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Kelly’s recruiting reputation continues to rise

Jan 30, 2013, 1:30 PM EDT

Brian Kelly podium

When Notre Dame turned to Brian Kelly after another disappointing season in 2009, many wondered whether or not he was going to be able to make it on the recruiting trail. Cutting his teeth at Grand Valley State, then spending stints at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, moving to Notre Dame was a big step forward. And for Kelly and his staff — a group that was largely coaching on college football’s biggest stage for the first time — there was real concern whether this coaching staff could battle with the biggest names in college football to get elite talent to come to South Bend.

That answer has been rather obvious the past three years. After filling out a recruiting class built by Charlie Weis and his staff, Kelly’s 2011 class included elite defensive prospects Stephon Tuitt, Aaron Lynch, and Ishaq Williams, all recruits that needed major work in the final days of their recruitment.

Last season, Kelly plucked five-star quarterback Gunner Kiel out from under LSU’s nose while also bringing in high profile players like Sheldon Day, Davonte Neal, Elijah Shumate, and KeiVarae Russell, who walked onto campus and started at cornerback from day one.

After recruiting prospects to Notre Dame after two eight-win seasons, Kelly and his staff have put together a banner class, with a handful of names still in play in the final days before faxes begin arriving.

With the Irish in the running to have the nation’s top recruiting class, ESPN’s Travis Haney took notice, including Brian Kelly among his top ten recruiting head coaches.

Here’s his list:

1. Nick Saban, Alabama
2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
T3. Art Briles & Kevin Sumlin, Baylor & Texas A&M
5. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
6. James Franklin, Vanderbilt
7. Will Muschamp, Florida
8. Lane Kiffin, USC
9. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
10. David Shaw, Stanford

Here’s what Haney had to say about Kelly:

Kelly is pure polish, illustrative perhaps of his brief run at politics before settling on a career as a football coach. Kelly cut his teeth at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati before landing at Notre Dame, which is to say he had some time to ready himself for the particular demands of that highly visible job. (Not that anything could have prepared him for something like the Manti Te’o saga.)

But Kelly sure does not seem to represent the sometimes phony side of politics. Kelly has the ability to personally connect with recruits and their families and coaches. All of a sudden, high-end prospects — those who can get in, anyway — are again interested in Notre Dame.

To get the surge, Kelly partly used a message that sometimes pops up in recruiting: “Come help us win again.” And it’s working, as evidenced by more than just the BCS title game appearance. The Irish currently have the third-ranked recruiting class, behind only Florida and Alabama.

It’s interesting to look at this list from the viewpoint of perception. A majority of this group is known primarily for their recruiting acumen. It’s hard to find an article on guys like Swinney and Franklin that doesn’t mention their ability to charm recruits. When you read about Kiffin, the negative press that plagues him (much of which was his own doing), is almost rationalized with his ability to connect with young players.

Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have practically built their myth around their relentless nature — recruiting just as hard as they do everything else, with Meyer’s one-year sabbatical from the sport a product of simply trying too hard. A similar story is in its infancy for Muschamp.

Sure, Haney’s decription of what makes Kelly a great recruiter toes a familiar line. For a guy that spent a post-college year working for a political campaign as he figured out what he was going to do with his life, you half expect Kelly to have been Ryan Gosling from The Ides of March. But it’s got to be reassuring for Irish fans that Kelly has excelled so quickly on the recruiting trail.

As a coach that was hired for his ability to build a program and for his knowledge of Xs and Os, the fact that he finds himself on a list like this after just three seasons at Notre Dame — and only one where the Irish have had any sort of success — is a great sign of things to come.

 

  1. nudeman - Jan 30, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    Of all his recruiting successes, Gunner is at the top of the list.

    If I recall, when Gunner flipped he cited, among other factors, the way Kelly and his team comported themselves over the months, frequently having conversations about stuff other than football. I was impressed by that and believe in the long run treating 18 year olds like adults (as opposed to a piece of football meat) pays off.

