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Irish Recruiting: Closing stretch could be big for Notre Dame

Feb 3, 2014, 12:34 PM EDT

Michiah Quick

In 48 hours, Brian Kelly will be assembling his thoughts on the 2014 recruiting class, ready to approach the media to talk about the fruits of his staff’s labor over the past 18 months. Recapping the class should be an enjoyable exercise, with this group a truly diverse class that puts back-to-back elite groups onto the roster.

The assembly of this class is unlike any other Kelly and his staff built. The bulk of the group is early targets and commitments. Kelly accepted commitments from 14 players before the Irish played their first game in 2013. Those came from early targets like Greer Martini and Justin Brent, two players the staff honed in on early. They include the entire offensive line class, and quarterback DeShone Kizer.

But unlike years past, the staff clearly remained flexible as their big board changed. Adding players like Drue Tranquill and Jhonathon Williams showed the staff finding and targeting players that weren’t in their original target list. Nile Sykes and Kolin Hill are similar targets, two out-of-profile linebacker targets that infuse athleticism at positions where the Irish usually looked for size and length.

Then there are the long victories. Tyler Luatua and Nyles Morgan were targets that Notre Dame invested a ton of time and energy, much needed victories at positions of need.

Even if the Irish stand pat a 22 commitments, Notre Dame has added eight recruits since November, the highest number of late additions to the class since Kelly’s had a full recruiting cycle. (Even the year Kelly took over for Charlie Weis, the Irish only added 10 names in the final three months of recruiting.)

But that doesn’t mean the work is over.

The Irish are still trying to close this week chasing some top prospects. Already they solved a problem at defensive tackle with the addition of Pete Mokwuah. The former Rutgers commitment immediately gives the Irish a big body that can develop at nose guard.

Notre Dame’s also taking a big swing at John “JuJu” Smith. Landing the Irish’s first Long Beach Poly player since Freddie Parish, ┬áthe Irish staff is okay with letting Smith develop on both sides of the football, as long as it brings the talented Southern California native to South Bend. Notre Dame knows its fighting an uphill battle here against USC, but that didn’t stop Mike Denbrock and Brian Kelly from stopping by last week.

The Irish are also chasing talent in Fresno, a city that’s only given the Irish staff heart ache. But Michiah Quick is the type of athlete that Kelly and Denbrock desperately want to add to the roster, and his speed and quickness will immediately upgrade whatever position Quick ends up playing. Most believe that Quick is Bob Stoops’ to lose, with the Sooners coach building a pretty impressive pipeline into Northern California. But there’s word that Notre Dame is building momentum here, even if Fresno locals Hatari Byrd and L.J. Moore, and elite recruit Joe Mixon are set for Oklahoma.

At defensive tackle, the Irish are still in the hunt for Daniel Cage and Courtney Garnett. Bob Stoops and Kelly and battling for Garnett, with the New Orleans product committing to the Sooners before visiting Notre Dame, only to have his eyes opened with an impressive visit to South Bend.

Cage left his official visit in South Bend and headed to Missouri. Notre Dame was late on the scene and Cage could be headed to Michigan State, but the Cincinnati native will make a Signing Day decision as well. It’s not clear whether Notre Dame would accept commitments from both Cage and Garnett, though it’s a problem I’m sure they’d be willing to entertain.

Lastly, the Irish are hoping to add one more cornerback to the recruiting class in Terrence Alexander. The New Orleans native from John Curtis Christian School didn’t begin his recruiting process until after his team’s second-straight state championship, and the Irish look in good position for Alexander.

While he’s a smaller than the cornerback’s Bob Diaco targeted, Alexander is a smooth athlete that projects to play on the field side for the Irish. Notre Dame is battling Ole Miss and Stanford, who just recently accepted him for admission, clearing a big hurdle for his recruitment.

At 22 commitments, the Irish have a class that should be a building block for the future. But closing strong could turn this into one of the elite groups in the country.


  1. idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    Does anybody on here know a little more about the signing day process? Specifically, I’m wondering if Notre Dame gets those infamous faxes from the student athlete or from the NCAA? How exactly does the paperwork flow?

    I’m curious because of the Cage and Garnett situation. What if they both sign LOI to Notre Dame but Notre Dame only offers to one. I realize that there is probably some specific communication from Notre Dame to the recruit, letting them know that ND is offering or not offering, but…hypothetically…what would happen in such a case? LOI from both, but Notre Dame offers to one.

    Now that I think about it as I type…this is probably a reason why gray-shirting is popular in other places huh?

    • blackirish23 - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      Signing Day Process – The high school athletes send the faxes in themselves. Most of them tend to do it from their high school with the help of a coach or guidance counselor (anyone who can still operate a fax machine).

