One of the biggest questions when Brian Kelly was hired as the head coach of Notre Dame was whether or not he could recruit the blue-chip caliber players needed to compete at the highest level of college football.
Over the course of the eleven months or so Kelly and his staff have been on campus, those doubts have been quieted, with Kelly closing strong on the 2010 recruiting class, and the 2011 class jumping out to a staggeringly quick start.
Yet the recent decommitments of Clay Burton, Aaron Lynch, and Jordan Prestwood reignited some of those worries, with the Irish losing all three Florida commitments over the last few weeks as the first season of the Kelly era got stuck in neutral.
The decision of Clay Burton to accept Florida’s offer shouldn’t come as a surprise to Irish fans that pay close attention to recruiting, but the loss of Lynch and Prestwood, two top-end recruits at their perspective positions have gotten people worried. But defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin isn’t sweating it.
“The kids that are interested in Notre Dame right now and the kids that are thinking about coming to Notre Dame right now are some of the best kids in the country,” Martin said. “We’re going to get 20-to-22 of the better players in the country, and then we’re going to coach them up, and then we’re going to win with them.”
With the Irish sitting at 17 verbal commitments, it isn’t hard to deduct that the Irish are going to take aim at three to five more players to complete this recruiting class. We know one of them is quarterback Jacoby Brissett, a dual-threat QB with great size, is one of them, and he’ll be on campus this weekend to check out Notre Dame first hand. Other targets like Ishaq Williams and Christian French, two high-end athletes that’ll play on the edge of the defense, could make Irish fans forget about Lynch and Burton quickly.
Martin was also quick to shoot down any notion that Kelly’s previous track record at D-II, MAC and Big East schools won’t have him ready to recruit at Notre Dame.
“The theory that he hasn’t recruited at this level, to me, that’s so preposterous to me,” Martin said. “That really blows my mind.”
While this coaching staff’s past won’t make it too difficult to walk into high schools across the country, Martin acknowledged that combating negative recruiting is something they’ll have to be mindful of as they continue at Notre Dame.
“Somehow the kid has to sort it out and figure out what’s reality, which sometimes is hard,” Martin said. “You talk to parents and they’re so confused. I heard this and I heard this and I heard this. We’ve all got bad information that we’ve believed at some point in time.”
When you’re recruiting for Notre Dame, often times this, this, and this take on some pretty preposterous proportions. For Martin and the staff, it’ll be important to frame this season’s struggles in the right way, as the Irish have been forced to play through a myriad of issues. For the most part, the recruits have understood the process.
“I think most of them understand the first year, we’ve had some key injuries, new offense, new defense, and not necessarily not good enough personnel, but it’s maybe not in every spot the correct personnel,” Martin said. “For me we’ve just got to get back to the same old message and that usually calms them down. Yeah, that’s why I was interested in Notre Dame in the first place.”
With over three months to go until Signing Day, there’ll be plenty of time for Martin and company to not only combat some of the negative recruiting they’ve heard out there, but also to take aim at a few new athletes on their recruiting board and potentially bring a few others back into the fold. Unlike his predecessor, Brian Kelly’s made it clear that his coaching staff will take a different approach: Everyone — committed or uncommitted — will be recruited until Signing Day.