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Roster moves leave Kelly undeterred

Mar 28, 2013, 11:24 AM EDT

Kelly tunnel AP

You can hardly blame some Irish fans. Yesterday’s news that Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson were leaving school was the first sign of the apocalypse. After all, things seemed to be going almost too well for Notre Dame football, a group that at this point should expect a maelstrom every 60 days or so.

Most could understand Gunner Kiel’s departure. A promising quarterback recruit isn’t expected to wait his turn, especially with the program so securely in Everett Golson’s hands after an impressive debut season. Neal’s departure has a sense of nobility, a young father heading home to be closer to his girlfriend and six-week old child. Yet Ferguson’s decision to leave came out of the blue. There was a place for him on the depth chart, or so it seemed to those of us that watch the program from afar.

The totality of the moves, especially when you consider Tee Shepard’s pit-stop in South Bend last spring, puts a real dent in the 2012 recruiting class. Kiel, Shepard and Neal were three blue-chips at the top of the class, with Ferguson also rating well depending on the recruiting service. A 17 man class is now down to 13, a Willingham-like number that some worry could put a crater in the Irish’s momentum.

You’ll have to forgive Brian Kelly for not sweating it.

“The roster is gonna shift and move. We’re going to have additions, we’re going to have some deletions,” Kelly said on Wednesday. “But when it’s time to kick off against Temple, we’ll have the football team that we need to go out and play for a championship.”

Those final words should tell you everything you need to know. Kelly and his staff believe that they’ve got a roster that can play for a championship, and the loss of three back-up sophomores isn’t likely to change anything.

Roster shifts like this happen in every major college football program. And they’ll continue to happen at Notre Dame, where the competition for playing time is only going to get more fierce. With 83 scholarship players set for the 2013 roster, the Irish are still in better shape than just about every major program that’s not in the SEC, where stashing contingency bodies is still somehow acceptable.

Losing talented players certainly hurts. But Ferguson’s appraisal of the roster — specifically the depth chart in front of him — is something that only reiterates the perspective that there’s nothing to worry about. This is a roster with talented personnel. This is a group of players that’s won a lot of football games. (The Irish are 20-4 in their last two dozen games. That number is only bettered by two programs: Alabama and Oregon.)

The adjustments Kelly and his staff make to fill any roster deficiencies will be well chronicled. We’ve already seen one of them, with CJ Prosise moving to wide receiver, a decision made well before either Neal or Ferguson alerted the staff to their intentions. And while Chase Hounshell’s shoulder injury puts some more pressure on the defensive line, the Irish will fill his shoes by cross-training Ishaq Williams, a five-star prospect who is more than capable of sliding down.

The optimist looks at the three spring departures as another chance to reload. The weakest recruiting class in Kelly’s tenure trades three scholarships with a group that’ll likely be Kelly’s strongest. Any coach will take three extra bodies in a class coming off a twelve-win season.

A star-rating only matters until a recruit steps foot on campus. Any fear that the ’12 recruiting class will put a hole in the roster should be mitigated by the fact that the group has already unearthed its share of top-level players, with KeiVarae Russell, Sheldon Day, Elijah Shumate and Chris Brown leading the way. So as yesterday’s news scrolls along the ticker and raises more than a few skeptical eyebrows around the world of college football, the beat goes on in South Bend.

“Our guys are going to go out and compete,” Kelly said. “They know. They’re prepared for the next man in. They didn’t blink, nor did I, or the staff.”

  1. gtizzo - Mar 28, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    Well done Keith,

    Some of your best work in this article. Losing a QB and a a few WR isn’t a big deal…it could have been a lot worse. Suppose the transfers had come from the offensive line…that would be a HUGE problem. I would expect Kelly to be confident regardless of situation considering he is the head coach. When he says the sky is falling…then it is time to worry. I really think it is the offense that has to step up this season. I would love to seem them score 50 against Temple.

