Navy v Notre Dame

As expected, Eilar Hardy to transfer for fifth year


Safety Eilar Hardy will finish his college football career elsewhere. After four seasons in South Bend, Hardy will earn his Notre Dame degree and be free to play out his eligibility in another program.

Per a report from Irish Illustrated, Notre Dame has granted Hardy his release, meaning he’ll be eligible to play in another program once her earns his degree this spring. That scenario didn’t always look to be possible amidst the academic suspensions that ensnared Hardy in the days before the season opener, the last member of the Frozen Five who was the only student-athlete to return to the field for the Irish.

With the safety depth chart being what it is in South Bend, the idea of returning to play as a fifth-year senior seemed logical. But approval into a graduate program in good standing wasn’t necessarily assured, and while the coaching staff would’ve likely welcomed Hardy back, cutting ties now makes the most sense.

The transfer options for Hardy will likely be plentiful. They include Miami (Ohio) and UConn, where Hardy would be reunited with former Irish coordinators Chuck Martin and Bob Diaco. Irish Illustrated also mentions Bowling Green, where Hardy could play with former high school teammate Roger Lewis. Hardy will begin to explore all of his options now.

As for any animosity between the Hardy family and Notre Dame after a difficult 2014 season spent in limbo, it seems like all parties walk away with their respect intact.

“I have no complaints about Notre Dame, never,” Bill Hardy, Eilar’s father told Irish Illustrated. “That’s my team.”

Mailbag: Finding the right 85 guys

Matthias Farley

With less than two weeks to go before Signing Day, recruiting is the focus for the Irish coaching staff. But as we crack open the mailbag, we cover a bit more ground than the usual will-he or won’t-he that comes along with the first Wednesday in February.

Instead of turning the mailbag into an opus, we’ll roll these out a few at a time, covering some ground this weekend as well.

Let’s get to it.


@Hank1st: Any reason to be concerned about the ESPN suit against ND? I can’t handle yet another offseason of controversy.

I don’t think so. (And me, neither!) In case you missed it, there’s a legal battle brewing over the status of police and incident reports of the Notre Dame Security Police force. ESPN and The South Bend Tribune believe they should be public records. Notre Dame, a private university, believes that they shouldn’t be.

Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt believes they should be (not a surprise), Notre Dame countered with their own opinion.

“Our practices are in full accord with the Access to Public Records Act and consistent with multiple advisory opinions that have addressed this matter over the past 12 years. We are confident that our position will be affirmed in court,” Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said.

This doesn’t necessarily appear to be a football issue, nor connected to any yet-to-be-unearthed event. But of course, it’s worth watching, though I can’t imagine any legal swashbuckling will be complete any time quickly.


simmel65: Can you give us a breakdown on how big a class ND can sign and what that means in terms of 5th years? Seems like this recruiting class might get large and we may have to lose some key 5th years?

mediocrebob: Any insight on the number for this years class? I’ve read 25, 26 and then read that Notre Dame would “make room for this kid if he wants to committ”. If they take more than predicted, does that mean less seniors asked to come back for 5th years?

Every college program gets 85 scholarships. And right now, my rough math shows 14 seniors eligible for a fifth year of competition. So if you’re doing the math (22 (for now)+23+22+12+14), it’s pretty clear that not all 14 are returning for a final season at Notre Dame.

Here’s another thing that’s clear: This shouldn’t be the worry that we all tend to make it each offseason. Before the 2013 season, there were people honestly wondering/arguing that Kelly might not bring back Dan Fox or Carlo Calabrese. They’ll likely do the same this year, arguing that Amir Carlisle or Matt Hegarty shouldn’t return, because even though they are starters, you’ve got to make room for 4-star X or 5-star Y…

Brian Kelly has shown his loyalty — and preference for — upperclassmen. And nobody builds a program by running key contributors out as veterans. I expect a large group to return for their final year of eligibility.

But we already know a few moves: No Davaris Daniels. Eilar Hardy is also likely gone. If you were forcing me to guess, I’m also thinking Chase Hounshell, Anthony Rabasa, Jalen Brown,  and Josh Atkinson are also looking for a new home for a fifth year (if they want it), with Conor Hanratty potentially done because of concussions.

Between other injury questions (Jarrett Grace, Nicky Baratti) and some potential transfers that I’m sure the staff is more up to speed on than any beat reporter out there, Kelly and the Irish coaching staff wouldn’t be taking recruits if they didn’t have a spot for them on the roster.

So fear not. A plan is in place.


@DrewBrennan77: Does Brian Kelly lose his job as head football coach at ND with a 9-4 record in 2015?

I don’t think so. While that record would be really disappointing, I don’t think it’s enough to get Kelly fired. And as we saw this offseason, outside of Jim Harbaugh was there a head coaching hire that blew people away? So if you are going to make a move and change coaches is there a guy that you’re convinced will do a better job in South Bend than Kelly?