    Also … Saban #1. Really? It’s an easy and completely defensible thing to rank him #1, but I could also make this case: He’s undeniably a great, great coach … probably the best in the biz today. And he undeniably gets great talent. But doesn’t he sort of have a captive audience in the southeast where football is God?

    Yes, there is FL and Auburn, etc to contend with. But they are Ala-friggin-bama.

    Saban to his credit knows how to leverage that. But he doesn’t have a high academic hurdle to clear with recruits, and has a … ahem … “robust” booster community to help out.

    Saban is great, and I really like him as a guy and of course as a coach. There have even been stories out there that he and Izzo would LOVE to coach ND some day. Just not sure he’s the #1 recruiter.

    And frankly, I’ll take Kelly with what he’s been able to pull off in jsut 3 years.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Jan 30, 2013 at 3:17 PM

      Well you HAVE to look at JUCO transfers. ND doesn’t allow em.

      Think Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton … JUCO transfers. SEC had loads of JUCO transfers that become stars.

      Huge edge.

      • gtizzo - Jan 31, 2013 at 12:47 AM

        JUCO transfers a huge edge? Wait till you see what Kansas State does next year. When they finish 6-6 or worse after they graduate there entire team you may feel different. The benefit of JUCO is that you get a kid with playing experience that can fill a hole. Cam Newton wasn’t a issue for ND more like the Florida Gators. He committed to Florida on NSD and left because Florida had some guy named Tebow. Two years later he wins a National title and Heisman the one Urban Meyer let get away. Alabama could be just as good as they are without any JUCO players. JUCO can’t cover up a lack of recruiting strength forever.

    • ndbcs2013 - Jan 30, 2013 at 8:06 PM

      Simple question to prove Saban’s worth: how was Ala-friggin-bama’s recruiting going prior to his arrival?

      The gray-shirting issue is deeply disturbing to me. But sitting in a recruit’s living room, Saban has got to be solid freaking gold.

  2. nudeman - Jan 30, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    Of all his recruiting successes, Gunner is at the top of the list.

    If I recall, when Gunner flipped he cited, among other factors, the way Kelly and his team comported themselves over the months, frequently having conversations about stuff other than football. I was impressed by that and believe in the long run treating 18 year olds like adults (as opposed to a piece of football meat) pays off.

    Also … Saban #1. Really? It’s an easy and completely defensible thing to rank him #1, but I could also make this case: He’s undeniably a great, great coach … probably the best in the biz today. And he undeniably gets great talent. But doesn’t he sort of have a captive audience in the southeast where football is God?

    Yes, there is FL and Auburn, etc to contend with. But they are Ala-friggin-bama.

    Saban to his credit knows how to leverage that. But he doesn’t have a high academic hurdle to clear with recruits, and has a … ahem … “robust” booster community to help out.

    Saban is great, and I really like him as a guy and of course as a coach. There have even been stories out there that he and Izzo would LOVE to coach ND some day. Just not sure he’s the #1 recruiter.

    And frankly, I’ll take Kelly with what he’s been able to pull off in just 3 years.

  3. nudeman - Jan 30, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    sorry about the double post
    tried to correct a typo a little too late

  4. cameronemclaughlin - Jan 30, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    I’m not sure it’s nec

  5. cameronemclaughlin - Jan 30, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    (Sorry, phone messed me up)
    As I was saying, it’s not necessary to argue over the order of this top ten. I’m not a Saban fan, but I found this pretty interesting:

    Of the 27 Alabama players drafted since 2007, 16 were ranked 3-stars or lower as recruits by either Rivals.com or Scout.com.
    (http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2013/01/countdown_to_signing_day_what.html)

    That’s some pretty solid identification of talent (even if one is over-signing).

    • papadec - Jan 30, 2013 at 8:58 PM

      cam – it also says a lot about the quality of Bama’s asst coaches. It isn’t all Kelly OR all Saban.