    • 1historian - Mar 29, 2013 at 1:02 PM

      Methinks that possibly the biggest reason that there were no OL transfers was the simple fact that those guys know that they will play – they will see the field.

      I go back to the phrase that Keith doesn’t like (kind of) – “get used to it.”

  2. steeldominance - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    Two things I have learned from watching Keith’s articles constantly over the last couple years:
    1. Commenters who defend everything ND (Golson is a “passer”, Kelly losing big recruits isn’t a big deal) and have the blinders on are as annoying as the trolls.
    2. Don’t get excited about any big recruit going to ND. They may never take the field in Blue & Gold.

    • markaherman - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      It’s the same across the country. It’s no different at ND except that the hauntings of the last couple decades of ineptitude has left many looking for a reason to wring the hands and lament. Sure, it’s coach rhetoric because he has to, but it’s also facts. Losing those three guys just means 3 more bodies on the next class and we keep reeling in high level prospects the competition will only get more fierce. Keep it rolling Kelly…

      • dickasman - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:04 PM

        But we play with 3 less scholarship players this year? Bk is puttin this in his back pocket for excuse down the road. Smart coach.

      • steeldominance - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:26 PM

        This is precisely the “defend everything ND” attitude I was referring to. Thanks for the example.

    • heisenbyrg - Mar 28, 2013 at 2:19 PM

      The Golson is a “passer” comment makes me think you didn’t watch a single game last year.

    • danirish - Mar 29, 2013 at 7:04 PM

      Golsen not a passer? He is no great passer…yet. But the kid’s got an arm! He might end up being the most exciting domer for the last 20 years!

    • rcali - Apr 10, 2013 at 10:26 PM

      So right on #1. Way too many free passes here.

  3. dickasman - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    These unplanned pregnancies are killing our depth! We need a pornstar on the payroll teaching these guys how to hold’em! Where’s Antoine Cromartie when you need him!

  4. dickasman - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    Tip of the day from dick asman to Irish football players: practice your sphincter muscle, get it in the mouth or in the rear. It’ll save you millions! Pullout method is way to go my friends.

    • notthatconfused - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:06 PM

      Dick- how in the h#ll did you take Keith’s well-written article and take the massive swerve to end up at pornstars and advocating certain sexual practices? Your mind must have been incredible before it was tragically wasted.

  5. dickasman - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    Guys so what happens to 3 scholarships this year? Essentially wasted? So we will have 3 more to give next year?

    • steeldominance - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      You think maybe the deciding factor for two WR to leave was that the only guy on the team who will ever be a throwing QB (Gunner Kiel) just left?

      • NotreDan - Mar 28, 2013 at 3:03 PM

        A) No.

        B) You’re a special troll of all your own kind. Try squeezin’ some grease outta the old jimmy dean, and drink more, or smoke a doob. You’re harshin’ my mellow.

        C) You’re obviously new. You can’t have a conversation with dickie doodle, ya just have to admire his brilliance from the cheap seats.

        D) You’re related to “Gunner” obviously, with a name like “SteelDominance”… did you guys play xbox together in 8th grade or what?

        E) The next “blah blah blah” you post will sound like sour grapes.

      • steeldominance - Mar 30, 2013 at 9:39 PM

        Good reasoning, “No”. You call anyone, ND fans included, that criticizes any aspect of ND a troll. My handle refers to my favorite NFL team. I watched every minute of every ND game last year and attended2 of them. I wasn’t arguing with dick, more like agreeing. Goals on is not a passer. Terrelle Pryor has a strong arm and better passing stats than Golson, wanna call him a passer? You sound like sour grapes, calling ppl who ask legitimate questions trolls

    • irishfootball55 - Mar 31, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      You have issues that may only be cured by a beating you loud mouth punk. Your the village idiot who runs his pie hole and when he gets held accountable for it you hide like a bitch. There is no doubt in my mind you would talk that shit in a room full of men. Your comfort zone is behind a computer with a Dominos pizza, bottle of Mt. Dew on another Friday night. Alone.

