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Kelly stays on the West Coast as coaches hit the recruiting trail

Nov 28, 2011, 9:37 PM EDT

Arik Armstead

When the Irish loaded up and departed the San Francisco airport late Saturday night, head coach Brian Kelly stayed behind, swinging by some key West Coast spots before returning to his team later this week.

While the internet is abuzz with a full fledged quarterback controversy after Andrew Hendrix gave the offense a jolt in the second half against Stanford, the Irish coaching staff is combing the country, trying to lock down commitments for the 2012 recruiting class, while also making head way on the class of 2013 as well.

That’s life for a BCS football coach between now and a bowl game. While the rest of the world replays the disappointments from Saturday, Kelly and the rest of his coaching staff will scatter across the country keeping Irish commitments intact while trying to add other impact recruits into the fold.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the recruits getting an at-home visit:

Tee Shepard, CB (Commit): Shepard has had to sit out his senior season of high school football thanks to a transfer snafu. But the talented cornerback is still set to enroll a semester early, giving him a jump-start on the open competition at cornerback. According to Pete Sampson at, Kelly and West Coast recruiter Mike Denbrock visited the Shepard family, and everything is on target for Shepard to enroll early.

Arik Armstead, DL (Target): There’s no larger recruit left on the board for the Irish (maybe Zach Banner), with Armstead set to early enroll. Multiple sources are reporting that Kelly will have an in-home visit with Armstead, possibly as early as Monday night, where he’ll give one final sales pitch to the two-sport athlete that was once a USC commitment.

KeiVarae Russell, RB (Target): With Byron Marshall off the board and Keith Marshall down to the wire between Georgia, the Irish and a few other schools, Russell is a really important recruiting target and a guy that profiles perfectly for the Irish. He’ll likely be hearing from Kelly and Denbrock as well, but still has his hometown Huskies and other Pac-10 teams chasing him.

Davonte Neal, ATH (Target): A name that’s probably new to many recruitniks, but certainly not the coaching staff. Neal’s family shutdown the recruiting process during the season, but now that the Arizona native capped off his third straight state title, he’s got the Irish at the front of his list. Assistant coach Kerry Cooks was the first visitor the Neal family welcomed, and according to, Neal will make Notre Dame his first official visit, for the team’s award show and banquet on December 9.

Will Mahone, RB (Commit): According to his Twitter account, Mahone had a visit from offensive line coach and run game coordinator Ed Warinner this evening. Even more interesting, Mahone also said via Twitter that he’s expecting a visit from Brian Kelly on December 8. Kelly’s also set to be joined by running backs coach Tim Hinton, who’s had his name thrown around quite a bit today as a potential member of Urban Meyer’s first Ohio State staff.


That’s hardly the extent of recruiting visits, as the Irish have coaches canvassing the country, with staffers in Florida and working their way around the country while the Irish squad enjoys a brief break from football as they await their bowl destination.

  1. 9irish - Nov 29, 2011 at 2:33 AM

    yeah…now I feel better. Kinda like a punctured tire waiting for the AAA wrecker

  2. somebadhatharry - Nov 29, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    Time to focus on the back 7 on Defense and bring in some playmaking wide recievers…

    • daffyduck1 - Nov 29, 2011 at 8:37 PM

      SpeedSpeedSpeed…I wanna see everyone under 285lbs with 40 numbers of 4.6 or less…better 4.5 or less.
      Sometimes I think I have the slow motion function on when I watch reruns of the Irish…only to find that I don’t.
      NO more Sam Young type quickness!. Watch LSU? the Ducks? Alabama? You DO have to use that slow mo to get it all… For the last twenty years I’ve been watching the Irish get outrun and overrun at most positions. Speed

      • nudeman - Nov 30, 2011 at 12:46 PM

        I share your frustration on the speed thing. But that was Al Davis’s mantra the last 15 years of his life. And the Raiders have been for the most part terrible.
        How about placing a premium on fast guys who can play football?

