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Irish coaching staff goes the distance for recruits

Feb 12, 2013, 3:09 PM EDT

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It’s no secret that Notre Dame recruits nationally. That’s one of the benefits that comes along with one of the longest-standing brand names in college football. But a footprint that large also has its challenges. And for the Irish coaching staff, that’s the work that comes from reaching far and wide to find football players.

While Brian Kelly‘s staff has done a nice job of signing the top player in the state of Indiana the past few three seasons, to compete with the best teams in the country, the Irish coaching staff covers a lot of miles to find the very best players that fit the unique mold necessary to thrive at Notre Dame.

With a recruiting class that finished ranked No. 3 in the country, it’s clear Kelly and his coaches and support staff, led by recruiting coordinator Tony Alford, have done a great job with that. So much so that the team at Rivals.com named both Alford and Mike Denbrock two of the top 25 recruiters in the country this year.

Here’s what they had to say on Alford:

Alford came to South Bend with strong recruiting credentials, and he delivered on that promise in the 2013 class by going into Florida and plucking two of the state’s top ball carriers. The big prize was five-star Greg Bryant, who was not even listing Notre Dame at the beginning of the fall but committed immediately following his official visit to South Bend. Alford was also responsible for complementing the Bryant pickup with four-star Cocoa, Fla., running back Tarean Folston.

And here’s the write-up on Denbrock, who year after year continues to shut-up the skeptics that wondered whether or not the former Willingham assistant could hang on the West Coast.

The last big story on National Signing Day was Notre Dame landing five-star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes over UCLA and Alabama. It was Denbrock who was responsible for bringing Vanderdoes into the fold, and this was not his first five-star West Coast pickup in the class. Earlier, he landed former USC five-star safety commit Max Redfield out of Mission Viejo, Calif., in what was more than a mild upset. The Irish’s passing game coordinator complemented his five-star recruiting efforts by being the lead in landing four-star wide receiver William Fuller out of Philadelphia.

It’s hardly a two man show for the Irish on the recruiting trail. Chuck Martin has gotten off to a quick start as a recruiter on the highest level of college football and was instrumental in pulling Gunner Kiel away from LSU. Kerry Cooks has done a nice job. So has Mike Elston. It’s hard to think about Bob Diaco and recruiting without thinking about the work he did to land Ishaq Williams. And while Scott Booker, Bobby Elliott and Harry Hiestand just started their time as assistants on the Irish staff, all three had a nice recruiting season.

Yahoo Sports’ put together a tremendous study that puts into context the distance Notre Dame coaches go to land their recruits. They charted the distance from campus each recruit will travel to enroll at their school of choice. Of the top five recruiting classes in the country, only Alabama came within 8,000 miles of Notre Dame.

The Irish headed into states like California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, and Georgia to pull elite players, adding that to their strongholds in the Midwest and East Coast. That kind of work widens Notre Dame’s already significant net, and shows you all the effort that it takes to compete with the elite programs in the country.

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