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Martin gives inside look at recruiting process

Feb 6, 2012, 1:17 PM EDT

Chuck Martin 2

It’s easy to look at the sixteen recruits that signed with Notre Dame last week and place an evaluation on the job Brian Kelly and his coaching staff did. With the last minute defection of wide receiver Deontay Greenberry, the runner-up finish for blue-chippers Nelson Agholor and Brian Poole, and the loss of one-time commits Ronald Darby and Taylor Decker, there’s plenty of ammunition to poke holes in the Irish’s 2012 recruiting class.

Of course, it’s much too early to judge this recruiting class. BCS games aren’t won on the first Wednesday in February, because if they were — Notre Dame would’ve won plenty already. So while it’s easy to talk until we’re blue in the face about the upside potential of Recruit X or Y, taking a look at the process of building a recruiting class is a much more useful exercise for fans hoping to understand what takes place on the journey to Signing Day.

During UND.com’s six-plus hour Signing Day marathon, new offensive coordinator Chuck Martin came on the air with Jack Nolan and gave some incredible insight into Notre Dame’s process of finding and evaluating potential recruits. With Notre Dame casting one of the widest recruiting nets in college football, efficiency within the recruiting system is essential, and there’s no one more intricately involved than Martin, who also coordinates the Irish recruiting efforts.

Here’s more from Martin, who described the Irish’s four-step process to offering a perspective student-athlete.

“We all have six or seven states that are our primary states, but that’s just the starting point. You try to find as many good players — regardless of position, regardless of what position you coach — you try to find the very best players in the state to get the process started. Once you identify those kids, you evaluate him, and if you believe they’re scholarship worthy and all the boxes are checked when it comes to social, academic and all those areas, then you start to move the kid forward in the process. Then he immediately goes to the position coach. So if it’s a D-lineman he’d go to coach Elston, and he would get his evaluation. And once we move past coach Elston it goes to the coordinator and then to the head coach. There’s a lot of checks and balances just like any company, and when you’re going through a process you have checks and balances along the way. Then even if everybody likes the kid on tape, then you still have the other boxes you need to check — is it the right fit for Notre Dame?”

With new coaches Scott Booker, Harry Hiestand, and Bobby Elliott joining the staff, it’s likely the staff’s recruiting regions will shift. But with the logistical challenges Notre Dame faces, having a staff full of good talent evaluators (not just good recruiters) is essential, and a system of checks and balances is an important one for a staff that’s needed to fill some gaping holes left on the roster. This staff did an excellent job evaluating front seven defensive talent and signing them. We’ll see with these last two recruiting classes how well the Irish did evaluating talent at the skill positions, with wide receiver and defensive back roster turnover likely to determine how well the next few seasons go.

Always candid, Martin was remarkably refreshing when discussing the balancing act recruiting on a big stage has become. With more and more programs chasing the same players, websites having better access to recruits than schools, and institutional inequities on issues like over-signing and greyshirts, Martin talked about the fluidity that goes on year round.

“It’s a daunting task that you learn every day that there is no exact science anywhere in recruiting,” Martin said. “And there’s certainly no exact science when you’re trying to weigh, ‘Do we go after this guy or do we go after this guy?’ ‘Do we really think we’re going to get this one or are we uncertain so we should take this one?’ It’s a fluid situation and it’s fluid 365 days a year. You’re always putting your heads together and asking, ‘What do we think? This kid wants to jump in the boat, but we’re waiting on this kid.’ You just don’t know how the numbers are going to play out at the end of the day.”

After winning a few 50/50 battles in recruiting last year, Notre Dame pulled the short end of the stick this year, most notably on Greeberry’s last minute switch. But if you thought it’d deter the Irish staff, or it’s head coach Brian Kelly, don’t hold your breath.

“There’s no good news, there’s no bad news, there’s just news,” Martin said. “If you live and die with every single moment from recruiting, you’re never going to make it. Your life span in this profession is going to be short. You just keep on doing what you’re doing, keep working as hard as you’re working, and hopefully the chips fall your way often enough that you get the right kids in your program.”

