Getty Images

‘Anywhere from 5 to 15’


Five of Notre Dame’s nine current assistant coaches had only weeks to recruit this cycle. Factor in quarterbacks coach Thomas Rees’s pending promotion from graduate assistant to assistant coach and that makes six new Irish coaches chasing recruits for a full year by the time National Signing Day 2018 rolls around. That is Feb. 7, 2018, for those of you already bypassing an entire football season.

It was with this increased time—and theoretically the chance for stronger relationships with fickle high school personalities—in mind a reporter asked Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly about a potential shift in recruiting strategy. Kelly’s response began by focusing on 15 of the 21 recruits the Irish had signed earlier that day. Quickly, though, Kelly pivoted to discussing recruiting rankings.

“Since I’ve been here, if you look at the average rankings, we’re anywhere from 5 to 15,” he said Wednesday. “We’re going to fall somewhere in that range because there’s a line there we can’t get over based upon what our distinctions are here. That line is going to keep us between 5 and 15.

“We know where we’re going to fall. We’re going to continue to recruit the right kind of kids here.”

Kelly then returned to the line of questioning, regarding the value of long-term relationships in recruiting compared to making offers late in the cycle. Versions of the latter strategy bolstered Notre Dame’s class this year, but it innately comes with a high risk :: reward ratio.

His comments regarding “anywhere from 5 to 15” could be considered as an attempt to temper future expectations. More likely, Kelly was acknowledging realities he has come to know intimately after seven full recruiting cycles as the head of Irish program (and an eighth abridged cycle when he had only 55 days to recruit between accepting the job and National Signing Day in 2010).

Are those comments accurate? In Kelly’s time, largely.

For this exercise, let’s rely on the subsidiary of an NBC Sports partner: Yes, some recruiting services rank Notre Dame higher some years than other services do. The same goes for individual recruits. Over an eight-year stretch, that should trend toward evening out. If nothing else, this allows for something of a standard of comparison.

2012: No. 20
In Kelly’s time, Notre Dame has fallen below that range only once, the class of 2012. Rivals ranked that class of 17 recruits No. 20 in the country. Part of that low ranking undoubtedly ties to the size of the class, the smallest of Kelly’s tenure, as Rivals focuses its rankings on a class’s top 20 commitments. (This year’s 21 is the next smallest.)

Five-star quarterback Gunner Kiel and four-star defensive back Tee Shepard never took a snap for the Irish, and four-star athlete DaVonte’ Neal transferred after his freshman season. Neal played in 13 games, finishing with one rush for seven yards, one reception for a loss of five and 21 punt returns for a total of 46 yards.

Removing those players from that class would have dropped Notre Dame to somewhere around No. 32 in the rankings*. This revisionist history, however, fails to account for the exceeded expectations of:
– Four-star offensive lineman, first-round draft pick and current NFL starter Ronnie Stanley
– Four-star defensive lineman and current Jacksonville Jaguar Sheldon Day
– Three-star defensive lineman and current New York Giant Romeo Okwara
– Three-star defensive back, eventual Notre Dame running back and current Seattle Seahawk C.J. Prosise
– Four-star defensive lineman Jarron Jones
– Three-star receiver and current Dallas Cowboy Chris Brown

A thorough retroactive recruiting rankings would also need to include these disappointments and surprises at other schools.

2013: No. 3
The Irish rode the momentum of appearing in the BCS National Championship Game following an undefeated regular season to the peak of Kelly’s recruiting in South Bend. Four five-star recruits highlighted the 24 signees, though defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes never made it to Notre Dame Stadium. Even factoring in Vanderdoes’s departure, the Irish class would have ranked fourth according to rivals, with Florida advancing a position by a slim margin.

Again, if accounting for an abrupt, premature departure, one must look at the other end of the spectrum and acknowledge those who possibly outperformed recruiting expectations:
– Four-star defensive lineman Isaac Rochell
– Four-star running back Tarean Folston
– Four star athlete, eventual Notre Dame linebacker James Onwualu
– Four-star offensive lineman and 2017 captain Mike McGlinchey

Only Eight Average Better
Over Kelly’s eight years signing recruits at Notre Dame, only eight schools have averaged a better finish than his 11.875, per The list includes five SEC programs, alongside traditional powers Florida State, USC and Ohio State.

Alabama: 1.625 (with six No. 1 finishes)
Florida State: 5.25
USC: 6.875 (with one No. 1 finish)
LSU: 7.375
Ohio State: 7.5
Auburn: 8.625
Georgia: 9
Florida: 9.375

Perhaps Kelly’s Signing Day range projections do not sit well with some. They do appear to be consistent with results, though.

*Rivals changed its recruiting points formula heading into the class of 2013. The previous formula was more obscure than the current version, thus this altered ranking is only an estimate.

Active tonight or not, Floyd ready for both it and future

Getty Images

Michael Floyd played a pivotal role in the Patriots’ home field-clinching victory over the Dolphins to close the regular season. In their playoff opener, Floyd was less of a factor. In the AFC Championship, the former Notre Dame star receiver was not even on the active roster. Wherever tonight’s Super Bowl lands on that spectrum for Floyd, he will be in line for a ring with a New England victory.

