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Turner’s pledge to Irish continues commitment to secondary

Jun 27, 2011, 3:01 PM EDT

Chinedum Ndukwe

It turns out it didn’t take a few weeks to make a college decision. Over the weekend, just days after earning his way to a scholarship offer, John Turner pulled the trigger, committing to Notre Dame.

“It was just a perfect fit,” Turner told the South Bend Tribune. “Every time I came up I fell in love with it again. The academics, the people there, the coaches, just everything. I loved it.”

Turner is the eleventh commitment to the Irish, and the 6-foot-2, 200-pound safety adds another physical presence to the secondary’s depth chart. After spending last recruiting cycle making a commitment to the physicality and size of the front-seven, the Irish recruiting efforts seem to have been focused on replentishing the secondary, with Nicky Baratti, Ronald Darby, CJ Prosise, and Tee Shepard already committed to play for Chuck Martin and Kerry Cooks.

The Irish are in need of reinforcements, with Gary Gray, Robert Blanton and Harrison Smith all in their final seasons of eligibility. And while Turner’s commitment might not have resonated on the national scale, he fits the prototype of what Brian Kelly and his staff are looking for in a safety.

We’ve spent a lot of time pointing out the height/weight specs of defensive ends and outside linebackers in Brian Kelly’s system, but Kelly seems to be revealing the archetype of what he’s looking for in defensive backs as well.

Until last season, the Irish defense was plagued by mediocre secondary play. Either a step slow or underwhelming physically, Notre Dame was often “out-athleted” by opposing offenses, and the results were often painfully obvious.

Under Charlie Weis, the Irish rarely picked up players of Turner’s physical profile. If you’re looking for safeties that were at least 6-foot-2 and 200-pounds, you can only find four — David Bruton, Harrison Smith, Zeke Motta and Danny McCarthy. Motta had a breakout season last year, thrust into action after injuries depleted the depth chart. McCarthy has been plagued by injuries throughout the beginning of his career, but like his brother has the chance to be a great late bloomer. David Bruton, when he’s not substitute teaching, is an NFL safety for the Broncos. Harrison Smith is on the way.

(Interestingly, Chinedum Ndukwe is the perfect example of why finding prototype athletes at safety is such a good way to go. Whether he was on campus as a linebacker, wide receiver, or safety, his speed and athleticism is what got him on the field, and player development is what turned him into a tenured NFL safety.)

In many ways, Turner embodies the type of player Kelly is targeting. A physically impressive safety that just proved to the staff that he has the speed and skillset needed to play at a high level. At safety, all three of the players Notre Dame has received commitments from are 6-foot-2 and at least 190-pounds, revealing that the Irish understand the need to bring in physical players that can both cover space and play physically at the point of attack.

We won’t know how good Turner, Baratti, or Prosise truly are until they get to campus, but as we saw last year, there’s a plan in place. Once you look at the details, you realize there’s a bit of architecture when it comes to Brian Kelly’s plan. More often than not, that’s a very good thing.

  1. nudeman - Jun 27, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    Every day I read something that impresses me more about Kelly and his approach. Admittedly, virtually all recruits sound great in a write up like this. But to realize just how poor the schematic design guy was in his approach to building a team, go look at last year’s ND-Michigan game. Denard Robinson ran all over the field, at will, blowing through huge holes the line created then easily outracing the secondary for huge gains.

    That was a “wow” moment for me when I realized that the roster, which was about 99% Weis’s creation, was just not worth a sh**. The fact that Kelly got as much out of that team last year and closed as strongly as he did tells me the times are changing in South Bend.

  2. smurphdoggy29 - Jun 27, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Nudeman I couldn’t agree more, every day I read something that impresses me more and more about Coach Kelly and his approach. The fact he has a foundation, structure, and blue print for what he wants to do speaks volumes. If he is to succeed, or fail, Coach Kelly knows he gave his best effort. Because of the System or “architecture” he has put into place. Organization within an organization is critical, and Coach Kelly knows the players that fit his mold. His mold will win or lose for him, so he has shown his dedication to trying to succeed again and again through this repetitive approach !! God Speed Coach and all the best !! As for the Front Butt he had no foundation nor infrastructure. Now if this was due to his being hired from the NFL to College or not holds no bearing. If you have a clear vision, a plan to implement it, and purpose of mind it will show in the results. Clearly Weis was unprepared to succeed.