  1. bradwins - Feb 6, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    “There’s no good news, there’s no bad news, there’s just news,” Martin said.

    Perfect.

    The 2013 class is going to be a bigger class, so they should have less concern about letting kids “jump in the boat” when they are ready because they’re waiting on bigger fish. If there is a lesson to be learned from the 2012 class, it is that you don’t need to save so many spots for elite recruits at the end, because the chances of getting all of the guys you’re chasing and having no defections seem to be remote. Save as many spots as you can afford to have go unfilled – probably 2 or 3 at most.

  2. bradwins - Feb 6, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    “There’s no good news, there’s no bad news, there’s just news,” Martin said.

    Perfect perspective.

    The 2013 class is going to be a bigger class, so they should have less concern about letting kids “jump in the boat” when they are ready because they’re waiting on bigger fish. If there is a lesson to be learned from the 2012 class, it is that you don’t need to save so many spots for elite recruits at the end, because the chances of getting all of the guys you’re chasing and having no defections seem to be remote. Save as many spots as you can afford to have go unfilled – probably 2 or 3 at most.

  3. browns12 - Feb 6, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    I disagree with his comments about ‘not being a science’. Just about every school takes care of business in their backyard and then cherry picks nationally. Notre Dame has this mindset that the midwest has no talent and need to give 100 offers to kids in florida, cali, texas, and the carolinas. Kelly went 1 for 20 this year in Cali. He gets the leftovers from the other states and allows teams like tOSU, MICH, MSU, PSU, WIS, etc, eat up all the talent in the midwest. I would like ND to concentrate and recruit more midwest talent, 10-15 highly rated midwest kids and then cherry pick 5-8 national kids that want to leave home, pass all the academic requirements, and understand Notre Dame.

    • paiten34 - Feb 6, 2012 at 2:23 PM

      Brown, that is very incorrect. Notre Dame went after the best in the state of Indiana signing the top two prospects. THINK!!! Why does Notre Dame play in more regions than any other team in the country? They play in the south, in the west in the north and every where in the middle. That’s why ND trys so hard to keep it’s independant status. ND recruits nationaly because they play nationaly. Think about it, when you ask Ohio State or Alabama or Texas what their goal is it’s to win their conference. ND doesn’t have that to fall back on. For ND it’s the BCS or bust and they can’t do that by just beating up on the midwest.

      They also have to play in the pac 12 and down in the south. Every team but ND only has to beat the other teams in their conference so they recruit to do just that. ND doesn’t have that luxury. Just ask Lou Holtz about recruting in the upermidwest vs big ten teams. As coach Holtz said every major big ten team would gang up on recruits that ND was interested in only to knock ND out of the picture. Once they had done that the big ten teams went after the players they wanted. It is the same today that’s why you don’t see ND spending time on big ten recruits.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Feb 6, 2012 at 4:43 PM

      What state was Gunner Keil from? Ahhhhhhh, that’s right.

    • nudeman - Feb 6, 2012 at 5:57 PM

      browns12
      I think what he was saying that the collection of ALL that goes on in the recruiting process is not a science.
      Certainly we would all agree that there is a scientific APPROACH, such as assigning the assistants a certain territory, identifying whether kids are cut out for ND socially, academically, turning them over to the position coach, etc etc.

      But when you’re dealing with a hot 4 or 5 star prospect who is an impressionable 18 year old and getting slobbered over by all the top schools, the nice neat little plan of introducing a kid to ND, all its campus beauty, impressing him on the academics, etc becomes pure chaos. And just when you think you’ve got everything lined up (like when a kid’s cousin is already enrolled and he himself is a verbal commit) you get sucker punched.

      So it’s like what Eisenhower said about the importance of having a battle plan: Absolutely 100% essential. Then the bullets start flying and the plan goes out the window usually in the first 5 min.

      Their approach strikes me as no less reasonable than anyone else’s. The one disadvantage they’re working hard to overcome is selling a kid on ND when they really haven’t done a damn thing on the field since the Holtz era.

