’re going to see here are the five that have already enrolled and been part of our program. Chris Badger is the first one. Obviously a safety.
Spencer Boyd now, a defensive back out of Cape Coral, Florida. You’ll get a chance to see his skill level at the cornerback position.
Steps underneath this pass and obviously shows his athletic ability and his speed at the cornerback position. Again, you see his toughness and his ability to on come up. What we like again about his ability to tackle in open field which is absolutely crucial at the cornerback position, but he’s also got to play the ball. He can’t be one guy that doesn’t have the skills to do both.
Very short tackler, and again, possesses the ball skills. Does a nice job here flipping around, getting his hand on the ball, doing a great job.
Again, here’s a young man that is going to benefit from being here and getting an opportunity. He’s already out working with Coach Longo and our entire football team getting acclimated to Notre Dame. Again, you can see his speed and his burst. Spencer Boyd.
Taylor Jones, wide receiver out of Gainesville, Georgia. Selected to play in the Under Armour All American game. As a senior, incredible numbers, 76 receptions, extremely skilled.
Can you see right here. With the ball in his hands, he’s as explosive a player as there is in the country. You can see him make the turn up the sideline here, and he is really developed in a short period of time here. He’s already put on about ten pounds. You can see the way he can accelerate. Looks like he’s going to get caught, and he’s got it right there.
As you know, Tai ler Jones, father Andre Jones was a defensive end at Notre Dame from ’87 to ’91. And played on the 1988 Notre Dame National Championship team. And his Godfather is former Notre Dame flanker, Rocket Ismael. Tommy Reese. Tommy’s out of Lake Forest, Illinois. As a senior, precision passer at 215 to 308, about a 59% completion. Worked predominantly out of the shotgun. Gets the ball out of his hands quickly.
He’s a very, very good athlete. You can see here under duress, catch and throw. Gets the ball out there. He’s got a strong arm. Can make the throws. The great thing about Tom is that he is here as well. One of our mid year enrollees.
He’s going to get an opportunity to play a lot this spring. What a great opportunity for Tommy to get out and play in the spring game and get spring practice and develop and get stronger.
Again, a need that we addressed at the quarterback position. I think Tommy will do a nice job for us. Lo Wood out of Apopka, Florida. Lo’s a defensive back. Again, he is here as well. What we liked about Lo is again, very physical player, good size, and he comes up and will play and compete for every ball thrown.
The ball is in the air. He’s got excellent ball skills. Again, a young man that’s already gotten stronger and is in our off season conditioning program as we speak. That’s Lo Wood.
Austin Collinsworth. Austin is from Highland, Kentucky. He was selected to play for the U.S. army All American. You’re going to see some junior clips here and senior clips. Here he is at the running back position. Played with a broken thumb most of the year.
He’s got great hips, great acceleration. Loves to play the game. Will be a young man that I think physically is going to be able to compete immediately. He’s got, you know, just a great love for the game. Pretty good pedigree as well. He’s part of the media that was a joke.
Dad played for Florida, that is the pedigree then. But Austin is the son of Chris and Holly Collinsworth. A young man that we think can help us in a number of different areas. You can see running back, wide receiver, punt return, kick return. Does a little bit of everything. That’s Austin Collinsworth.
Bruce Heggie, Bruce is from Mount Dora and Sorrento, Florida. He is a defensive lineman. He played tight end. He’s a young man that has great versatility for us.
That’s number 80. He’s playing inside with the inside technique here. He’s 6’4″. He’s listed at 6’4″, 240 pounds. He ranks tenth in his senior class. Very, very good student, very productive. Was an under recruited player, and somebody that we had our eye on at Cincinnati.
And, you know, when it worked out that the numbers were in our favor on the defensive line, we felt like he was the guy that could do a number of things for us with his size. He’s just a smart, tough football player. Dad played at Florida State. Again, a man that can do a lot of things for us. He’s going to be a big, rangy player for us. Could play on the offensive line, could definitely play some defensive tackle for us as well.
Andrew Hendrix. Again, we talked about Moeller High School, Archbishop Moeller High School. Greg Hudson who is the defensive coordinator at East Carolina, now at Florida State, played there as well, coached. Great pipeline here. You can see Andrew, quick release.
