More data to crush the Kelly RKGs recruiting myth


If it was still alive, the myth that Brian Kelly would shy away from highly-touted recruits to bring in the “right kind of guys” was given another beating yesterday when Tom Lemming unveiled his top 100 football players for the class of 2011.

Lemming, the godfather of modern recruitniks, released the first edition of the MaxPreps Top 100, which is filled with Notre Dame recruiting targets, and a trio of Irish commitments.

The highest committed Irish recruit is Oil City, PA tight end Ben Koyack, who comes in at number 53. Right behind him is Matt Hegarty, a left tackle out of Aztec, New Mexico ranked 55th in the country. Another tackle prospect, Plant City, Florida’s Jordan Prestwood rates 65th on Lemming’s list, giving the Irish three of Lemming’s top 100 prospects. Only LSU, Texas, and Alabama have more committed recruits than the Irish do right now, putting into perspective how well Kelly’s been able to do after getting an admittedly slow start to recruiting 2011 players this spring.

More importantly, the Irish are in the running for a large group of Lemming’s Top 100.

At quarterback, Kelly has offered the top five on Lemming’s board, with offers to Braxton Miller, Christian Lemay, Kiehl Frazier, Bubba Starling and Marquise Williams.

Even more impressive, here’s a look at the Top 25 players on Lemming’s big board, with respect to Notre Dame scholarship offers.

       3.   Cyrus Kouandjio — DE —  ND offer
       5.   Kenny Hilliard — RB — ND offer
       9.   Karlos Williams — DB — ND offer (Florida State commit)
      10.  Malcolm Brown — RB — ND offer
      11.  Jeoffrey Pagan — DE –ND offer (Florida commit)
      12.  Christian Lemay — QB — ND offer (Georgia commit)
      13.  Aaron Green — RB — ND offer
      14.  Ray Drew — DE — ND offer
      15.  Kiehl Frazier — QB — ND offer
      16.  Wayne Lyons — DB — ND offer
      17.  Jermauria Rasco — DE — ND offer
      20.  Antonio Richardson — OL — ND offer
      21.  Bubba Starling — QB — ND offer
      22.  Christian Westerman — OL — ND offer (Texas commit)
      25.  Marquise Williams — QB — ND offer

It’s incredibly rare to see Notre Dame on the offer lists of 15 of the top 25 recruits in the country, especially considering the challenges of getting players cleared academically. Even more interestingly, it could also signal a clear difference in Kelly’s recruiting philosophy from that of the previous regime.

Even with limited numbers available, Kelly and staff have already offered approximately 70 scholarships. If we do the math as it relates to scholarship limits, the Irish have at most a dozen scholarships remaining, making it clear that Kelly understands that it’s a numbers game first and foremost. For all the recruiting victories Charlie Weis had, he also got burnt after putting all his eggs in the baskets of a few key recruits, leaving no backup plan or leverage among recruits as the process went on. Weis’ clearly stated recruiting priorities were incredibly noble, but hinging your long-term roster balance on a 17-year-old’s definition of commitment is high-stakes gambling.

While recruiting rankings and reported offers leave much to be desired when it comes to vetting data, Kelly and recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin’s early offers continue to provide evidence that Notre Dame is more than willing to compete for the very best players in the country. 


Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame

Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.



Jaylon Smith goes to Dallas with 34th pick

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates by wearing the hat of team mascot, Lucky The Leprechaun, following their 42-30 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Jaylon Smith’s nightmare is over.

After watching his football life thrown into chaos with a career-altering knee injury, Smith came off the board after just two picks in the second round, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th pick. His selection ended the most challenging months of Smith’s young life, and come after cashing in a significant tax-free, loss-of-value insurance policy that’ll end up being just shy of a million dollars.

No, it’s not top-five money like Smith could’ve expected if he didn’t get hurt. But Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016.

And while there was a pre-draft fascination that focused on the doom and gloom more than the time-consuming recovery, it’s worth pointing out that Dallas’ medical evaluation comes from the source—literally. After all, it was the Cowboys team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery to repair Smith’s knee.

Smith joins Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys, arguably the two best position players in the draft. While he might not be available in 2016, Smith will be under the supervision of the Cowboys’ medical staff, paid a seven-figure salary to get healthy with the hopes that he’ll be back to his All-American self sooner than later, especially as the nerve in his knee returns to full functionality.

Will Fuller brings his game-changing skills to the Texans offense

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass before running into the endzone for a touchdown in the second quarter in front of Avonte Maddox #14 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

In all the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, one key tidbit linking Will Fuller to the Houston Texans never seemed to come up. The relationship between Brian Kelly and Bill O’Brien.

The two coaches share a high school alma mater, a friendship that made the due diligence on Notre Dame’s prolific playmaker easy. And it was clear that after all their research, Houston was aggressive in their pursuit of Fuller, trading up to make Notre Dame’s All-American the second receiver off the board, triggered a run at the position.

“He was a guy that we felt strongly about,” Texans general manager Rick Smith told the team’s official website. “We didn’t want to take a chance on not getting him. We were aggressive. We went and made the move.”

That move made Fuller’s decision to leave Notre Dame after three seasons a good one. While it’ll require the Irish to rebuild at a position where Fuller served as one of college football’s best home run hitters, it gives Houston a vertical threat that can extend the top of a defense for a Texans offense that was serious about finding some solutions for a team already in the playoff mix.

Yes, Fuller has work to do. Completing the easy catch is one big area. But for all the pre-draft talk about his limitations, Brian Kelly took on some of the criticism head-on when talking with the Texans’ media reporter.

“Some people have compared him to Teddy Ginn, that’s not fair. He can catch the ball vertically like nobody I’ve coached in 25 years,” Kelly said (a sentiment some hack also laid out). Teddy Ginn is a very good player, but this is a different kind of player. If you throw the ball deep, he’s going to catch the football.”

Fuller is never going to be the biggest receiver on the field. But while most of the banter on his game focused on the negative or his deep ball skills, expect Fuller to find a role not just running deep but unleashed in the screen game as well. After the Texans spent huge on quarterback Brock Osweiler and have invested in fellow Philadelphia native and 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong, Fuller wasn’t selected for the future but rather expected to be a day-one piece of the puzzle.

“This will change the speed on offense immediately,” Kelly said. “It was not ‘Hey, let’s wait a couple of years’. It was ‘Let’s go get this right now’ and I think Will will do that for them.”