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Transition brings out the worst in recruiting

Jan 26, 2010, 7:30 AM EDT

The news of Blake Lueders and most likely Gio Bernard defecting was the last straw for many Irish fans. After watching Lueders and Bernard join Toney Hurd Jr. and Chris Martin, a vocal minority came to the tragic realization that Brian Kelly isn’t cut out to recruit at Notre Dame.

I’m here to tell you guys to pump the brakes…

It’s easy to understand the uneasiness that comes with this time of year. Combine last weekend’s news with the fact that Anthony Barr chose UCLA over the Irish and a
few other undecided recruits are potentially slipping away, and some Irish
fans are just begging for next Wednesday to get here all ready.

Transition is tough. For many of us, we’ve got no idea what the recruiting process is like for 17- and 18-year-old kids. Recruits like Chris Martin — a kid that got a scholarship offer from every school he ever wanted one from — spend over a year building a relationship with a coaching staff selling X. Then, with just over two months to go before he makes a binding decision, the guy he built a relationship with, the guy who made him believe that X was exactly what he needed gets cut loose, and the university brings in a guy who smartly starts selling O, because he’d be an idiot to promise the exact same thing as the guy who got fired for not getting it done with his recipe X for success. It’s common sense that someone like Chris Martin would be skittish to just assume a new coach, preaching a different message than the one he spent over a year believing to be true, would still be the right fit, even with the school and its identity never changing.

Xs and Os aside (both in our hypothetical and on the field), Brian Kelly won’t be judged on his recruiting ability until next year. If you look at Charlie Weis’ transitional class, there were key defections as well. While the Rivals and Scout database — not to mention my memory — don’t go back in enough details to remember the Davie/O’Leary/Willingham debacle, I’m sure Notre Dame lost a few recruits during that tumultuous time as well. 

There will be time for panic — and in recruiting, that time is now, regardless of the tenure of the head coach — but for now Irish fans need to relax and trust the process. Besides, for all the poking and prodding that comes along with a first recruiting class, it was actually Weis’ highly-touted second recruiting class that did him in.

  1. Jan - Jan 26, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    We’ll win some, we’ll lose some – just like every other university competing for the targeted student athletes. It ain’t over until the FAX is received, so stand by for news of comings and goings from programs everywhere. I’d rather get the “decommit” now than after a scholarship is allocated to someone who leaves after a short stay. More importantly, I’m not hearing about a surge of transfers AWAY from our program – to me that would be far more damaging and of greater concern.
    I don’t recall a January with so much excitement and interest for our football program. I remember essentially writing off Charlie’s first recruiting class and being grateful for news of any promising rising stars. The mood on campus right now must be sky high for not only football, but b-ball, hockey, and the other sports.
    I look forward to the final recruit “signed” list (I bet there will be some pleasant surprises for us), progress reports coming out of “Camp Kelly”, Spring Training, the ND players placement in the NFL Draft (one report projects Jimmy C going to the Colts and Golden going to the Jets – excellent teams for each of them!), and…….
    Jake kindly reminds me that it’s only 221 days before the Sep 4th game against Purdue.
    Life is good, don’t worry, be happy.

  2. TLNDMA - Jan 26, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    Martin was never coming, he was wavering before Weis was fired. Leuders is a big loss, because of the position he plays. Bernard not so much, for the same reason. Rumors say Hurd wasn’t really wanted by this regime.
    Again, big weekend coming up for recruits on campus. Last chance for the big sell. I think it’s a positive that so many are using the last weekend to look at ND. We’ll see.

  3. Jim Jolley - Jan 26, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    I’ve been a die-hard Notre Dame fan all my life and I don’t believe that us loosing recruits is a reflection on Brian Kelly as it is a response to Notre Dames football record and constant changing of coaches. When was the last time we finished in the top 10?? Get this program back in the top 10 consistently and the recruits will come look at Florida. By the way how many recruits bailed out on USC with the coaching change. The majority did’nt because they have been a winning football program. I’m excited to have Brian Kelly as our coach! WIN and the recruits will follow!
    GO IRISH!!

  4. Jan - Jan 26, 2010 at 9:08 PM

    Your point is right on – I agree that recruits changing their mind (at this point of the ND program) is much more a reflection of the amount of change and uncertainity within the ND football program since Lou Holtz left. In the business world this would have a similiar impact – undermining the perceived value of the “brand” and making it more difficult to attract desired talent into the organization. It takes time and many steps to reverse the trend/spiral.
    For a more eloquent treatment of the subject, I recommend reading the book “From Good to Great”.
    Analagous to a business turnaround, I contend that (despite the W-L record) Charlie made major strides in reversing the negative trend, notably by 1.) bringing in a solid foundation of talent, and 2.) by positioning the ND program as a rather unique opportunity for a student athlete, the combination of:
    compete at the highest level +
    unsurpassed media exposure +
    top notch education for life after football +
    be treated with integrity +
    develop transferrable skills for the “next level” +
    connections into the NFL if appropriate
    I’m NOT arrogantly saying that ND has a monopoly with any one of these factors – far from it. I do suggest that ND offers a rather unique combination of these six (and probably others that are very important and that I’ve missed).
    I’m optimistic that Coach Kelly will build on this progress and move the program into the top ten (or better) rankings consistently sooner than later. The recruits that see this will “buy into” the program; others we see a better match elsewhere.
    Meanwhile, I’m very happy that we’re not waiting to hear about NCAA decisions or sanctions regarding our program. Depending on the severity of these decisions, other universities could be experiencing widespread transfers of proven key players AWAY from their teams. That would be far more damaging than the “decommitment” of a number of promising recruits.

