Feb. 6, 2013
The University of Notre Dame football roster will increase by 24 student-athletes for the 2013 season.
Nineteen of those individuals today signed national letters of intent–while five others enrolled at the University last month, began taking classes and will take part in Irish spring football drills.
The 24 new additions represent 15 states plus the District of Columbia–four from Florida, three from Texas, two from California, Ohio and Pennsylvania, plus one each from Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
As listed by group, Notre Dame adds nine skill players, eight power players and seven big skill players. As listed by position, Notre Dame adds four defensive backs, four wide receivers, three defensive linemen, five offensive linemen, two running backs, three linebackers, one quarterback and two tight ends.
Five of the 24 players–wide receivers Corey Robinson and James Onwualu, tight end Mike Heuerman, offensive lineman Steve Elmer and quarterback Malik Zaire- -enrolled at the University in January and are taking classes. They will participate in Notre Dame’s spring football practices that begin March 20. The other 19 players have signed national letters of intent and will arrive on campus by June for the start of summer school.
Among the 24 players who will be freshmen for the Irish this fall are:
- Two who were selected to the Parade prep All-America squad–LB Jaylon Smith (first team) and OL Hunter Bivin (honorable mention)
- Eight who were selected for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio: RB Greg Bryant, OL Steve Elmer, WR Torii Hunter Jr., OL John Montelus, LB Doug Randolph, WR Corey Robinson, Smith and DL Eddie Vanderdoes
- Four who were selected for the Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla.: Bivin, RB Tarean Folston, OL Colin McGovern and DB Max Redfield
- Five who played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Los Angeles: DB Devin Butler, WR William Fuller, DB Cole Luke, OL Mike McGlinchey and QB Malik Zaire
- Four members of the USA Today All-America team: Smith (first team), Bryant (second team), Redfield (second team) and Vanderdoes (second team)
- Five members of the 247Sports All-America team: Smith (first team), Vanderdoes (first team), Bivin (second team), Luke (second team) and Redfield (second team)
- Four members of the MaxPreps Top 100: Bryant (15th), Smith (18th), Elmer (73rd) and Montelus (82nd)
- Twelve members of the ESPN 300: Smith (seventh), Bryant (22nd), Redfield (23rd), Vanderdoes (33rd), Folston (66th), Bivin (82nd), Hunter (95th), DL Isaac Rochell (139th), Randolph (142nd), Zaire (189th), Butler (193rd) and Zaire (194th)
- Fifteen members of the Rivals.com 250: Smith (third), Bryant (19th), Vanderdoes (21st), Redfield (30th), Elmer (60th), Montelus (74th), Robinson (80th), Folston (119th), Zaire (122nd), Rochell (124th), Luke (133rd), Randolph (134th), Bivin (162nd), Fuller (176th) and Hunter (181st)
- Seventeen members of the Scout.com Top 300: Smith (third), Vanderdoes (ninth), Montelus (51st), Redfield (57th), Bryant (70th), Elmer (74th), McGlinchey (90th), McGovern (133rd), Rochell (153rd), TE Durham Smythe (170th), Zaire (172nd), Fuller (179th), Bivin (184th), Luke (185th), Folston (198th), WR James Onwualu (296th) and DL Jacob Matuska (299th)
- Thirteen members of the 247Sports Top 247: Smith (fifth), Vanderdoes (sixth), Redfield (41st), Bivin (43rd), Luke (77th), Folston (122nd), Rochell (127th), Bryant (128th), McGlinchey (131st), Elmer (136th), Smythe (188th), Butler (189th) and DB Rashad Kinlaw (201st)
- One recipient of his state’s Mr. Football player-of-the-year award: Smith (Indiana)
|Bivin, Hunter||OL||6-6||290||Owensboro, KY (Apollo)||About||HS Bio|
|Bryant, Greg||RB||5-11||200||Delray Beach, FL (American Heritage)||About||HS Bio|
|Butler, Devin||DB||6-1 1/2||180||Washington, DC (Gonzaga)||About||HS Bio|
|Deeb, Michael||LB||6-2||235||Plantation, FL (American Heritage)||About||HS Bio|
|Elmer, Steve||OL||6-5||300||Midland, MI (Midland)||About||HS Bio|
|Folston, Tarean||RB||5-10||190||Cocoa, FL (Cocoa)||About||HS Bio|
|Fuller, William||WR||6-1||180||Philadelphia, PA (Roman Catholic)||About||HS Bio|
|Heuerman, Mike||TE||6-4||225||Naples, FL (Barron Collier)||About||HS Bio|
|Hunter, Torii Jr.||WR||6-0||180||Prosper, TX (Prosper)||About||HS Bio|
|Kinlaw, Rashad||DB||5-11||185||Galloway, NJ (Absegami)||About||HS Bio|
|Luke, Cole||DB||6-0||180||Chandler, AZ (Hamilton)||About||HS Bio|
|Matuska, Jacob||DL||6-4 1/2||255||Columbus, OH (Bishop Hartley)||About||HS Bio|
|McGlinchey, Mike||OL||6-7 1/2||280||Philadelphia, PA (William Penn Charter)||About||HS Bio|
|McGovern, Colin||OL||6-5||280||New Lenox, IL (Lincoln-Way West)||About||HS Bio|
|Montelus, John||OL||6-5||305||Everett, MA (Everett)||About||HS Bio|
|Onwualu, James||WR||6-1 1/2||210||Saint Paul, MN (Cretin-Derham Hall)||About||HS Bio|
