Brian Kelly’s announcement that Mike Denbrock, Mike Elston and Chuck Martin were officially joining the Irish coaching staff was welcome relief to fans watching the ticking clock until National Signing Day.
Our friends over at Blue-Gray Sky do a nice job pointing out the specific quotes, which I’ll paraphrase here:
Denbrock: I’m already on the road. Checking on commits, and meeting some new targets. Expect me on the West Coast
Elston: Keep our commits, check on guys we chased at Cincy. Get to San Antonio and relock Blake Lueders.
Martin: I plan to challenge Abe Froman — and Ron Zook — for his title belt in Chicago, a city I plan to own.
While Pat makes the good point that it’s nice that Notre Dame is at least paying attention to the recruiting concerns many had during the transitional period, I’d argue that Kelly and the people in charge of vetting the potential assistants still aren’t working fast enough.
Looking back at Notre Dame’s last coaching transition, you’ll see that Charlie Weis, while still working as the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, had his first staff ready, assembled, signed, and announced before Kelly managed to get his first three outside hires in the door.
Getting it done fast certainly isn’t as important as getting it done right, but the fact that coaches like Bob Diaco and Kerry Cooks — who Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema confirmed was coming to Notre Dame — aren’t already out on the road and recruiting means that something is holding these announcements up.
I get that contracts need to be finalized and Cincinnati played a bowl game on January 1st, but red tape isn’t a valid excuse when opposing coaches are squiring your committed recruits.
Many Irish fans seem most concerned about Kelly and his staff being able to protect the recruiting class that Weis and company put together. But with just under a month to go, and a coach that was just named National Coach of the Year, the staff shouldn’t merely settle to keep the status quo.
(Right now, two of your biggest arch-rivals in recruiting, Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer, are at their most vulnerable. Carroll is staring down sanctions after the Trojans’ self-imposed slap on the wrist of the basketball team did little to call off the dogs. Meyer is pretending his family, faith and health come first while telling recruits he’ll be back and better than ever come August. Where is Kelly and the new staff to go after those committed recruits that had interest in Notre Dame before committing to those programs?)
In recruiting, perception is reality. While I’ve been willing to give Kelly a pass and trust his judgment as he assembles a staff built more on previous relationships than prestige, every day that Notre Dame has less than a full compliment of coaches is a day lost in the race to February 3rd’s recruiting deadline.