I think one of these clips here will show the strength of his arm. He’s got a very strong arm. I think what stands out about Andrew is that he’s only been a starter for a year and a half. He has not played a lot of football. His best football is clearly in front of him.
I think there are a couple of throws in here in particular where you can see him moving to his left, and effortlessly makes those kinds of throws.
Here’s one here. Pretty impressive. Rolling out to his right, on the move. Throws a b b. And you can see it’s not a five yard throw. We’re talking about a 20 yard throw for him. Just a really gifted player. He’s got all the tools to excel.
I think a couple of other things about Andrew, as I mentioned, he’s a young man that had a chance to visit Florida as well. We had to go re recruit Andrew. He got a chance to visit Florida, and I think he felt at the end of the day, obviously, the opportunity here at Notre Dame.
But he was indicative of the guys that we wanted to recruit. He wanted to be here at Notre Dame. His dream was to be here.
Bennett Jackson. Another wide receiver out of Hazlet, New Jersey. He’s a young man that we feel can play a number of positions for us as a wide receiver. He’s about 6’1″, 170. But you’ll see here his ability to catch and run. Here’s a five yard throw. What you’re looking for, obviously, are the yards after the catch. How does a player play after he catches the ball at five?
Those are the things that were attractive about Bennett Jackson. His ability not only to catch the football, but catch it in traffic and find his way and sift his way through to make plays.
Again, you can see his ball skills. But, again, the thing that kept bringing us back to Bennett was his ability to have yards after the catch. Bennett Jackson from has let, New Jersey.
Matt James. Offensive lineman from St. Xavier High School. Played in the U.S. Army All American Bowl. You know, I think he received a lot of the attention in the past six hours or so.
It came down to Ohio State and Notre Dame. He was a young man that, you know, was torn between the two. There is no question that it was a tough decision for him.
But at the end of the day he felt the opportunity here at Notre Dame, the academic opportunities that it gave him, the opportunity to play for a National Championship and knowing that there was going to be a clear opportunity for him to play here earlier.
I’m not saying that’s the reason he chose Notre Dame, but all of those things factored into his decision. His position coaches had a lot to do with that, and the fact that we had been recruiting him for quite some time.
Matt James at the left tackle position. His ability to move his feet is making him nationally one of the top players in the country. You can see his first step quickness as a guy who is over 300 pounds, watching him move and accelerate and run through this defender who is currently on the ground.
Again, at the left tackle position. Just great feet. Strong, physical, loves to play the game. Here’s a look at him at guard. Another guy who can play guard as well. He moves his feet that well that he can reach. Go out and reach a nose here from the guard position.
He’s, you know, he does a great job. Again, physically, mentally young man that can come in and compete and one that we’re certainly excited about.
Here at left tackle again, you can see him move his feet, dry block, and again, one more clip at the left tackle position. Matt James.
Christian Lombard. Another great offensive lineman from Fremd High School. Played in the U.S. Army All American Bowl with Matt James. Struck up a very good relationship with him. He’s playing the right guard position 75. You can see his strength. Another premier offensive lineman.
If you’re looking at national recruits, both Lombard and James fill the bill for that, and on the offensive line, that’s why we’ve got some short term successes and both of these guys are going to help us short term and in the future as we develop our football program.
Again, at the right guard position on that was the one thing we were impressed with. If you watch him here, he initially gets beat off the line here. But watch his ability to get his feet back underneath him right there and drive him back out.
So, again, the athletic ability, his ability to recover, to stay with the play. Some guys would have just ended the play at the line of scrimmage and said, okay, that’s it. I got beat. He stays with it. Very competitive young man. Really, really think he’s got incredible up side for us as well. You can see him moving there as well. That’s Christian Lombard.
Luke Massa, quarterback at St. Xavier High School. Another young man that I recruited at Cincinnati. Then when he decided that he wanted to look at Notre Dame, we certainly obliged him. His history is that he came in and led their team to a state championship as a sophomore, which, obviously, got my attention.
You know, led a very, very good football team for three years as the starter. The offense changed on three occasions. Very smart, very disciplined. He’s 6’5″, 205 pounds. He’s going to be really big. He’s going to be a strong player. He’s got great feet, outstanding basketball player.
Again, a young man that’s going to have a chance to be a very good football player. Very smart. He’s going to make good decisions for you play in and play out.
