Other Notable Offers: Flemister never publicly de-committed from Georgia Tech until this morning, although his recruitment had clearly been open for some time now. Flemister also considered Tennessee.
Projected Position: Running back.
Quick Take: Notre Dame was content with signing only Jahmir Smith in this class until removing current sophomore Deon McIntosh and freshman C.J. Holmes from the roster created a desperate need for running back depth. At that point, running backs coach Autry Denson quickly focused on Flemister and only on Flemister.
Short-Term Roster Outlook: Flemister is the fourth running back on Notre Dame’s depth chart. In 2017, the fourth running back saw plenty of action, albeit due to injury. That is the nature of the position, and Flemister can expect to be readied for a similar role if need should arise.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: Smith has an advantage over Flemister at the outset, having enrolled early, but whichever of the two can gain a step on the other in games will be in prime position to see a lot of carries in 2019. At that point, current junior Dexter Williams will be gone and the Irish will need someone — or multiple someones — to complement sophomore Tony Jones. Offensive coordinator Chip Long enjoys utilizing two running back formations, but feels comfortable doing so only when both running backs involved can run, block and catch. Flemister will need to show a comfort level with the latter two, particularly the receiving, to be featured alongside the multi-tooled Jones.
It’s National Signing Day. Longtime “Inside the Irish” readers are expecting post after post after post this morning announcing the arrivals of faxes. Not today, and not just because National Letters of Intent have not been sent in as literal faxes for years.
Notre Dame signed 21 recruits during December’s early signing period. That means today, what used to be a college football national holiday, will be far quieter. The Irish are expecting somewhere between four and six signees today. Only one of those has already committed, consensus three-star offensive tackle Luke Jones (Pulaski Academy; Little Rock, Ark.).
The rest of the targets have announcements scheduled throughout the day.
Thus, it is distinctly possible the only “The Letter Is In” moment before the East Coast morning commute is that of Jones. Those few hundred words are, indeed, drafted within the cobwebs of the internet.
The two perks for the fans of this revamped system are the day is far less stressful, and each signee is considered a notable victory. The Notre Dame coaching staff’s success during the early signing period turned National Signing Day into a day filled with much upside and nearly no downside.
Anyway, with that refresher out of the way, here is a bevy of information on today’s possibilities and December’s signees, considering the decent chance that moment evaded some entirely. After all, it was the week immediately prior to Christmas.
Notre Dame knows its figurative floor for the class of 2018. Thanks to December’s early signing period, and the success the Irish had in that three-day span, adding a mere three commitments to the class tomorrow would make National Signing Day a success. With eight possibilities remaining on the board to varying degrees, reaching that mark seems rather likely.
Anything further would make it a banner week and the cycle as a whole a strong one for Notre Dame’s coaching staff. Pulling that off is even more notable when considering seven of the 10 assistant coaches were not yet with the Irish when the scholarship offers began flowing to the class of 2018.
In many regards, the early signing period rendered this February stretch relatively anticlimactic. While that may not be the case in each and every year to come, this first rendition sets a precedent.
With that in mind and few updates (read: none) to offer in the 24- to 48-hour window preceding the close to the recruiting cycle, let’s knock out a few broad recruiting questions.
“Can you identify five-year transfers available for the Irish to sign? Any QBs?” —Kevin from Pasadena
“Regarding grad transfers, are we in the mix for Calvin Anderson and are we recruiting Tre Watson at all?” — The Dude
With just three commits signing along with consensus three-star offensive tackle Luke Jones (Pulaski Academy; Little Rock, Ark.) tomorrow, Notre Dame would reach 87 rostered players slated for the fall. Losing more than two to transfer, career-ending injury or dismissal is realistic, but expecting four or five begins to stretch the norms. Yet, the Irish may need exactly that to occur if Wednesday sees five new commitments.
Thus, do not expect any graduate transfers to arrive this summer. This is not like last year, when Notre Dame already knew its offensive line reserves may be in flux after spring practices and some roster spots could open up. This is, in fact, a first for the Irish. If being honest, it is a welcome first. It is also a nationwide norm.
“You just look at the culture of college athletics in general right now, people are transferring at a much higher rate than they did 10 years ago,” Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Brian Polian said in December. “… Let’s go under the assumption that there is going to be a little bit of turnover this year, and sometimes you don’t know who they are. Guys come in and surprise you.”
That absence of a graduate transfer at quarterback may seem like the abandonment of a possible bandage, but that would ignore two facts. First of all, there are not a plethora of bona fide quarterbacks looking to parachute in for one season. Secondly, the Irish do not lack quarterbacks. There are options — four, to be exact.
The same could largely be said of Anderson, a Rice tackle with transfer plans. While Notre Dame did touch base with him, he was not an inherent need and he has narrowed his focus to Michigan and Texas, with Auburn, Oklahoma and TCU on the fringe of his considerations.