After that, even more questions abound.

At Super Bowl Media Day on Monday, Floyd fielded questions both about his future and his Arizona departure following a DUI arrest the day after the Cardinals lost to Miami and Floyd caught two passes for 18 yards. Even before authorities determined his blood-alcohol level to b .217, the Cardinals released Floyd and the Patriots subsequently picked him up off waivers.

“It was tough,” Floyd told the Pioneer Press. “[The Cardinals] didn’t say nothing. They knew what the deal was. I knew what the deal was, and we parted.”

In his second game with the Patriots, Floyd faced those Dolphins again, this time catching three passes for 36 yards and a touchdown, providing two of the definitive New England highlights of the season.

Yet, as the Patriots clinched their Super Bowl berth, Floyd wore street clothes. The return of receiver Malcolm Mitchell from a knee injury gave the Patriots four receivers who knew their system in-and-out, rather than Floyd’s month-long crash course tutorial. Not expecting to need a fifth receiver, the Patriots coaches used that roster spot for other positional needs.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “I think circumstances decide [who is inactive]. There’s other factors in all that. But Michael’s been great. I’m really happy to have him, and we’re going to work hard and get him ready for Sunday.”

Floyd will be a free agent following the Super Bowl. His landing may have been soft in New England, but that does not mean he will be there come next season, though that warm reception may make it his preference.

In case you rely on this site for every piece of your sporting news, tonight’s Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Falcons kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

Notre Dame Stadium ticket costs and capacity fall

Getty Images

Skip the dinner for two at your favorite restaurant this weekend and you just might save enough to pay for the most economically-efficient ticket in Notre Dame’s new tiered system. Granted, you will need to skip another date night to afford a ticket for your significant other, but you have nearly six full months to find the suitable weekend for that.

Notre Dame announced a new ticketing operation with eight publicly-available price points beginning at $45 and topping out at $250. The prices may vary depending on seat location and opponent.

Theoretically, the University will net as much income from this system in each of 2017 and 2018 as it did in 2016. Logic would indicate every dollar some tickets are cheaper is a dollar other tickets will be more expensive.

Season tickets will not see a price increase between 2017 and 2018, and the student season ticket package will decrease by $5, per the Saturday morning release.

Further Crossroads Improvements
Notre Dame and visiting teams will no longer share the same tunnel, with a new one installed in the northeast corner for the Irish opponents.

“To improve player and spectator safety,” all field seating will be removed. This includes the band. Let’s just call this the Golden Tate Adjustment. Notre Dame’s band will now sit in the student section.

The added tunnel and removal of field seating—combined with a widening of lower bowl seats by two inches up to 18 inches—will reduce Notre Dame Stadium’s total capacity to approximately 78,000. Previously, it fit 80,795 diehards.

More affordable ticket prices may be great and all—especially with families with young children wondering if the six-year-old’s first Irish memory is really worth that exorbitant figure—but the most-important improvements to Notre Dame Stadium may be the improved cell service and WiFi internet throughout the Stadium.

The announcement of the new ticketing system included one familiar line: “There will be no advertising” on the 96-by-54 foot video board being installed within Campus Crossroads.

Jaylon Smith provides proof of physical progress

Getty Images

Actions speak louder than words. A photo is worth a thousand words. And so go the old tropes.

If they are accurate at all, former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith spoke loudly Friday with thousands of words.

The encouraging video comes a month after the former Irish All-American and Butkus Award winner told The Dallas Morning News he could have competed in the playoffs “at an elite level.” While that may have been written off as mere optimism, the training video provides a bit more concrete proof Smith very well may be able to aid the Cowboys’ defense in 2017.

The second-round pick is now 13 months removed from tearing both his ACL and MCL against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, an injury that also caused nerve damage. The severity of the nerve damage scared off many NFL teams before the Draft.

Dallas returns all its 2016 starting linebackers—Kyle Wilber, Anthony Hitchens and Sean Lee—but only Lee has entrenched himself into a future starting spot. Whereas Smith is signed through 2019, both Wilber and Hitchens have only one more year remaining on their contracts. If healthy, Smith would most likely challenge Hitchens for the middle linebacker role.

Offensive Signees: Kelly’s Takes

Of the 21 signees in Notre Dame’s class of 2017, 10 are expected to listen to new offensive coordinator Chip Long’s play calls, and an 11th will serve as the kickoff specialist following any success that offense may have. During his National Signing Day press conference, Irish coach Brian Kelly showered each of those 11 with only glowing words.

Avery Davis: Cedar Hill; Cedar Hill, Texas
Measurements: 5’11”, 192 lbs.
Rankings: three-star recruit; No. 80 player in Texas; No. 39 at position
Brian Kelly’s Take: “What we love about Avery is that he’s played for championships. That’s what Cedar Hill does at the highest level in Texas. So he has that pedigree, that he’s used to playing in big games. He doesn’t shy away from the competition. He plays his best in the biggest of games. This year against DeSoto, he was outstanding in a shootout against the eventual state champ.

