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Taking a closer look at the Irish recruiting machine

Jul 11, 2012, 12:54 PM EST

Brian Kelly podium

It’s fun to look back at the early worries about Brian Kelly. After being hired by Jack Swarbrick to take over the Irish football program, Kelly was immediately tagged with the “small time” label, with his work on the field at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati not actually the biggest question for some people. Could the new Irish head coach coexist in a recruiting world that would now feature some of the biggest fish in college football’s ocean?

Retaining only Tony Alford from Charlie Weis’ coaching staff, Kelly stuck with the familiar after taking the Notre Dame job, bringing with him coaches that worked alongside him on his way up the coaching ladder. While Weis plucked high-profile names from his Rolodex when he assembled his staff, Kelly’s crew had largely been anonymous, filled for the most part with coaches that hadn’t worked on a major stage but had plenty of experience working under the Irish’s new head coach. Deciding to go up against the heavyweights on the national stage with guys like Bob Diaco, Chuck Martin, Mike Elston, and Mike Denbrock, it’s been a pleasant surprise to most fans that this Irish coaching staff hasn’t flinched.

While the on-the-field product still will determine Brian Kelly’s legacy at Notre Dame, he’s exceeded just about all expectations in his first three recruiting classes, with a fourth group almost three-quarters full with seven months until signing day.

It’s too early to reach a true conclusion on the work that Kelly and his staff have done rebuilding the Irish roster, especially without a single Kelly recruit taking a snap as an upperclassman. And Charlie Weis’ work as a paper champion when it came to gathering faxes from highly-rated recruits shows you that topping Rivals.com’s rankings doesn’t determine your success. Yet entering season three of his tenure at Notre Dame, the work Kelly is doing on the recruiting trail, especially on the defensive side of the ball, has been undeniably impressive.

Let’s take a quick look at a few factors that have helped Kelly and his staff build this recruiting machine.

SETTING A PROTOTYPE

Kelly has helped Irish fans understand his recruiting system by breaking down the type of athletes he’s looking for. While the Notre Dame staff certainly profiles recruits for a certain position, they break down prospects into three distinct groupings: Skill, Big Skill and Power.

(A quick primer on how this versatility helps: Troy Niklas, once a linebacker now a tight end, is a perfect example of big skill. George Atkinson, assumed a wide receiver, but now a rising star at running back, fits Kelly’s mold of skill. And Brad Carrico and Bruce Heggie, two guys that started at Notre Dame along the defensive line, now find themselves in the mix at offensive line. That’s the versatility of recruiting power players.)

After watching the Irish flip-flop defensive identities throughout the Weis years, and put together a roster filled with tweeners and mismatched parts, Kelly has defined a prototype for what he’s looking for at position groupings, regardless of whether or not a recruit garners four-stars from a recruiting service.

Looking for a perfect example? Take Michigan linebacker Joe Bolden. While he was good enough to earn offers from the Wolverines and Penn State while garnering a Top 250 ranking by Rivals, the Irish coaching staff was shockingly candid when they turned down the 6-foot-3, 230-pound outside linebacker for being too small.

“Notre Dame told me they wanted a 6-foot-4 linebacker and that I am not their guy,” Bolden told the Detroit News. “I’m not upset if I don’t fit your profile, I was just surprised about height, because I have always believed that it’s not the size of the dog, but it’s the dog’s bite.”

Apologies to Bolden’s back of the t-shirt philosophy, but Kelly’s staff has successful rebuilt the Irish defense because they’ve stuck with the plan and found players that physically fit their scheme. Targeting larger athletes that fit the system — guys like Stephon Tuitt, Ishaq Williams, Ben Councell, Niklas, Jarrett Grace, Carrico and Tony Springmann — give you an idea of what the Irish are looking for along the edges of their defense, while allowing for positional flexibility. Anthony Rabasa, at 6-foot-3, 240, and Justin Utupo, at 6-foot-1, 258, are now inside linebackers, even though they profiled as defensive ends by most recruiting services. Staying within the parameters of their position profiles, while targeting the athletes the Irish need to achieve success in their system, has quickly benefited a defense that too often was undersized and outmanned under Charlie Weis.

WIDENING THE NET

Put simply, Notre Dame has put way more scholarship offers on the table than any other time in the modern era.

After being selective with scholarship offers under Willingham and Weis, Kelly and company have spread a wider net when trying to reel in the best prospects in the country. Along with dispelling the myth that the Irish couldn’t compete most of the best players in the country, the Irish coaching staff has streamlined the process of identifying and offering elite prospects.

The specifics of a scholarship offer have changed quite a bit in the past few years, with plenty of strings attached at schools with a lot less stringent academic standards than Notre Dame. Yet the Irish have been able to adapt to the times, target and offer players earlier and earlier, while also potentially taking fliers on elite players that might have been tough to get in a few years back if they waited until their senior season to chase them. While some of those borderline players might have bitten the Irish in the back side, the ability to get in the game earlier and earlier with recruits has helped the Irish as they fish in deeper waters.