Under direct snap here as well. You can see his play action and his ability to move, on the move, find receivers in tight coverage. Luke Massa.
Our next player is Kendall Moore out of Southeast Raleigh High School. 6’3″, 230. He is a defensive player for us that could probably play a couple of different positions. You can see him coming off the edge here.
It’s always better when you’re not blocked. But, again, big and physical. Been looked at as a tight end as well. He’s got the athleticism in space. He does a great job here. You can see him play the option.
Again, a guy who will complement our defensive structure. Loves to play the game. Great family. And somebody that I really enjoyed spending time with.
Again, you can see his athletic ability right there as he intercepts this pass. You can see he’s a guy that, you know, is going to help our football team. That’s Kendall Moore.
Tate Nichols is our next prospect. Tate I recruited, was actually the first one to offer him a scholarship out of Ryle High School in Northern Kentucky.
He was an early commit to Stanford. Changed his commit to come to Notre Dame. When I recruited him, he was 6’6″, 242 pounds. We had him on the scale on his official visit at 6’7″, 292. He is one big guy.
He is a great student. You can see why somebody of this size in terms of how he plays the game, he was a tight end in High School and a split wide receiver. He’s going to play tackle for us. These are the kind of guys we like.
Good feet, watching him lock on to this linebacker here. Keep his feet moving, and finish the block off. You can see it again as he attacks tight end. He finishes. One thing that we really like with a guy of this size that keeps his feet moving and finishes every block.
His wide receiver skills, um, he’s tall. That’s about it. So these memories of him will be etched in his mind because they’ve got no more of them. But he gets a chance here to go up and catch a football. He’ll probably be asking for a tackle eligible play.
But, again, big kid. Goes up and gets the football. I think that just says a little about his athletic ability and certainly somebody that we believe is going to be an outstanding offensive tackle for us. That is Tate Nichols out of Ryle High School.
He’s a young man that as you can see he’s got his hand down right now. Boy he can come off the ball. Really like the way he explodes.
Prince was another young man that we had to go re recruit and spend a lot of time with him and really enjoyed him and his family. You can see him get to the ball carrier here. Again, he’s lined up inside. Another guy that can play a few different positions for us, whether it be inside or outside.
Here we go. Louis Nix, 6’3″, 318 pounds. Played in the Under Armour All American game. A guy that was heavily recruited. You can see him on the inside here. Sheds off the block and tackle for a loss.
Gives us some size in the middle at 6’2″, 6’3″, 315 pounds. Hopefully he’s 315 pounds when he gets here. But a young man that really enjoyed recruiting him, great character kid. And, again, I think that he’ll be a real asset, and somebody that can come in and compete right away.
Louis Nix, right here. One more shot at him. Explosive inside. Another tackle for a loss.
Derek Roback. Derek is 6’3″, 225, out of Waverly High School. He’s a young man that I tried to get at Cincinnati, and it didn’t workout. We were trying to get him in early. But he is just a pure athlete. He plays a number of different positions.
Here he is at the quarterback position. We think he can play probably as many as three or four positions. Great student, great kid. Has great athleticism, good size. Very good speed. He’s going to help our football team.
You can see him out at the wide receiver position. Look at his ball skills. Goes up and takes the football away. Wherever they needed a play, he returns punts, sweeps out the stadium after the game. He just is a guy that, you know, does a little bit of everything for his football team. Very athletic kid.
Here’s another catch. You can see him go up and get the football at wide receiver. Derek Roback out of Waverly High School.
Cameron Roberson. Cameron is another young man out of Newbury Park, California. First team. He really impressed us. I got to tell you. There was so much talk about another running back. We had our sights set on Cameron Roberson. You know, this is the guy that we felt as a staff that he fit precisely what we wanted to do in our offense.
6’1″ on, 215 pounds, he hasn’t gotten a lot of play. If you had asked me which guy did we go out to California? This is the guy that we made. We had three different coaches go out to California to make sure that we were going to keep looking at Roberson.
Outstanding player, outstanding character kid. It’s one of those guys that you take a big sigh of relief that you got him, and that is this young man. 6’1″, 215. You can see his size. He can lineup as an I back, explosive.
Watch him make the safety miss right here, then second level speed. And that will be a pretty consistent theme. He can take the toss sweep, cut back. He’s got great vision. You can see that he’s not just a guy that’s going to lower his shoulders. Showed his ability to make you miss and accelerate at the second level.