  3. dapperdanirish - Nov 29, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Would it be inappropriate to write and send a simple postcard to recruits like Keith Marshall by finding the address of his high school and mailing it there? If not, wouldn’t that be a positive, powerful way to try to implore these blue chip recruits to take their talents to South Bend? The address is public info, postcard stamps are cheap, but the impact would be substantial if he heard from a fanbase desperate for high end talent. Certainly wouldn’t want to do anything wrong, but just thinking out loud of ways us fans can get more involved and help these guys know we want/need them at ND…thoughts?

    • tkleiber - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:31 AM

      Fan’s shouldn’t be involved in the recruiting process at all. They invariably make a mess of things, and probably do more harm than good. I appreciate your sentiments, and want ND to land the big names as much as you do, but its really just best to leave it to the professionals. I think Kelly and his staff has demonstrated an ability to land top recruits without a flood of postcards to help them.

    • nudeman - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:37 AM

      Appreciate the sentiment as well, but that’s about the tackiest suggestion I’ve ever heard.
      It really is.

      As for the recruits here, if they only get one of these guys I hope it’s Armstead.

    • Keith Arnold - Nov 29, 2011 at 1:15 PM

      Dapper Dan: Yes, it would be inappropriate. There are all sorts of problems with that idea, and I can only say that I highly recommend NOT doing that. If anybody that’s given money to Notre Dame tries recruiting someone, you can get yourself into a Kim Dunbar / Booster situation very quickly.

      Appreciate your sentiment, but let’s nip that one in the bud quickly.

    • garfdog9 - Nov 29, 2011 at 1:21 PM

      Please don’t do this! I agree with nudeman that this is tacky and with tkleiber that it is unnecessary. I’d add that it is also a good way to invite an NCAA investigation into rules violations. Stay out of this and leave it to the professionals.

  4. mkuswing - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    I am keeping my fingers crossed that ND’s coaches can close some deals and be legit closers. One good recruiting class last year will not get thr program to where it needs to be. Schools like Alabama,LSU,Oklahoma,USC have top flight classes every year, one stud gets hurt and another one fills in without much drop off.
    We need to have top 10 classes consistently, that’s how The Irish will get back into the national picture.
    Coaches if your listening, you have to work even harder than last year. Lets get it done, GO IRISH!!

    • newyorknd - Nov 29, 2011 at 12:00 PM

      With that in mind, I hope people will give this coaching staff a chance to bring in enough top classes to put ND over the top. It is also unrealistic to think that the salvation of next year’s season rests solely on the shoulders of the incoming true freshman. This year guys like Lynch, Tuitt, etc made big time contributions to the team, but most freshman, even true studs, need time to really contribute. Let’s not crucify Tee Shepard next year if he blows a coverage in the first game.

      • nudeman - Nov 29, 2011 at 12:38 PM

        And if we want to be very honest, we’ll admit that not even THIS recruiting class – regardless of how good – will make a major difference. Kelly probably is 2 strong classes away from being a championship contender.

  5. dapperdanirish - Nov 29, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    Appreciate the feedback. I understand it’s far fetched and tacky. I’m passionate about the success of the program and am excited for the future. Posing another question (mostly out of ignorance): what is the best way, if any, to show support and encouragement to potential recruits?

    • nudeman - Nov 29, 2011 at 12:35 PM

      I’m just not sure 17-18 year old recruits place much stock in the pleadings of a school’s fan base. Fans, like you and me, are a dime a dozen, for ALL schools.

      Most of these kids are feeling enough pressure from their families, friends, coaches and their own gut to have any bandwidth left over for considering what people who they’ve never met think. It would be nice if there was some value we could add to the process, but I don’t see it.

      • newyorknd - Nov 29, 2011 at 1:29 PM

        Nude – very honest indeed that THIS class is not the one that ‘makes it all better’ . Everyone likes to point to LSU or Alabama ( rightly ) for programs with great depth. Assuming great success, it’s a four year recruiting process to get to where they are. Kelly’s had one class so far. Last year, it was improving the D line. This year, it’s improving the secondary. And you can never have enough skill players. ND has question marks at the wide out position yet. Do we really have a top-flight quarterback somewhere on the roster? It’s going to be a few years before these can all be addressed through recruiting and development.