|Randolph, Doug||LB||6-3||230||Richmond, VA (Woodberry Forest)||About||HS Bio|
|Redfield, Max||DB||6-2||195||Mission Viejo, CA (Mission Viejo)||About||HS Bio|
|Robinson, Corey||WR||6-5||190||San Antonio, TX (San Antonio Christian)||About||HS Bio|
|Rochell, Isaac||DL||6-5||265||McDonough, GA (Eagle’s Landing Christian)||About||HS Bio|
|Smith, Jaylon||LB||6-3||220||Fort Wayne, IN (Bishop Luers)||About||HS Bio|
|Smythe, Durham||TE||6-5||230||Belton, TX (Belton)||About||HS Bio|
|Vanderdoes, Eddie||DL||6-3||285||Auburn, CA (Placer)||About||HS Bio|
|Zaire, Malik||QB||6-1 1/2||190||Kettering, OH (Archbishop Alter)||About||HS Bio|
Head Coach Brian Kelly Press Conference Transcript
Brian Kelly: First of all, it’s an exciting day at Notre Dame, and it’s exciting because it’s centered upon our future, and our future is predicated on the last game that you play, and so we begin today by talking about what our future is going to look like. I think we all know, and I’ve made it pretty clear, that after the last game you play, you want to begin taking that next step forward, and for us, taking that next step forward is to continue to build our football program within and developing football players, so when they get back on that field in 2013, we finish it. We finish it off.
And this class is that first step towards finishing off 2013 the right way.
Let me just begin by saying that this recruiting process, as you all know, requires so much time and energy, not only from the coaches, and they I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you right now that nowhere in the country does an assistant coach have to do as much as they do at the University of Notre Dame. We’re recruiting coast to coast, from Massachusetts to California, and our coaches have to be there. It’s not just about a particular geographical location; it’s also about getting coaches and position coaches in different areas. We’re going to have 15 states represented, but we were in over 25 states, and we were in many others that we were just setting up for 2014.
My point is this: There are many people that are involved in this recruiting process, but the central figures are the assistant coaches that are out on the road and working diligently to bring the very best players here.
On campus, we couldn’t do this without getting the recruits here. Tim McDonnell, who heads up those recruiting efforts, Sarah Lawless in our recruiting office, those two working together just do an incredible job of the logistical planning, the organization of getting the student athlete here and do an incredible job.
While they’re here, they’re on this campus, we need some assistance, as well, and we get it from our admissions office. Bob Mundy, who does a lot of the work in admissions, and Don Bishop under his guidance gives us the opportunity to get these young man into campus, and they give them the opportunity to have a personal interview. That doesn’t happen everywhere. That take their time to do it.
Our athletic director Jack Swarbrick meets with the student athletes on campus, as well. Those are important pieces in this recruiting process when you bring them on campus. You can’t just bring them to the basketball game, you can’t just take them over to a hockey game. You’ve got to have them meet the people that are going to make a lot of the decisions here on campus. I want to point them out.
And I think finally Adam Sargent in our academic support area, he gives us an opportunity to let the parents and student athletes know what they’re in store for when they come here to Notre Dame. I wanted to get those thank yous out in particular for what they’ve done in this recruiting process.
Let’s look at the 2013 class, and I’m going to give you the soundbytes as I see them. With this class, it really addresses some of our depth needs across the board. We played the National Championship game under 85 scholarships. We did not have 85 scholarship players at that time. We had some depth issues. And I think we’ve addressed those depth issues across the board in year three.
We targeted in year one and two, we addressed comprehensively needs throughout the entire class in year three, and that’s what I’m most excited about is that now we’ll have the depth in the certain areas that we felt like we did not have in 2012 and in this off season.
That’s how I look at the class in general.
We’ve got 15 states represented, as I mentioned, and another quality that we really were looking for were winners. I think the winning percentage of this group, we did some numbers and crunched some numbers, is like 74 percent winning percentage. These kids come from winning programs. They’ve won state championships. So across the board, they represent everywhere in terms of geographics, but they represent winners as it relates to the kind of player that we wanted.
So I think those are things that I wanted to point out, as well.