    Coach Kelly’s commitment to coaching “up” players and player development is what salvaged the season for the team last season. He put them in the best position they could hope for, with enough gas in the tank, and allowed them to perform at their optimum, they then showed a LOT of character by producing as best they could. Those players from last year should be congratulated for giving their best to Coached that put them in positions to produce.

    The times are a changing by the river they call South Bend, and here’s hoping they continue on the up swing !

  3. nudeman - Jun 27, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    I love the name “Front Butt”. Fits him perfectly. He was the only guy I’ve ever seen who had the stomach procedure done then GAINED weight.

    Here’s the deal on him (my take, anyway): I remember reading Swarbrick talking when he finally shot him about his genuine affection for Weis; and how he was a much different guy than people perceived. I don’t doubt that. Probably a good family man and all that. And I believe he has a daughter who’s handicapped in some way and he’s very committed to her.

    But as a football coach, he struck me as a Parcells wannabe. Tough, take no sh**, my way or the highway. The New Jersey BS. That just doesn’t work in college when so much of your success is based on what happens in living rooms with parents of kids you’re trying to recruit. Front Butt had a disdain for the whole process and probably thought it was beneath him to have to beg someone to play for the great Charlie Weis. Could you imagine him staying after Tuitt and bringing him back into the ND fold like Kelly did?

    He clearly had no clue as to how to build a roster or coach a team. I don’t miss him.

  4. 1historian - Jun 27, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    Charlie Weis was and remains a good person. He was a good recruiter, not great. There were some serious studs at ND when BK arrived – Manti Teo and Kyle Rudolph come to mind. But Weis was NOT a college football coach – he didn’t really have a clue. When the administration gave him that monster contract halfway through his first season it was a stupid move on their part. No other word for it – stupid. I don[t know why some people continue to love/need to dump on him nor do I care.

    Now we have BK at the helm. He IS a college football coach – that’s all he’s ever been and that’s all he wants to be. (we hope for the next 15 years or so) Last season was just the beginning. His first recruiting class has us all anxious for the beginning of this season and for the season of 2012. He has shown that he is good at many things and in this case he is terrific at taking 3 star kids and coaching them up. The future looks bright ahead.

    This kid Turner looks like a Notre Dame man.

  5. jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 27, 2011 at 8:04 PM

    I agree with mostly everything said above about Weis……except for the ad hominem attacks. There is plenty of ammo there to attack his coaching style, lack of player development and arrogance without having to resort to name-calling or personal attacks about his weight issue. Please leave the fat bastard alone.

  6. nudeman - Jun 27, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    ihistorian,

    Not to pick nits, but I do not think Weis was even a “good” recruiter. Every class he’d land a couple real blue chippers like Clausen, Crist, Teo, Rudolph, Tate, Floyd and maybe a couple others not coming to mind right now. He pretty much ignored defense (except for Teo) and absolutely ignored the bedrock of any football team, the OL and DL which was stocked with middle of the road players. Remember Clausen getting absolutely KILLED during his first year? Weis thought he was SO smart he could outscheme everyone. Wasn’t even able to outscheme Syracuse, Navy or Northwestern.

    That’s what’s so impressive about Kelly. I can’t think of a single area he’s ignored, and he sure as hell hasn’t ignored the OL & DL. And I’d say if there is an area that is lighter than the others, he’s aware of it and will make up for it by coaching and recruiting in subsequent years.

  7. alsatiannd - Jun 28, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    This isn’t a dump on Weis, but if Kelly continues on his current trajectory, the entire ND administration should learn a lesson about the value of merit from the Weis-Kelly era. I always got the impression that Weis’s original hiring and his huge contract renewal had no small basis in the fact that he was an ND-guy; a good alum to carry on the traditions and legacy of ND. Didn’t work out so well. Then there’s Kelly, with no prior connection to the university, but a solid track record of achievement and moving up through the ranks based on his proven success; merit. The entire ND community will always be better, always improving whenever it takes this lesson–that merit should trump legacy–to heart.