And now here’s his ability and vision to cut back against the grain and find a way into the end zone. He generally goes in standing up, too, by the way. At 6’1″, 215, he can pick up backers off the edge. He’s a guy that can catch the ball on the perimeter. Again, very excited to have this young man in our program.
Out of the shotgun, you can see him step up. Reads and seals the guard. Sets underneath the tackle. Hard to do some times. Backs just get too anxious to get out. Stays inside. Walks the sidewalk here really well. We talk about walking the sidewalk. We’ve got a kick out here and a seal right there, he stays inside. Understands the blocking scheme, and then accelerates to the end zone. Very good awareness as a back.
Again, second level speed here. Cameron Roberson, outstanding addition.
Kona Schwenke out of the Kahuku School. He’s a young man that came on us late. We will say we were out in Hawaii looking at another young man. Well, you know, it’s one of those things where your attention now focuses on somebody else. We had such a need at 6’4″, 227 pounds, for that outside guy that could come off the edge, and Kona gives us that.
I think he’s been elevated to the number one player in the State of Hawaii. Certainly that has worked out for us pretty good last year, too, with Manti Te’o, and now adding Kona Schwenke was, I thought, a very, very important get for us.
You can see his ability here to get off the block. Tackle for a loss. Again, inside here. Watch him take on surface off the guard here. Lined up at the edge, number 96. We’ve got some of those videos from some tourists that were there, it seems. But, again, a young man that we’re excited to have in our program.
And I believe Daniel Smith from South Bend, Clay. Outstanding young man. 6’4″, 215 pounds. Extremely athletic. You can see him out on the perimeter here. Watch him go up and get the football, adjust to it well. And, again, coming off the edge here on the slant. I love his size at 6’4″, 217. Lot of opportunities and possibilities for Daniel.
Obviously you can see his size. He uses it to his advantage in going up and getting the football. Danny Spond, 6’3″, 230 out of Columbine High School. Again, a young man that committed to us this past weekend. Excited about having him. He’s playing quarterback this year. You can see his athletic ability at his size. He’s rated a four star player by a lot of publications. A young man that can play a number of different positions.
We will not be running split back veer or triple option in the manner that you think we are. But he’s a guy that’s again shown the ability to do a lot of jobs for us here at the University of Notre Dame. Very athletic. Watch them on defense. You can see a big kid, the safety outside backer. Danny Spond out of Columbine High School in Colorado.
Justin Utopo out of Lakewood, California. He was named lineman of the year by the L.A. Times. And you could see how he arrives at the ball with a bad attitude. Watch him come up here. He plays with a great passion. He told Coach Diaco that he’s still angry after his loss the last game of the year. And, again, he’ll breathe a lot of energy and passion into our defense. Loves to play the game.
Heavily recruited area, Lakewood. But our coaches, in particular Coach Denbrock did a great job out in California in a short period of time to hold on to two very good players. And particularly in Roberson and Utopo. Again, tackle for loss there. You can see his fire. He plays with a lot of fire, Justin Utopo on.
Alex Welch out of Elder High School. You probably know that High School. Kyle Rudolph, 6’5″, 225 pounds. He’s a pretty good player. Watch him here detached in the slot. Watch his ability to get underneath coverage. Catch the football turn it up.
At 6’4, 6’5, 225, he is a very, very skilled player. He’s tough, a great competitor. Really excited about having Alex in the program. Watch here. He runs a little inside divot off the inside backer. Watch him accelerate out on. Really savvy as a tight end here. Drops back out, makes the catch.
Outstanding tight end. Gets into the seam here. Bends it, holds on to the football. Very difficult to defend him. And he’s got the size and he’s going to be really big. Watch him here. Watch him finish this block off. Stays with it.
You know, we look at the finish. That’s what we look for. It’s not necessarily the first, but how you finish it off. He does a great job here finishing the block off. Alex Welch out of elder High School.
That is our entire signing class with video clips. Want to thank our guys, in particular, Tim, thank you. Thank you for all your work in getting this together. They did a great job. They’ve been here since 2:00 o’clock in the morning, right? Is that what we’ll tell everybody. Yeah, well, thank you, guys.