I think the last thing would be, I will take a moment now to give you some perspective on each one of our recruits. I’m not going to read the superlatives. You guys can go on line and get all that information. I want to give you some of the personal insight about each one of these players and how they fit and how we believe moving forward they make us a better football team.
We’ll begin with Hunter Bivin. What we have here is a young man with great versatility on the offensive line. He played tackle, he moved to center in the all star game, played flawlessly at that position. Here’s a young man that comes in with the size and strength and the versatility on the offensive line, an area that as you know with five offensive line commits was very central to this recruiting class.
Greg Bryant: Again, when we talk about a specific need within the program, the loss of Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, Greg Bryant puts himself in a position to compete. What we really love about Greg is, again, a guy that has shown a proficiency of catching the football as well as running physically tackle to tackle. He’s a guy that will and you guys saw this later in the year, the way Theo ran for us between the tackles. We think we get that kind of physical play with Greg Bryant. He’s a well conditioned athlete. He’s got great instincts in running the football, but he also we love the fact that he can catch the football, as well. Outstanding football player. His dad is a coach, coaches at the high school. We just love that kid that comes from a coach’s family. He really understands the game.
Devin Butler out of Gonzaga Prep in D.C.: First of all, what we really love about recruiting at Gonzaga is that these young men understand what it’s like to be here at Notre Dame. They’re in that kind of faith based environment. They understand that they’re going to be challenged in the classroom, so these are easy fits for us in the recruiting process. Devin obviously at the cornerback position is a need that we have within our program. With injuries last year and graduation the year before, we were thin obviously this year, and we were able to find a way to get it done back there. Now we can add some depth to the cornerback position. He’s an exciting player that’s going to come in and compete immediately.
Michael Deeb: Again, I think sometimes when we talk about superlatives as it relates to stars and things of that nature, those are important, but we had eyes on Michael Deeb. Michael came here to our camp. We were able to observe Michael. Coach Diaco was able to spend time, and we know what we want from that position. We have a pretty clear understanding of the skill set necessary and the intelligence.
And here’s what else he brings: He brings an energy to everything he does. When he walks in that locker room, it’s time to play football, and if you’re not locked in, he’s going to make sure he says something to you. We love his energy, we love the way he plays the game, and obviously from our standpoint feel like he’s a guy that can come in and obviously compete for us.
Steve Elmer is one of our mid year graduates from Midland. Again, I think when you look at all the things, he’s got the size, he’s 6’5″, he’s got great feet, he’s 300 pounds right now, but looks like he could put on as many pounds as we need to in strength and conditioning with Steve. Bright, articulate, he fits all the profiles that we’re looking for with great feet, athleticism, can play on the edge, play the tackle position for us, and again, just a great student and a great young man.
William Fuller out of Roman Catholic in Philadelphia: It’s nice to get back into the city of Philadelphia and Roman Catholic in particular. Again, when we talk about profile schools that really hit and understand Notre Dame, Roman Catholic is one of those institutions. He’s also a young man that we believe that if there’s a guy that flew under the radar a little bit, it was William Fuller. The thing that really clearly stands out is his ball skills. He can run and catch the football. Any time that we got a chance to observe him, he was running and catching, just terrific ball skills. We think as he develops physically, he also has that speed, that top end speed that can obviously impact football games. Excited about William.
Mike Heuerman is also one of our mid year enrollees. That tight end position as you know, we like to use it in multiple fashions, whether he’s split out as a wide receiver or if he’s in line blocking or moving him around, Mike fits that profile. He was an early commit to us. He was part of the interesting Irish Mob, if you will, this year, which was taking its own life form online and through Twitter and Facebook, and he was one of those guys recruiting other players in this class. And I think that’s a great thing. That says a lot about what he feels about Notre Dame and the kind of kids he wants in the class, and Mike was active in that. But he’s going to be a fine football player for us. He continues to develop at that position. We’ve got an outstanding one.
Torii Hunter, Jr. You know, I think what stands out with Torii, first of all, is he comes from a great family, and you probably know his dad plays with the Tigers now, a long time Golden Glove winner for the Angels and the Twins. He comes from a great family and a committed family, and when I say committed, not only to his education but to being the very best. I’ll give you an example: We were in Torii’s home just about a week ago, and as many of you know, he suffered a leg injury, and he’s already up moving around after two and a half weeks. The care and the commitment that he has, here’s a guy that’s only going to get better and physically develop. We think he’s got that burst, if you will, that ability to take it and go from anywhere on the field. We think he’s an inside guy that can really make a difference for us within our offensive structure and just a great family and a great young man.