      The fax comes in directly to Coach Kelly and his staff in the “war room.” After a brief celebration, that fax is taken by a graduate assistant to the Admissions Office where the students’ application is reviewed and officially accepted before the coaching staff can officially celebrate and declare that the athlete is now part of the ND family.

      Keep in mind that the deadline for applying to Notre Dame as a regular student is sometime between late December and Early January, and the admissions staff is knee deep in applications. So basically scholarship athletes and the really smart (early admitted students) are the first to have their applications reviewed and admitted into ND…. and most colleges for that matter. Everyone else gets admitted sometime from early March to early April.

      Hope this helps.

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 3, 2014 at 3:19 PM

        That clears up where the fax comes from, but not what happens if ND receives an LOI from a big time recruit and decides not to offer then a scholarship.

        If I understand it correctly, the student signs the LOI and then is admitted to ND. Now they are an official ND player. But what happens with that LOI if ND doesn’t offer?

        Can they rescind their LOI and give an LOI to another university? Like above in Keith’s blog, Garnett and Cage could both send in LOI’s and both me admitted, but ND might choose to offer a scholarship to only one of them. So, what are the rights and restrictions for the one that DOESN’T get offered?

      • mtflsmitty - Feb 3, 2014 at 4:11 PM

        I really don’t have the insight you seek. But for clarity the word “offer” tends to be associated with scholarships. “Acceptance” is most often used in connection with verbal commitments and LOIs. Your question, which is an interesting one, is related to ND accepting the players commitment/LOI, which are given by the player simultaneously (in the cases of Cage and Garnett).

        My guess is the same question (and any range of answers) is used as part of the continuing recruitment process right down to the wire. I could see how an experienced recruiter would know just how to pull that off.

      • blackirish23 - Feb 3, 2014 at 4:28 PM

        idrather – Just my assumption but I presume this is where the road diverges between regular students and athletes. When a regular student applies to college, we apply to multiple, and hopefully get accepted to multiple, and then get to decide where to spend the next 4 – 6 years of our lives.

        An athlete can only sign ONE LOI to ONE school. However, sitting on that athlete’s desk (hopefully) are unsigned LOI’s to other schools in the recruiting process. So should Notre Dame deny an athlete admission, that athlete would then sign the next letter and fax it to the next school on his/her list and hopefully get’s accepted. Which is why the coaches usually stay in the “war room” until 6pm just in case an athlete on their list who chose a different school suddenly sends in a fax….although that rarely happens at ND.

      • tedlinko - Feb 3, 2014 at 5:10 PM

        As blackirish points out, sending the NLI isn’t the same thing as being accepted to the university. There is a verification/acceptance process by which the University verifies the NLI and accepts the student into the class. That is why, on NSD, there is always a delay between when the fax is received and when the University officially announces that the player is signed. Theoretically, the University could decline to accept the player, at which time I assume black irish is right — the recruit needs to try and sign with someone else. That is part of the risk to the player of delaying his announcement until signing day. if you keep the school guessing, they may decide to go a different direction and you could be left without the offer you thought you had at the last minute.

        I don’t know if I’ve ever heard about the exact situation posited here, where two recruits actually sign a letter and one is rejected, but I’ve definitely heard of recruits getting their offers rescinded within days of NSD because they failed to commit and the school changed direction.

    • dsharp86 - Feb 3, 2014 at 5:27 PM

      Both of these players have already been offered scholarships. Submitting a LOI to a school that has not offered you a scholarship would be strange. What I believe Keith is saying is that if one of the players verbally commits before the other, would ND withdraw the offer to the other prior to him verbally committing or sending in a LOI. If both the players still have outstanding offers on national signing day and send in their LOIs, and then Notre Dame declines one of them just because they no longer want him (and not because he is not admitted under the admissions progress) this would set a bad precedent for future recruiting.

    • Keith Arnold - Feb 3, 2014 at 6:54 PM

      That’s not possible.

      Schools have paperwork available for student-athletes they’re hoping to receive faxes from. Notre Dame wouldn’t put themselves in a situation where the school offers but can’t accept a LOI.

      If two players send LOIs, then they’ll accept that LOI.

      They’ll likely have had conversations with all of these recruits talking through who are still considering Notre Dame.

  2. mediocrebob - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:14 PM

    I’m just hoping we sign our 22 and have no surprises there. Anything else will be a bonus.

  3. ndgoldandblue - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    This is slightly off-topic, but I guess it deals somewhat with recruiting and retention. Leading up to the Super Bowl (and afterward), a topic of interest was the Seattle players’ relationship with Pete Carroll. I heard many of them describe Coach Carroll as a fun coach, and that impacted their eagerness/desire. Several of them talked repeatedly about wanting to play hard and perform well for Carroll because he makes football fun. I’m not sure what that means for Kelly because I don’t know if BK’s a fun coach or a hard-ass. But it does fly in the face of the theory that you need to be a crotchety old cuss in order to get your players to respect you.

