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The ones that got away

Feb 4, 2012, 12:46 PM EST

Greenberry Houston

Brian Kelly wanted to keep the focus on the players that decided to sign letters-of-intent with the Irish. And with a recruiting class compiled of 16 talented players — a lean class no doubt, but far from a program killer — that sentiment is certainly understandable.

But we’ll have four years to judge the talent coming in the door. Let’s take one last look at the one’s that got away:

DEONTAY GREENBERRY: From Notre Dame to Houston

How bad was it? Greenberry’s departure was one of the more shocking turns in recent Irish recruiting history, ranking up their with Lorenzo Booker picking the wrong hat and quarterback C.J. Leak leaving Bob Davie at the altar. Of course, both those losses seemed much worse at the time than during their playing careers with Leak flaming out and Booker never being able to carry the load of an every down back. Still, Greenberry’s shocking decision went viral on the internet, and the hundreds of comments that flooded into the live blog at least reflect the perceived importance of landing Mr. Football in California for the Irish, especially at a position of need.

Impact on the field? Greenberry seemed like the most likely to replace Michael Floyd, and he certainly has the jump ball skills to do so. That said, the fade route and 50/50 passing game that Charlie Weis employed with guys like Floyd and Jeff Samardzija left when Kelly came to town, and any receiver playing in the current offense needs route running precision to get on the field.

In his own words: “I was going to Notre Dame for the wrong reason,” Shepard told the Fresno Bee. “Tee had committed to Notre Dame, and I wanted to be where he was at. Then I started sitting down and really thinking what’s best for me, where I would feel most comfortable. I’ve talked with him, and he’s good with it.”

Final Assessment: This one certainly hurt. Any time you’ve got a recruit wrapped up until the morning of Signing Day, only to lose him to the seventh or eighth most impressive college football program in the state of Texas, well — that’s a head scratcher. Of course, Greenberry could make an instant impact like a Sammy Watkins or disappear like Kyle Prater or Markeith Ambles, just two of many recent five-star wide receivers that didn’t live up to the hype. Not to wish it on Greenberry, but that’s just the nature of recruiting.

RONALD DARBY: From Notre Dame to Florida State

How bad was it? Irish fans were salivating over the idea of Darby and Tee Shepard joining forces and given the Irish two potential lockdown cornerbacks in a recruiting class that needed to upgrade the secondary. Darby was always the number one flight risk in this recruiting class, and his decommitment — while predictable — didn’t hurt any less just because people saw it coming. Still, Irish fans had to almost expect this with Florida State, who I’m sure didn’t pull any punches after last year’s snatch-back of Aaron Lynch.

Impact on the field? Darby had one unquestionable five-star component: Speed. How well he develops as a cornerback and football player, we’ll have to see. Still, there’s no doubting he’d have immediately challenged for playing time at cornerback, where just about everyone is unproven, and his speed could’ve quickly found its way into the return game alongside George Atkinson.

In his own words: “I liked the home feeling at Clemson, I liked the home feeling at Auburn and I liked the home feeling at Florida State, but I had to look past the red carpet treatment and look at the program that could better me as a person,” Darby told the Washington Post. “The difference was the young talent they have going and the need for DBs. They played a safety at cornerback in the Champs Bowl.”

Final Assessment: Fans and recruitniks have pointed to a rift between Darby and the Irish coaching staff over some perceived change in Darby’s recruitment. Area recruiter Charley Molnar’s departure and the coaching staff transition likely hurt Notre Dame, but anything Kerry Cooks did or didn’t do isn’t what sent Darby looking elsewhere. Notre Dame tried multiple times to get in the door with Darby in recruiting’s final weeks, but they were never even let in the house. Casting that aside, you begin to forget that other schools have depth chart problems, too. Florida State obviously sold theirs, not to mention an ACC track program, and enacted a modicum of revenge for the loss of Aaron Lynch.

TAYLOR DECKER: From Notre Dame to Ohio State

How bad was it? The writing was on the wall when Urban Meyer offered Decker a scholarship, then proceeded to bring in Irish coaches Tim Hinton and Ed Warinner, Decker’s area recruiter and position coach respectively. Decker was one of two offensive tackles in a three-man offensive line class, and the six-foot-eight, 320-pound prospect certainly looked the part of a blue-chipper. That it took Meyer only a few weeks to undo a commitment that had been one of Notre Dame’s longest gives you a glimpse into how things are going to go in the Midwest now that Ohio State is being run by one of the sports most ruthless recruiters.