    • 1historian - Feb 2, 2013 at 7:10 AM

      IMO that’s more a question of plain coaching – you judge a coach by what he does with what he’s got.

  6. kiopta1 - Jan 30, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    Have a hard time with Kiffin on there but he is a very good con man…er used car salesman…er recruiter.

  7. kiopta1 - Jan 30, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    I definitely see Saban, Meyer, and Kelly on this less cause they all recruit very well but also seem to coach the most out of what they recruit…a very important distinction.

  8. tony34343434 - Jan 30, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    Do you think that the story of some Bama players taking PED’S will change some recruits mind away from Bama?

    • heisenbyrg - Jan 30, 2013 at 6:58 PM

      Hate to say it, but not as much as a title game blowout, Kelly’s Eagles interview, and the Manti thing might dissuade an ND recruit. And for some SEC types, PED use may actually function as an incentive.

      • papadec - Jan 30, 2013 at 9:00 PM

        heis – would that be the types looking to play in the NFL?

      • 1historian - Feb 2, 2013 at 7:12 AM

        Have to disagree. The NC game blowout can be rectified next year and the Manti thing will be a memory – admittedly embarrassing – next year. If it were going to hurt us in recruiting it would have been this year, and that doesn’t seem to have happened.

  9. jimbasil - Jan 30, 2013 at 7:07 PM

    I will eat crow here. My initial thoughts on Kelly with regard to recruiting big time names from high school was he didn’t care to recruit the top level players – he had no iterest there. He all but stated that so I took him at his word. Well, he is interested in bringing the big timey game back to ND and has no fear challenging the recent norm only SEC schools, TX and USC would be able to sign elite student athletes.

    I agree Kelly has a much higher set of hurdles on a longer track to clear in order to reach the elite athletes therefore he and his staff might be the toughest recruiters out there.

    • Laughing Tulkas - Jan 31, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      Respect to you for saying this. But he didn’t “all but state” that he wasn’t interested in big time players, though certain factions of ND Nation (both meanings) interpreted what he said that way. There were 2 sides of that debate even when he originally said it, and I think it was pretty foolish of the anti-Kelly camp to force that interpretation at the time. Some of us really thought he just meant that players needed to fit in correctly, and to be, dare I say it, “RKGs.” We also realized that this quality was not related to rankings.

      • jimbasil - Feb 7, 2013 at 6:20 PM

        It’s not really an interpretive assessment of he did or didn’t say it. He did say it and he said it pointedly. Whether being jocular or not, it is still his statement and leaves little to interpret. Repeating what he says doesn’t make someone an anti-kelly camper. No one I know misunderstood the meaning of RKG. You are conflating your issues. I simply took Kelly (an unknown to most ND alums) at his word.

  10. seanb20124 - Jan 30, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    Have to wonder if Kiel sticks around?

    • ndbcs2013 - Jan 30, 2013 at 8:22 PM

      Who could thumb this down? Hope Kiel stays… but questioning if an elite QB is going to be willing to sit on the bench for a while or not is an unreasonable question?

      • bernhtp - Jan 30, 2013 at 10:00 PM

        I gave a thumbs down for a question that’s been asked a million times and without any new information to give any insight into how the QB competition will go, whether Golson will stay healthy, what Zaire will show, etc.

        I don’t give many thumbs down. They usually come when a post is extremely poorly written or bores me. We hit the latter category here. Apparently I wasn’t the only one.

  11. papadec - Jan 30, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    bern – I agree with you. I get tired of the useless speculation regarding which top quality ND players will jump ship, just because they might have to compete for a starting position.

    • nudeman - Jan 31, 2013 at 12:08 AM

      I led the league last year in receiving thumbs down (dickasman was a close 2nd) and so am now desensitized to them.

      Coming soon: 4 pg post from me, completely off topic on why Tommy Rees shouldn’t start. I expect to jump out to an insurmountable 2013 lead with that.

      • papadec - Jan 31, 2013 at 12:34 AM

        nude – ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…………………….