Rashad Kinlaw: When we talk about Rashad, we just any obviously he played quarterback primarily, he got injured this year, but we love his size, his length, his athleticism. We think it’s an untapped resource for us in that we’re only going to get him better and better physically, and he has the speed, he has the ability to play the ball. We think he’s going to fit well at the cornerback position for us. He was somebody that we identified early in this process and felt like he would be a great addition to this class. We love the fact that he’s really embraced coming to Notre Dame. You know, the high school has not had a lot of students come in this area of the country, and to get him to come to Notre Dame says a lot about him, so we’re really excited about Rashad, too.
Cole Luke: When we talk about the depth across the board here, we’ve talked about Butler and Kinlaw, and now Cole Luke, another cornerback. You know, again, a state title. This guy plays on a championship football team. When you go around the high school and you go around the program, you can sense it and feel it. We’ve got a great relationship with Coach Belles, a former Notre Dame player here, and just a great fit. When Cole came up in the summer, recruited by virtually everybody in the country, I remember when we were talking about this, that he called and kind of had a soft commit. In other words, he called and said, I think I’m going to commit, but what I want to do is I want to be able to say that a couple of times and I want to see how it feels. So I think this was maybe on a Tuesday, and he said I’ll call you back on Saturday. So we’re waiting all week, how does it sound, Cole, sound good? Do you like saying that you’re committed to Notre Dame? And finally he called us back a week later and said, “Coach, I’m all in.” My point being, here’s a kid who really thought about it.
All these kids gave a great thought about this commitment. That’s why when we talk about this class, it is a solid class because they took the time to make this decision. They weren’t pressured into making a decision. This was something that took a lot of thought, and we’re excited about having Cole.
Jake Matuska, again, when you talk about he led his team to a 13 1 record, another winner, another guy that can play in the profile that we have at the defensive line position for us but is also versatile enough that he can play on the other side of the ball. Our target is to play him on the defensive side of the ball. He’s going to physically get bigger and stronger. We just like his work ethic. We’re really excited about him as a person. He’s going to fit in well here at Notre Dame, and another young man that really adds to the depth that we’re looking for in our program.
Mike McGlinchey: Mike is another young man that as he continues to grow, we worry that Mike Brey is going to take him from us. He could be 6’11” here soon, but he’s another young man that has the athleticism to play the tackle position, but he’s athletic enough that he’s played tight end. We were really impressed with the way he played basketball. He was a ferocious competitor, ran well, and is somebody that is going to continue to get stronger physically. But he comes from a great high school, William Penn Charter School, just a perfect fit for us at Notre Dame, and again, on the offensive line gives us that long reach guy that can play the tackle position for us.
Colin McGovern: Colin out of Lincolnway West here, and to have linemen from the Midwest is something that we always look for. It would be nice to get somebody every year from this area. Colin is more than just a player from the Midwest; he’s a physical, strong guy that can play inside for us, and really felt early on in this process when we watched him compete, and again, here’s another guy that came up to camp, and we got a chance to see him in person, and that makes such a big difference to us. He’ll be a nice player for us working inside out.
John Montelus: Another offensive lineman from Everett, Massachusetts, comes from another great program. Everett High School is probably the preeminent high school team in the state of Massachusetts. 6’5″, 305 pounds, and he looks we had a picture of the five offensive linemen together, and I remember just kind of kiddingly looking at John, and John is probably not 6’5″, but he’s well over 6’3″, and he looks short compared to everybody else in that offensive line class. But he’s not short on physical play. He will knock you out. He gets off the ball, he’s physical at the point of attack. He played a lot of tackle. We see him moving inside for us. But again, just his personality, his makeup, his family. I see it from my guys are out there finding the talent, and then I get a chance to spend a lot of time with the families, and single mom who’s raised John, it’s just a great story in terms of the success, coming from Haiti and now getting an opportunity to be successful here at Notre Dame.
James Onwualu, another one of our mid year enrollees, part of the original Irish Mob. He, too, was instrumental in helping put together our class. He was always somebody that we could count on to make a call or be up for a recruiting visit. This is a very talented player, very talented. If you watch him work out I know Coach Longo has got our guys in there already really love his athletic ability. Versatile player, he’s going to be on the offensive side of the ball, but if we ever got into a bind he certainly could play defense, as well. But great attitude, just high energy, first student to ever graduate early at Cretin Derham High School. That’s pretty big for that school. Again, just another great fit for us.
Doug Randolph: Another great program at Woodberry Forest. Dual athlete, excellent lacrosse player, played basketball, can do a number of different things. He’s somebody that’s long at 6’3″, very versatile, can stand up or put his hand down, he gives us that kind of flexibility at that position. Great student, great family.
I know I sound I keep saying the same things, but they’re true. I mean, these are really this is why you’re at Notre Dame. You get a chance to coach these kinds of kids, and he’s a terrific young man. He’s going to be a nice football player for us, as well.