Impact on the field? Probably not all that large actually. The Irish actually have their depth chart at offensive tackle pretty solidified and already have one of the nation’s best 2013 prospects committed in Steve Elmer. That said, bringing in only two offensive linemen in the class means that Notre Dame can’t afford to miss next year.

In his own words: “It’s always been a dream of mine,” Decker told the Dayton Daily News. “I’ve grown up an Ohio State fan; I grew up in Ohio an hour from Columbus, an hour from Ohio State. That’s what I’ve always known as far as college football. Especially when I was younger, that was everything. It’s definitely a great feeling and I’m excited for it.”

Final Assessment: If you believe what some have reported, Kelly didn’t waste too much time crying over Decker’s departure. I’m not sure that’s 100 percent true, but of all the guys the Irish loss, this one certainly should sting the least.

  1. mcirish27 - Feb 4, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    The only reason the Decker deco hurts most to me is because I went to college in Ohio where every kid there was a buckeye fan – they are the most obnoxious, hilly billy, and ungracious group of fans I’ve ever encountered and it stinks seeing them get a big body like that away from us – definitely going to have to be dealing with these feelings a lot in the future with Urban running the show there – we’re in for some tough battles in the Midwest – can Kelly and co keep up?

  2. jomilly - Feb 4, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    Definately think Kelly can use some tightening down, which will be forced with Urban in the area. With that said all the losses matter, with those players ND would of been in or close to a top 5 class. But as it goes last year we did a few robbery moves of our own, this year it happened to us. Hopefully we learned some lesson. I think its awesome that Perkins never got mentioned, he must of really been the one that mattered the least.

  3. poppajohn818 - Feb 4, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    I admire Coach K for what he said when this kid bolted to Houstin
    and compared with what LSU Coach said about Gunner. Coach K
    comes of professional and I applaud him. Another person of interest
    to Coach K is that snake in the grass Meyer, who stole not only two players
    from ND but two coaches. Watch your back people one of the top ten
    Snakes in college football is in your yard.

    • tedlinko - Feb 4, 2012 at 2:22 PM

      No question Meyer is a snake, but fact is, major college recruiting is what it is. A ruthless game. Verbal commitments mean little. Yes we lost out on a few, but on the flip side, we did steal on of the top QB prospects in the nation from a team that was good enough to play in the national championship game. Combine that with the steals last year, the belated reeling in of Carlisle and Prestwood, plus a solid (if small) class overall this year, and any doubts about BKs recruiting prowess should be put to rest.

      There is no question that Meyer can trade on his success at Florida to reel in some of these high-profile kids. We need to get to a BCS game and win it once or twice and then we’ll be in position to counter that. I think we’re on the way.

      One other thing that has recently been getting more attention is the whole issue of over-signing. The SEC is shameless in this practice (Big 10 less so), but my assumption has been that Meyer would bring his penchant for that to OSU. Which is why I thought it was interesting that the Big 10 (OSU President Gene Smith in particular) announced that the conference was “encouraging” schools to offer multiple year scholarships. That is clearly an effort to deal with the negative PR around over-signing. Of course, it’s voluntary, and probably full of more loopholes than Mitt Romney’s tax return, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. It certainly would level the playing field quite a bit if teams couldn’t effectively just “cut” kids who didn’t turn into stars in order to sign another blue-chipper.

  4. turknd - Feb 4, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    I keep watching the Prosise highlight. This guy has speed and he’s running back punts and kickoffs!

    • nudeman - Feb 4, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      Impressive. Kid looks bigger than 6’0″
      None of us are talking about him because he’s been committed for so long. Might be an immediate contributor.

  5. nudeman - Feb 4, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    Here’s my take:

    GREENBERRY: The biggest head scratcher. Houston? I suspect the unspoken issue here for him is he didn’t want to put in as much academic effort as ND would have req’d.
    Annoyance Factor (out of 10): 7.35
    If you just read the ND boards on Wednesday, you’d have thought ND announced they were shutting down the football program. We all overreacted. Wish he was coming to ND, but on the other hand, Deontay has yet to catch a ball in college; he’s a PROSPECT, just like Prater was at USC.
    And ND isn’t as thin at WR as everyone thinks.