Watson, a Cal running back, declared a want to transfer only two weeks ago. If he had been in the market the first week of January, perhaps the Irish would have chased him to fill the void in the depth chart left by the dismissals of sophomore Deon McIntosh and freshman C.J. Holmes, but since then Notre Dame has aggressively pursued Georgia Tech commit C’Bo Flemister. Presuming Flemister flips to the Irish tomorrow, that would salve those issues well enough.
“What’s the story with Daniel Cage? Last I remember hearing, Kelly was going to reassess this January. Is he just done?” — NDIrishCO
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Cage’s return was always doubtful. If a concussion forces you to take off a season, then the long-term decision has somewhat been made for you.
Notre Dame’s hopes of North Carolina State-commit Derrick Eason finding his way to landing with the Irish is a symptom of that conclusion. If Cage had found unexpected health in September yet still spent 2017 on the sidelines, then he may have been a piece of the puzzle in 2018. Instead, finding another body like Eason’s to plug into the defensive line can provide some depth.
Admittedly, the return of current junior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery already bolstered that depth to rather excellent levels. A healthy Cage at his best would have struggled to find much playing time amid Tillery, current senior Jonathan Bonner and freshman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, not to mention the latter’s two classmates, Kurt Hinish and Darnell Ewell.
“How come Notre Dame automatically does not get the best players in Indiana every year? There’s always only a handful of elite talent every year and you would think the flagship school in the state will automatically get them.” — ND16
Simply enough, you answered your own question. There are only so many players in Indiana that the Irish should be outright pursuing in the first place. In looking at both the current cycle and the class of 2017, only four players each year exceeded the average of Notre Dame’s signed players if measuring by ratings on rivals.com.
Last year, those four landed at Clemson, Ohio State, Cincinnati and Louisville. The last of those was cornerback Russ Yeast, and the Irish very much would have liked to reel him in, but he actually chose a school 50 miles closer to him.
This year, those four players have committed to Alabama, Michigan, Iowa and USC, not exactly shoddy football programs.
Even if bothered by the inclusion of Cincinnati and Iowa in those two lists, the sample size invalidates the argument. To point to one recruit’s decision each year as an indictment on Notre Dame’s recruiting is to completely disregard the natures of recruiting in general.
The catchphrase was simple, hence the noun in the first place. “Super Bowl Sunday, No School Monday.” It was always more a wish than a reality, but then the Wisconsin weather gods offered up an ice day in 2007 — joy met the negative-16 degrees temperatures, though the negative-25 degrees wind chill was less of a delight.
Just like we did not want to be in pre-calculus that morning, no one wants to be at work today, less so than a usual Monday.
Let’s keep this space devoid of any heavy-lifting, as well.
Two dates to remember The first is obvious: Wednesday is National Signing Day, when Notre Dame will add at least three recruits to the class of 2018, and possibly a few more. This will be the largest class in Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s tenure, about to encompass its ninth signing day.
Typically, commitments will not be announced in the 48 hours leading up to signing day. If a player waited this long, he will stall for a few more days and enjoy the shine provided by signing his National Letter of Intent at the same time as making the announcement.
Notre Dame also officially announced the date of the annual Blue-Gold Game, concluding spring practices. The entire spring schedule is not out yet, but expect those 15 sessions to commence in early to mid-March.
Mark your calendar — @NDFootball's #BlueGoldGame is coming! Don't miss your ☝️st chance to catch the Irish in spring football! 🏈
🗓 Saturday, April 21 📍 Notre Dame Stadium ⏰ 12:30 p.m. ET 📺 @NBCSN
A few words from Clark Lea The new Irish defensive coordinator shared his view of his promotion with John Heisler, the senior associate athletic director overseeing the media relations department. An interesting and quick read, Heisler tells the story of Lea learning he got the gig via a phone call with Kelly.
More pertinently, Lea points out what he felt was his greatest selling point.
“There was no need for an operations manual because of that continuity,” Lea said. “The organizational structure here was not going to change with me. In that spirit, I didn’t need to put anything on paper.”
Lea has focused on relaying that same message to his players, including junior linebacker Te’von Coney and junior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, both of whom spurned the NFL draft for one more season at Notre Dame.
“What I’ve said to ever player I’ve talked to is this: ‘We’re going to go out and build on what we’ve started,’” Lea said.
The nature of football
The below tweet stood out in the hours after Sunday’s Super Bowl. While the degree to which it was true with the Irish this past fall was far less extreme than either of the examples given, it was still a key point to Notre Dame’s season.
On Wednesday, Notre Dame might exceed 25 scholarships in one recruiting class for the first time since 2006. Undoubtedly, the Irish coaches have thought about the ramifications such a large single-year group would have on recruiting in the next 12 months.