Max Redfield from Mission Viejo: Bob Johnson is his coach, and Bob has done an incredible job over the years of turning out elite players, and we think Max is an elite player. He’s a young man that has a specific skill set that could see him play offense, he could play defense, he’s going to play in that safety position for us, and we think he’s a young man that can come in and compete. He’s got all the athletic ability, and he’s a very smart young man.
I remember when he decided to come to Notre Dame and made that decision, it was a fairly lengthy process where he wanted to really take time to make the right decision. But those are the kind of kids we’re not getting these quick knee jerk reaction kind of decisions, these are kids that really took their time to make the right decision. Max is a great young man, great family, and a really good player.
Corey Robinson out of San Antonio Christian: I think what really impressed us about Corey is that he’s just beginning to blossom. He’s just started to take hold in this game of football. As you know, the Robinson name, pretty familiar. His dad obviously is a great parent and mentor, but he also probably had a little basketball for his sons growing up, and I think that transition out of basketball and focusing on football has given him now this opportunity to continue to grow as a football player. So we think we’ve got a guy early on that has not even come close to tapping his potential. 6’5″ plus receiver, and again, I love the fact that he’s a guy that will come up and get the football. Strong hands, and he runs surprisingly at 6’5″, 6’6″, he runs very well. So we’re really excited about Corey. He, too, is a mid year enrollee for us and doing quite well.
Isaac Rochell: Another state champion, Eagles Landing Christian High School. I got a chance to spend some time in the high school, and you could just sense the discipline and the faith, and the way the football program is run, it’s a great fit, Isaac coming here to Notre Dame. I think Isaac is a guy that didn’t play in lot of the postseason games and didn’t get a ton of exposure. He’s a fine football player. I mean, we’re really excited as a staff to have Isaac Rochell. He’s going to play on the defensive line, and he’s going to impact this program. I think he’s got a huge upside, and we’re really excited about getting a player of this caliber here to Notre Dame.
Jaylon Smith out of Bishop Luers: Again, the 2012 Butkus Award winner. We could list all of these things, but the thing that’s most impressive is the character of this young man and his energy. He just has it. When he walks into a room, the room kind of lightens up, and that’s the kind of personality that he is, and he is one tough football player, as well. He’s got all the things that you’re looking for, that quickness, that ability to strike. He can play any position really. Great running back, as well. He’ll play on the defensive side of the ball, and he’s somebody that has great versatility. But he’s also going to be a great leader here, and I see great things for Jaylon Smith.
Durham Smythe out of Belton: Another tight end that we really believe fits the style of the offense that we run. He hasn’t even tapped his potential at 6’5″, 230, and he’s 230 right now. He’s going to be obviously a big, physical player for us but has the soft hands and the ability to get out and run routes. We’re excited about Durham coming in later in the process, but getting a chance to meet his family and spending time, it’s a great fit. Durham, he grew up as a Notre Dame fan. Obviously being close to Austin, Texas, they have a pretty large following in that area, but he had always been somebody that looked at Notre Dame carefully, and now given that opportunity, we were able to get him signed and here on campus. Durham Smythe will be another one of those tight ends that will really, really do well here.
Malik Zaire: Malik is an early enrollee, as well. I think what I loved about Malik is when he came up here last spring, he sat in our quarterback meeting room, and in that meeting room you’ve got some really good quarterbacks. When he left that meeting, he made it clear to me that this was the place he wanted to be. He loved the environment, he loved the coaching, he loved the opportunity to come in and run the offense, and that’s looking at great competition and saying, I don’t care about that, I’m going to come to Notre Dame because it’s the right place for me academically, and it’s the right place for me because I’m going to be the starter here at Notre Dame, and we love those kind of guys that have that attitude. Malik has obviously showed himself at that high level in camps that he went out and really excelled in. He can throw it, he can run it, he’s got great versatility at the quarterback position, and he’s a really, really smart kid.
That wraps up our signing class. We feel like there’s still some work to be done. The day is not over yet. Stay tuned. But those are the letters of intent that have been certified by Jen Vining Smith in our compliance office. That was a plug for Jen Vining Smith.
With that, I’ll open it up to any questions.
Q. Do you see Corey Robinson maybe making a move to tight end later?
Brian Kelly: You know, it’s hard to say right now. I love the fact that he’s long and would be a hard match up at the wide receiver position. I don’t think we go into his career here thinking that he’s going to move to tight end. I think we go in thinking that he’s going to be that big wide receiver that makes it real difficult to cover, particularly in a short field.
Q. (No microphone.)
Brian Kelly: Well, because I think we eliminated confusion when we went back into the homes and all of our coaches were talking and were clear with why they were coming to Notre Dame. And I would say that that’s the premise. These decisions were not based upon Notre Dame has a stadium that seats 81,000 and plays on TV. These decisions were made based upon our distinctions at Notre Dame, a faith based education, a community, obviously the high academic standards, and now their belief, as well, not just my belief or my staff’s belief, but their belief that Notre Dame can play for a championship. So when you have both of those together, meaning a core for making your decision and then having the belief that the football team is really going to compete for championships, it’s going to keep them together. And I would say one last thing would be that we had a number of kids in this class that recruited each other and were coming for the same reasons, and they were communicating that to each other, and so that’s what made this class such a strong class.