    DARBY: Great raw talent. But raw might be the key word as far as football goes.
    Might be a great CB. Might just be a great track guy. Or neither or both.
    Used ND for his senior HS football year to protect against an injury.
    Annoyance Factor: 5.75
    Don’t think he was EVER serious about ND; so in the end, we probably never had him. Of the 3, from everything I’ve read this guy was going to decommit one way or the other, regardless.

    DECKER: Always nice to get a 4 star OL, but I’ve seen him referred to as a “project”.
    Keith, I’m curious: Was he NOT offered by OSU before Meyer was there? That’s what the article here suggests. If OSU wasn’t even pursuing him, then maybe not a big loss after all.
    OSU is his dream school? Fine. Bye.
    Annoyance Factor: 1.63
    Not a HUGE area of need and this guy struck me as the most disingenuous of the three. I have a feeling we might never hear of him again.

  6. irishdodger - Feb 4, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    Hey Keith, speaking of Lynch, there’s now rumors that he wants to leave ND. Can u provide any clarity to this? Evidently, his Facebook status reads that he “doesn’t want to be here anymore”.

    • jomilly - Feb 4, 2012 at 3:36 PM

      worst thing Ive heard all day, hopefully not true

      • ct111 - Feb 4, 2012 at 4:24 PM

        I have been hearing that he is not happy with the football program at ND and that he is home sick. He isn’t the only one having doubts

      • shamrocknroll - Feb 4, 2012 at 6:59 PM

        Kids get homesick and have all other sorts of issues while in college. People shouldn’t be speculating about the meaning behind a kid’s Facebook status.

    • dmac4real - Feb 4, 2012 at 10:22 PM

      “Im not goint anywhere”—-Calm down dude…hes not going to leave

  7. kiopta1 - Feb 4, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Why does it seem like every time I check ND stuff out somebody is claiming somebody is leaving or some negative event is coming?

  8. irishdodger - Feb 4, 2012 at 4:23 PM

    Kiopta1: because that’s been the case since 1994. For every one step fwd, there’s been two steps backward.

  9. papadec - Feb 4, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    Time to leave an opening for Davonte Neal or Anthony Standifer, fill the class with 5th year seniors, and move on. Coudah-woudah-shoudah doesn’t matter. Play the game with what ya got. GO IRISH!!!!!!!

  10. trbowman - Feb 4, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    “ranking up their with Lorenzo Booker picking the wrong hat and quarterback C.J. Leak leaving Bob Davie at the alta”

    There*

    • ndtoronto - Feb 4, 2012 at 6:53 PM

      “ranking up there with Lorenzo Booker picking the wrong hat and quarterback C.J. Leak leaving Bob Davie at the alta”

      Altar* :)

  11. kiopta1 - Feb 4, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    If lynch’s probs are some football frustrations and home sickness that shouldn’t be a prob. I mean it’s part of being a man. Yeah it can be tough but you get through it. It’s not like joining the army out of highschool and being deployed. I ain’t worried I am sure he has support and if he is tough and recognizes his commitment then I think both him and ND will be better for it.

    • nudeman - Feb 4, 2012 at 7:35 PM

      Has anyone told him if he leaves he’s sitting out a year?
      He ain’t going nowhere

      • dmac4real - Feb 4, 2012 at 10:23 PM

        He doesent want to leave ND….

  12. tony34343434 - Feb 4, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    it is a long winter in Indiana, once spring ball starts lynch will be fine, but someone from the staff should talk to him, losing darby or greenberry is one thing, we NEED Lynch, he might be one of the top 3 most important people in the program.

  13. ct111 - Feb 4, 2012 at 7:44 PM

    A nice snow fight with the cheerleaders can cheer him up

  14. barneysbullet - Feb 4, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    Pleeeeaaase don’t leave us Lynch. ND will make you better than Justin Tuck (and you know where he is this weekend).

    We love you Beast…please find a reason to stay!!!

  15. ajw21 - Feb 4, 2012 at 11:06 PM

    People read to much into what people say on social networking sites. College kids get unhappy and homesick! It doesnt mean there going anywhere. Then one poster says he wants to leave and everyone freaks out. Calm down, take a deep breath and chill out until the season starts. If you cant wait that long then at least wait until spring practice!

