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Monday’s Leftovers: Quinn plays key recruiting role; pending position changes; the Notre Dame difference

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It was downright remarkable when Irish head coach Brian Kelly turned over the majority of his coaching staff a year ago yet Notre Dame still pulled in a solid recruiting class. This offseason saw only two assistant coaching changes, but one’s impact on Wednesday’s signees was still notable.

Whereas the Irish had secured a few safeties already in December’s early signing period, thus reducing the need for new safeties coach Terry Joseph to hit the ground running full-speed, a need for a couple more offensive linemen was apparent. New offensive line coach Jeff Quinn downplayed his role in retaining the commitment of consensus three-star lineman Luke Jones and closing on three-star tackle Jarrett Patterson on Wednesday. Jones’ commitment was likely always rock-solid, but both recruiting coordinator Brian Polian and Patterson betrayed Quinn’s impact in pursuing the Mission Viejo, Calif., product.

California (and Hawaii) is Polian’s primary geographical focus in recruiting. He has long had success out west (see: Te’o, Manti), and he maintained all his connections along the Pacific during his time as head coach at Nevada. Thus, he joined the obvious offensive coaches — Kelly, Quinn and coordinator Chip Long — on the final visit to Patterson just days before National Signing Day.

“The Patterson situation was a little bit odd because we offered him just as the news that [former Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand was heading to the Chicago Bears],” Polian said. “You would think as that was going down that the odds would be against you, and Jeff stepped in and really did a nice job toward the end.”

The four coaches knew their primary competition was UCLA and new Bruins head coach Chip Kelly. Convincing a player to leave the warmth of California and one of recent history’s better recruiters is hard enough. Doing it with a new position coach could easily and reasonably complicate the matter. Instead, Patterson told Blue & Gold Illustrated his conversations with Quinn played a pivotal role in his decision.

“He came over and we watched film together and he showed me different drills and different players he’s coached,” Patterson said. “… He’s a very seasoned coach. He’s been doing this for many years, he knows what he’s doing and he knows the Notre Dame program.”

From Quinn’s vantage, those same conversations seem to be a large part of why he is excited to work with Patterson.

“I had my iPad in his living room talking about football,” Quinn said Wednesday. “He didn’t want to talk about anything else at that point, which was great.

“For me personally to have that ability to really demonstrate to him and show him and communicate to him who we are and what Notre Dame could do for him and what he could do for Notre Dame, that was a huge get for us.”

The Irish did not pull in their top offensive line target in consensus five-star tackle Nick Petit-Frere, but Quinn successfully making the sale to Patterson and keeping Jones in the fold makes for a promising recruiting start.

Tillery flips with Bonner; Tranquill likely to traditional LB role
Defensive line coach Mike Elston said Notre Dame will move rising senior Jerry Tillery to the three-technique tackle position, less in the middle of the line than the alternative and more responsible for generating a pass rush. Fifth-year tackle Jonathan Bonner will then slide to the nose tackle position, having proven last season he has developed the strength necessary to maintain the point of attack.

In theory, the switch should allow Tillery to rely on his length and unique athleticism, as well as brighten his NFL allure.

Rising senior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery will move to more of an attacking role on Notre Dame’s defensive line, perhaps better suited to his athleticism unique to an interior player. (Getty Images)

“He’s not an overly-powerful guy, anyway,” Elston said. “He’s an explosive player and an incredible athlete, but when you don’t have that power like a Quenton Nelson has, you better have the right technique or you’re going to get overpowered. We’re working through those kind of technique things that [Tillery] needs to commit himself to.”

On the second level, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Clark Lea acknowledged the possibility of fifth-year linebacker Drue Tranquill moving from the rover role to a more traditional linebacker spot alongside rising senior Te’von Coney.

“I think everyone can see Drue Tranquill had a skillset, a talent base that can play multiple spots,” Lea said. “Through the course of the winter and spring we’ll take a look at different options and by the time we wrap up spring, hopefully I have a great feel for what the depth chart is going to look like heading into the fall.”