    • papadec - Nov 29, 2011 at 2:00 PM

      You have done it by posting your desire for the recruits to be @ ND. At Irish Sports Daily (recruiting) there are several follow up comments from recruits about walking with the team (during their official/unofficial visits) & fans knowing who they are. That impressed several recruits. Leave it at that and let Kelly & his recruiters do their job. See Keith’s response above. Gotta love your enthusiasm for the school & program. Thanks.

    • mattnef - Nov 30, 2011 at 8:47 AM

      Follow their twitter accounts. These kids want as many followers as possible.

  6. jerseyshorendfan1 - Nov 29, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    A better way, in my opinion, would be to send each recruit an Edible Arrangement using only blue and gold fruit…..blueberries and sliced pineapple perhaps. Or better still, find out where they live and go park in front of their house so you can be in position to follow them to the mall, to practices, etc. all the while extolling the virtues of an ND diploma. If you choose the second option, always make sure to have competent legal counsel on retainer at all times. Good luck.

  7. dapperdanirish - Nov 29, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    Great comments and feedback. Definitely would NOT do any of that. As nude said and I agreed, it is tacky. Also inappropriate. By the way, also love some of the humorous responses. Thanks to all for being so classy…KA, love your blog and insightful articles…always enjoy the banter in the comments. I love ND football. Go Irish.

  8. nudeman - Nov 29, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    Minor digression here.

    On a discussion on another board the subject of the bowl game QB came up. I think it’s going to be Rees. Kelly has shown an inordinate amount of patience with this kid and is nothing if not stubborn. He won’t let the Stanford game sway him, and isn’t looking at this game as a 2012 audition; he wants the 9th win and he wants it badly. And we all know that he thinks “Tommy gives us the best chance to win”. (Excuse me while I puke)

    He’ll give Hendrix the proverbial “package”, which in some games has meant 2-3 series, and in others has meant absolutely nothing.

    Take it to the bank. And I hope I’m wrong.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Nov 29, 2011 at 4:37 PM

      I just mouth-vommed when I read this.

    • danno27 - Nov 29, 2011 at 4:48 PM

      Hmm, you may be right, but then again, you might be wrong, and I say that for two reasons:

      1) FSU has two beast D-linemen that love to get after QBs – Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner. They are menbeasts. When you pair that with the talent behind them – Bradham and Greg Reid come to mind – a mobile QB with a strong arm would seem to be preferable to our Tommygun, particularly since Golic isn’t getting any less sieve-y. Of course, this assumes that the CSB picks both ND and FSU, but let’s be real – do you think the CSB will pick a UVa or a Wake Forest over the Noles? Nope-a.

      2) Once Dayne got the hook, he got the perm hook. It took Kelly a long time to bench Rees (and this is from a Rees supporter), but Rees was having a Crist-against-USF kind of half, with zero production. So Kelly gave him the hook.

      3) (bonus) Kelly has a month to get Hendrix ready. One month will not make Tommy’s arm stronger, or his legs any more able to run faster than I can, but it may be enough to get Hendrix mentally prepared for FSU

      • denverirish - Nov 29, 2011 at 5:12 PM

        I agree there is a good chance Hendrix starts the bowl game, or at least, here’s how I am convincing myself. Setting aside arm strength, lack of mobility, and any differences in skill set, Kelly acknowledged before the game that the next step for Rees is to be able to respond to a rush 3, drop 8, and the various defensive changes that confused him against Pitt and USC, i.e., defenses know how to game plan against him, and the next step is knowing how to beat the defense designed against you. Having had three opportunities this year to do so, he has not been able to accomplish this, with Stanford being the latest example and not his first opportunity.

        Kelly will always say that he is choosing the QB that gives them the best chance to win that game, but we may have reached a point where he believes Rees does not give us the best chance to win the next game.