  5. Jake - Jan 27, 2010 at 7:56 AM

    Well speaking of USC’s upcoming grief with the NCAA I see Lane and Old Monte are not trying to keep a low profile. Already there are secondary rule violations being tossed around.
    Lane is arrogant enough to stand on the NCAA hornets nest and still kick it. Somehow I don’t think they will take that kindly.

  6. robertg - Jan 27, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    1. for the many reasons we have previously set forth in our posts, this transition is illegal and one of the worst disasters even to be inflicted on notre dame football.
    2. the good news is that kelly and his staff and the jerks that illegally fired charlie and his staff and illegally hired kelly and his staff of amateurs from gvsu will be driven away from notre dame by us in the civil courts well before the 2011 season ever begins and each of them will pay dearly in the civil courts for the economic and other damages that they have inflicted opon notre dame football and the university of notre dame.
    3. we fully understand the natural tendency of certain people to confuse attacks on persons currently within notre dame with attacks on notre dame itself, although we did not see many people joining with us to defend charlie and his staff and their families and notre dame’s student athletes from vicious and baseless media attacks.
    4. when a person or institution is infected with cancers, pretending that those cancers do not exist and trying to put a positive spin on the presence of the disease is actually the very worst thing that anyone can do.
    5. fortunately, we have the evidence and the skills and resources to drive the corrtuption out of college football in the civil courts and then to step in and fix the problems at notre dame.
    6. of course, many people will choose not to believe us until the deeds are done, but the same was true of our statements that we would force pete carroll and his staff to flee usc for the nfl.
    7. we did that way ahead of schedule, but there is still an awful lot of corruption to be driven out of college football all over the us before we get to notre dame.
    GO IRISH!!!

  7. Keith Arnold - Jan 27, 2010 at 6:38 PM

    Robert –
    There was nothing illegal about Charlie Weis’ firing. In fact, they had a clause in the contract called a “buy out” that was inserted just for that reason.
    Let’s try to keep on topic, instead of continuing the same rant with a different twist. I find it hard to believe that your legal threats were more of a driving force than the $7 million a year Pete Carroll got offered from the Seahawks.
    There are plenty of things that suck about college football. Get working on the BCS and/or the corruption in bowl games like the Fiesta Bowl.

  8. Jake - Jan 27, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    Keith, as I am sure you are aware, RobertG takes things like P.C’s advance to Seattle (for big bucks) as an opportunity to insist he was driven from USC. He attaches himself to issues like this in order to advance his own sense of importance. He had, has, and will never have any influence on College football. He takes an issue, puts his own delusional spin on it and thinks he can sell it as legitimate.
    Quite simply “that dog won’t hunt”.

  9. Sgt.Moon - Jan 27, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    Robertg, when (if) you were in law school, I am willing to bet that you set low personal standards and constantly failed to achieve them.

  10. Sgt.Moon - Jan 27, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    Robertg, when (if) you were in law school, I am willing to bet that you set low personal standards and constantly failed to achieve them.

  11. joe from Dublin - Jan 28, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    I am not so concerned with 4 or 5 star guys de-committing as I am with Kelly keeping the right kind of guys for this system. The best recruiting class of all time in college football was during Faust’s first year. Where did that get us? One of Weis’s best classes was the one that just graduated. Most of those guys did not pan out and the results were awful. A lot of these 4 or 5 star recruits are prima donnas who have the talent but not the work ethic. From what I have seen, this will not work in Kelly’s system which thrives on well conditioned athletes who can play at a high pace. With that said, I want Kelly to bring in 4 or 5 star recruits but only if they have the right attitude and fit for his system.

  12. Jan - Jan 29, 2010 at 7:39 PM

    Agreed….all 4 – 5 star “blue chip” recruits are NOT prima donnas. Case in point: Jimmy, Golden, Micheal F, Rudolph, Manti, to name a few and not meaning to leave anyone out. Great work ethic, play thru injuries, help bring in other top notch recruits, team focussed.

  13. NDIRISH4242 - Jan 29, 2010 at 10:49 PM

    Do you actually believe the crap that you write. What on gods green earth is illegal about firing a person that is consistently not performing in the job that they were hired to do. It’s nothing more than that period. Leave college football alone you obviously know nothing about it. Go do something useful like finding out who killed JFK.

  14. Terry - Jan 31, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    This just in!
    The key to solving the RobertG problem
    ignore him
    next question

  15. Terry again - Jan 31, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    With a team of 2 & 3 star recruits Coach Kelly coached Cincy to a 12-0 record and top 5 final ranking. Yes Cincy got blown out in the Sugar Bowl but that was to a team of vastly superior athletes and superior coaching. Coach Kelly got as much out of those kids as could be expected. His leaving the program before the Sugar Bowl was unfortunate but that’s just the nature of the beast.
    Let’s not forget that a 3 star recruit just won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore.
    It’s the coaching. Can Coach Kelly succeed at ND? I sure hope so. Bring on the boilermakers!

  16. agapn9 - Feb 1, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    Very enjoyable

  17. ourlady$ - Feb 2, 2010 at 8:30 AM

    I don’t care what kind of talent you get out of high school. Give me a bunch of no namers and have a leader that can put them together and become Championship team, I’ll take that anyday. Kelly is that kind of leader.
    Kelly does not want “know it alls” because that is all they are, character is what builds a team and it begins with players wanting to play for Notre Dame for the right reasons and to believe in what Notre Dame stands for and always has.
    Here Come the Irish!!!!!!

  18. springfield xd pistol - Feb 5, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    I am still a little bit perplexed on your blog in this case. Can you seriously believe that? I do not say you’re incorrect, but you’ll have to generate the most effective debate that will influence others of your argument.

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