 ‘A totally different animal’
Next National Signing Day, both Quinn and Joseph will undoubtedly be asked what surprised them or what differences they noted in recruiting for the Irish compared to previous stops. Of the remaining pieces from last year’s staff turnover, one already had Notre Dame experience (Polian), one had not recruited elsewhere (quarterbacks coach Tom Rees), and one’s media availability was spent focused on his newest promotion (Lea).

Offensive coordinator Chip Long and receivers coach Del Alexander, though, shared their observations after completing a full recruiting cycle. For Long, the biggest change was in how he was received at high schools and prospects’ homes. The brand value of Notre Dame created warmer receptions than Long experienced when with (in reverse chronological order) Memphis, Arizona State and Illinois.

“It’s a totally different animal,” Long said. “When you walk in, they make time for you instead of it just being a hassle like some places I’ve been. They make time for you and do whatever they can, because they know what this school represents. … There’s no question, I’ve never been any place with the power of Notre Dame.”

To Alexander — with past recruiting duties at Arizona State, Wisconsin, San Diego, Oregon State and UNLV, as well as three years in a non-recruiting role at USC — the aspect he had to most adjust to was evaluating more than a player’s on-field performances.

“We want to go after the best players in the country, as does everyone else, but at the same time, there are unique qualities that the young men must possess to succeed here,” Alexander said. “You have to sit down and develop a relationship beyond football. You have to sit down and see if this young man is forward-thinking, if he’s thinking about his future in the classroom and in the community.

“At some places, it’s not like that. It’s just straight about football. It’s about winning and losing, it’s about the NFL opportunity. This is about way more than that.”

Fifth-years confirmed
Along with Bonner and Tranquill, Kelly confirmed the seven other players returning for fifth and final years: cornerback Nick Watkins, defensive end Jay Hayes, receiver Freddy Canteen, tight end Nic Weishar, right guard Alex Bars, center Sam Mustipher and punter Tyler Newsome.

Weishar had shoulder surgery recently, per Kelly, but his rehab is progressing as expected. If that limits him in spring practice, Notre Dame may have only rising senior Alizé Mack, rising sophomore Cole Kmet and early-enrolled freshman George Takacs fully healthy at tight end, as rising sophomore Brock Wright had shoulder surgery himself already this offseason.

The experience, depth and talent of the 9 fifth-years will obviously be welcome. Consider how rarely relying on freshmen goes well:

Those 10 teams combined to go 75-55 in 2017.

INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
As a National Signing Day Primer, some mailbag questions
It’s a different National Signing Day
Brian Kelly on Notre Dame’s six signees, with some assistant insights
National Signing Day’s Things We Learned & Things We Knew
Notre Dame’s assistant coaches on December’s signed offensive recruits
Notre Dame’s assistant coaches on December’s signed defensive recruits

NOTRE DAME GOT THE LETTERS:
C’Bo Flemister, consensus three-star running back
DJ Brown, consensus three-star cornerback
Luke Jones, consensus three-star offensive lineman
Jarrett Patterson, three-star offensive tackle
Lawrence Keys, consensus three-star receiver
Noah Boykin, consensus four-star cornerback and a Signing Day victory

OUTSIDE READING:
Lea won’t forget where he was when the phone rang
https://www.abqjournal.com/1131063/unm-suspending-davie-in-the-wake-of-outside-investigation.html
Davie releases statement, says he’s appealed 30-day suspension

Notre Dame’s assistant coaches on December’s signed defensive recruits

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Continuing a look at Notre Dame’s assistant coaches’ reviews of the recruits signed in December, let’s turn to the defense.

That group of 12 consisted of five defensive backs, four linebackers and three defensive linemen.

Safeties coach Terry Joseph (newly-arrived from North Carolina) on consensus four-star safety Derrik Allen, pictured above: “He was a guy we recruited a little bit at North Carolina. He committed to Notre Dame so early, it ended the recruiting because you knew he was not going to de-commit. A guy who is long, can make plays all over the field. As a junior he played a little bit of corner so you like his cover skills. That kid, the sky is the limit for him, because he can do anything that he wants to do. Really a playmaker, played some wideout, likes to catch the fade. Just talking to him, he’s a kid who wants to compete and he wants to win at a high level.”

Cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght on Allen: “He’s been our longest-committed safety out of Georgia, outstanding young man, great student athlete. I think he is the type of player who can come in and help us right away due to his size and strength.”

Houston Griffith (rivals.com)

Joseph on consensus four-star defensive back and early enrollee Houston Griffith: “He’s a guy that is going to play corner for us. We’ll see what he can do outside on the perimeter.”

Lyght on Griffith: “We’re going to start him at corner, but he has the ability to play both corner and safety, so we’re going to move him around. He’s the type of player who has such position versatility, he’s going to be a real weapon for us on defense. We’re going to start him on the boundary, let him play a little bit of safety, let him play a little bit of nickel, and find out what suits him best and his skillset. Here’s another guy who can come in and make a contribution right away for us.

“… With his position versatility, he’s going to have the opportunity to play not only on special teams, but defensively early.”

Joseph on local consensus three-star safety Paul Moala: “I’ve just gotten to watch his film here the last few days, but again you see a guy who is athletic, big and has a chance to be a physical ballplayer for us.”

Lyght on Moala: “Another outstanding young player who can come in and help us right away on special teams. With his combination of speed, size and strength, it makes him a very dangerous freshman coming in. He’s really going to push all the safeties in front of him and he’s going to compete early and right away.

Lyght on consensus three-star cornerback Joe Wilkins: “Long, tall athlete out of the Fort Myers [Fla.] area. Really smart kid. Love the way he competes on both sides of the ball. His length and his ball skills can really make him an outstanding boundary corner. His background is more on the offensive side of the ball, which is okay, but he came along his senior year defensively, becoming a more sure tackler. That with his length and his speed, he can become an outstanding press corner.”

Lyght on rivals.com three-star cornerback Tariq Bracy: “The speedster out of California. Outstanding young talent, little bit of a smaller frame. In the strength and power area, he’s going to have to do some work, because he’s a little developmental there, but his playmaking skills, his ball skills, his speed, his reactive athleticism are second-to-none in this class, so I think he’ll be out there playing field corner for us.

“I know [Irish head coach Brian] Kelly was thinking of moving him to offense and trying to let him run the ball a little bit, but he’s a talented player that we want to keep on the defensive side of the ball. I made that known to [defensive coordinator Clark] Lea, so there’s going to be a battle for him.”

Jack Lamb (rivals.com)

Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Clark Lea on consensus four-star linebackers and early enrollees Bo Bauer and Jack Lamb: “Those guys are natural inside linebackers that at a certain point, both positions are interchangeable. You’re going to see what can they handle here early, where are the needs in the depth chart as we get through spring and plug them in accordingly.”

Lea on consensus four-star linebacker Shayne Simon: “[He] is an incredible athlete and better person, honestly. Shayne is a safety in high school that has played some field overhang that is a natural fit at the rover position. He’ll get his first reps there. Then we’ll see how he grows and develops from that point, but I think that’s a great fit for him.

Lea on consensus three-star linebacker and early enrollee Ovie Oghoufo: “Ovie, I could see playing either outside position. He has been a run-and-hit player in high school. His best defense has been playing alley-to-alley, on the move. I’ve got to help him with the mechanics of playing in the box every down and how you attack gaps, but I know that he can run and hit. So I think either the buck and rover position, both of those could enhance that skillset.”

Jayson Ademilola (rivals.com)

Defensive line coach Mike Elston on consensus four-star defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola: “I watched them play Don Bosco later in the season before the playoffs and came away very impressed with both of [Jayson’s and his twin brother consensus three-star defensive end Justin Ademilola’s] developments in terms of fundamentals and how they played, how aggressive they played. I do believe Jayson is going to be able to come in and give us some great depth and added depth in several areas.”

Elston on consensus three-star defensive end Justin Ademilola: “I know Justin is going to come in with a chip on his shoulder. The world is kind of made him second fiddle to his brother, which I’m all good with. I hope he does have a chip.