Q. Considering some of the volatility at this time last year with how recruiting ended, how do you think you’ve made improved or changed your big picture approach to recruiting this year, and what kind of impact do you think that had on where you are today?
Brian Kelly: I think if you look at last year and the situation that we had at the very end, those can be avoided sometimes by not recruiting somebody. But I don’t think we’re ever going to get to a position where when it comes down to making the decision with an 18 year old that once in a while those things occur. We don’t want them to occur. I think what we did this year is that we made sure where that commitment was. In other words, if you’re committed, that means you’ve ended this recruiting process. And I think in some instances, being firmer toward that end allowed this not to take shape. Now, I’m going to tell you, these are young guys. Things happen every year, and I think you have to be prepared for that, too.
Q. This is probably more of a question for the next cycle, but did anything that happened in the Alabama game inform how you maybe want to adjust things next year or what you need to recruit or what kind of kids you need to recruit?
Brian Kelly: No. I know that it’s easy to say when you look at the game that there are coaching things that we’re going to do better, but our players are going to continue to close that gap, even if it’s a little bit, through this recruiting process. I don’t think we went into this and said, well, we know Alabama looks like this, we’ve got to change what we do. I think we’re just three years into this, and I think we continue to close the gap.
So to answer your question, I don’t think the Alabama game did anything in our minds to change the way we recruit other than continue to recruit at the highest level.
Q. Greg Bryant, a kid that you were involved with early, committed to Oklahoma and now he’s jumping on board. Can you talk about the job the staff did on him and how much of an impact do you think the season had on a kid like that and how important is it to get kids that are going to make decisions on winning in addition to some of the other things that Notre Dame offers?
Brian Kelly: I think it’s crucial. I think you have to have both to be able to get the players like a Greg Bryant. It can’t just be on academics. We don’t want them coming to Notre Dame just because of academics. We want the whole piece. And this was an indication that 12 wins definitely helps you in that process with a Greg Bryant.
You know, we had 19 committed before the season started, and the guys that we got late, I think winning definitely had something to do with that.
Q. With Jaylon Smith, you talked about how he is a kid that helped recruit the other kids in the class and so forth. Do you see him being at a young age a guy that can be a leader on the field for you?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I think leadership takes different forms, and he can be a leader just by his own actions, the way he handles himself. He’ll look you in the eye. I think those are all leadership qualities, as well. Do I think he’s going to come in and be the vocal leader like Manti was on the field? No, I don’t think so. But his actions and the way that he prepares himself and the way he plays the game, I think a lot of people will want to model after him.
Q. What have you learned from having guys of that caliber before that will help you with the expectations that are going to surround this guy?
Brian Kelly: Well, I think when you’re winning and you get those kind of players, it’s a burning desire to want to continue down that road. You know, what is acceptable versus unacceptable is a higher bar. Seven win seasons, six win seasons, unacceptable, eight win seasons. You keep moving the bar higher and higher and higher when you recruit these kind of young men in this class, and we think we’ve got that, where we’ll have an influx of players that will continue to push the entire program, and that’s why we’re excited about these kids.
Q. And you’re projecting him as a drop backer and you’ve got a guy that really made a lot of strides at that position this year in Danny Spond. Do you rotate those guys? Does Danny play somewhere else?
Brian Kelly: You know, one thing that we do a very good job is that we play a lot of guys, and we don’t just say there’s 11 guys. As you saw this year, we played a lot of guys. But I will tell you this: We’re also going to put the best 11 on the field. And if Danny Spond is the best 11, he’s playing. If Jaylon Smith is the best 11, he’s playing. We recognize the fact that everybody has a value to what we’re doing, but we’re also going to play the best players.
Q. As you go out and recruit, certainly when you first came here you were able to sell a lot of kids on opportunity: Hey, we need you, we need you to play early in your career. Now you seem to be getting more in a mode of you’re building depth. How do you sell elite prospects on the fact that they’re part of your depth?
Brian Kelly: Then they’re not elite players if they’re afraid of competition. Those that back off and say, well, you’ve got two of these guys and you’ve got three of those now, sometimes that makes a difference, granted; I understand that. But by and large, we’ve made the case in recruiting where we see you, and we’re honest with them. Here’s where we see you’re at and this is where you’re going to be, and if you do this, you’re going to get your playing time.
So I think from our end, the elite players have that confidence, that no matter who’s in front of me, I’m going to beat them out. And I mentioned that with Malik Zaire. Here’s a young man that if you look at the numbers, you go, whoa, there’s a lot of numbers at that position. This didn’t bother him one bit. He had the confidence in his ability, so I’m looking for those kind of guys.