There is no exact tally for scholarship offers released by schools. Yet the Irish had more than 150 scholarship “offers” on the table before inking a class of 17 recruits. Some of those offers weren’t obviously commitable. But with recruits pushing the timeline up earlier and earlier, identifying and building a relationship with your targets is imperative, especially in a game where a 20 percent conversion rate is pretty good.

PLAYING THE GAME

After getting burned by blue-chip recruits like Omar Hunter, Arrelious Benn, and Chris Donald, Charlie Weis drew a line in the sand about “committed recruits” taking visits to other schools. “If you’re looking, we’re looking,” Weis said, hoping that threat would keep highly-touted 17- and 18-year old football recruits from weighing their options. (It didn’t.)

After 20 years in college football, Kelly immediately understood the recruiting game at Notre Dame. No recruit was final until they signed their letter-of-intent. That meant recruiting — and holding on to — elite prospects until the end. The Irish have won their share (Stephon Tuitt, Gunner Kiel) and lost their share (Ronald Darby, Deontay Greenberry), but they’re recruiting at a relentless pace, unafraid of stepping on any toes as they pursue recruits that fit their system and show interest in learning more about Notre Dame.

Last recruiting class, Notre Dame was unable to swing a highly touted cornerback recruit like Brian Poole at the last minute. But work like that is why quarterbacks Everett Golson is on the Irish roster, and after being burnt by defections during the Weis era, Kelly and his staff have taken a proactive approach to recruiting talented players.

The story of Bob Diaco sitting outside Ishaq Williams’ Brooklyn home at 4:30 in the morning isn’t just lip service. This coaching staff, with excellent recruits like Tony Alford, Mike Elston, Mike Denbrock, Chuck Martin, and now Scott Booker, has a relentless motor and understands a recruiting game that’s gotten more and more ruthless.

FINDING RKGs

The term RKG — Right Kinda Guy — is the type of coachspeak that can drive people crazy. Yet as the Irish build their ’13 recruiting class, there’s been a remarkable focus on finding players that fit the profile of what Notre Dame is looking for. After swinging for the fences in the ’12 class and missing on a few big-name, 50/50 targets like Darby, Greenberry, and Tee Shepard, this recruiting class has seen the Irish refine their approach, finding high quality people that also happen to be very good football players.

Other recruits are taking notice.

“Coming out here, you get a feel for the kind of guys they’re recruiting,” Top 100 recruit Jordan Sherit told Rivals.com at The Opening. “They’re not recruiting the guys that are out here messing around, trying to be goof balls getting in trouble, they’re recruiting guys who are great players, but even better people. For me, if those kind of guys can be my teammates, that’s a testament to the school and the coaches, so that just makes them look even better in my eyes.”

To be certain, the best people aren’t always the best football players. But the Irish staff has built this ’13 recruiting class with early commitments like James Onwualu — high character players that might not be five-star players, but certainly are befitting of scholarship offers. Blending character guys that fit the system with guys like Steve Elmer, Jaylon Smith, and Alex Anzalone, and it’s easy to see why this recruiting class has already surged to 17 commitments.

  1. nudeman - Jul 11, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    One of the best and most informative articles I’ve ever read here.
    Well done Keith.

    And I love the quote at the end from Sherit.
    Nice.

    • arkirish - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:44 PM

      First time commenter. Just had to say i agree completely about the quote. I think it really says a lot about the kind of program that Kelly is trying to build when even these young guys recognize the difference in the kind of recruit they are going after.

  2. gpatton90 - Jul 11, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    This was a great aritcle, and spot on. I was one of those wary fans who was doubtful Kelly would be able to recruit at a top level. Wow, was I proved wrong. His recruiting team certainly has the best work ethic I’ve seen, and one of the most impressive things is how they have adapted and changed based on things that did not work in the past. Guys like Sheppard and Greenberry were great players but not necessarily the RKGs for our program, and not surprisingly, those efforts were wasted. The change in philosophy from last year to this year is evident and impressive. This class is now selling itself, as evident by the Anzalone commitment, and the statement by Sherit. One of Anzalone’s comments that stood out to me was that on his last trip to Florida was that there were no commited recruits there, and he was looking to compare his potential future teammates to the ones he had already built relationships with at ND. RKGs all around.

    Now let’s see the improvements manifest themselves on the field.

    • pd24675 - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:36 PM

      “Now let’s see the improvements manifest themselves on the field.”

      Therein lies the problem.

      • paiten34 - Jul 14, 2012 at 8:35 PM

        PD24675 -

        Here in lays the question much more than a problem. After all with the ton of mistakes both turnovers and penalties Notre Dame still had a decent season that could have been a breakout season with less mistakes.