  8. 1historian - Jun 28, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    Did Weis’ being an ND guy have anything to do with his hiring? I have no idea.
    Do I care? No.

    All I am saying is this – Weis is gone. Last year Kelly came in and after a rough start ND won their last 4 games including breaking the USC streak. Most of the players from last year’s team were Weis recruits. (Weis was a GOOD recruiter – not great.) ND is back – not NC back yet but BACK.

    No purpose is served by calling Weis ‘the fat bastard’. It’s not funny and it’s nothing more than a cheap shot at someone who is long gone.

    • nudeman - Jun 28, 2011 at 12:30 PM

      1historian, relax. This is a blog, people say edgey things for entertainment value mostly. I see no maliciousness or hatred going on.

      However, I will say this: Weis brings a lot of this on himself with his bravado, schematic advantage, etc etc. I have acknowledged he is probably a very good human being (husband, father, etc), but was a lousy coach from almost every perspective. Recruiting: Had 4-5 blue chippers, and otherwise a team full of guys, especially on the OL and DL who should have been playing in the Mid America Conference. Conditioning: They were routinely beaten badly and lost games in the 4th quarter to the likes of Navy, Syracuse and Connecticut. Game Planning: There was absolutely NO schematic advantage. None.

      In some ways I feel very badly for him because he TRULY loved ND, had tremendous success in the NFL and thought that would easily translate. He must have been crushed emotionally when things crumbled, and I know his son took a ton of flak, which is totally unfair. I bet in a quiet moment he’d admit that he underestimated the task of being a major college head coach.

      Hey, he tried and it didn’t work out. I wish him the best.

      • 1historian - Jun 28, 2011 at 2:39 PM

        nudeman – (nice handle) You call calling Weis ‘the fat bastard’ edgy. I call it a cheap shot. I don’t think someone who likes to think of himself as a ‘Notre Dame man’ would use language like that.

        Ergo – We agree to disagree. I’m very relaxed and I thank you for your concern.

    • nudeman - Jun 28, 2011 at 3:04 PM

      1historian,
      I did not call Weis “the fat bastard”; or ANY name for that matter. And I’ve gone to lengths to acknowledge he’s a good person.

      But I have no problem with name calling here, frankly. It’s a BLOG, not The Congressional Record.

      And you have to admit, Charlie could stand to mix in a salad now and then.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:19 PM

      Hey 1historian, it was just a joke calling Charlie a fat bastard. You see, it was ironic that I started out with a plea against ad hominem attacks and then I zinged him with, oh forget it. Nudeman, thanks for having my back on this issue, although I am a little uneasy that “nudeman” has my back. For the record, everything I have seen about Weis leads me to believe that he is a good person, family man, etc. Hey, he’s from Jersey so he can’t be that bad of a guy.

      • nudeman - Jul 6, 2011 at 10:40 AM

        jerseyshore, No prob. The nudeman will always be there bring up the/your rear. And don’t worry; as I sit here right now I’m fully clothed and ticking off the minutes until the ND opener.

        I’ve said all there is to say on Weis. Let’s move on. The Kelly era is here. Can’t wait to see some of these guys like Tuitt, Ishaq, Lynch and others suit up and play. Feeling good about the Irish

  9. bryanwtx - Jun 28, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    Oh great, who invited the NDNation mob to this civilized blog?

    I love Kelly and think he will be great, but let’s calm down about the comparisons to Weis after one season. Weis went to 2 BCS bowls, had his team ranked as high as #2, and recruited some of the most talented and prolific players in ND history (Clausen, Rudolph, Te’o, Floyd, Tate). I’m not arguing that he was a great college coach, because he clearly wasn’t. The defense never got close to where it should be. Still, is it necessary to bash him like this because our new coach went 8-4 with losses to Tulsa and Navy?