“I think he’ll be the surprise of the class. I think he’s going to come in and the plan is to get them both ready to play if we need them, and see what happens. Hopefully we hold up and the depth stays the depth and we don’t get a bunch of injuries, but we’re planning on getting both those guys ready to play if we have to.

“… He’ll start off at the drop, but based on how he develops throughout the month of June and July, putting on some weight, I’ll teach him both [end positions]. Even [current sophomore] Julian Okwara double-learned last year. I think it’s more challenging for a freshman to learn both of them, but I think Justin has a great understanding of football and he learns well. He should be able to do them both.

“… [The chip] is derived directly from the media that do stories about his brother. His brother got invited to the Army All-American Game and he didn’t. His brother gets all these accolades and he doesn’t. His brother is scheduled to play football at Notre Dame and be in the depth and he’s not. He’s going to be red-shirted. People are writing articles about that and he’s forwarding them to me. ‘Coach, can you believe what they’re saying about me?’

“He’s sharing those things, but he’s not telling me he has a chip on his shoulder. I can just tell it. He’s going to come in here with a chip on his shoulder to prove he’s worthy of a scholarship offer and a commitment to Notre Dame.”

Elston on consensus three-star defensive tackle Ja’Mion Franklin: “I wanted to add toughness. We’ve been able to change the culture of the defensive line. We’re not there yet obviously, but we’re changing that culture. Identifying Ja’Mion very early as a guy that is going to add to that and improve that with an aggressiveness and a toughness, he was a marquee get for us because of that.

“Day-to-day, just going to be an aggressive, tough individual. … I had a chance to watch him play and just so disruptive and physical and aggressive. That’s what we wanted to add to this defensive tackle group.”

RELATED READING: Brian Kelly on December’s 12 defensive signees
Seven early enrollees set a new Notre Dame high, but will they make an impact?
Notre Dame’s assistant coaches on December’s signed offensive recruits

Notre Dame’s assistant coaches on December’s signed offensive recruits

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This week’s focus was on the six new signees Notre Dame added to the recruiting class of 2018, bringing the total to 27. When the first 21 put pen to the proverbial paper back in December’s early signing period, only Irish head coach Brian Kelly and recruiting coordinator Brian Polian spoke publicly about the newest pieces of the roster.

The full array of Notre Dame assistant coaches offered the expected praises Wednesday. Some excerpts as they pertained to the offensive signees from December:

Quarterbacks coach Tom Rees on consensus four-star quarterback Phil Jurkovec: “When you talk about Phil, the mental makeup of him might be the most impressive thing.

“… When you look at him as an athlete, he will be the most impressive guy you see. You step on the basketball court, he’s the best athlete on the court by a mile, guards the other team’s best player, moves well. You watch him on the football field, same thing. Athletically, there is not a lot he can’t do.

“… For him, the first thing is where are we mentally and where do we need to improve there. Physically, I think a little more consistency on an every throw basis, mechanically and accuracy is something that everyone needs to strive for, but I think we’ll continue to push for him.”

Running backs coach Autry Denson on consensus three-star running back and early enrollee Jahmir Smith: “Just someone who can play a significant role on the football field. Excited to have him on campus. Anytime you can get a young man here early, that obviously adds to his maturity and his process in regards to developing.”

Offensive coordinator Chip Long on Smith: “He’s been doing a great job in the weight room. Just watched him run this morning. He’s going to be a good fit and he’s going to be a good player.”

Receivers coach Del Alexander on consensus four-star receiver Kevin Austin: “Probably one of the guys that in terms of publicity is one of the bigger fish. We talk on a regular basis. Those signees that signed on Dec. 20 have already begun watching video, so they’re getting a regular dose of what we’re doing here. Those guys are eager to get started. Kevin and I have already developed a relationship and we’re communicating on the little things that will help him hit the ground running.”