      • ohioirish - Jan 31, 2013 at 12:25 PM

        Nude, I gave you a thumbs down on this. Mostly because I was trying to pad your stats. Good luck in 2013. I will be pulling for you … or is it not pulling for you?

      • bernhtp - Jan 31, 2013 at 12:35 PM

        Nude: hate to say it, but Dick has you on the thumbs down. You may get a dozens to a few posts ranting about Rees, but Dick will gets hundreds when he gets drunk at night and starts talking butt sex with trannies.

        BTW, nobody disagrees with you about Rees and haven’t for about a year. I suspect any thumbs down come from over-repetition (though not from me).

      • c4evr - Jan 31, 2013 at 1:16 PM

        Sorry nude, when it comes to number of thumbs down, I’m Ala-freakin’-bama. And I can’t wait until next season when I really ramp up the rhetoric when ND starts out 2-3 including a closer-than-should-be victory over Temple. But I’d actually be concerned if I got many thumbs up on this particular board since it exists in a parallel universe immune to facts and observations widely held by the rest of the known Universe.

      • 9irish - Jan 31, 2013 at 5:00 PM

        asman could say it’s a sunny day and get 50 thumbs down….you have your work cut out for you.

      • 1historian - Feb 2, 2013 at 7:18 AM

        don’t forget harv – he is consistent

  12. andy44teg - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    Anyone else see that Jamel James committed to Texas State?? I’m not one to usually rag on a 17-18 yr old’s decisions, but that just seems, for a lack of a better word, stupid.

    • nudeman - Jan 31, 2013 at 10:42 AM

      Not stupid if it’s become your only option.
      The buzz is that his grades are spotty and he’s not exactly in the best condition.

      • andy44teg - Jan 31, 2013 at 10:58 AM

        Do you mean out of shape or injured? B/c if it’s out of shape…then that’s pretty stupid, too.

      • nudeman - Jan 31, 2013 at 12:21 PM

        I saw nothing about an injury and think the implication is that he’s out of shape.

        Not the sharpest tool in the shed here. Has some legit big back ability but he committed out of nowhere, then started taking other visits right away. Apparently ND said “WTF?” and his tweet, which will live in infamy, was along the lines of “if they think their program is so great, they shouldn’t mind if I take other visits”.

        “They”?

        Nice. That was when he was still an ND commit.

        Really classy, but in a really stupid sort of way. Addition by subtraction.

      • bernhtp - Jan 31, 2013 at 12:49 PM

        Nude, WTF is putting it mildly. Everything about his so-called commitment was weird. While extremely talented, James got a quick eject for his grades, questionable work ethic, visits to other schools, and the temerity to basically say who does Notre Dame (“they”) think they are to tell me who I can talk to. He apparently also lost his offers from Texas A&M, among others, and ended up at lowly Texas State. He needs to grow up and lose the tude.

  13. ndrocks2 - Jan 31, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Six days till signing day – realistic gets left on the board and worries about guys we have leaving? What about Folston?

    • papadec - Jan 31, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      rocks2 – there is a story @ IrishSports Daily that ND & Auburn assistants were at his HS “all day”, on Wednesday – that Folston re-affirmed for ND.

  14. harvupdyke - Jan 31, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Rudy fans this is a blog not an English term paper. Meet each other in the library if you want to fix typo’s. & you can save me all the intellectual bs about how we’re nd & so superior because we fix grammar errors on our iphones.

    Couldn’t help but notice who is #1 on that list…but then again you knew who it would be after the Massacre in Miamah.

    Go watch Rudy again & cry.

    Alabama girlfriends actually exist. Even if they do attend Auburn.

    Roll dam tide.

    • 1notredamefan - Jan 31, 2013 at 8:01 PM

      Have to agree about the ridiculous typo corrections…. It does border on lunacy when your only talking fooootball!!! maybe the smart guy needs that in order to make for intellectualism

    • papadec - Jan 31, 2013 at 9:57 PM

      harv – put down the can of deer antler spray, and get back under the bridge.