        I know could of and should of don’t win games but it shows people something. It’s one thing to see a team get beat because it doesn’t play hard and another to see a team lose because they haven’t learned how to win. I think ND is having success in this recruiting class more because of seen potential with the right attitude.

      • nudeman - Jul 15, 2012 at 10:24 PM

        paiten
        “could of” and “should of”
        C’mon

        Bad English drives me nuts. “Could have” and “should have”
        Or if you must, “could’ve” and “should’ve”

        And remember, you can’t spell “nude” with out an “N” and a “D”
        ND

  3. djcraiginpayson - Jul 11, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    Great article. Just one puzzlement – Michigan linebacker Joe Bolden, at 6’3″ and 230 lbs. was rejected by ND for being “too small,” yet Jaylon Smith, 6’3″ and 220 lbs., is the right size for outside LB??? (Don’t get me wrong, I love the the Jaylon Smith commitment.)

    • arkirish - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:46 PM

      As bearcatirish alluded to, I could be wrong, but I believe that Smith is being profiled as an Inside LB in the Irish system even though he is listed as an outside LB by the recruiting services

    • paiten34 - Jul 15, 2012 at 1:01 PM

      DJ -

      I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ( he’s a big 6’3.) That can be the difference between one player versus another player. Now I’ve never seen these players up close and personal so I can’t say 100% this is the answer to your question. I know though that you look at someone and see what he weighs or how tall he his but your eyes don’t believe what you’re seeing. Take Manti or even Floyd for examples. Both players look bigger and play bigger than their weight and height show you. In my opinion this is the answer to your question.

      It also could be that Kelly and company just didn’t want to recruit him so they gave him
      Some B.S line. Haha

    • bernhtp - Jul 15, 2012 at 2:53 PM

      A bigger mystery is how Weis and company let Luke Kuechly get away. Luke really wanted to go to Notre Dame (as does everyone that ultimately goes to BC) but was never offered.

  4. bearcatirishfan - Jul 11, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    I think that’s N inside vs outside linebacker thing

  5. queenlivekillers - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    It seems like articles like this one, genuflecting to the coaching staff’s recruiting coups, come out every year. Then the season begins. Thanks, but I will withhold my judgement of Kelly’s recruiting strategy until the end of the year.

    • nudeman - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:55 PM

      The other day I looked at the Irish recruiting front page their recruits for previous years. Mostly the Weis and Willingham eras. No comparison. Not even close to this year’s haul. Lots more 3 and even 2 star guys back then. I vaguely remember Ty losing someone to Northern Illinois. Seriously.

      Your point is valid in that there’s always a lot of hoopla, some of it justified and some just hype. And it’s also true that not all these recruits this year (or any year) will pan out. It’s even possible Jaylon Smith won’t.

      But overall the recruiting trend at ND is distinctly favorable.

      • jrct2450yahoo - Jul 12, 2012 at 11:24 AM

        I completely agree, Nude, but getting the talent is only half of the story. The more important half is how the talent is developed. This is where I maintain the jury is still out.

      • nudeman - Jul 12, 2012 at 12:00 PM

        jrct
        Agree. I have been blunt here about my surprise and disappointment at the sloppiness and the decision to hold Rees unaccountable for his bad play.
        This year will be very telling.

    • marxistman - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:33 PM

      queenlivekillers: You are questioning his strategy of landing elite prospects who fit perfectly at ND (embracing academics, spirituality, etc)?

      BK is distinguishing himself from his predecessors through the talent he is amassing at “unflashy” positions (O-line, defensive front seven, etc). Under previous regimes, we simply didn’t have the talent to compete with the USCs of the world on a consistent basis. BK is closing the talent gap, landing RKGs, and building a program with a clear vision/direction.

  6. smurphdoggy29 - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    Brian Kelly continually refers back to his long coaching career and his experience becoming a Head Coach in College Football. This is THE key to the success he has achieved.
    Note he had all those years to learn the trade, assemble Coaches he wanted, and hone his craft. Going into Notre Dame Coach Kelly (and his Staff) did so with eyes wide open, why ? All those years of experience. Recall Keith disseminating Coach Kelly’s approach when he first arrived, the plan, and the goals Coach Kelly had in place to try and succeed. Well look that plan and those goals are producing results, and in the manner fairly closely to the blue print laid out.
    I have said in the past it is results. Well Coach Kelly and his Staff should take pride (they won’t they’re working very hard) in these results because they are real and verifiable. Now they (the recruits/players) just have to produce.
    I am a Cincinnatian by birth, had relatives and friends play for the Bearcats, pre-Kelly and D’Antonio, but for all the Fans still on the hunt for Coach Kelly really base it on his on field results and enjoy Coach Jones and the success the Bearcats will have.