Micah Jones (rivals.com)

Alexander on rivals.com four-star receiver and early enrollee Micah Jones: “He’s here now, running around, doing well in the weight room. He’s getting some good attention there because when we’re doing conditioning, when we’re doing weight training, he doesn’t seem to be a freshman. He’s standing up and being just as productive as the guys around him.”

Long on the tight end duo of rivals.com four-star and early enrollee George Takacs and consensus three-star Tommy Tremble: “One thing I always like to do with the tight end group, I like to obviously have size and athleticism. Both of them bring that, both of them are a little different, which I think is good, you don’t always want the same type of player. You want to have variety, certain guys can do certain things. I always like to have that versatility each year and each signing class.”

Long on Takacs: “George has spent a little bit more time with his hand on the ground than Tommy has. Tommy’s been more of a skilled wideout, coming in. The good thing I got to see this year with George, though, is he was split out wide and did a lot of good things in the passing game, so they both have ball skills. Both are very smart, very athletic in their way.”

Long on Tremble: “Tommy is probably a little bit more explosive, where George has a little bit more size, but that can come in time. The one thing that really caught my eye with Tommy is he played defense for them. As I’m evaluating tight ends nowadays, I want to see defensive film, I want to see you be able to put your face on something and strike. That’s a bit thing with the toughness that we want to have, and he did that. He is exceptional, to go with his explosiveness.”

RELATED READING: Brian Kelly on December’s eight offensive signees
Seven early enrollees set a new Notre Dame high, but will they make an impact?

Friday at 4: National Signing Day’s Things We Learned & Things We Knew

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From a pure numbers perspective, Notre Dame went above and beyond by signing 27 recruits this cycle. To a degree, that was expected. As soon as the Irish exceeded 23 recruits, the effect was the same, only increasing: Each signee meant another roster spot needs to be found by August. That was known.

It was not known the final piece of that boom would be consensus four-star cornerback Noah Boykin (pictured above). His 11th-hour and unexpected commitment put Notre Dame’s defensive back haul over the top, joining consensus three-star cornerback DJ Brown in choosing the Irish on Wednesday. Signing seven defensive backs in one class is a bit extreme, but considering a year ago included only two safeties and no cornerbacks, the overcompensation served a purpose.

Joe Wilkins (rivals.com)

To that point, Notre Dame cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght acknowledged Wednesday the influx of defensive backs could allow for some flexibility for the likes of consensus three-star Joe Wilkins, who excelled as a receiver as much as a defensive back in high school.

“I think there is going to be some two-way play for him when he first gets here,” Lyght said. “To really find out where his skillset is best served on this team, whether that be on the defensive side of the ball or on the offensive side of the ball, that’s too soon to be determined, but we’ll know soon enough.”

Lawrence Keys (rivals.com)

Not that the receivers exactly need another piece to consider, either. Consensus three-star receiver Lawrence Keys appeared to be trending toward the Irish before this week, but sealing the deal with him created a receivers class of four, equally balanced between speed and physicality. Keys and consensus four-star Braden Lenzy offer the breakaway speed that can single-handedly force a coverage adjustment, while consensus four-star Kevin Austin and rivals.com four-star Micah Jones offer physical threats possibly ideally designed for sideline receptions.

“That’s the goal. Year-in and year-out you want to make sure you bring in a different skillset and that you’re not one dimensional,” Notre Dame receivers coach Del Alexander said. “We’ve got quickness, we’ve got speed, we’ve got size, we’ve got a little bit of everything. That’s what you should do each year you bring in a group of receivers.”

The Irish may have had that with or without Keys, but considering the numbers game inherent to college football, doubling up on speed doubles the chances of it making an impact down the road. (See: Stepherson, Kevin.)

This class’s depth of defensive backs and receivers will be cited for a time to come. Eleven of the 27 recruits fill the edges of the passing game, be it on offense or defense or, in the case of Wilkins, perhaps both. In a year when Notre Dame did not excel in defensive line recruiting, focusing on the pieces of the aerial game served as an adequate alternative. If this class leads the Irish to the bowls always mentioned as a season’s goal, those two position groups will almost certainly be heavily involved.