So that gives you a glimpse. You can see that we’ve added what we consider some outstanding offensive linemen. I think the area as we continue to move forward, we have to continue to build our defensive line pool, especially at the end position.
That is going to be absolutely crucial for us moving forward next year and looking at 2011. Our scholarship allotment is really going to have to look towards the defensive end position. We feel like we’re set inside. There’s a number of players that are going to be able to help us on the inside.
We’ve got to get bigger and stronger on the edge of our defense, more athletic on the edge of our defense. I think those are two absolutely crucial needs for us moving forward after this class.
Then on the offensive side of the ball, we’ll only take about five or six more quarterbacks next year, and I think we’ll be all set.
But the defensive needs are pretty apparent as we move forward in 2011. And balance out the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball. So with that, we’ll open it up to questions.
Q. Can you talk about the decision to go to Hawaii? And did Cincinnati’s presence at Notre Dame’s Bowl game help you with recognition with those kids?
COACH KELLY: I think it was more about Robbie and Manti Te’o, and I think that connection more than anything else. You know, we also relied on some very good information. Dave Peloquin does a great job. He did a super job in this period as our director of football development.
Dave needs to understand how important of a role he played in just getting us information. And he got us some really good information. And we took the opportunity to go out there and look at what we thought were potentially two really good fits for us. One of them ended up being the best fit for us in Kona.
But I think it was more about Manti and Robbie, and then Dave getting some information that was very reliable.
Q. What did you learn out of this short cycle that’s going to help you moving forward in the next recruiting cycle?
COACH KELLY: We’ve got time. We’ve got to have time. I mean, two months is not enough time to get the kind of guy that I want at the University of Notre Dame. You need time to build a relationship. You need time to evaluate transcripts. You need time to make sure that they’re the right fit in our community and our campus. And we’ve got the time to do that.
I think we’ve got our system in place in terms of our recruiting system. That is absolutely crucial. And now our coaches know their geographical areas. And I think now it’s not a scramble.
We have clearly identified prospects for 2011 that we have had conversations today with a number of juniors. And recreated the signing day, essentially for them with those phone calls today, and offering scholarships to the University of Notre Dame. Really getting them to think, hey, the culmination of this in the next 365 days is going to be you signing your national letter of intent to come to the University of Notre Dame. So that is really the most important thing.
Q. A quick one on Daniel Smith. You mentioned a lot of opportunities and possibilities for him. So is one of the possibilities that he may not be a wide receiver in your system?
COACH KELLY: Oh, absolutely. He’s a big, skilled player. When we put somebody in that big skilled category, he’s somebody that we feel like if he naturally develops physically, that he opens up the opportunity to do other jobs for us.
Q. Could you talk about the quarterback position? Going into it, was three your target number or was Luke just such a good fit because of your familiarity with him that you felt like that was a natural to take the third guy in this class?
COACH KELLY: I think it was just a natural fit. I don’t know that I had my eye on three. But it was just too good of an opportunity to pass on.
And once it was handled in the right manner in terms of communicating with Cincinnati, I spoke with Butch Jones directly about it. There was such a desire by Luke to want to be at the University of Notre Dame, that we decided to go in that direction.
I was very hesitant to do it at first. It was not that we had a plan for three, it was more this was going to workout with Luke.
Q. Also with Matt James, the importance of adding a big body to your offensive line, but also to kind of throw down another mark on Ohio that Notre Dame can come in and meet Ohio State head to head with a guy? Talk about the importance of that.
COACH KELLY: I think we were able to do that because we had time with Matt James. If we have time with any recruit, we’re going to have an opportunity, if it’s the right fit, to recruit them to the University of Notre Dame.
You know, it’s only big today. He goes back to work like everybody else. But I think it’s important in the sense that it’s pretty clear that our coaching staff is going to be able to recruit anywhere given that they have the time to build those relationships.
Q. Can you just talk about analysts will give their estimation of what this class was. Can you sum up what you think it is compared to maybe classes you’ve recruited in the past?
COACH KELLY: I think if you look at each position, I think we addressed some immediate needs within this class. Part of that is the five mid year enrollees. The five mid year enrollees gives them an opportunity to develop, be part of spring ball, be here in the summer and have an opportunity to contribute.