    • leapingleprechaun - Feb 8, 2012 at 8:05 PM

      I personally would disagree with the statement about ND and the midwest. If this were the case we would not have 4 examples ( this would have been 25% of the class ) as Gunner, Mahone, Turner and Decker were all from the midwest…when you consider Indiana, Ohio….

  4. trbowman - Feb 6, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    Any of ya’ll watch the Hall of Fame ceremony?

    Timmy Brown snubbed!

    • andy44teg - Feb 6, 2012 at 11:55 PM

      Yeah…and Curtis Martin gets in over him, Chris Carter, and Bill Parcells..didn’t make much sense to me

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 7, 2012 at 4:06 PM

        Curtis Martin deserves to be in over Cris Carter and Tim Brown. Don’t get me wrong, i love me some Tim Brown, but Martin’s career longevity and numbers are among the best in NFL history. Tim Brown might never get in because every year the receiving numbers get bigger and bigger, making his contribution look smaller and smaller.

        I love TB and i want TB in the HOF, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen.

    • gtizzo - Feb 7, 2012 at 12:34 AM

      Wide Receiver is over loaded so Tim Brown may have to wait.

      • trbowman - Feb 7, 2012 at 1:36 PM

        Ya, Andre Reed didn’t make it either!

      • jomilly - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:21 PM

        Chris Carters number are more worthy then everyone else voted in this year. Take a look at em if you dont believe me. But Tim is far behind. Chris Carters number are top 5 of all time, curtis martin isnt a top back, he did have some great season though, I think they all should be in, but before “all he does is catch touchdown” chris carter.

      • jomilly - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:23 PM

        that is tim brown isnt far behind, and non should be in before CC, damn little computer pads, with my chewbacka fingers

  5. tony34343434 - Feb 6, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    Winning cures everything! Kids want to play for a winner, that is why most kids will go to Duke for College Hoops and sit the bench to be around it all.

    I hate to say it, and it makes me sick to my stomach, but look at Michigan, no one wanted to go there, they have a good year this year and they get a great recruiting class, winning cures all. We have the talent, we need to get 10 wins 9 minimum and you will see changes in recruiting, that being said we have a good solid recruiting class, these are not the days of charlie w which set the program back many years, build that offensive line and pound the ball mid-west style and throw in Gunner and I hoping for something special. GO IRISH!!!!!!!

  6. ct111 - Feb 7, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    I’ll take a productive 3* over an overhyped 5*

  7. gtizzo - Feb 7, 2012 at 12:45 AM

    Justin Tuck a former ND great just won his second super bowl lots of Irish love you. Recruiting not an exact science…so true, so true. Hard to tell what is in the mind of an 18 year old. I love how Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema called out Urban “for my health Meyer.

  8. jomilly - Feb 7, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    im sort of emotion less about our recruiting cycle this year. It could be good, I see that, it does have some down side concerning numbers, time will tell. But, I am going to put this out there, our class this next cycle needs to be off the charts, we have extra scholarships, our class needs to be in the top three. No more excuses this upcoming year that others are ranked higher due to their number of recruits. BK you have the numbers, fill them with quality recruits win some games and shut everyone up!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. 1historian - Feb 7, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    Let’s not forget that the year before he came to ND BK coached a team full of 2 & 3 star recruits at Cincinnati to a 12-0 regular season record and a final ranking of #5. Yes they got their clock cleaned against Florida in the (I forget) Bowl but there were reasons for that – they were essentially without a coach because by that time BK was gone, and the Florida team – LOTS of 4 & 5 star players – was seriously pissed about having had THEIR clock cleaned by Alabama not long before that. That was kind of a sad game to watch – those Cincy kids were in way over their heads and Florida could have scored 70 points IMO.

    When a coaching change is made at that level there are ALWAYS broken hearts and pissed off people. (Song title?)
    If anyone has a better idea about handling something like that, I’d sure like to hear it.

