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. 


Restocking the roster: Running Backs

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame’s running back depth chart was tested to its max less than 10 minutes into the season opener. The projected two-deep, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, were both lost for the year—Bryant out of school as an academic and disciplinary casualty by the start of fall camp and Folston because of a knee injury suffered on his third carry of the season.

Welcome back to Notre Dame, Autry Denson.

The school’s all-time leading rusher in his first season as a running back coach had to be feeling a little woozy. He had a converted wide receiver taking featured-back carries and a true freshman a little over a year removed from his own major knee injury serving as his primary backup.

That the Irish had their most prolific running season under Brian Kelly says quite a bit about the job that Denson did. It’s also a credit to the offensive line blocking, the adjusted scheme that also protected two new starting quarterbacks, and the talent that remained at the position.

Spring presents new challenges. Tarean Folston should be a little over seven months removed from ACL surgery, making him doubtful to do anything more than wear a red jersey. With C.J. Prosise‘s departure, Adams goes from record-setting rookie to spring starter, with Williams likely carrying a large load as well.

Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh arrive this summer, reinforcements on the way. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the pre-spring roster at running back.


C.J. Prosise (156 carries 1,032 yards, 11 TDs)
Greg Bryant (lost preseason 2015)


Josh Adams (117 carries, 835 yards, 6 TDs)
Dexter Williams (21 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs)
Tony Jones Jr.
Deon McIntosh 


Tarean Folston,* Sr.
Josh Adams, Soph.
Dexter Williams, Soph.
Justin Brent,* Junior

*Additional year of eligibility remaining.


ANALYSIS: This might be a position battle deferred to fall camp, especially if Folston is still in recovery mode. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to rush back from an ACL tear for 15 practices, so while the rising senior may be chomping at the bit to return, it’s better to save it until August.

Folston will likely be the team’s most versatile back, but keeping Adams off the field will be a hard chore. His breakaway speed was on display multiple times in 2015, with his record-setting run against Wake Forest the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Adams also likely added some mass and physicality to his game in the offseason weigh-training program, giving the Irish someone capable of hitting the big play and also moving the sticks in short yardage situations.

The staff believes that Dexter Williams is a talented back, so with three solid contributors on the roster before Jones or McIntosh hit campus, it’ll be fun to see how snaps get sorted. (From that perspective, you can only wonder how they’d have dealt with the champagne problem of having Prosise around…) Justin Brent remains an option as well, though the attrition from the receiving corps makes you think he’ll be back at receiver.

The wildcard in all of this is Folston. He’s a unique talent with natural ability you just can’t teach. If he’s fully recovered and ready to engage in a position battle, there won’t likely be a drop off even with the early departure of Prosise.


Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.


WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president


On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.


Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)