    I think Kelly is going to prove to be one of the greats at Notre Dame, but let’s put off the beatification until it happens, okay?

    • nudeman - Jun 28, 2011 at 3:01 PM

      No one is beatifying Kelly. He’s simply a breath of fresh air after the egomaniacal Weis, who never delivered. Did he recruit some good players? Yes, of course. I’ll give him that. But not nearly enough.

      My take on his recruiting is this: Coming off 3 SBs with the Pats, he thought he was so brilliant that all he needed to do was get a handful of good skill players and he’d be all set. Building the ND defense was a necessary evil; and the OL didn’t need to be great because his schematic advantage would have the opposing team going the wrong way every play.

      Disagree? Name me one OL who Weis recruited who was drafted higher than the 5th round. The only guy I’m aware of who got drafted AT ALL was Sam Young, who I believe was 6th round. Young was a huge “get” as a recruit (maybe a 5 star guy) and is another sad example of a guy who never developed under Weis. He as “above average” at the very best.

  10. 1notredamefan - Jun 28, 2011 at 10:28 PM

    ok on to Fl state, http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/post/_/id/6711746/1-notre-dame-vs-4-fsu

  11. borromini - Jun 29, 2011 at 1:09 AM

    Off topic…but important. Time to vote for ND in the Semi-finals of ESPN’s The Best Tradition in CFB. We’re up against FSU and we’re getting shallacked early.

    LET’S GO…get your votes in.

    http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/post/_/id/6711746/1-notre-dame-vs-4-fsu

  12. paiten34 - Jun 29, 2011 at 5:18 AM

    Weis made lots of mistakes as head coach that Kelly is avoiding. Kelly has a trusted head of his defense while Weis had 4 different assistance in 5 years. Kelly is recruiting specific types of defensive players not random non-specific players.

    As Kelly said earlier this year “I can create offense with the players I have but I need to recruite defense to win.”

    If you look at the recruiting classes for Weis he had top recruites every year but most turned out to be disappointments. Weis only coached top players from his NFL days. For whatever reason Charlie never took a 3 star player and made him an all American. Kelly on the other hand has mostly made teams winners with non top flight talent. Now that Kelly has 4 and 5 star players I look forward to seeing what he can do with that talent.

    • nudeman - Jun 29, 2011 at 11:33 AM

      paiten34,

      Agree: Weis had top recruits every year. HOWEVER … there were never nearly enough. That seems to be stating the obvious, but I never remember Weis getting the depth that Kelly just got. One or two big names, then a bunch of Mid America quality guys. At the end of the day, I don’t think he left a very talented roster. A few standouts; nothing more. This is Notre Dame. You should be able to get “a few standouts” without even leaving the office.

      Agree: Weis never took a 3 star player and made him an All American. Clausen improved every year; maybe Samardzija too. But Quinn totally regressed. Others too.

      Weis stunk, plain and simple.

  13. oldestguard - Jun 29, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    Well put, Paiten34 !

  14. paiten34 - Jun 30, 2011 at 3:32 AM

    One other item the ND team under Kelly is doing is putting athletes on defense. When I played and now as a high school coach I always put my best athletes on defense. That’s what Kelly looks to be doing for ND. The front seven for the Irish is big and athletic. The secondary is getting faster and bigger. Did you know that power lifters run a faster first 10 yards than world class sprinters. The d line and linebackers are explosive for the first time at ND for a while. The speed that Kelly is putting in the secondary is impressive. You can’t coach speed or size. It’s just good to see that Kelly is recruiting both. I like that Kelly is willing to turn down players that don’t match the size and speed that he wants. He’s got a game plan and is sticking to it. GO IRISH!!!!!!!!

    • papadec - Jul 1, 2011 at 2:03 AM

      That’s the BIG difference between someone who has extensive experience recruiting and coaching successfully at the college level. Kelly already has HS coaching contacts & credibility as a head coach. I think paiten34 can speak to that better than I can. At 1/2 way through the MLB season – it’s almost game time.

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