So those five mid year enrollees were very important for us to hold on to. My first week I could not get a staff together, because I had had to get out. We had about ten days and I had to meet all the mid year enrollees, the five of them.
So they’re very important in this class. When you take a step back, I think securing the mid year enrollees, holding on to a class that obviously was recruited early on by the former staff, and then adding our touches to it, make this a good class.
It’s a good start for us. I think you’ll see a growth in the recruiting process for us next year. But I think it was a good start for us.
Q. You talked about the need at the defensive end. Was that an indication that maybe that wasn’t something that you got as much of as you would have liked in this recruiting cycle?
COACH KELLY: Not really. Because we were so late in it, we couldn’t hit the profile of the kind of player we wanted at that position, in particular. They were already either recruited on, already committed, and it wasn’t going to allow us the opportunity to get in the game, so to speak. Our board is already deep at that position.
We already have scholarship offers out with that position in mind. It’s just we weren’t going to take somebody just to take them to fill it. We needed somebody that fit. You know, certainly there wasn’t a lot of players out there at that time for us.
Q. Some people have talked about the fact that you offered Heggie, who wasn’t offered elsewhere. That concerned some fans. I assume you don’t worry about what other schools are doing, you just look at what you’re looking for?
COACH KELLY: Oh, absolutely. I think if you use the recruiting process as a standard, there’s always going to be questions about recruits that don’t have the pedigree, but I kind of like that. I certainly don’t have the pedigree either.
So we’re not going to take a guy just to make a statement either. Hey, let’s just take a guy, and spin these guys on their head. They won’t know what we’re thinking. We’re taking somebody at the University of Notre Dame that we believe can help us win. And we believe Bruce can help us win.
Q. When you started recruiting for Notre Dame in mid December, did you anticipate you were going to have to develop all of these additional relationships that you developed in the last month with Schwenke and Spond and people like that?
COACH KELLY: I thought we probably would have to, yes. I knew it wasn’t just going to be about the recruits that had originally committed, because a lot of those had to be re recruited.
So I knew there was going to be other relationships that things were going to fall our way. We got lucky on a couple of them. But some of it was by design as well. We worked hard at it. We were out. Our coaches did a great job of asking every question. Hey, is there a guy who fits this profile? Who is a good student, who loves to play? Who can play this position?
I think part of it was timing was right because something happened on their end, and we were in the right place by being diligent in our recruiting.
Q. Is there something that you now know about recruiting for Notre Dame that perhaps you didn’t know when you started the process?
COACH KELLY: Yeah. You can go into any school in the country, any school, and they want the head coach to walk through their halls at Notre Dame. They want him to visit with the principal. They want him to be visible in their school, because there is such a respect for the University of Notre Dame. I don’t know that I knew that, how strong that was.
Whether it’s at St. Francis in Pasadena, California, or whether it’s in New Jersey, I was really I don’t want to say taken aback but the Notre Dame brand is alive and well.
Q. You can feel that as you’re walking through the halls of a High School?
COACH KELLY: Oh, yeah. You can sense that there is an anticipation when the librarian comes up and asks for an autograph, or somebody from the secretarial pool is coming over to ask, because her cousin’s been a long time, or aunt or uncle, it’s just very, very unique to have that. That’s the power of Notre Dame.
Q. Do you have a little more on Louis Nix? You talk about Cameron Roberson, I’m wondering if a guy like Louis Nix has that body, he’s also a sigh of relief guy and what he can give you to fill gaps literally and figuratively right away?
COACH KELLY: We’re excited about Louis. Keep in mind that as the recruiting process unfolds, systems change. We went from the four three to the three four defense.
So we are excited about Louis Nix. He fits, and he’s going to be a great addition. Ian’s a senior, Ian Williams. He’s going to be a great guy to move into that position for the next four years.
So he was important from that standpoint. He wasn’t a guy that we needed to step in this year. He’s a guy that we need to have moving forward. So we’re excited to have him in our program, but we also have to fill needs on the outside as well.
So from that standpoint we wanted him in our program. We are excited about having him in our program, but he’s not going to have to come in like some people think and improve our defense and be the guy. I think that’s a little bit misrepresented, in a sense. That a lot of people think Louis Nix is going to come in. He doesn’t have to do that. He’s got some time.