Q. Do you see I know this is not something you can necessarily answer yet, but Nick Tausch as another option at punter behind Kyle Brindza?
Brian Kelly: Well, those are conversations that you mentioned relative to fifth years and such that we would have here in the next couple of weeks. He’s right now an option, but Kyle Brindza obviously is a strong option for us, as well, doing both, playing both positions.
Q. Sort of similar to Jaylon Smith being at the drop linebacker position, do you see Doug Randolph maybe exclusively at the hybrid position there, or could he even maybe move inside where there’s some need there?
KELLY: Yeah, I think we’re talking about 18 year old kids that I stood here before you last year with KeiVarae Russell, we didn’t think he was going to start at corner. As you know, we’re going to find a place to put the best players. He certainly has the size, the length, the ability to grow. He can play that position, there’s no question. We’ll see where it ends up with him. But I think we love the versatility that Doug Randolph gives us.
Q. And on that same note there, with the offensive linemen, it seems there’s a lot of height there, and tackle is going to be obviously a point of need there. Do you see somebody like Steve Elmer starting off at tackle?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, we think, generally speaking, McGlinchey and Elmer would be outside, and then you’ve got the three guys inside, McGovern, Montelus and Bivin. That’s how it looks right now. Hunter could play outside, as well. He’s got great flexibility in terms of being able to do both. We think we’re in a pretty good position where I think we’ve matched up those needs pretty well.
Q. You said you had a conversation last week with Tate Nichols?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, his medical situation, I don’t know if it’s been fully resolved, but he has injuries that may incapacitate him from playing. So whether we have that official documentation yet, I’m not sure we do. Do we, Jen, on Tate? Do we know anything? We do? So we’re close to being able to announce something on that pretty soon.
Q. The experts are saying this is your best recruiting class. Do you agree?
Brian Kelly: Absolutely. I love agreeing with experts. It’s a recruiting class that you know, when you’re looking at it from my perspective, it meets the time and place as to where we are right now. We’re a team that has gone from unranked to top ten ranking, top five ranking, at times we’re the No. 1 team in the country, and I think your class begins to reflect that as you move forward.
Secondly, I think as a staff, we feel it’s our best class because the recruiting process for us, there was a lot of clarity. Tim McDonnell did a great job of here’s our needs, here’s where we need to do, these are the kids that are going to fit what we’re looking for, and I think the coaches will probably tell you that there was a lot of familiarity with the process, in other words, recruiting here to Notre Dame. And it made it easier for us to sell our message about Notre Dame and certainly after this season.
Q. Talk about which few players you think are most likely to have an immediate impact.
Brian Kelly: Well, I think there was a lot of graduation, and sometimes when players leave before their time is completed here, the running back position would be one where there should be some young players competing there. The safety position, there should be some young guys competing at that. But every time that I make that call, it comes from somewhere else. And that’s the great thing about this class, that it wouldn’t surprise me but maybe for a couple of guys that are not maybe physically there yet, it wouldn’t surprise me if somebody popped at any one of those positions and showed themselves to be a guy ready to play this year.
Q. You talked about not having 85 scholarships last year. I don’t think Notre Dame had 85 for at least four or five years if not longer. Do you think you’ll be at it this year?
Brian Kelly: We’ll be at 85, yes.
Q. Is it just the depth that gives you a lot of more players on the team and all that sort of thing?
Brian Kelly: Absolutely. There are a number of times where we didn’t I didn’t feel comfortable going live against our defense. One time we had five offensive linemen from that period of the USC game until the Alabama game that could go out there and function with five offensive linemen. That impacts your program, I’m telling you. It impacts the way you practice. You don’t get a chance to tackle quite as much, and all those things begin to show themselves when you’re below the scholarship numbers.
Q. This relates a bit to your last answer. You mentioned targeting profiles before going across the board. It seems odd to suggest that after bringing five offensive linemen that you had so much attrition before this class. Do you have to target again the power position, the power profile, for this upcoming cycle?
Brian Kelly: Yeah. We’ve addressed probably we’re in the red line in terms of critical need. Next year it won’t be quite in the red line of critical need. It’ll move into still a need for us in our program is to continue to build on the O line.
Q. And kind of a philosophical question for you: I think our first meeting ever you talked about how big skill was always something you’ve recruited towards and you’d love to have 40 guys running around in that profile. Has it changed for you at Notre Dame because you are able to bring in athletes at power skill positions where they don’t have to move around as much?
Brian Kelly: No, we like that versatility still. If you look at a number of the defensive players, Jacob Matuska, Doug Randolph, heck, you could take three or four of the offensive linemen and they can play another position, as well. I think we’re still in that mode of recruiting that big skill player because he can fit so many roles that you have across the board.