I have great expectations for next season. And I really don’t want to be around these parts if that’s how next fall goes. So if somebody has a crystal ball, let me know a few winning lotto numbers and I’ll be on a plane to some tropical island with no internet access before the DeLorean and Doc Brown can catch me.

Prentice McKinney flips commitment to UNC


One of Notre Dame’s long-time verbal commitments is no longer planning on joining the Irish’s 2015 recruiting class. Texas safety Prentice McKinney took an official visit to North Carolina last weekend and flipped his commitment to Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels on Wednesday, dropping Notre Dame’s recruiting class down to 22 players and just two safeties.

McKinney took to Twitter to announce the news.

“I want to thank everybody that helped me throughout my recruiting process and appreciate your support. I’ve officially decided to flip my commitment to the University of North Carolina,” McKinney said (before using a few interesting emoticons).

For much of the past month, McKinney’s commitment was being questioned, with multiple outlets reporting that there was an admissions snag at Notre Dame. While those surrounding the safety denied it — and McKinney looked the part of a totally committed Irish recruit as recently as the Semper Fi All-Star game — the idea that he was visiting North Carolina and would eventually be a part of another school’s 2015 haul seemed to be an assumption the Irish coaching staff worked from as they’ve been in pursuit of another safety.

What the Irish lose in McKinney will be interesting to see. A large, physical presence in the middle of the field, Notre Dame plucked the Dallas safety from relative obscurity, offering and accepting his commitment before he had arrived on the national scene. He’s seen his profile rise since then, with offers from Oklahoma, TCU and Arizona State among others before ultimately picking North Carolina.

McKinney’s flip pushes the Irish back to 22 commitments with just under two weeks to go before Signing Day.

Irish recruiting efforts coming into focus


While the Irish coaching staff traverses the country taking in-home visits, Notre Dame’s staff is close to putting the finishing touches on a stellar recruiting class. The additional of Aliz’e Jones pushes the Irish into a consensus Top 10 class — quite an accomplishment considering this was supposed to be a smaller group.

Yet with two weeks to go, the Irish sit at 23 recruits. And most believe they’ll end things with at 25 signees, with the possibility of landing one more if things go according to plans.

From a need perspective, it looks as if the Irish will be filling one very large hole with Dexter Williams. The running back has been an early target of the Irish staff and took his official visit last weekend. A one-time Miami commitment, Williams very well could have been the intended target of a since-deleted Tweet by a Miami assistant that compared weather forecasts in both cities. (Most assumed it was linebacker Tevon Coney.)

Williams is far from a consolation prize. His offer list is elite, his highlight film looks the part and all signs (and Crystal Balls) seem to point to Notre Dame. So while the Irish staff will still likely continue their chase of Soso Jamabo, Notre Dame should have a second running back in this class when it comes time to turn on the fax machine.

At wide receiver, it appears that just about everybody following things thinks the Irish will land another one of their early targets at the position in Equanimeous St. Brown. If it does happen, the Orange County, California prospect will have turned down a Dos Equis commercial a slew of other elite schools to come to South Bend, giving Notre Dame another big-bodied, lanky receiver in the mold of Corey Robinson, with better speed.

St. Brown’s recruiting stock seems to have roller-coastered a bit this year, but Notre Dame’s interest never did. And at a position where early playing time doesn’t necessarily look possible, playing the long game on an athletic talent as unique as St. Brown (he’s 6’5″ and fast) seems to be a good bet. Add to that another player from powerhouse Servite, and it’s a win-win-win for the Irish staff… assuming the Irish hear from the 949 area code in a few Wednesdays.

When it comes to filling a final hole at safety, things get a little interesting. The Irish are chasing multiple athletes at the position still, a priority spot in a class that already includes three commits. But with smoke surrounding Prentice McKinney‘s status, filling this slot is important, especially with the uncertain future of Nicky Baratti.

The Irish entertained Nathan Meadors last weekend, with Notre Dame “pulling even” with UCLA. A San Bernadino native, the Bruins are essentially the hometown school. But the Irish staff believes he’s a great prospect and a player that the recruiting services seem to undervalue. Expect the in-home visit to be important with Brian Kelly.

That’s hardly the only bet the Irish are taking. They’re still fighting for an official visit from Arrington Farrar, a long-time Stanford commit that’s on the market again. Louisiana safety Justin Reid will be on campus this weekend. LSU (where his brother played) will get a late look as well, but Kerry Cooks is working the case.

The Irish staff is still hunting some big fish as well. They haven’t given up on Biggie Marshall, though it’s a long shot to happen. And they just used an in-home visit on defensive end Mekhi Brown, an Alabama commitment who took an official to South Bend during the season.

With two weeks to go, the final pieces seem to be coming together. But none of that matters until Signing Day.