Pardon the second usage of the following quote just today, but it best underscores the Irish success this year in recruiting defensive backs and receivers.

“From an across the board depth standpoint on the back end of our defense and at the wide receiver position, an area that I feel is [as] good as any class that we’ve recruited here at Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “… When I walk away at the end of the day and take a step back, those two areas I feel really good about relative to what we’ve done there.”

Admittedly, what the Irish had done at those two positions was largely hit-or-miss. If looking at the last three classes via rivals.com ratings, even just the top-end recruiting has yielded inconsistent results. Last year, Notre Dame managed only one defensive back (safety Isaiah Robertson) rated as highly as each of this year’s top two defensive backs (safety/cornerback Houston Griffith and safety Derrik Allen) and top two receivers (Austin and Lenzy).

In 2016, two receivers matched that ranking, Chase Claypool and Javon McKinley. The former broke out a bit this past fall while the latter has been hampered by injuries. A total of five defensive backs reached that recruiting ranking. The cornerbacks (Julian Love, Troy Pride, Donte Vaughn) have largely lived up to that billing while the safeties (Jalen Elliott, D.J. Morgan) have not, just like the rest of the safeties on the Irish roster.

Similarly, three receivers met that metric in 2015, and their careers covered the spectrum. Equanimeous St. Brown is already headed to the NFL, Miles Boykin may be a starter Sept. 1, and C.J. Sanders is transferring out of the program. The two defensive backs offer a similar range: Finally healthy, Shaun Crawford excelled this past season; Mykelti Williams never took a snap for Notre Dame.

The objective here is to reinforce a point Kelly made while discussing the incoming depth.

“They’re all young players, and they’ve got to prove themselves.”

That echoed both common sense and words from recruiting coordinator Brian Polian on the first day of December’s early signing period.

“Let’s be careful about who we are anointing the next stars,” Polian said then. “… Obviously we feel these young men can come in and compete at a high level, but sometimes it takes time, and we need to allow for that learning curve and that process before we start anointing guys as saviors.”

Jarrett Patterson (rivals.com)

Speaking of the early signing period, it stacked the deck for the Irish to close this strongly. Kelly described the last six-plus weeks as “extremely intentional.” Notre Dame knew it needed defensive backs, and it got them in spades. It wanted a couple more offensive linemen, and new offensive line coach Jeff Quinn made a strong first impression in retaining consensus three-star Luke Jones’ commitment and in bringing in three-star offensive tackle Jarrett Patterson. The Irish hoped for a running back, and consensus three-star C’Bo Flemister will help relieve some of the burden felt by a depleted position group.

But let’s not forget the two areas already known to be excellent.
Notre Dame signed 3 four-star linebackers. Two of them, along with consensus three-star Ovie Oghoufo, enrolled early. As strong as the Irish coaching staff finished in recruiting defensive backs and receivers, this linebacker group is the best in recent memory, to say the least. It is not beyond feasibility to envision three of them starting as sophomores, nor would that necessarily be a bad sign.

And any year in which Notre Dame signs the quarterback it initially targeted can be counted a success at that position.

So, if defensive back, receivers, linebackers and quarterback were all recruiting wins, and offensive line and running back filled the depth as necessary, then 2019’s goal is clear: Defensive line recruiting will be the driving priority.

Thus spins the never-ending recruiting cycle.

Brian Kelly on Notre Dame’s six signees, with some assistant insights

Associated Press
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December’s early signing period allowed Notre Dame to focus its final efforts in this recruiting cycle, narrowing its range of targets to defensive backs, offensive linemen and — due to roster reductions — running back. In discussing Wednesday’s six signees, both Irish head coach Brian Kelly and recruiting coordinator Brian Polian mentioned going 3-for-3 in those categories, at least in part thanks to securing those 21 prospects six-plus weeks ago.

Adding in a receiver provided even further depth.

Lawrence Keys (rivals.com)

Kelly on consensus three-star receiver Lawrence Keys: “[He] really gives us an explosive playmaker. He adds to the depth at that class. … We just felt like we were looking for a guy that could make plays with the ball in his hand.”