  10. idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 7, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    1historian,

    Good point, and let’s not forget that the 12-0 season was also full of a bunch of dog fights. I think they had 5 or 6 games on that 2009 Schedule that came down to the last possession…and they won every game.

    I think that 2&3 star guys, generally speaking, have a bit more fight in them. They don’t tend to rest on their talents alone.

    Recruting classes, for me at least, are just something to talk about until the blue/gold game. It’s fun to bantar about, but the difference between a 3 star and a 5 star is minimal by the time they get to the college level.

    Winning on the field will help the recruiting, but the restrictions that ND puts on recruiting will always leave it a little bit short of other programs.

    No JUCO transfers and academic requirements are the two that pop into mind right away, but throw in the unwritten rules of recruiting that come with a Catholic University and the “ND way” and recruiting will always be secondary to a few power programs.

    The right coaches and the right plan can win any game with a team full of 2 star guys…any given sunday….err Saturday

    • jomilly - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:41 PM

      I understand everyone point on 3 stars, but again stats show that stars in your recruiting class to turn into wins, LSU and Ala, all had to 10 and usually both top 5 every year for the last 4 years. Its not the end all, but it does matter. Anyone who says there happy to be a top tear program and is ok with tons of 3 stars has to deal with the fact that there team isnt elite. And sorry to say ND hasnt proven it on the field, they recruit very well for their record, but to get there selling a BCS caliber program, you gotta perform, or like this year they bought in prior to the season starting then left once all the smoke and mirrors were gone.

  11. txbeej - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    Need to start winning. Have I mentioned that before?

    Notre Dame hasn’t failed to assemble a top 25 recruiting class in any of the past five years and yet hasn’t succeeded at putting a top 25 team on the field in that time frame. People here have already listed many reasons why it will be impossible to win next season, in what will be Brian Kelly’s third at Notre Dame.

    If you don’t have the coaching, it doesn’t matter how well you recruit. That’s why I’m not going to get worked up about this year’s “thin” class or what people claim is an urgent need for a top class next year.

    When I see some winning, then I’ll get excited about the ancillary stuff.

  12. jerseyshorendfan1 - Feb 7, 2012 at 8:41 PM

    Well, I guess its officially over:

    -lose bowl game………check.
    -National signing day letdown………….check.
    -Super Bowl…………….in the books.
    -Keith Arnold regurgitating something Chuck Martin said last week……..check.

    Football is over for the year. Wait, when is the Spring game?

    • Keith Arnold - Feb 7, 2012 at 9:46 PM

      I’m going to officially take offense to this, Jersey/Art V. I thought that was pretty interesting stuff and I especially liked the honesty that came out of Chuck’s comments.

      Also — having followed the Weis regime, I can tell you that this recruiting system is different than the one under CW. Plus, I loved the quote at the end.

      Four stars from me, although i’m biased.

      • nudeman - Feb 8, 2012 at 9:57 AM

        Keith,
        I’ll stay out of the fracas between you and jersey, but am curious about your comment about the Weis recruiting approach. I know you don’t like to remain in the give and take here, but this one intrigues me. Can you elaborate?

        I saw an interview with Chuck Martin recently and he’s an impressive guy. Definitely head coach material. I think his comment at the end meant if you get high with every bit of “good” news and low with the “bad” news, you’ll be in the nuthouse. Just take it all in and react accordingly.

        For the record, I’m impressed with the way Kelly approaches recruiting. Strikes me as very thorough and well organized. However I don’t have anything to compare it to, which is why elaborating on the approach under Weis would be really interesting.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Feb 8, 2012 at 2:16 PM

        Hey Keith….simmer down. I liked your article and it was very interesting but the point I was trying to express, apparently in an in-artful way (no pun), was that it must’ve been a slow news day and football is really over for the season. Even though the Giants won the Superbowl, I’m a little bummed that its all over. Please be assured, no offense was intended…..if I didn’t like your writing, I wouldn’t be coming here everyday. After re-reading my comment, I can see how the “regurgitating” remark would be a negative connotation and for that I apologize.

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