  16. norcalirish - Feb 5, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    Lol, he probably got a dose of that winter. I’ve been there man.

  17. Michael Steinberger - Feb 5, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    I like the incoming group. Solid citizens and excellent potential, every one, some of them should contribute right away. Didn’t ESPN still rank us as a top 10 class? I’ll take that.

    Still, this recruiting cycle mirrored what happened to the team last season: high expectations at the beginning, going in reverse at the end. Four decommits and all of the whiffs on high-profile targets (save for Kiel, who knew BK and should have been a slam-dunk anyway). I don’t think the team’s performance against ‘SC, Stanford, and Florida State went unnoticed. Hard for highly sought-after kids to get as excited about buying-in to paddling upstream when they can sign up elsewhere for jet skis. Last recruiting cycle we were at least universally regarded as up-and-coming: this year, that proved to be a harder sell.

    BK said it himself in the presser on signing day: if the program wants to get the proper attention, change has got to start showing up on the field. Here’s to an awesome spring practice that helps us get our mojo back!

    • bernhtp - Feb 5, 2012 at 2:35 PM

      While ESPN had us as #10, this was our most generous ranking. Scout had us as #18 and Rivals at #22. This is far worse than last year, especially in depth.

      The problems weren’t only with the “ones that got away” – commits like Darby, Decker and Greenberry who went elsewhere – but the ones we never got. ND had huge positive exposure at the USC game until, well we got beat. The Crist fumble at the one may have been the most costly single play of the entire year. Getting beat by Stanford added to the problem, and then the final loss the FSU finished off the impression of ND as anything better than a work in progress. The coaching losses further eroded the base.

      Were ND to have a very good season instead (e.g., 10-3 or better), especially at the end, my bet is we would have received far more interest from top recruits such as Poole, Agholor, and many others, and we probably would have bagged at least 2 of them. Neal is still out there, but he is frankly a very long shot.

      With that said, I don’t see any problems for this season. The extra spots may even help, e.g., allowing room for a fifth-year Golic may be more valuable than a freshman Greenberry, But we obviously need to have a great season – no small feat given the schedule – and have a great 2013 recruiting class.

  18. ct111 - Feb 5, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    If BK can figure out this QB situation, then the Irish will probably win 9 games next season.

  19. papadec - Feb 5, 2012 at 11:52 PM

    ct111 – the “realists” will say 8 or 9 wins, the optimists 10-11, I’ll throw in with the dreamers @ 12-13. The ND Women are on top of the Big East in Basketball with one loss & ranked #2, the ND men have beaten 4 of 5 ranked teams in the last few weeks. Men’s Hockey & other ND teams are doing well to great! If that doesn’t keep ND fans going until Spring FB – I don’t know what will. GO IRISH!!!!!!!

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 6, 2012 at 12:39 AM

      Papadec,

      Throw in some props Super Bowl Champion and major contributor to shutting down Tom Brady, Notre Dame’s very own Justin Tuck and i’d say it’s good to bleed the blue and gold.

      BTW, I’ve heard rumors about Peyton Manning wanting to stay in Indiana, possible applying for a fifth year of eligibility to play for the Irish. Nudeman, can you confirm? Heard anything about this on the other blogs?

      • newyorknd - Feb 6, 2012 at 12:50 AM

        Hey, let Manning play. Go Irish!

      • papadec - Feb 6, 2012 at 1:47 AM

        idrather – ha ha ha ha ha – yea that was ND’s Tuck stickin’ it to Blue’s Brady. Sweet – more so as a displaced New Yawkah living in the NW. You can take the ol’ geezer out of “The City” but you can’t take “The City” out of the ol’ geezer. Almost as enjoyable as the Yankees stickin’ it to the Sox (most years)!

  20. 1historian - Feb 6, 2012 at 7:41 AM

    Meyer may or may not be a snake but when he became numero uno hot coaching prospect a number of years back and it was known that he wouldn’t have to pay to take his leave from Utah to go to ND – people were all hot and bothered to have him come to ND and it was a kick in the nads when he rejected the Irish even before they offered and went to Florida. That brought us Charlie Weis.

    Charlie Weis didn’t really have a clue about keeping tabs on your recruits until NSD, whereas BK does.