Receivers coach Del Alexander on consensus four-star receiver Braden Lenzy, a December signee who made that decision after Kelly’s comments during the three-day early signing period: “Just a spark plug. A kid that has a wealth of knowledge of everything sports, is really intelligent outside of sports. It was just great listening to him and his dad argue back-and-forth about current and past players of their favorite teams and watch that father-son bond and also appreciate where he is mentally. He is a gym rat, he is a junkie, and he wants to be really good as a football player, but he also wants everything that Notre Dame has to offer off the field.”

Kelly on the class of 2018’s depth at both receiver and defensive back, setting it apart from most years: “It’s probably from an across the board depth standpoint on the back end of our defense and at the wide receiver position, an area that I feel is good about as any class that we’ve recruited here at Notre Dame. Now, look, they’re all young players, and they’ve got to prove themselves. But I think when I walk away at the end of the day and take a step back, those two areas I feel really good about relative to what we’ve done there.

“That stands out to me.”

Noah Boykin (rivals.com)

Kelly on consensus four-star cornerback Noah Boykin: “We love the intangibles about Noah. He comes from a school that is not a predictor, a school that we would normally not recruit here at Notre Dame, but I will tell you that one of the things that we were so impressed with — and maybe this doesn’t happen everywhere — we weren’t certain about Noah and his ability to come to Notre Dame and be a great fit until after his admissions meeting. The feedback that we got from admissions in terms of his interview really sold us on this was the right place for him.

“Here’s a young man that wanted to reach for the best and not settle, and that’s what really, for us, drove this.

“… He has got a confidence about him at that corner position. He’s a natural corner, and just gives us great flexibility and depth at that position that we’ve been lacking for so long here.

“But here’s a young man that chose Notre Dame for the right reasons, and we’re really excited about having him here.”

Kelly on consensus three-star cornerback DJ Brown: “We really think that we’ve got somebody here that is a true corner. He’s long at 6’1″. Very smart player. I think what stood out for us is his football intelligence, the way he played the game.

“… DJ has got the skills to play corner right now, but he’s 6’1″, 190, so we know that he’s got length. We know he’s got the ability to be a bigger, stronger player, as well. We liked his football IQ. We liked the way he played football. And so that was first and foremost, and then his length. Those are things that I think you can’t teach, and we wanted some size at that position. He brings it to us.”

Kelly on three-star offensive tackle Jarrett Patterson: “He’s a guy that’s long but can play both guard and tackle, as well. So versatility was really what we were looking for at that offensive line position. Again, augmenting, obviously, the depth there. I think we did an incredible job of adding two offensive linemen that are going to shape this class quite well.”

Jarrett Patterson (rivals.com)

Offensive line coach Jeff Quinn on Patterson: “A great athlete, great size, length, moves well. The one thing also that I felt that was really key for me, when I saw his film, it caught my eye: There was a focus and a determination, he was intentional with his technique, his hands, his body positioning, how he was finishing guys.

“You could tell between his junior year and his senior year, he made great strides in the weight room, he dedicated himself into the weight room, he was eating better. He had that mindset. There was a purpose that he had in terms of what he wanted to demonstrate on the field because he knew that was going to provide him some opportunities to be able to come to Notre Dame.”

Kelly on consensus three-star offensive lineman Luke Jones: “Luke gives us great versatility, can play the guard position, can play center. We were looking for that. In particular an inside guy that had that versatility.”

Kelly on consensus three-star running back C’Bo Flemister: “The running back position, obviously, was a need for us, and C’Bo Flemister is a guy that really was attractive to us with his running style. From a football standpoint, we loved the fact that we had a north-and-south back here that played with low pads, and that’s what we were looking for, a guy that could really hit it inside-out for us and be extremely productive at the position. Great fit for us, really solid student that fits here at Notre Dame. So really excited about C’Bo.”

Running backs coach Autry Denson on Flemister: “I call him my throwback player. He is a down-dirty, old-school, get-it-done kind of player. It was refreshing to watch his film.”