    Keith great work and to Coach Kelly & Staff keep up the hard work, but have a nice cold Gatorade and take a breather, it is HOT outside !

    GO Irish !
    See you in Dublin

    • c4evr - Jul 11, 2012 at 10:48 PM

      Reading you loud and clear, smurph, but have to clarify with one sentence:
      ‘Now they (the recruits/players) just have to produce.’ Recruiting is roughly 1/3 of the coaching equation. Now it’s relationship/development and gameplan/execution. Those are the remaining question marks for BK. I think it’s safe to say he’s in uncharted territory with the caliber of recruits he’s lining up now as opposed to his years at Cincinnati or in D2. This is shaping up to be a very interesting 2012.

      • nudeman - Jul 12, 2012 at 10:36 AM

        c4
        Hats off to you for getting “uncharted” right.
        I hear people blow this one all the time and say “unchartered”.
        Drives me crazy.

      • c4evr - Jul 12, 2012 at 10:48 AM

        nude,

        LOL, I caught it on my proofread and corrected it.

      • don74 - Jul 12, 2012 at 7:16 PM

        Nude,

        I am going to have to up my game when posting now that you are watching spelling and grammar! It’s a good reminder as one can get lazy when posting.

      • paiten34 - Jul 15, 2012 at 2:06 PM

        Fellow Irish fans -

        Also remember that as a coaching staff building a program like this you need to put your players in situations to succeed. It’s nice to have a ton of talent like Kelly and company are bringing into South Bend. The next step to building this program up to greatness is aligning your players so they can have the best opportunity to succeed.

        Kelly has done a much better job than NDs last few coaches at placing his players with a few exceptions. It’s very difficult to win games when players are being switched from DL to LB and then over to OL. I understand injuries forcing a coach to move a player out of position. Now Charlie and Ty moved players around like they were playing dress up with little dolls. Kelly has kept his moving of players to a minimum the last two years. The players he did have to move were the fault of poor recruiting by his predecessors who left Kelly very very thin at several positions.

        This staff is just starting to build up a solid full rotation in the near future. By 2014 I don’t think Notre Dame will be in this same situation needing to move players out of their natural position.

      • c4evr - Jul 16, 2012 at 10:33 AM

        paiten34,

        As a fervent supporter of CBK, how do you possibly explain the second half of the last game? After 2 full years of implementing your philosophy and coaching style, why such a monumental breakdown? Why abandon the first half strategy that had your opponent on the ropes? To me, it’s worst than the Navy game – at least in that one, Kelly never had the opponent figured out and had, evidently, no idea how to stop the bleeding. If he is so good at putting his players in position to succeed, why does he seem to sabotage his efforts with questionable calls? I agree that he is building the personnel for a great program, but he has far from convinced me that he knows why to do when he gets all these RKG’s on campus. Another year like last (i.e. turnovers, penalties, and dubious calls) and you’ll go from BK supporter to apologist.

  7. indyron - Jul 11, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    Great article Keith!! BK has a plan & is assembling the pieces he needs to accomplish his goal of being an annual contender. Loved Sherits comment. Sounds like the RKG we need.

  8. dmac4real - Jul 11, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    As Jason Sapp said this morning

    “Note: #NotreDame’s 2013 commits haven’t considered visiting other programs while targets committed elsewhere want to visit ND.”

    Thats the best sign we have.

    • bernhtp - Jul 11, 2012 at 6:19 PM

      As I’ve noted before, this is an interesting phenomenon. The IrishMob13 have befriended each other and see themselves as different from most of the rest of the elite div1 recruit pool. They embrace and articulate Notre Dame values and want others of like character and ability to join them. They’ve created their own gravity well and I predict our biggest challenge by NSD will be to find a spot for all of the great kids that want to join IrishMob13.

      • nudeman - Jul 12, 2012 at 12:05 PM

        bern
        Any idea if they came up with the IrishMob13 moniker?
        Or was that something the staff dreamed up?

        Either way, getting the comraderie and team spirit going early is a fantastic approach.

  9. godcountrynotredame - Jul 11, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    Reblogged this on God Country Notre Dame.

  10. arkirish - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    This has nothing to do with this thread but was too funny to pass up. Apologies in advance if it continues the beaten to death Tommy Rees debate.

    [IMG]http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/1233074/QBCHART2012.png[/IMG]

    • arkirish - Jul 11, 2012 at 9:20 PM

      Ok so that didn’t work like I hoped. Copy and paste to check out pic. And if anyone knows how to imbed here I would be grateful for the tutelage.

      • nudeman - Jul 12, 2012 at 10:38 AM

        I finally was able to look at the image (pretty funny) by copying and pasting the url then deleting everything after “png”

        Only thing I’ve found that can be embedded is a YouTube clip

  11. fnc111 - Jul 11, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    It’s pretty moot when you look at USC and Michigan in the recruiting rankings and they are two big name programs on the ND schedule that seem to always beat ND.