    • ndbcs2013 - Jan 31, 2013 at 11:42 PM

      Gotta admit – I laughed at the girlfriends comment. Musberger was absolutely right about that vixen from Auburn!

  15. irish4me - Jan 31, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    Gotta laugh on the Double posting of Comments by Nudeman, 1 first posting is running 31-2 in favor, while the exact same post repeated is running 3-2 against ! Personally I agree with Nudeman on this one Kelly wins the prize, he’s gotta get recruits that can get into the scholl academically AND carry a football, not an easy thing, and dare I say it Saban knows it too. The key for Saban is his ability to watch game films and GIVEN the time (like 6 weeks) comes uo with a winnable plan, witness the LSU los in OT 9-6 last year and then the dismaantling 21-0 in the title game against the same LSU. I’m convinced had ND played this game the first week of DEC, it wouldn’t have been the blowout it was. There is where Kelly has to step up, get the boys prepared REALLY prepared after a LONG layoff. Considering the schedule looks more favorable this time around we could be trying again this year for the Crystal Football. Ya gotta believe, 12-0 again, it could happen.

    • 1historian - Feb 2, 2013 at 7:25 AM

      The 2012 team was in the NC game a year early. If we had lost one game we would have still been in the top 10 and would have still gotten a good bowl game. IMO we were NOT READY to face a team like Alabama. It was a darn good team and it was a lucky team – e.g. – The Pitt game. But it was not a great team. Alabama WAS a great team.

      This team coming up is 7/8 Kelly’s recruits.

      And let’s not forget ND’s last National Champion – the butt whipping they got from Texas A&M the year before.

  16. irish4me - Jan 31, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    Harvupdyke: Anyone ever mistake you for a man?

  17. goirishgo - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    Harv,

    How’s the trial shaping up?

  18. irishfbfan1 - Feb 1, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    If you are not a Notre Dame fan then you will never understand. I am not putting one down at all for not being a fan of the Irish, not my intention, what I am about to say ND Nation is full aware of, you need a Notre Dame guy to Coach Football at Notre Dame, and Mr. Brian Kelly is a Notre Dame guy! It takes a special human being, I didn’t say a better or perfect human being, I said a special one to carry on the day to day unique agenda’s that are associated with this University, as well as a man who not only knows how to handle the strong passion and loyalty from one of the greatest group of fans in the Country with ND Nation, but he too must exhilarate this passion deep inside too. Mr. Brian Kelly does indeed fall into what Notre Dame fans have been waiting for since Lou Holtz, and that is a Notre Dame guy.

    Go Irish!

    • c4evr - Feb 1, 2013 at 5:49 PM

      I don’t recall Lou talking to NFL teams during his time at ND…

      • papadec - Feb 1, 2013 at 9:30 PM

        c4 – OR ARA.

      • 1historian - Feb 2, 2013 at 7:26 AM

        If memory serves he had already done a floperoo in the pros.

      • mayo1010 - Feb 7, 2013 at 8:16 AM

        @c4evr–that’s because he already had “been there…done that” after Arkansas. By the way, failed miserably. His curiousity happened before he got to ND. Once again you only tell part of the story to try an make a point in disparaging Lou from BK. But just like Lou in the NFL–you too have failed miserably!

  19. harvupdyke - Feb 1, 2013 at 9:22 PM

    For all we know Dr. Lou may have talked to NFL teams. Chances are no one could understand what he was saying…

    Which leads me to a question. Is Lou making a true confession if the priest can’t understand what it is he’s confessing?

    Roll dam tide.

  20. papadec - Feb 1, 2013 at 9:36 PM

    harv – do you have even the slightest idea of how stupid you come across, most of the time?

    • 1historian - Feb 2, 2013 at 7:28 AM

      Suggestion – ole harv seems to covet the thumbs down prize, and I personally think that we should keep it in house between our two personal faves nudie and dick. So no matter what harv says – just ignore him.

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