      • steeldominance - Apr 1, 2013 at 10:35 AM

        NotreDan/bern/55- truth hurt bad enough to where you need to make threats and namecall? Thats sad. But if it makes you feel better…GO ND!

  6. fnc111 - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    Championship? Sorry lol… Forgot about the SEC and Bama that quickly eh? Delusion of grandeur drives me nuts. Just play some quality football- offense included clueless Kelly!!

    ND will never come close to sniffing a title. Don’t be stupid just remember Jan. 7. Kelly is a nine win coach. I’ll take it after the sham that was last season. I want bowl wins. Playing in the Belk Bowl will get that done. Just stop embarrassing the ND name in these games they don’t belong in.

    • andy44teg - Mar 28, 2013 at 3:59 PM

      Thought u just said yesterday that ND was going to go 6-6 next year? And now BK is a 9 win coach? Make up your mind, Idiot.

      • sharptux44 - Mar 29, 2013 at 10:20 PM

        I’m glad you have taken such a strong interest in notre dame football. I even gave you a thumbs up. You are one of these haters that have come out of the woodwork; or in your case, a small, maggot infested cave, to hate a team who is back in forefront of the college football discussion. Haters WILL hate. I guess that means ND is relevant once again. Hell, I remember a few years ago when ND was 6-6, 8-5, NOBODY but the same 5 guys posted on this board. Now we’re getting the naysayers. This is a great day to be a notre dame fan! Now those 5 guys have other people to insult than themselves. So keep up the good work, fnc. You’ll always get a thumbs up from me 😉

  7. fnc111 - Mar 28, 2013 at 2:10 PM


    Exactly. We will never see Kelly worried in front of the media. Then for people on the web it’s just homerism spin. The loss of Kiel is huge. He was the only QB that had potential of being good. Why would anyone at this point trust Kelly in developing a QB? Hasn’t done it in four years. When Golson struggles this season people in the stands will be wondering where Kiel is? The future looks bleak because ND doesn’t have a great player at the most important position on the field. Kelly will be off to the NFL soon so maybe a QB will get developed when he leaves.

    • nudeman - Mar 28, 2013 at 2:18 PM

      I clearly do not understand why you post here.
      Nothing wrong with not liking ND, as there are millions who feel similarly
      But anyone can do what you do
      Criticize and take shots 24×7, and most of your stuff is wildly off base and designed to inflame

      • NotreDan - Mar 28, 2013 at 3:03 PM

        What’s up Nudie!?! Fuckin off season is long.

      • fentocamarillo - Mar 28, 2013 at 3:25 PM


        Not in agreement with fnc, but I do believe he is allowed to express his opinion, just like you.

        “Criticize and take shots 24×7” is your personal moniker. How can any of us forget your endless tirade(s) on TR. And, yes, your comments were “designed to inflame.” And, yes, quite sure there will be more TR bashing…just wait until he comes out of spring #2…holy hell will break loose and you know it.

        Regardless, looks like you have awakened from your slumber…welcome back, I think.

        One last comment, KEITH….any way to censor (at least some comments) the dickassman….he is really going over the top, and I am no prude, but enough is enough.

      • nudeman - Mar 28, 2013 at 4:12 PM

        DickAsman has a right to express his opinion
        Just like you

      • fentocamarillo - Mar 28, 2013 at 4:23 PM


        Insightful comeback. Bordering on brilliance!

      • bernhtp - Mar 28, 2013 at 4:57 PM


        I think that fnc and steeldominance are different monikers for the same mother’s basement dweller. Same message, same style, and same absence of knowing where they are.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Mar 28, 2013 at 7:17 PM

        Two of the many online alter egos of lane Kiffin. Go back to bringing more shame to a once storied program lane.

      • dillonbigred - Mar 28, 2013 at 9:58 PM

        Of course people have freedom of expression, but that does not mean that others have to be subjected to every offensive remark. I think most of us can handle his tiresome, childish sexual comments, but his offensive racist comments should be stopped. I can’t believe that NBC wants Dick’s crude racial denigration on its’ website. Just because some of his comments aren’t reprehensible doesn’t justify the other crap.