    Coach Kelly is a pretty decent coach but I don’t see him taking ND anywhere special. I mean the guy has made so many mistakes in two years its almost mind boggling. Mark May is right though, ND is at least respectable now and aren’t always getting blown out like the Weis BCS games and what I remember in the Ty years.

    Just really frustrating that Kelly’s teams seem to be stuck in the mud the first couple of years with the experts saying he hasn’t gotten all of his players yet, but no one talks about how Hoke came in and built the offense around Robinson so the team could win right away. Kelly did the exact opposite when he forced Crist into an offense he wasn’t comfortable with. That scUM team had so many holes and still walks away with 11 wins while ND is still searching for an identity after Kelly couldn’t build around Crist’s skill set. CBK better find his way pretty soon or it will be too late for him. He seems to be on a 10 year building plan while other coaches in similar situations hit the ground running. I hope the excuses for coach Kelly’s failures stop sooner than later.

    • c4evr - Jul 11, 2012 at 10:58 PM

      Yes, it does seem to have been a painfully long descent (what, 15 years now?) into the abyss, perhaps it will take half that time for the pendulum to swing back around. There are many Kelly detractors – I’m near the top of that list – but I’m beginning to realize that if he’s shown the door, it may be awfully slim pickins’ to find a successor… outside of Phil Fulmer, that is. I think we’re in the ‘or worse’ portion of the marriage and will have to ride it out. Everything beneath the surface is starting to come together. Now we just have to sit back and wait for the tsunami of talent to rise. Of course, I reserve the right to a full retraction upon the first bonehead call by coach K.

    • bernhtp - Jul 12, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      Wow, you guys are really negative. “15 years into the abyss” – geesh! Last I checked, the abyss was years ago with the 3-9 season. Things have been improving the last few years. The last two regular seasons were 7-5 and 8-4 and against tougher schedules. Recruiting is certainly is getting better, Swarbrick is navigating the conference turmoil with ND still having a role, the mood of the team up, etc.

      Short of violating ND or NCAA rules, Kelly will be around a while. The coaching merry-go-round has not worked well and so I expect Kelly to be given extra support and latitude. I would be surprised if this team was not better than last years and next year better still. I am obviously optimistic.

    • andy44teg - Jul 12, 2012 at 10:37 AM

      I’m sorry, fnc111, but Denard Robinson and Dayne Crist are not comparable QB’s. With a mobile QB like DR, it’s a lot easier to have success without that much talent, since your best player is making all the plays. But with a pro-style QB like Dayne, you need the talent built around him in order to be successful. Can you imagine how good ND would’ve been if we had a Denard Robinson on the roster when BK came to town?? We would’ve had the season that Michigan had last year.

    • nudeman - Jul 12, 2012 at 10:51 AM

      I don’t see a lot of excuses for BK; au contraire people here are pretty tough on him for all the reasons that don’t need to be repeated.

      I said the other day that this year is critical in determining if the Hindenburg-esque 2011 was an aberration or if Kelly really has a blind spot in coaching a team to be efficient and disciplined.

      Last point: Many have said “well the team is mostly all his now”.

      That’s incredibly misleading, when you consider that most of the snaps this year will be taken by juniors and seniors, neither of those classes he recruited. Yes, those guys have now had 2 years of Kelly’s tutelage, so he owns them to some degree. But really it won’t be a 100% Kelly team for another year or two.

      Is that fair? When you look at the difference in the way CW built a team (skill positions and little focus on “D”) vs. Kelly (OL, DL, D), yes it IS fair. CW never got talent like Tuitt, Lynch and Ishaq IN ONE CLASS. Got T’eo, flipped him the keys to the defense and thought he was done with D.

      Better times ahead if they clean up the mistakes.

      • bernhtp - Jul 12, 2012 at 4:41 PM

        I keep reading about Kelly’s mistakes, but all coaches make mistakes. You only remember and hear about them when the team loses.

        I don’t want to be too defensive of Kelly, but many of the critically bad events last year were not about coaching; they were aberrant quantum events. Take the Jonas fumble at USF. USF made a good play to strip the ball, but then the ball bounced right into the defender for a TD. In this Michigan game, ND strips the ball but it bounces right into Denard’s hands for a TD. Denard’s hail mary wounded duck pass for a TD was all Gary Gray, who had every coach since Pop Warner tell him to turn on the ball.