Q. Guys like James Nix and defensive ends you’ve talked about, are they harder to come by than a good wide receiver, a great wide receiver and big quarterback? Do you have to dig harder for those guys?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, just by the nature of their position. On the three four they’ve got to be able to take on the guard and the tackle. They have to have leverage and length. They can’t be 6’1″, 6’2″. They generally have to be in the 6’4″ range. They have to be strong enough to take on. You saw the tackles that we have, the Matt James and Tate’s, they’re 290, 300 pounds.
So that guy’s got to be long, and he’s got to be solid. So that profile, 6’4″, or plus, 250 pounds, they’re tough to come by. Those guys are ones that you have to spend time recruiting.
Q. When you go into the next cycle or you have the time, does it change for the elite guys, or whatever elite guys would be, I assume in two months it’s hard to get at those guys as everyone else has tried to get at them? Is that what you’re getting at, that we can go after more highly rated elite guys?
COACH KELLY: I think, again, we’re going to recruit the very best players out there. If they happen to have four or five stars, beautiful. That’s great.
It’s really still going to be about they have to hit six things for us. One, they’ve got to make profile. Two, they’ve got to have the academics. Three, we have to clear their medical history. That’s tough to do in six weeks to get all the MRIs. To make sure that they don’t have debilitating injuries that are going to come back to hurt you later.
They’ve got to have the academics. They’ve got to be socially a young man that we trust. And, finally, they’ve got to have the right character.
So if you’re looking at, you know, those areas, it takes time to hit home runs in all of those areas. I don’t want any red flags in those areas, and time allows you to get to that.
Q. You just mentioned the guys that are in the 6’4″, 250 profile, kind of difficult to find. Justin Utopo listed at 6’3″, 250. Physically he seems larger than both Schwenke and Heggie, yet you have him listed at linebacker. Is there a reason you profile him as a linebacker as opposed to defensive end?
COACH KELLY: I think it’s still an opportunity for him to play a number of different positions. You know, again, we feel like he’s got intangibles or things that he brings to the table.
You saw his fire. So maybe he’s a little bit out of profile. But visually you can see he may be able to make up for that.
Bob Sanders at 5’9″ is the hardest hitting safety in the NFL. He may be 5’9″. He’s probably 5’7″. My point is there are guys that are going to fall outside that profile. But they better bring something else. And he brings a fire and passion for the game that allows us to project him at a number of positions.
Q. Left tackle also has been kind of an issue on the offensive side sort of like defensive end has been on the other side of the ball. Among those three offensive tackles you recruited, who would you consider maybe the best bet for that left tackle spot?
COACH KELLY: That’s a good question. I think in the spread offense, the left tackle is minimized a little bit in terms of the blind side because you’re already in a shotgun drop.
Clearly the left tackle position is always talked about as the blind side, but in the shotgun it becomes less of a factor. But I think what we’ll probably do is let all those guys work and find their comfort level as to whoever can fit that role best.
Q. You talked about that big skill profile. Can you talk about why you believe in that philosophy and the process it takes for those guys to figure out exactly where they fit in?
COACH KELLY: Well, I mean, there are a number of physiological reasons why big skilled players have a better chance at being successful because of leverage, and strength and size and the ability to move. So that’s one area.
But certainly they possess the opportunity to play a number of different positions. So when I recruit a big skilled player, he’s not just at this position. As you know, he could play tight end, he could play defensive end. Maybe he grows and moves inside, plays the guard or center position.
So they allow us a lot of flexibility to develop our players by utilizing that big skill category.
Q. With the addition of so many guys later on in the process, was there any talk or much talk with the staff as far as weighing the benefits of holding on to some of those numbers for next year as opposed to bringing these guys in later on?
COACH KELLY: We didn’t want to take anybody that we didn’t believe could help us. That was first. But you also have to understand that you have to be at 85 scholarships if you want to have any mid year players come on board.
Right now we’re going to be at 82 scholarships. So to have the five mid year enrollees that we have here at the University of Notre Dame, to make that happen, you have to be at 85. We’re currently under that.
So you’re fighting both. There are a number of players that we want to recruit that want to graduate early and come into Notre Dame early. So you have to fight both of those as you’re putting your class together.
Now having said that, there are some guys in our program that we’re going to give an opportunity to earn a scholarship for a one year opportunity and get us to 85, so we can combat that. But that is a balancing act that you have to do.
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