      • newyorknd - Nov 29, 2011 at 5:23 PM

        I think that extra month to prepare Hendrix is the key here. Not sure you’ll just see one quarterback regardless of who starts. Could be that they give Tommy one more look against a good defense that will get after the quarterback, though I don’t know what could be learned from that at this point. Just how many 1st team reps are they going to give Hendrix? Is Kelly going to go ‘all in’ or split them? We all want to see Hendrix at this point, I think, but what about the coach? Frankly, I think Hendrix getting the experience is more valuable than the win in the bowl game if he’s really going to be the starter next year. I’m not saying play him if he can’t possibly lead the team, but if there’s a chance then go for it.

      • nudeman - Nov 29, 2011 at 8:03 PM

        I bet he starts Rees. I’ll take any and all wagers and hope I lose.

        I’ve been stunned all year long that he’s shown so much faith in a modestly talented QB who doesn’t even fit his system. Why would he change now? It will be the same blather about “Tommy gives us the best chance to win”.

        In his defense (and this isn’t much of a defense), they need to approach the game to win it as opposed to looking at it as an audition for 2012. Hendrix probably will make a mistake or two that Rees might not make.

        Of course the other side of the coin is he’ll make 24 plays that Rees can’t make.

    • notredamegrad - Nov 29, 2011 at 6:08 PM

      Hmm. You know, right now (and this may change upon further reflection), I hope he starts Rees. Why? Because I believe Kelly should have started Crist against Michigan.

      You picked your starter, now show some confidence in him as your starter, even after he played a rough game.

      Same is due to Rees. If Kelly were to be consistent (with the Kelly of USF/Michigan), he would start Hendrix. If he starts Rees, it might be because he’s overly stubborn (“I must prove that I was right in going with Rees”), it might be because he’s sincerely confident in Rees’s ability to play that position over Hendrix’s; on the other hand, it might be, and this is what I would wish, because he has honestly developed in his approach to how you justly and effectively handle your stable of quarterbacks. We wouldn’t be able to tell which it was, but it would go a little ways, for me, in suggesting he may have done other than he did when he benched Crist for the season 30 minutes into it

      • nudeman - Nov 29, 2011 at 8:11 PM


        I think we are dealing with the following:
        1) Irish stubborness on the part of BK. I can say that because I possess that DNA myself
        2) Too much faith in Rees, as has been the case all year long; and
        3) Too little faith in Hendrix, for whatever reason.

        I will say this: Setting all other emotions aside, if BK really really REALLY REALLY believes Rees gives them the best chance to win because of tape he’s watched or because he knows something we don’t, then he should start him. But there had better be a damn good reason because it looks for all the world to the rest of us that Hendrix is a much better QB, even considering the less experience.

    • mbutch6 - Nov 30, 2011 at 5:34 PM

      To me, it is clear as mud. The only reason BK has Rees starting over Hendrix is because he offers the best chance to consistently get our best offensive play-maker the ball – Mike Floyd.

  9. somebadhatharry - Nov 29, 2011 at 8:51 PM

    Although I feel Crist should have been starting all year, I have to agree with nudeman in that Rees will likely be the starter for the bowl game. I like what I saw from Hendrix and believe he will likely be the starter in 2012. I will give Rees some credit in that he his better at reading defenses and making checks than Hendrix. But that is something that comes with more playing experience. I do expect a few extra Hendrix packages than usual though.

  10. cmr73 - Nov 29, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    Question …. To be considered a BcS school, shouldn’t you have to have more than 3 appearances and at least one win to be taken seriously as a BcS school?
    Join a conference before your NBC money runs out ….

  11. somebadhatharry - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:01 PM

    Auburn, Nebraska, Penn State, Stanford, Arkansas…
    Teams who have fewer BCS appearances than ND. Not to mention Alabama and LSU have the same number of appearances as ND. Thanks for participating.

    • somebadhatharry - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:02 PM

      Just to name a few….

  12. cmr73 - Nov 29, 2011 at 11:19 PM

    Unlike a fine wine, the length of time between now and their last national championship is not a good thing. Ahh….. 1988 …. What a great year.

    • nudeman - Nov 30, 2011 at 11:22 AM

      How fun it must be to anonymously take shots. Do you still go out and ring doorbells too?

  13. don74 - Nov 30, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    The thought that pops in my head should Tommy start the whatever bowl is…at least we have shiny new helmets.

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