“Love his pedigree. Love the fact that he played in big games, and that he was always at his best when his best was needed. He’ll come in and obviously be counted on in our rotation immediately. An extremely athletic quarterback that can come in and do some things right away for us.”

C.J. Holmes: Cheshire Academy; Hamden, Conn.
Measurements: 6’0”, 200 lbs.
Rankings: Consensus four-star recruit; No. 2 player in Conn., per; No. 5 at position
Brian Kelly’s Take: “Versatility is what comes to mind. I look at him as a guy like [former Notre Dame and current NFL running backs] Theo Riddick and C.J. Prosise. He’s going to play both running back and wide receiver for us. We think we have a nice package for him right away. We’re going to ask him to compete right away. He’s going to be one of those guys that we’re going to force feed him a little bit and get him involved.”

Michael Young: Destrehan; Saint Rose, La.
Measurements: 5’11”, 175 lbs.
Rankings: Consensus three-star recruit; No. 20 player in Louisiana, per; No. 71 at position
Brian Kelly’s Take: “As a slot receiver, somebody that can really do a number of things for us inside and out … We think he has the skills necessary to come in an dpush and compete at that position. We’re really pleased with the receivers.”

Jafar Armstrong: Bishop Miege; Lee’s Summit, Mo.
Measurements: 6’1”, 200 lbs.
Rankings: three-star recruit; No. 3 player in Missouri; No. 77 at position
Brian Kelly’s Take: “Jafar Armstrong … is somebody that now adds some size and speed to that position that makes it very intriguing for us. We think Jafar is somebody that could possibly be that X receiver that gives you that deep threat, a guy that can really push the field vertically for us. He was a nice addition to this class.”

Brock Wright: Cy-Fair; Cypress, Texas
Measurements: 6’5”, 240 lbs.
Rankings: Consensus four-star recruit; No. 5 player in Texas, per; No. 1 at position
Cole Kmet: Saint Viator; Lake Barrington, Ill.
Measurements: 6’6”, 240 lbs.
Rankings: Consensus four-star recruit; No. 3 recruit in Illinois, per; No. 3 at position
Brian Kelly’s Take: “When you have some of the finest players, you’re not going to pass up that opportunity. The tight end position is a great example. Brock Wright is arguably one of the best, if not the best, tight ends in the country. But you’re not going to pass up an opportunity at a young man like Cole Kmet, who thoroughly impressed us when we got a chance to see him in Irish Invasion.

“We think there can’t be a better tandem at the tight end position in a signing day today. We think we’ve got two tight ends coming in to obviously a very good situation already with [graduate student] Durham Smythe, [rising junior] Alizé Jones, [rising senior] Nic Weishar, [rising senior] Tyler Luatua. We have great depth at that tight end position, and thes two guys only add to it.

“I think you start and look at the depth at that position, it really jumps out at you.”

Aaron Banks: El Cerrito; Alameda, Calif.
Measurements: 6’7”, 315 lbs.
Rankings: Consensus four-star recruit; No. 16 in Calif., per; No. 13 at position
Joshua Lugg: North Allegheny; Wexford, Pa.
Measurements: 6’7”, 293 lbs.
Rankings: Consensus four-star recruit; No. 6 player in Penn., per; No. 22 at position
Robert Hainsey: IMG Academy; Pittsburgh
Measurements: 6’5”, 276 lbs.
Rankings: Consensus four-star recruit; No. 21 player in Fla., per; No. 11 at position
Dillan Gibbons: Clearwater Central Catholic; Clearwater, Fla.
Measurements: 6’4”, 311 lbs.
Rankings: three-star recruit; No. 74 player in Fla.; No. 56 at position
Brian Kelly’s Take: “We return four out of five starters on the offensive line, and really five guys that have starting experience. If you take a look at the recruiting on the offensive line—Josh Lugg, Aaron Banks, Dillan Gibbons, Robert Hainsey—these are guys that are rated as high as any offensive linemen in the country.

“But they’re going to come into a situation where we have, for example, on our left side with [rising senior] Quenton Nelson and [graduate student] Mike McGlinchey two guys that are arguably the best at their positions in the country.

“We have very, very good offensive linemen coming in, but we’ve got talented players at that position with experience across the board. We feel great about the depth that we’ve developed at that position.”

Jonathan Doerer: South Mecklenburg; Charlotte, N.C.
Measurements: 6’3”, 188 lbs.
Rankings: three-star recruit; No. 6 kicker in nation
Brian Kelly’s Take: “He just jumped out at us. Somebody with his numbers, his ability, his length, 6’3”, extremely-gifted athlete. We were looking for somebody that could take over the kickoff duties for us right away.

“The strength that he has, averaging 78-plus [yards] kicking the football with four-plus [seconds] hang time. Just crazy numbers. It was just too good to pass up for us. He was a great fit for us. We went into that with really no expectations to go after a kicker until we saw him and fell in love with his ability.”