Brian Kelly 2013 signing day

Irish recruiting class a product of banner season

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For a coach that quipped he could sell Avon, it’s no surprise that Brian Kelly could sell 12-1. Even with that one loss being a resounding thud in the national title game, Notre Dame’s head coach was all smiles when discussing his 2013 recruiting class, even if there were storylines swirling throughout his noon press conference.

First lets dispose of the obvious. With two recruits still on the board when Kelly took to the podium, the head coach nimbly worked around a clerical mistake that listed five-star prospect Eddie Vanderdoes among those signing with the Irish. An honest mistake caused a tidal wave across social media, and one that the coach and his assistants likely took to the phones to fix with the massive defensive tackle. While Vanderdoes will announce his intent at 8 p.m. EST, that wasn’t the only burner left lit, as running back Tarean Folston surprisingly held his decision off until the afternoon, forcing the Irish only to anounce five-star running back Greg Bryant’s signing, a prospect touted enough to fulfill any need most years.

But this wasn’t most years. This 2013 recruiting class is the best Notre Dame has signed in the modern era, doing a perfect job of filling needs and finding elite players that will now be a part of a football team not rebuilding or maintaining, but suddenly thrust into the national conversation.

“It’s a recruiting class that, when you’re looking at it from my perspective, it meets the time and place as to where we are right now,” Kelly said. “We’re a team that has gone from unranked to top ten ranking, top five ranking, at times we’re the No. 1 team in the country. And I think your class reflects that as you move forward.”

If you missed the first twenty-three posts of the last 24 hours, you might do yourself well by looking back at the class broken down individually. But viewing the group through a wide lens, one key factor sticks out.

First, Kelly and his staff targeted winners. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco made some headlines a few months ago when he talked about his general disdain for players that play for losing programs, but that showed true in the final product of this class. The majority of this group played on excellent football teams, with several state championships and postseason appearances aggregated.

“We really were looking for winners,” Kelly said today. “I think the winning percentage of this group, we did some number crunched some numbers, is like 74 percent winning percentage. These kids come from winning programs. They’ve won state championships. They represent winners as it relates to the kind of players we wanted.”

There are two more victories yet to be earned today, with Folston and Vanderdoes still up for grabs. But regardless of what happens in the next few hours, Kelly has built a class that mirrors the success of the 2012 season.

Not too shabby.

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.