      • ndirish86 - Mar 29, 2013 at 7:34 PM

        I agree wholeheartedly with fento, the disasman schtick does not belong here. It is just plain off topic.

        I could post multiple comments on every article too, and turn every conversation on its head with gratuitous references to Obama, or gun control, or any number of irrelevancies… and would get run off the board. This is just not the place for it. Bringing up sex over and over again is no different.

        I imagine there must be oh, a few million places on the internet where everyone wants to get talk sex all the time. Just go there… please.

      • steeldominance - Mar 30, 2013 at 9:48 PM

        This comment board makes me dislike fellow ND fans. Snooty homers who spend more time name calling and worshipping than actually looking at what’s going on. My great uncle played under Knute Rockne, if you need verification of my fandom. I have bug one net handle. Sorry I dare question a player on the team. Sorry for expressing my opinion. I’ll go back to being a sheep and believing nudemans shower talk with Bob Diacos dog groomer.

    • irishgabe - Mar 29, 2013 at 1:26 PM

      I agree, the loss of Kiel is huge, however, we have no idea how good Kiel is or if Kiel will ever be that great QB. Also, if Kiel was so good, why did he not challenge EV for the starting QB position (maybe Les Miles was correct).

      BK is a solid coach and he has a good history of developing QBs and he is developing EV (within the next two year, Golson becomes one of the best QB’s in D1) and Malik Zaire could be the next Tony Rice, with better passing skills. BK is not going to the NFL, he has the second best job in the world (Pope#1).

      Question – what percentage of transferred players committed to multiple schools or had a difficult time committing? (Kiel, Neal, Lynch) – Keith future article. Should BK stop flipping recruits?

      • nudeman - Mar 29, 2013 at 10:05 PM

        The thing about Neal is he NEVER wanted to go to ND in the first place. It was all his dad’s doing.

        But more importantly, the thing is WHY he didn’t want ND: He is, let me just say this politely, not exactly “academically inclined”.

        From what I know about his HS performance (and I know a lot) I have no idea how he ever got into ND in the first place, and I said that at the time. He was, quite frankly, a terrible student in HS and I’d be shocked to find out that academics aren’t part of the issue here. Go ahead and bust my ass for writing this. But when the family put the story out that this was all about his newborn, they weren’t exactly being 100% truthful.

        This young man needs to grow up, realize there’s more to life than football, and embrace the idea of being a student (wherever he ends up) and quit making excuses.

      • nudeman - Mar 30, 2013 at 11:27 AM

        “should BK stop flipping recruits”

        Emotionally an understandable reaction. In practice, a real bad idea. In fact it’s ridiculous.

        How would the 2013 ND recruiting class look without Redfield and Vanderdoes?

        From what I recall, both of those guys themselves had great things to say about ND, including the way they value academics. I don’t ever recall Neal or Lynch or Kiel ever displaying that type of enthusiasm or intelligent thought process.

        Now, if you want to say that BK should stop flipping recruits who don’t want to be at ND (Kiel, Lynch, Neal) but get immense pressure from their parent(s) (Kiel, Lynch, Neal), are lousy students and barely belong at a JC (Neal, Tee)… then we can talk. Because flipping those types really is a bad idea.

    • danirish - Mar 29, 2013 at 7:06 PM

      fnc = steeldominance

      Sock account – sad really….

      • steeldominance - Mar 30, 2013 at 9:51 PM

        NotreDan=bernhtp. Homer account….delusional really

  8. nicenirish - Mar 28, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Relax everyone. Big football programs lose recruits all the time because no one wants to sit on the bench and wait 3 years for a starting gig. Its just been so long that we have been this deep that we could afford to lose some guys.

    Think about Dane Crist picking up and leaving two years ago. The world didn’t end.

    Although it would be nice to keep these guys around we certainly have talent in those positions.

