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Is Kelly collecting quarterbacks?

Jan 27, 2010, 1:00 PM EST

More than a few eyebrows were raised when Brian Kelly offered Cincinnati commitment Luke Massa a scholarship, just days after longtime recruit Andrew Hendrix spurned the Florida Gators in favor of the Irish. The fact that Kelly had already offered Colorado quarterback Danny Spond seemed logical, as Spond also profiled as a defensive prospect. But Massa was clearly a signal-caller, and the Irish already had Tommy Rees enrolled and Hendrix comfortably in the fold. Was Kelly hedging the Hendrix bet, not completely convinced that he was fully pledged to the Irish? Did he see something in Tommy Rees that made him think the Irish needed another quarterback? Did he think back to the five different quarterbacks he used last season at Cincinnati? 

Most people were willing to give Kelly the benefit of the doubt about his plan to infuse the roster with multiple quarterbacks in this recruiting class, especially with Dayne Crist the only scholarship player currently on the roster. But when news broke just days ago that Kelly offered Ohio native Derek Roback a scholarship — clearly the most prestigious of his mostly MAC conference offers — many were dumbfounded. What was Kelly going to do with all those quarterbacks?

As usual, Lou Somogyi of BlueandGold.com gives us what looks to be the answer:

The answer is two-fold. One, the current Irish roster has only one quarterback (2010 junior-to-be Dayne Crist)
on scholarship. Two, Kelly is confident about developing quarterbacks
into contributors at other positions. At Cincinnati, for example,
former Irish quarterback Demetrius Jones
(2006-07) made 36 tackles (five for loss) at linebacker this past
season — and Jones didn’t even take a snap for Kelly in 2008 when the
Bearcats used five different quarterbacks (although only three started).




“My model I’ve used at all the other schools is, ‘Maybe they don’t all
end up at quarterback. Maybe they can play another position,’ ” Kelly
said.

The last time the Irish signed more than three quarterback prospects in one class was 2000 with Matt LoVecchio, Carlyle Holiday, Jared Clark and Abram Elam.
As expected, Elam quickly shifted to safety, where he excelled before
getting expelled and later thriving in the NFL. Holiday became a wide
receiver/return man by his senior year (playing later in the NFL), and
Clark shifted to tight end a year earlier. LoVecchio starred as a
freshman in 2000 before losing his job to Holiday in 2001 and
eventually transferring to Indiana University.

As we’re reminded here, four quarterbacks became none in short order. While Elam didn’t realistically project as a quarterback, the three others did, and it was the ascent of Carlyle Holiday at quarterback that caused LoVecchio to flee and Clark to switch positions, which eventually put the Irish in a depth chart pinch, something nobody foresaw when the four signal-callers inked their letters-of-intent.  

Looking quickly at the quarterbacking prospects, it’s clear that both Spond and Roback are “big skill” athletes that Kelly has mentioned he targets as recruits. As high school football continues to evolve as a spread game where the quarterback becomes a much larger focal point of the offense athletically, it only makes sense to recruit those players and develop them into a football player that fits the team’s needs.

Interestingly, if Kelly was looking to add another quarterback to the fold, there were options other than Massa. ESPN’s Bruce Feldman chronicled the recruiting turmoil of Texas quarterback Matt Brown. Long committed to Arizona, Brown suddenly was thrown into limbo when offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes took the head coaching job at Louisiana Tech, and the Arizona staff left him uncontacted for the two days immediately following his official in-home visit with Dykes and coach Mike Stoops.

All of the coaches were calling. There were about three or four of them on the phones. We called the Utah Utes and they said they were really interested. They wanted to fly me out the next day for an official visit.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish
were interested, but they didn’t think they had enough room on their
roster. We just kept calling schools. East Carolina just called up to
say they were offering me, and TCU is saying how interested they were
in me. TCU just felt like a better fit.

 
That Kelly and staff weren’t sure they had room for a quarterback like Brown — with a recruiting profile and offers arguably better than Roback, Spond or Massa — points to the fact that the Irish are looking at collecting premiere athletes, regardless of what position they play. The fact that they can throw the football might simply be a bonus.

  1. willmose - Jan 27, 2010 at 9:39 PM

    It looks to me like Kelly is stockpiling good athletes. It is best sort of coaching wisdom. Give a good coach a rooster of great athletes and he’ll turn them into play makers. Kelly isn’t at Norte Dame to build a good football team. He’s there to build a premiere football program. That starts by getting as great athletes as you can. Kelly will figure out how to get them on the field together. Good recuiting isn’t about looking at slots to fill, it is about getting the best possible athletes.

  2. mike ford - Jan 27, 2010 at 10:18 PM

    Good read, Keith! From the different high school football games I’ve watched throughout time, It seems the quarterback position is held by the top athlete in most of the games I’ve watched with an exception for a few. I would think that as long as these guys are top quality athletes….Keep em coming

  3. tjlinko - Jan 28, 2010 at 2:22 AM

    Good athletes yes…but also SMART athletes. The QB is the most important position on the field — at least offensively, and tends to be occupied by the guys, not just with the best physical abilities, but perhaps as importantly, mental.
    And if you’ve got a smart football player you can always find a place for him, whether its a safety, a linebacker. People forget, it isn’t always the guy with the greatest speed or strength who makes the play, but the one who is able to read the offense, or read the defense, and react quickly.

  4. Jake - Jan 28, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    Good point. Fortunately ND’s academic standards apply for all and that helps cull the litter right off. This in contrast to many schools who have a double standard. One for regular students and a less vigorous version for athletes.

  5. TedLO - Jan 28, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    True, although I’m talking more about football acumen than academics. Sometimes the two are related, although as I recall way back in HS, our starting QB was no great shakes in the classroom, but could sure read a defense .

  6. Jeffry Hardges - Feb 14, 2010 at 4:50 AM

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