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Friday notes: Martin, recruiting and more recruiting

Feb 4, 2011, 1:34 AM EDT


The dust has settled and hopefully an Irish coaching staff that traversed the country chasing down some of the top defensive recruits in the country gets some rest. (Not to mention a certain writer who has been having hand cramps since about noon on Wednesday.)

With no real football news to speak of, let’s go over some of the under-reported topics from a pretty incredible 23-man 2011 recruiting class.


Late Wednesday night, one of the guys from Irish Illustrated tweeted that Chuck Martin has to be one of the best coaches in America to have a beer with. I can say that after having the chance to have one or two with him back during the Notre Dame Fantasy Camp last summer, he’s definitely at the top of my list.

After head coach Brian Kelly spoke to the assembled media and a few thousand people watching the live-streaming broadcast at, Martin gave one of the better off-the-cuff press sessions you’ll ever want to see, including some incredible insight on how the Irish swung Stephon Tuitt back into Notre Dame’s corner after an 11th hour switch.

In a shrewd recruiting move, the Irish coaching staff, even though Tuitt had technically been  committed to Notre Dame for quite some time, saved their head coaching visit to Tuitt’s home for as late in the process as possible, as they knew an elite recruit like Tuitt from a hyper-competitive area like Georgia, would need to be recruited until the very end.

“One of the best things we did with Tuitt is that we still had our boss’s visit,” Martin said. “It was planned. We talked about it. This is not over. This one’s going to go. We can say he’s committed all we want. We knew there was going to come a time whether he was recommitted or very gray, we had it scheduled for the last week like the last Thursday. It got accelerated a week because it happened that way. That changes [Kelly’s] week. Well, you’ve only got seven on the road, you’ve got 10 coaches. Once you change one guy’s, it’s like dominoes, everybody’s week changes.”

When Tuitt pulled the panic switch and changed his commitment, the Irish didn’t stick their tail behind their legs and get insulted that their prized defensive lineman wanted to stay home, they stayed mobile and sent down Kelly, who obviously must be one helluva closer.

As Tuitt recounted to Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated of that visit:

“What really shocked me was when he told me multiple times that if I was just some great player out there that everybody loved and everybody recruited, if I was just a good football player, that he never would have came,” Tuitt said. “He said the reason he came was that I’m a great football player, a great character person and to have both of those, to be able to handle myself in public and keep positive eyes on me, that was important. That’s like all the work I’ve been doing, not putting myself in the spotlight. I really appreciated that.”

That’s the type of experience 20 years as a head coach in college teaches you.


Probably one of the most interesting things Martin talked about was the recruit that got away, Oklahoma commit Bennett Okotcha, who pledged to the Irish after decommitting from Wisconsin, only to pick the Sooners on the final weekend of recruiting.

“A lot of people will say we’re not aggressive enough,” Martin said. “Well, some things that make sense, it still has to be right. You don’t want to twist a kid’s arm. If distance and weather are going to be an issue, you’re not going to have a good career here.”

Taking things away from Okotcha’s situation, Martin then spoke of the difficulties helping a player reach their full potential if they’re not happy at the school they’ve chosen.

“What happened to him when he got here? Well, he was miserable,” Martin continued. “Why did he never become the player we thought he was going to be? Well, because he was miserable. Then there’s another kid that no one thought was great that fits here and loves it here and is an overachiever and the next thing you know, he’s a second-round draft choice and everyone’s like, ‘How did that happen?’ Well, he was the right fit, right place, right time.”

The Irish could’ve definitely used another cornerback in the recruiting class and I was high on the type of athlete Okotcha was and the player he could’ve become. But as Rich Rodriguez can attest to, not every elite college athlete loves their school enough to play football over a thousand miles from home.


For those of you that follow the national rankings on things like recruiting, here’s how Notre Dame matched up:

MaxPreps/CBS Sports: #1 in country #7
Scout: #8
Rivals: #9
ESPN: #9
Sporting News: #11
ESPN: #9

  1. papadec - Feb 4, 2011 at 3:15 AM

    Any word on which of the 5th year guys are coming back? I thought that was going to be announced this past Wednesday. Does it mean there might be some other recruits yet to be had? I know there are some espn 150 recruits not signed.

    • borromini - Feb 4, 2011 at 1:43 PM

      None of the remaining ESNPU 150 are considering the Irish. If the final 5th year senior roster hasn’t been announced, I doubt it’s because of some remaining recruits.

      • bernhtp - Feb 5, 2011 at 11:59 AM

        It’s possible they still are recruiting a specialty player like a long snapper (we lost one to Ohio State) that wouldn’t show up in the ESPN 150.

  2. jerseyshorendfan1 - Feb 4, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    On average, the class looks to be around #7 or 8 in the nation, depending on who you listen to. I looked back over the Weis years and he had some real good classes as well, one of which was #5 in the nation. So, recruiting doesn’t automatically translate into domination on the field. It will come down to player development and Kelly’s ability with this class to plug some of the consistent recruiting voids that we saw with Weis and his predecessors (i.e. defensive front). He has shown his ability to coach up a bunch of 2-3 star players and get them to a BCS game. It will be interesting to see him do the same with 4-5 star players. That is why the future is bright in my estimation. Job well done by BK and his staff….now get some rest and get ready to watch some film on the recruits of the 2012 class.

  3. rcali - Feb 4, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    So nice to have a real, successful, college coach.

  4. nddc21 - Feb 5, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    Agree with the above– Charlie had some good classes too (especially at certain positions), but always left us with need somewhere (esp. defensive front 7). We’ll need to see over the years if Coach Kelly can fill holes with quality talent, as opposed to finding 5-star caliber only at certain positions the way Charlie did.
    Also, while I love the class this year, MaxPreps rating us #1? Hmm, there might be an alum somewhere on that staff.

    • borromini - Feb 6, 2011 at 12:14 PM

      It could be that MaxPreps places more emphasis on area of need rather than cumulative star points. If so, no one can question that ND’s DL was their weakest area and their DL haul in this class is tops in the nation.

  5. notredave - Feb 6, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    That D is gonna be BEAST!!!

  6. 1historian - Feb 8, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    Coach K took a team of 2 % 3 stars players to a 12-0 record and final #5. Yes they got blown out by Florida.

    Now he has a few 3 stars, a bunch of 4 stars & a few 5 stars coming to town. In addition he has kids from last year who have a year of his system under their belts and a lot of confidence stemming from a strong finish to the season.

    What’s not to like?

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