    • tedlinko - Mar 28, 2013 at 8:00 PM


      One example,

      Although this is a dated article, it talks about at least 3 highly rated recruits who left Alabama – and last I checked, it hasn’t hurt them too much.

      Kelly’s been pretty clear – he’s going to bring in the best players he can and challenge his guys to beat each other out. When you’ve got that, some guys are going to end up transferring because they realize they aren’t going to see the field as much as they want to.

      So what does that mean? You’ve got another slot either to hang onto a 5th year guy or bring in another blue chipper in the next class. And so what if they go into this fall with only 83 scholarship guys on the roster (or 82 or 81). All those guys aren’t going to play this year anyway.

      Lilke nicenirish says, I’d love to have these guys still around too, but those slots will be filled by 4 and 5 star recruits in the 2014 class and we’ll be fine.

      Last I checked, Kelly went 12-1 last season with a NCG appearance, and that was with a freshman starter at QB. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he knows more about coaching and recruiting than the rest of you naysayers combined.

  9. bearcatirishfan - Mar 28, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    “Hey, what has two thumbs, interviewed with the eagles, and just lost three transfers…..this guy,……What too soon?” Coach Brian Kelly.

  10. jerseyshorendfan1 - Mar 28, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    Keith, it’s good that your headline isn’t “Roster moves leave Kelly under turd”.

  11. goirishgo - Mar 28, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    The catalyst for constant improvement in anything is challenge. We challenge ourselves to get better all the time. Those whose success depends on the teams they build create challenges within their team. That’s how the bar gets raised and performance improves. Unfortunately, it also creates turnover but it’s absolutely a price worth paying.

  12. mildomer - Mar 28, 2013 at 8:14 PM

    Oh no! I just heard that Aaron Lynch is transferring. What are we going to… oh wait, never mind.

  13. twebb2 - Mar 28, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    Keith, thanks for a good article with good perspective. Bring on Temple!

  14. 1historian - Mar 29, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    I’ve said this a few times and I know it’s overused but here I go again (for the last time)

    Get used to it

  15. goirish08 - Mar 29, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    I love BK’s confidence. Losing Neal hurts, but I remember his recruitment. His decision was delayed. It appears his heart wasn’t in South Bend after all and maybe he was pushed by his father a little bit. Yes, it’s a great thing to do in the short term to be closer to his child, but in the long run when football is over the degree from ND might outweigh the positives from going home. Hell, he could’ve pushed himself, blown up, and went pro after next years season. He might not hit the field anyway until then due to his transfer. Oh well, it’s over and time to move on! GO IRISH!!!

  16. danirish - Mar 29, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    Looks lilke the big names we’ve lost are names we never really had. Neals’ recruitment was crazy, Kiel’s was bizarro, and Lynch had someissues that didn’t really deal with football, Ferguson’s decision was easy – he wasn’t going to play. The WR are young but Jones is solid, Daniels might make us forget about Floyd (too soon?), Brown can block and has some speed and some of the guys who haven’t stepped on campus seem good.

    Same with Kiel – Golson going to be here for a while and then Zaire steps in and he sees the writing.

    Tee Shephard – is he even enrolled anywhere?

    I’ll be worried if a player leaves with bad things to say about coaches/university or if the lines start leaving – they gonna play!

  17. yaketyyacc - Mar 30, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    the article is what one would expect. yes, we have lost very good players. maybe. and maybe their departure leaves players that will excel even more then they. the guesses before a season have to resolve themnselves in the season itself. we lost almost our entire pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, and were left with only aircraft carriers. then, woe is US. after the sucess of the carriers, wow is US. the japs actually did us a favor by forcing US to a new type of offense and thus victory.
    We may well have an offense left that is ready to go to great victories. I think we do.
    of course, that is my guess. and my guess is based on my being squarely behind the Irish. the vanilla spring game always leaves hope, the season provides reality. THE IRISH ARE COMING

  18. 1historian - Mar 30, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    Have a blessed Easter everyone.

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