        Kelly’s legitimate failure was keeping Rees on the field way too long. I find it hard to believe that Crist, wounded ego and all, couldn’t have done better by mid season. I think that Hendrix would have done better with more game experience, and there was garbage time where he could have been used, but wasn’t. Rees should have been out of the rotation by the end of the season. Defenses had him figured out and were playing a very short field knowing he couldn’t run, extend plays with his feet, nor throw deep. I think Rees only had a single deep pass with a gain of 40+ yards all year. That’s pitiful considering you have Floyd and Eifert as targets.

      • nudeman - Jul 12, 2012 at 4:59 PM

        bern
        I am not a big believer of “we had lousy luck” over the course of the season.
        I’m sure ND had some very good breaks too.

        You are correct – the Gray fumble can’t be blamed on BK. But I think one can make an argument that the Crist fumble against USC was partially BK’s fault. Who shuttles a QB in at the goal line for one play (Hendrix) then shuttles him back out? That just doesn’t help anybody get set.

        And I definitely DO blame BK for letting Tommy continue to play without any accountability. WTF was he watching? All I’ve been able to think is that there must have been more to the Crist vs. BK story than we know. Maybe a melt down at half of the USF game that forever scarred BK’s mind re: Crist?
        Who knows. It’s unconscionable that he fell so in love with Rees.
        That is 100% on Kelly.

      • bernhtp - Jul 12, 2012 at 11:38 PM

        I normally also believe that luck evens out, but the bizarre and catastrophic plays of last season were so far out of the norm that I needed to note it as an anomaly. I don’t expect them to be repeated nor the coach really accountable. Just take the two goal line fumbles that were run back for TDs. How many of those occurred in all the rest of BCS football last year? Were there any others? We had two that dramatically changed their games, and that doesn’t even count the other plays I mentioned.

        On the other hand, we largely agree about Rees.

    • dmac4real - Jul 12, 2012 at 6:34 PM

      My gosh. I would take this seriously, but its not even correct. If you noticed, Denards season wasnt even close to his sophmore campaign. Hoke would force him into the offense for the first 3 quarters, then realize that wasnt working, and essentially switch back to the spread and let Denard win them the game. Maybe Hoke is a good coach, but I think its more Denard is that good of an athlete.

  12. norcalirish - Jul 12, 2012 at 5:32 AM

    If Stanford can do it, WE can do it.

  13. bearcatirishfan - Jul 12, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    He took a pretty bad cincy defense and made them pretty good, albeit to not as good competition, in two years. He can develop players, and has proven so at other stops. He likes to do it by pushing the right buttons. Don’t forget he called Michael Floyd a “not very good football player” we he got here. Worked ok for michael he developed a lot In the last two years. I do think this is the years we need to see or of it and in larger spurts though.

  14. irish4006 - Jul 12, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    I find it very refreshing when players like Te’o or Floyd decide to come back for the 4th year. It says a lot about the team and their faith in the coaching staff. This is particularly special considering both of them already had 3 full seasons (barring injury time) under their respective belts since they both started playing from the Freshman season. I would count those as as recruiting success as well.

    • nudeman - Jul 12, 2012 at 3:53 PM

      Let’s be realistic though.
      A big reason each came back was because neither was going to go in the 1st round.
      So from that standpoint, the choice was made for them.
      Not saying they both don’t love ND; just saying there’s way more to the story.

      • irish4006 - Jul 12, 2012 at 4:42 PM

        That didn’t prevent others from leaving in the past. Also, we will never know for sure which round they would end up in, had they decided to leave. Maybe it wasn’t a sure thing like Luck or Leinert or Bradford; but definitely a good sign.

  15. barneysbullet - Jul 12, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    @c4ever:

    You need to get your proofreader to Florio and his boys over @ profootballtalk.com!!!

  16. kleinick - Jul 12, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    Some videos from The Opening:

    Alex Anzalone: http://msn.foxsports.com/video?videoid=dec8f317-6b05-d3aa-ffc7-2303dcc935db&src=v5:share:sharepermalink:uuids&from=sharepermalink%E2%80%9D

    Jaylon Smith: http://msn.foxsports.com/video?videoid=1ac3045c-ada4-4ea8-b3b0-77e14a44fdb4&src=v5:share:sharepermalink:uuids&from=sharepermalink%E2%80%9D

    Corey Robinson: http://msn.foxsports.com/video?videoid=492b5ccb-97dc-ca12-f0fc-f5ef8b27c0d4&src=v5:share:sharepermalink:uuids&from=sharepermalink%E2%80%9D

  17. bearcatirishfan - Jul 13, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    “Who shuttles a QB in at the goal line for one play (Hendrix) then shuttles him back out”

    I’ll tell you who urban Meyer the year they won the NC, with leak and tebow or rich rod with forcier and Robinson just a couple of years ago. I think it’s pretty common in college football. Hell cooper used to shuffle between Jackson and germain in1997 the year that OSU kicked our butts and beat jake the snake in the rose bowl.

    My point is I think you can be a little over critical Of some of BK’s on field decisions. He takes a few risks.