    • ndirish10 - Feb 3, 2014 at 3:23 PM

      They may like him because he turns a blind eye to PEDs. Kind of like how all players loved him at sc because he turned a blind eye to illegal recruitment practices and possible PEDs (didn’t Cushings get caught right after his rookie season with the Texans?) Just saying…

  4. kansasirish - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    Nick Saban has a pretty decent record and is a total hard ass!

  5. irishpuma - Feb 3, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    Many ways to slay the dragon fellas. No one size fit all fix. I think fun, smart ass, caring, with tough discipline is the prescription. Carroll can still get dirty when he has too. Oh and PED’s, trademark of all his teams at USC and in Seattle.

  6. irishdodger - Feb 3, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    I just hope they sign the 22 they have verbally committed. I’d be pleasantly surprised if they picked up any additions as mentioned in this article. The sad thing is that while ND has not been under any scholarship limitations due to NCAA sanctions, they still struggle to fill an entire class.

    • papadec - Feb 3, 2014 at 5:13 PM

      There lies the probable answer to idrather’s question regarding Cage & Garnett. The Irish have more wiggle room over the current 22 commits toward their 85 total. I think they would gladly take them both.

  7. fnc111 - Feb 3, 2014 at 6:30 PM

    Pete Carroll runs a helluva steroid program.

    • 1historian - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:24 PM


  8. fnc111 - Feb 3, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    This year has the makings for one of these recruits to pull a Greenberry. I say it’s the Luatua kid.

    • papadec - Feb 3, 2014 at 7:00 PM

      I hope not.

      • mediocrebob - Feb 3, 2014 at 8:00 PM

        I hate to agree with FNC, but I have the same feeling about Luatua. Hope I’m wrong.

  9. irishinmich - Feb 3, 2014 at 8:39 PM

    I am no insider, but it wouldn’t shock me if Luatua bails. There has been chatter about him waivering since he gave his verbal. NSD has lost some luster for me. After what Vanderdope pulled last year, even a signed LOI feels like shaky ground. Hopefully things go smoothly.

  10. viktory2013 - Feb 3, 2014 at 10:47 PM

    Unfortunately, letters of intent, verbal commitments, national signing days, etc. don’t seem to mean a great deal to these kids. They make agreements and comittments without any thought or sense of responsibility, so your guess is good as mine who actually shows up game day.

    Watching Seattle yesterday reminded me of Alabama against us last season. Carroll’s teams, much the same as Saban’s teams, are so comically bigger and faster than anybody out there to the point where it’s painfully obvious they’re bursting with steroids. Like the SC teams of Carroll’s a few years ago, it’s like watching a junior varsity squad scrimmaging against Pro Bowlers. What’s really astounding is how they manage to pull it off year after year, team after team.

    • ndgoldandblue - Feb 4, 2014 at 10:01 AM

      Okay…several of you guys have alleged that the Seahawks players are loaded up on PED’s. If that’s the case, wouldn’t the league test and suspend them accordingly? If they’re not doing that, when it’s apparently so obvious to everyone else that the Seattle players are juicing, that would make the NFL’s disciplinary policy more corrupt and spineless than the NCAA. I don’t know. I don’t think the NFL is as incompetent as the NCAA. The NFL treated Spygate with much more seriousness than the NCAA did with the Miami Hurricanes, and Spygate was a relatively tame ordeal compared to the Hurricanes’ many infractions. I don’t know. I’m just not buying the PED’s bit.

      • mediocrebob - Feb 4, 2014 at 10:54 AM

        I’m not saying they are or aren’t juicing. But one reason the NFL wouldn’t do anything about it would be the same reason MLB did nothing about it for 20+ years. People like bigger, stronger, faster.

        Again, I don’t know if they are or aren’t. It wouldn’t shock me either way. But we do know that $c had some roiders in Carrols day. Those cheating, spoiled children…

      • ndgoldandblue - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:05 AM

        I’ll never defend Pete Carroll as an ethical guy. He clearly didn’t care what was going on at USC. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he looked the other way if his Seattle players were juicing as well. I’m just saying that the NFL wouldn’t turn a blind eye to it. A few years ago, a couple players were suspended for taking water pills. They seem to have their act together in the NFL’s disciplinary office. The NCAA, on the other hand…