As is, Notre Dame has 21 signees in the class of 2018, one additional commitment already in hand and the possibility of multiple more by National Signing Day.
That is not to say the Irish will assuredly exceed 25 scholarships. Recruiting changes just like milkshakes melt. Yet, when considering prospects who were committed to schools before December’s early signing period but did not sign on the proverbial dotted line (consensus three-star running back C’Bo Flemister [Pike County High School; Zebulon, Ga.] and consensus three-star defensive lineman Derrick Eason [Norview H.S.; Norfolk, Va.], pictured above, as pertinent examples), they very clearly are on the market and considering current suitors.
One does not even need to read between those lines with consensus three-star cornerback DJ Brown (St. John’s College; Washington, D.C.), who de-committed from Virginia to weigh other options in Notre Dame, Cal and Northwestern.
For a thought exercise, let’s say Notre Dame enjoys a banner close to the recruiting cycle, pulling in four of those five, bringing the class to 26 total. (That still falls two short of the class of 2006, retroactively led by a trio of offensive linemen in Sam Young, Chris Stewart and Eric Olsen.)
Suddenly, the Irish could be looking at a class of 18 or 19 recruits next year. It would effectually be an inversion of the cycle seen in 2012 and 2013. Notre Dame signed only 17 prospects in 2012, including names such as KeiVarae Russell, Ronnie Stanley, CJ Prosise … and Gunner Kiel. That slim class allowed for 24 recruits in 2013, the nation’s No. 3 haul per rivals.com, highlighted by Jaylon Smith, Will Fuller and Mike McGlinchey.
Quick, rough math explains the crunch without spending much time. Currently, the Irish roster has 84 players slotted for 2018, including consensus three-star offensive tackle commit Luke Jones (Pulaski Academy; Little Rock, Ark.). Add the aforementioned four yet-to-commit hypothetical surprises and that count jumps to 88.
The first piece of practicality here: The attrition of three more players before August has long-been expected and became a near-certainty when Notre Dame signed 21 commitments in December.
“It is a reality,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said then. “Our situation here at Notre Dame is we have not been at that 85, so we’ve been more aggressive this year with that. I never feel really comfortable with it, to be quite honest with you, but I’ve had to get over that.”
When he says “aggressive,” Kelly means he and his staff have needed to be more up-front with certain players about their futures within the program. Presumably, someone had a frank conversation with junior defensive tackle Elijah Taylor, indicating he had been passed by multiple freshmen in the depth chart and would not likely see much playing time moving forward. Taylor then made the decision to transfer to find a better chance at contributing elsewhere.
There is nothing amoral or bothersome about that, as long as all parties are honest, but it is still an awkward and uncomfortable conversation.
To get from 88 to 85 by August, this thought exercise will presume an injury, a transfer and a suspension each occurs in the next six months.
Looking forward another whole year, the nine fifth-year players will all depart, obviously. Nine current juniors will, as well. Perhaps current sophomore cornerback Julian Love opts to turn a likely third excellent collegiate season into an NFL draft entry. Maybe one of those juniors, offensive lineman Trevor Ruhland, for example, is offered another season by the Irish coaching staff. An incoming transfer or two could arise, though an outgoing transfer or two inevitably will develop.
Those ebbs and flows would then create the opportunity to sign only 18 or 19 players in the class of 2019. If presuming another year of “aggressive” attrition, that could conceivably rise to 21 without much stress.
That may not seem to be a steep drop from the usual 24 or so, but it will alter recruiting strategies knowing there are that many fewer spots to hold open for the late-deciding, like Petit-Frere.
If possible, Notre Dame should absolutely find a way to make space for Petit-Frere on the roster. Not only is he a top-line offensive lineman to build around for a few years, but there is some credence to the thought of One in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Logic knows that is a decision being made already. It is made every year crucial class move past 22 commitments, though every signee more than 22 increases the magnitude of the effect in the years to come.
The roughest of math to settle on that figure of 22: It’s algebra, and it changes each and every year, but …
— If an average of one player leaves each year before his sophomore season,
— And another two leave before their junior years,
— And then two departs, be it for the NFL or transfer elsewhere, between their junior and senior seasons,
— And about a quarter of each class is invited to return for a fifth year, meaning 5-6 annually,
— And two transfers coming to Notre Dame every four years,
Then the average roster distribution is … [class size as freshmen] + [sophomores: class size as freshmen – 1] + [juniors: class size as freshmen – 3] + [seniors: class size as freshmen – 5] + [fifth-years: class size as freshmen / 4] + two incoming transfers = 85.
(4 x class size + class size / 4) minus seven = 85.
Average class size = 21.6, rounded up to 22.
That math is intentionally and admittedly conservative, so as to draw an inherent and hopefully-illustrative contrast to the “aggressive” tendencies needed to recruit these larger classes.