    Agree about Rees though as much as I defended and still will defend his decision to start him in the BG game.

    • bernhtp - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:15 AM

      Putting Hendrix in for a goal-line play was part of the offense plan and it would have looked brilliant had it worked. It also gave Kelly some time with Crist on the sideline. While in retrospect it may have taken Crist out of his rhythm and contributed to the catastrophic fumble, I don’t lay the fault on Kelly; Crist needs to be able to take a snap without handing it to the defense for a TD.

      Again, while the QB situation generally can be laid at the feet of Kelly, the inability for a QB to take a snap, the failure of a CB to turn on a floating lob ball, or the bizarre quantum bounces of footballs are beyond his control.

      I will also add that Kelly obviously realizes that he handled the QB situation badly. Else he would not have opened the competition given that the job normally is automatically inherited by the two-year starter.

      • nudeman - Jul 13, 2012 at 10:48 AM

        I am not 100% sure that Kelly realizes he handled the QBs poorly. I get your point of course, but for him to start Rees throughout the year tells me otherwise. Then, after a performance against Stanford where he was so obviously overmatched and played terribly, he starts Rees against FSU.
        Then takes an awful mistake and pours gasoline on it by starting him in the BG game (where he continued his terrible play).

        Those three games – Stanford/FSU/BG – might be the three worst back to back to back QB performances I’ve ever seen.

        So there is no predicting that Kelly finally “gets it” here. Someone said here that “you can’t embarrass Rees and not have him start the BG game. It would send the wrong message to the team”.

        Really?

        That is possibly the worst thing I’ve ever read on this board. Does anybody really think the players don’t know that Rees is overmatched? If BK had started Golson or Hendrix in the BG game the message that would have sent to the team would be “We’re moving on; we’re trying to get better at every position. We’ve got two other guys (3 counting Gunner) who are more talented, have worked hard and deserve a shot.”

        Instead he ran Tommy out there because Tommy has been, is and always will be his boy. Stop me if you’ve heard this before but he was terrible.

        So the point is that, as far as Rees being moved down the depth chart, I’ll believe it when I see it. It won’t shock me if he starts him in Ireland.

      • c4evr - Jul 14, 2012 at 10:17 AM

        Bern,

        Your other examples of combo QB’s that worked aren’t really relevant. If Kelly HAD the trust of his team AND his team had built season long momentum, I might buy your argument. The cold truth is that neither of those things were in place because of a litany of poor decisions and player development had led to timidity on the field which equals death. Certainly the kids dropped the ball and Kelly didn’t, but the way he has handled his coaching duties thus far, the kids had already fumbled the ball in their heads before they took the field. And to mention Kelly at this point in relation to Meyer and Hoke is to demean the latter coaches’ accomplishments.

      • nudeman - Jul 14, 2012 at 11:11 AM

        c4
        This BK issue of creating timidity in his players is not black and white.
        The idea to shuttle QBs in and out at the goal line was not in my mind a wise decision, but not terrible either. It gave USC something else to have to defend with no warning. I wasn’t a fan of the move but I get it.

        As far as Crist fumbling, did the shuttling contribute to that?
        Maybe/maybe not. No way to know.

        However you have to remember this: Up to that point Crist had played brilliantly on that drive. I think he even converted a 4th and 8 or something like that. So there was nothing timid about his play.

        Last point: That single play might have been the most pivotal of the entire season. If Crist takes them in to score, perhaps he builds confidence with BK and maybe he wouldn’t have been so quick to trot Tommy back out there. Instead … well, never mind.

      • c4evr - Jul 14, 2012 at 10:52 PM

        Nude,

        You are right. Timidity was a poor choice of words. Uncertainty might be a better fit… Whatever word implies that there is a lot of second guessing on the players’ parts.

      • docomer79 - Jul 15, 2012 at 4:08 PM

        1st time commenting.

        Seems I remember Cave saying he screwed up The Snap.

        And, it also seems no one ever seems to comment on what the coaches see in practice with the QBs. Have any of the players ever commented?

      • bernhtp - Jul 15, 2012 at 6:31 PM

        Docomer: Rees got and kept the job because (in no particular order):

        1. Crist lost the coaches’ confidence in the first half of USF
        2. Rees had good success in taking over from Crist the previous year.
        3. Rees continued to do very well in practice, ostensibly at a virtual tie with Crist
        4. Rees did better in the second half of the USF game than Crist did in the first half.
        5. Key players such as Floyd and Eifert lobbied for Rees to start.
        6. Coaches hoped and expected Rees to develop quickly and improve as he gained experience.