      • wisner74 - Feb 4, 2014 at 1:47 PM

        Let’s not forget that a big part of Seattle’s success was their striking it rich with Russell Wilson in the third or fourth round of the draft. Getting a QB that good for that little money certainly gave the Seahawks a lot of flexibility to spend more to strengthen other parts of the team.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        spygate stuck in the NFL’s craw because it screwed up the sportsbooks’ ability to set a spread they way the books wanted to set it. i’m not saying the spread predicts the game (because as we have discussed here many times, the spread is just to get the money coming in on both sides).

        if you followed the superbowl coverage, you heard about all the “professional gambler” money that came in right after the NFC Championship game ended and what that influx of money did to the spread (hint: it made it move several points in the other direction). so, PED(s) don’t monkey with the spread, because the books know what they have all season long with the juicers. but cheating and taping your opponent? now that can screw up that initial spread that the professional gamblers are using. that’s a big no-no for the NFL, and that’s why the patriots got spanked so hard for spygate, in my humble opinion.

      • viktory2013 - Feb 4, 2014 at 5:41 PM

        Everyone on the planet knew Barry Bonds was juicing, yet he was never technically caught. Lance Armstrong’s teammates and opponents alike all said he was dirty and yet, he too was never caught. I come from a horse racing background, and a number of prominent trainers juice their horses regularly yet always test cleanly. Everyone knows, but here we are.
        I would wager Harbaugh’s teams do the same, both at Stanford and Frisco.

  11. pdmjr - Feb 4, 2014 at 7:49 AM

    The NCAA stil using faxes?

  12. dudeacow - Feb 4, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    If 22 sign, I’ll be happy. If 23 sign, I’ll be excited. If 24 sign, I’ll be really really happy. If 25 sign, I’ll be in disbelief. If 26 sign, I’ll wake up from my dream.

    • alsatiannd - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      What happens at 27? I’m on the edge of my seat.

      • dudeacow - Feb 4, 2014 at 1:08 PM

        At 27, Utopo cries wee wee wee all the way home.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        At 27, you also wake up from your dream but dickasman is in the bed behind you.

  13. ajw21 - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    The last three years Seattle has had the most players on a team test positive for Adderal(ban substance) Most were suspended, 1st offense is 4 games and others (Sherman and someone else) appealed and won on a technicality.
    Go Irish!

  14. 1historian - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    4horsemen – re: ‘spygate’. Teams have been spying one one another since the invention of dirt – baseball, football, hockey, basketball – even tennis coaching from the stands.

    FYI – I am a Patriots’ fan and I hope the Pats get either Nix or Niklas or both.

    • papadec - Feb 4, 2014 at 5:50 PM

      whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, WHOA hist. You’re getting cabin fever up there in the frozen tundra of New England. My NY Giants (of New Joisey) have a far greater need for those two on what was at one time a pretty good defense – but alas is no more. Justin Tuck can take either, or both, under his wing.

      • 1historian - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:06 PM

        I said it first

      • papadec - Feb 5, 2014 at 4:08 AM

        How about best 2 out of 3 – rock, paper, scissor to decide? Actually, since I went to school in Boston, I’d be happy if they went to either the GIANTS or the Pats.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Feb 5, 2014 at 8:12 AM

      no argument there. even bobby thompson’s “shot heard round the world” involved some spying. teams will do anything and everything they can to get an edge, especially when there are so many dollars at stake for each win, as is the case in the NFL.

      I wasn’t denying that spying takes place, only that the NFL’s fake indignation and surprise over spying is at least tangentially, a function of the gambling that takes place every Sunday and the effect that spying has on making bookies’ lives a little harder, and their bottom line a little smaller.

      i’m not a Pats fan, but I appreciate the organization and how it identifies undervalued talent year after year. maybe they have spies in D-II as well! not for nothing, but I wish the Pats had never gotten involved in the spying nonsense because it detracts from the accomplishments before the spying and lends credence to the cynics who claims the Pats failure to win a superbowl after spygate proves the success was from the spying, not from the players/coaches efforts.

  15. ndfightingirishfan - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    ND learned the hard way last year that you can never have enough d-linemen. If Garnett and Cage sign, you TAKE THEM!

    Looking forward to ’14. GO IRISH

  16. irishdog80 - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    Players and coaches are more savvy about wear and tear on the body. Running back and defensive line by committee should make sense to new recruits. The more DTs we can bring in the better for ND and them.

    The question I have is who is the next Kapron Lewis-Moore or Kona Schwenke…the guy who comes in at 6’5” or 6’4″ and 220 pounds and grows into a d-lineman.

    Overall, I just hope we keep who we have and add 1 more DT and 1 more Athlete that could play on defense or offense, but has serious speed and quicks in space.

  17. paulhargis53 - Feb 4, 2014 at 6:39 PM

    Im willing to wager sevetal ND players are on steroids also. If you dont think so, youre willfully ignorant.

    ND is not as pristine as you all would hope and like it to be.

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