    Win some lose some – just keep making sure that 98% of them get diplomae. (Plural of diploma)

  21. 1historian - Feb 6, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    I think BK can recruit as well as Meyer, but as he said we need to WIN ON THE FIELD to get the 5 stars. So far we have progressed to the point where we beat up on teams like Purdue and Air Force and have (hopefully) stopped losing at home to Tulsa, Connecticut and Syracuse.

    But we are talking Notre Dame – THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I’ve been saying this for the last few years – we need a turn-the-corner win, a signature game where we beat a big time program we’re not supposed to, preferably on their turf.

    Anyone out there remember the USC game in Lou Holtz’ 1st year? THAT’S what I am talking about. We need to whip Stanford – PAYBACK – in SB and wind up the regular season by whipping SC in California. IT MUST BE DONE. Until then no one will really take us seriously.

    • nudeman - Feb 6, 2012 at 9:52 AM

      ihisty

      As usual you hit the nail on the head. Others talk of just the USC loss this year as a recruiting killer, but that misses the important BIGGER points you make:

      1) This is a program that is without a signature win in YEARS; maybe decades. I don’t remember Davie or Ty beating anyone of consequence. I am absolutely 100% certain Weis didn’t. So that means we have to go back to Lou.

      2) Until that happens this program will be seen as “so yesterday” by the 5 star guys across the country, none of whom were even ALIVE when ND mattered. The only 4-5 stars who want to come to ND are ones whose parents or grandparents tell them stories of Leahy, Ara and Joe Montana.

      3) It’s too soon to say “BK is running out of time”, but if next year they throw up another indifferent overall performance, win 7-8 games but get pounded by UM, OK, USC, Stanford …. THEN the clock will be ticking.

      4) They need to seriously DESTROY one of these teams; not beat them 18-17 on blocked punt. I’m talking 41-10 with 600 yards of offense.

      Will it happen – preferably more than once – in 2012? We’ll see. Tick, tick, tick …..

  22. ndtoronto - Feb 6, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    The key to ND 2012 season is getting back to being unbeatable at home…ever since holtz left even in Kellys first two years Notre Dame loses wayyy to much games at home….i understand if an alabama or LSU is rolling in and beating you but that has not been the case…if Notre Dame is truly goin to be elite again they have to destroy the sub par teams and beat the good teams at home….nobody has FEARED coming to south bend in a long time….u win the home games and do what you can on the road u always have a shot.

  23. browns12 - Feb 6, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    Kelly needs to learn that Notre Dame is located in Indiana and needs to focus more on midwest talent. Sick and tired of listening to people say Notre Dame needs to recruit nationally. Uhh, No they dont. They need to dominate their backyard and then cherry pick nationally. Last time I checked, Urban Meyers 1st class at tOSU is all midwest kids and 1 kid from his former state of FL. If the SEC and West Coast talent myths were true, Id think Urban would have been in those FL high schools getting at least 10 kids to go to tOSU. Kelly gave out about 20 schollys in Cali and landed 1 whiel tOSU and MICH took midwest talent and delivered better classes.

    • nudeman - Feb 6, 2012 at 6:04 PM

      Why should they limit themselves?
      Ohio State recruits all over the country; so does USC and Michigan. Like ND those are national brands.

      All things being equal is it harder getting a kid from SoCal to come to ND, vs a kid from Chicago?
      Of course.

      But look at their roster now. The top players are from out of the region.
      Cierre Wood – CA
      Floyd – MN
      Atkinson brothers – CA
      T’eo – Hawaii

      etc

  24. ct111 - Feb 7, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    Lynch – Florida

    • nudeman - Feb 7, 2012 at 9:41 AM

      Right.

      Tuitt, Lynch, Ishaq – the 3 biggest recruits from last year all from outside the Midwest.

      This year it’s Okwara and Brown from the Carolinas, Ferguson from Florida, Prosise from Virginia, Baratti from Texas, Jones from NY, Russell from WA, Stanley from Nevada, etc

      So to say the Irish should focus on just the Midwest and ignore the Carolinas, the Northeast, Northwest, TX, CA, just makes absolutely zero sense.

  25. rcali - Feb 7, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    16 recruits? What are we a MAC school?

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 7, 2012 at 4:52 PM

      not a MAC school, we’re a Private Academy in Northern Indiana for Catholics, which describes your feelings on our recruiting i think…

      P rivate
      A cademy
      N orthern
      I ndiana
      C atholics

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