Q. That 6’7″ range that you got this year, kind of ideal, and last year it was basically one. Is that kind of what you looked for in the class?
Brian Kelly: You know, I don’t know that we put a specific number on it. I still think we’re trying to recruit by position as best we can, so maybe the fairer answer is that big skill for us is a way for our end to have a little bit more flexibility when we’re recruiting you, you know what I mean, that you could be on either side of the ball.
Q. As the roster evolves, you talked about offensive line a little bit, but do you see any big areas of need for 2014?
Brian Kelly: I think one of them was mentioned. We’ll need to continue to recruit certainly there, but on the defensive line, as well. I think the O line and D line will be an area that we’ll continue to work towards. And then I think you look at who your guys are in ’13 to start to match your depth needs. But I still think this is going to be centered in 2014 on the O line and D line. Q. And then the rules changes, any thoughts on those?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I mean, clearly the texting and calling, that’s going to be a lot. It’s going to make recruiting even more intense because you have that access. You know, I’ve got mixed emotions about it. It cleans up a lot of the little problems that you may have in recruiting if you text at the wrong you shouldn’t have texted somebody or you picked up a call, whatever the case may be. I think it cleans up a lot of that. But I think there’s going to be a lot more on the plates of the student athletes, and I don’t know how good that is.
I think that’s the one that jumps out at me, and maybe now you can send anything relative to printed materials. I think that’s probably the most significant change that’s going to require a full time analysis of how you do your recruiting mailings now. It was pretty simple: Everybody was standard. Now you may have some schools sending out Fatheads and colored brochures. I don’t want to get into a marketing and promotions department; you know what I mean. So that’s probably one of the things that concerned us a little bit.
Q. Following up on that same line of thought, what effect does that have on your assistant coaches and how they balance being with the team here and how much time they have to spend texting and interacting with recruits?
Brian Kelly: That’s a good question. I think that the contact periods are still going to be the contact periods. Now we’re just talking about more contact. No, we’re talking about everybody that uses a smart phone, they may use it just a little bit more. I don’t think it’s going to be to the point where it’s going to distract our coaches. They’re pretty sharp. They know that recruiting time is recruiting time, and I think we make enough time for it. We’ll have to see how it goes. I’m really interested to see what kind of volume it’s going to put on the players and the student athletes and whether coaches have to restrict it a little bit. I think that’ll play out, though.
Q. You mentioned the marketing department. Some of the rules allowed for a non coach recruiting coordinator, and it seems like that could develop into sort of a recruiting staff. Is that something Notre Dame plans to look into?
Brian Kelly: I think all of it will be something that we look at and find out what’s the best way to put this together. You know, I think it’s going to require some time to think it through. We don’t want to be left behind on it, either. And we won’t be. We’re going to be at the front of all the new trends and opportunities to continue to build your program the right way. And so if it turns out that we’re going to have to go in that direction because of what’s happening, we’ll be ready for it. But I think we’ll need some time to digest it first before we make any decisions on it.
Q. Back to back years now, but with Gunner and Jaylon, bringing in the top guy in Indiana, with a program that recruits nationally and can get guys from different places, is that important to bring in local guys when they’re that highly rated?
Brian Kelly: I think it’s important that if there’s a player of that caliber, you need to recruit the heck out of them. We do. But we go into every state in the country, and we pull out one of their kids, if you will. You know what I mean? And it’s a dogfight. When you go down to Florida or you go to Texas or you go to California, I mean, you’ve got a fight on your hands. We would like to think if you came into Indiana for a great prospect you’d have a fight on your hands with Notre Dame, too.
Q. Last year you called Chris Brown sort of your sleeper pick or a guy that might be underrated. Do you have a guy like that in this class that you think of as that type of player?
Brian Kelly: I don’t know that I want to set that precedent, each year calling one of these guys out. I just think there’s some guys that are really going to show themselves that maybe don’t have the same regard as others more so. I think we’ve got a couple of those guys that and it happens every year. KeiVarae Russell, he didn’t have some of the same fanfare as some other guys, yet he plays the cornerback position.
I just think we’ve got a couple of guys, not just one, that are going to surprise, and I’m not going to give you one of them, because I think there’s three or four.
Q. Could you talk briefly about the impact that Bob Elliott had on this process and all the things he had to deal with heading into his surgery today?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, as you know, Bobby Elliott is having a kidney transplant today. He’s got a match in his sister. So that is ongoing. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bobby and his family. We know he’s going to be fine. He’s in great care.
You know, all year he administered self dialysis all year, and yet never missed a day, was out there coaching and working, and he’s just a great man. He’s got great experience. I love having him on the staff, and he’ll get through this. It’s a tough time right now for him, but I think you’re going to see him back. He’s a fighter, and I expect to see him back on the field in the spring.