Skip to content

Specialization brings additional challenges to recruiting

Feb 8, 2013, 5:21 PM EDT

Brian Kelly 9

As we dig deeper into the talented class that Brian Kelly and his staff reeled in, some trends are starting to emerge in a group widely accepted to be among the best in the nation. We will spend the next few weeks talking about the 24 athletes that comprise the class of 2013, but athlete specialization is an interesting topic Chuck Martin and UND.com’s Jack Nolan touched on during the Signing Day webcast.

For college coaches, dealing with a new breed of athlete is nothing new. As the world of sports gets more competitive and selective, athletes are coming into college more ready than ever, being trained at a younger age for sport-specific skills. This is hardly limited to the world of football.

Youth hockey has changed drastically over the past 15-20 years, with junior leagues and development programs changing the game. The same has happened in basketball, where AAU has disrupted the system forever. While sports like baseball have always dealt with the professional ranks closing in on players out of high school, college football — long one of the most traditional traditional from a development standpoint — is now facing an influx of change as well.

With the recruiting industry playing a more prominent role in the world of college football, the summer months have now been taken over by combines and camps, a development not dissimilar to the early days of AAU basketball. With Nike’s foray into the world with The Opening, ESPN, Rivals and 247 staking their claims, and more and more All-Star games taking place in December, football is turning into a twelve-month endeavor, a big change from even ten years ago.

That brings with it new challenges for football coaches. And after building a career on evaluating athletes that may only work on football skills from August to November, identifying the changes that come from specialization is key.

“It’s big business. There are a lot of families who get in there at a young age,” offensive coordinator Chuck Martin told UND.com. But I’m more for them playing multiple sports and maybe not training as hard at a younger age and let them keep playing and keep competing.

“It seems like kids are specializing earlier and earlier, and with specialization they are training for that particular sport at a very young age. It’s a different time that it was even a decade ago.”

You can see that preference when you take a look at the 2013 recruiting class. Even down to the offensive linemen, there is a great group of athletic versatility in the class, with most of this class playing multiple sports — very successfully — in high school. A guy like Torii Hunter Jr. plans on continuing his baseball career at Notre Dame. But a five-star defensive lineman like Eddie Vanderdoes also spends his spring with the baseball team, staring for his high school team, coached by his father.

When and if the Irish football players return to the Bookstore Basketball world, the offensive line class could put together a deadly squad, with Hunter Bivin, Mike McGlinchey and Colin McGovern all with the athleticism that’s put them on the basketball court in high school. (Team them with wide receiver Corey Robinson and there’s a handful for any competition.)

There are state champions in track and field in this recruiting class. There are lacrosse players. There are basketball and soccer and baseball players. And it all speaks to the aim of the Notre Dame staff to find competitors and athletes, football players that are used to excelling in game situations, not necessarily putting up elite times in the shuttle run or looking good in gym clothes at a combine.

“The more you can compete, the more you are in competitive situations, the better you get at competing,” Martin said. “If you specialize and you train younger, you’re probably going to have a better physical product by the time you get to college, but they might be a little less aware of what’s going on on the field. So we as coaches probably have to coach them a little more than the kid that always played multiple sports and has been in that athletic, competitive arena over and over and over again before they reach college.”

Listening to the interviews recorded for Signing Day and talking and listening to people inside the program, this recruiting class stressed athleticism, toughness, and competitiveness. We heard Kelly reference the winning percentage of this incoming class. Also mentioned was the ability to get to recruits and mold them before bad habits were formed. While athletes like Devin Butler and Rashad Kinlaw may not have wowed recruiting services like Rivals, they did show elite athleticism and physical ability — things this staff believes they can use to mold into proper players.

Notre Dame certainly isn’t alone in this philosophy. Pete Carroll has talked about this quite a bit at USC, when he targeted athletes over football players, unearthing below-the-radar talent to go along with five-star blue-chippers.

As recruiting continues to evolve, it’s clear that Notre Dame’s staff understands the need to do the same thing.

Latest Posts
  1. Irish A-to-Z: Tyler Newsome

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    247Sports 247Sports

    While Kyle Brindza is holding down both the placekicking and punting jobs, freshman Tyler Newsome was brought in on scholarship to take over punting when Brindza’s record-setting career in South Bend is over. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at the incoming freshman specialist.

  2. Notre Dame ranked 17th in preseason Coaches Poll

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT

    Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel Getty Images

    The first Amway Coaches Poll has been released and Notre Dame checks in at 17th in the preseason poll. It’s a fair spot for the Irish, who are coming off a 9-4 season and have talent — but also questions — on both sides of the ball.

  3. For Swarbrick, Independence helps tell the Notre Dame story

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:04 PM EDT

    Jack Swarbrick,Kevin Plank AP

    With fall right around the corner and the university beginning classes in less than a month, Notre Dame football — and all fall sports — are right around the corner. That means that summer break is over (if there was one), for athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

  4. Irish A-to-Z: Quenton Nelson

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Quenton Nelson

    Rumblings over the summer have only confirmed what many suspected from the moment he committed to Notre Dame: Quenton Nelson expects to play in 2014. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at the five-star freshman who looks intent on battling his way onto the field.