        With that said, most/all of us here are mystified as why Rees continued as QB as his performance appeared to continually degrade. We saw everyone have unanswered questions like:

        1. Why was Crist yanked so quickly?
        2. Why wasn’t Crist given another chance, especially during periods where Rees struggled?
        3. Why wasn’t Hendrix given more minutes, especially after the Air Force game where he had a stellar performance. Hendrix got zero the next few games and there was lots of opportunity to give him experience.
        4. As the season progressed and Rees didn’t, why wasn’t he benched and others given a shot? Hell, we had guys wearing red hats that could have done better.
        5. After Hendrix got the team going in the second half of Stanford following the first half where Rees did zero, why did Rees get the start at FSU?
        6. Why is Rees still being considered for the starting job this year? We hear he picks up defensive reads before the snap better than anyone else, but unfortunately what happens after the snap is what counts, and there Rees has sucked. We know what Rees does in games and we all want something (far) better.

      • nudeman - Jul 15, 2012 at 10:44 PM

        bern
        I look at the decision to show Crist the door in favor of Rees as Notre Dame’s grassy knoll. We’ll NEVER know why.
        Was something said? An argument? A fight? Or a tremendous brain cramp by BK?

        It will never make sense to me
        Something had to have been said or done in the locker room at half to precipitate such a move

        THEN … HE STUCK WITH REES after he got a little worse every week, until the point where by the BC, Stanford and FSU games he was just unwatchable. Then he started him in the BG game because “we can’t embarrass Tommy and demote him in Spring”

        WTF

        If BK goes there again this year, it could be his ND epitaph

      • bernhtp - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:59 AM

        Nude: My understanding is that there was no talk, no anger, and very little communication generally. Kelly just announced his new starter following the USF game and there was no other explanation. Kelly obviously lost confidence in Crist and decided to go with Rees. Why that decision became so entrenched in the face of contrary indications is the mystery.

        My only disagreement with you here is about the BG game. You place erroneous significance on the playing order. Kelly started the competing QBs in pure order of seniority. That was made clear up front. There was no relationship between the order, the minutes played, and what defensive and offensive personnel there were on the field. The exception was Kiel, who wasn’t in the normal rotation and only played in the abbreviated second half.

  18. bearcatirishfan - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    I’m not going to regurgitate my reasons for the BG, but in summary: was the returning starter, deserves the same chance as the other unproven commodities, team moral that shows everyone does at least have a chance, it’s a scrimmage for god’s sake no better time to give him one last chance.

    We just disagree here, not worth going through this again.

  19. nudeman - Jul 13, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    Your point is valid.
    My fear is that BK doesn’t consider it “one last chance”

    Having said that, you’re right – no new ground here
    Onward.

  20. bearcatirishfan - Jul 13, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    Righty oh,

    In the theme of this story, I’m really looking forward to seeing thiS defense in about 3 years. Not just better, but hopefully dominating like LSU and Alabama.

  21. bearcatirishfan - Jul 14, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    Onward and forward I say, let’s see some better results this year. (I’m trying to think positively). Maybe if we think more positively karma will be on our side for a change.

  22. idratherbeinsouthbend - Jul 15, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    Two points to throw into the mix…

    First, if you’ve ever coached a sport at the high school level or above you know that EVERY coaching decision made during a game is the right decision. The failure comes with either the coach not preparing his players well enough to execute the play OR the players failing to execute the play. Calling a hit and run in baseball or a QB sneak on 4th and 5 is ALWAYS a good call if it is executed. The failure of a head coach comes in the preparation BEFORE the game

    And second, when BK was hired, i wondered if he would work out because i saw him as a solid coach that won by scoring 56 points against Big East opponents. So, while i thought his offensive philosophy would be a great addition to the ever evolving CFB world, i worried about the defensive side of the ball. It turns out, I was wrong (don’t tell my wife). The defensive side of the ball has been the most impressive part of his tenure….probably part of the reason why i have a man-crush on Bob Diaco. :)

    • nudeman - Jul 15, 2012 at 10:36 PM

      Well that’s an interesting dynamic you’ve pointed out.
      I heard BK say “I can CREATE offense; I have to RECRUIT for D”

      He has hands down down a great job of recruiting for and improving the D
      He’s done a lousy job offensively.
      They were ranked near the bottom of the NCAA last year in O efficiency.
      I blame his love affair with Tommy Rees as the single biggest reason for that

      If he goes with Rees again this year, all the good things he’s done for the program (and he’s done LOTS of good) will be undermined

      Your choice BK. You want to move forward or stay stuck in neutral?

  23. bearcatirishfan - Jul 15, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    His second year a cincy he had a make shift defense, that’s why he had to score so much. He even had a guy by the name of julius jones starting at linebacker. You guys might remember that name.

  24. bearcatirishfan - Jul 15, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    Sorry not Julius jones Demetrius jones.

  25. bearcatirishfan - Jul 15, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    I have had that same thought patient. I think he probably was not a good or RKG, so they told him he didn’t profile right.

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