  5. Notre Dame releases camp schedule

    Jul 30, 2014, 6:38 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly, Everett Golson AP

    Notre Dame’s training camp schedule is set. With practice kicking off at Culver Military Academy next Monday, the timeline for Notre Dame’s preseason is set.

  6. Irish A-to-Z: Sam Mustipher

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Sam Mustipher

    In incoming freshman Sam Mustipher, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand found himself another interior offensive lineman who looks the part of a future starter. Irish A-to-Z looks closer at the Maryland native.

  7. Irish A-to-Z: Nyles Morgan

    Jul 29, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Nyles MorganAAA AP

    Say this for Nyles Morgan: He’s not one to shy away from expectations. When the freshman linebacker takes the field when training camp opens next week at Culver Military Academy, he’ll be wearing No. 5, last seen on Notre Dame’s most decorated defender ever. Irish A-to-Z continues with one of the Irish’s most prized recruits from the 2014 cycle.

  8. Irish A-to-Z: Kendall Moore

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:19 PM EDT

    Notre Dame v Stanford Notre Dame v Stanford

    One of four fifth-year players on the Irish roster, Kendall Moore has been a part of the Notre Dame football program for a long time. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at a veteran linebacker who is likely relegated to special teams in 2014.

  9. Report: Hernia surgery to keep Heuerman out for start of camp

    Jul 28, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Heuerman

    Notre Dame’s inexperienced tight end depth chart has taken a hit. A report by Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune revealed that sophomore tight end Mike Heuerman is working his way back from hernia surgery and won’t be ready for the start of fall camp.

  10. Irish A-to-Z: John Montelus

    Jul 28, 2014, 4:28 PM EDT

    Twitter Twitter

    If Brian Kelly’s first order of business recruiting offensive linemen was to get bigger, longer and more athletic prospects, he took an old school approach when he signed sophomore John Montelus. Irish A-to-Z continues with the Irish’s physical guard no longer wearing a redshirt.

  11. Irish A-to-Z: Pete Mokwuah

    Jul 27, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT

    Photo property of Rich Clark Photo property of Rich Clark

    It didn’t take long for Brian VanGorder to put his stamp on the Notre Dame defense. And before he coached a single game or practice for Brian Kelly, VanGorder went out and identified freshman defensive tackle Pete Mokwuah. Irish A-to-Z continues as we profile the Staten Island native.

  12. Irish A-to-Z: Colin McGovern

    Jul 26, 2014, 11:17 AM EDT

    Twitter Twitter

    Notre Dame will continue to recruit Chicago for top football talent. And in sophomore Colin McGovern, the Irish landed one of the area’s top offensive linemen. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at one of the bigger surprises on the Irish roster.

  13. Weekend Notes: Camp at Culver, Freshman numbers and the Chuck Martin circuit

    Jul 25, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT

    Matt Cashore - USA Today Sports Matt Cashore - USA Today Sports

    We are running out of days without football to talk about. Preseason camp is right around the corner. For student-athletes, they get one last chance to spend time with family and friends before returning to campus and kicking off camp.

  14. Irish A-to-Z: Mike McGlinchey

    Jul 24, 2014, 5:42 PM EDT

    Twitter Twitter

    Notre Dame broke the mold when they signed offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey. With a body better suited for Mike Brey’s hardwood, the Philadelphia native looked like a developmental project when he pledged his commitment to Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at Notre Dame’s starting right tackle.

  15. Mahone sentenced to 10 days in jail

    Jul 24, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT

    mahone (1)

    Wide receiver Will Mahone, whose future at Notre Dame is still uncertain, was sentenced to 10 days in Mahoning County jail on Wednesday stemming from an arrest in June. Mahone has been indefinitely suspended from the football team by Brian Kelly and is not enrolled at the university.

  16. Irish A-to-Z: Cam McDaniel

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT

    BYU v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Against just about all odds, senior Cam McDaniel led the Irish in rushing in 2013. Our latest installment in the Irish A-to-Z looks at the veteran running back, who now battles sophomores Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston for carries.

  17. FieldTurf installation nearly complete

    Jul 23, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Stadium Surface

    In case you haven’t been following along on social media, the installation of Notre Dame’s new synthetic surface is nearly complete. With the team from FieldTurf working this week to lay down the playing field, the Irish will have a playable field to practice on when camp begins on August 4

  18. Irish A-to-Z: Jacob Matuska

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:17 PM EDT

    Jacob Matuska

    A recruiting cycle before Notre Dame went hunting late for big bodies to play along the defensive line, they signed a player who might be able to fit that mold in 2014. Fresh off a redshirt, Jacob Matuska has the chance to add some much needed size and strength to Brian VanGorder’s defensive line.

  19. Irish A-to-Z: Greer Martini

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Greer Martini

    The founding member of the 2014 recruiting class, linebacker Greer Martini enters a football program that looks decidedly different than the one he committed to back in July of 2012. Irish A-to-Z continues as we look at the freshman inside linebacker.

  20. Irish A-to-Z: Nick Martin

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:22 PM EDT

    USC v Notre Dame Getty Images

    No, he’s not his brother. But center Nick Martin should solidify his standing as one of the top centers in the country in 2014. After an injury ended his debut season in the starting lineup early, Martin returns healthy after knee surgery, giving Notre Dame a key anchor in the middle of Harry Hiestand’s offensive line.