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Letter is in: TE Cole Kmet

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Do not forget to tune into und.com/signing day and WatchND throughout the day for real-time official announcements of national letters of intent and a live signing day show on the “Fighting Irish Board” presented by Vivid Seats.

COLE KMET
Saint Viator; Lake Barrington, Ill.

Measurements: 6’6”, 240 lbs.

Accolades: Consensus four-star recruit; No. 3 recruit in Illinois, per rivals.com; No. 3 tight end in nation and No. 95 overall; U.S. Army All-American

Other Notable Offers: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State

Projected Position: Tight end

Quick Take: Kmet completes a duo of tight ends in this class along with early enrollee Brock Wright. Fittingly, Kmet will only burnish Notre Dame’s “Tight End U” reputation. He has the length and athleticism to be a threat in the aerial attack while also contributing in blocking along the edge.

Letters are in: DLs Darnell Ewell and Jonathon MacCollister

ewell
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Do not forget to tune into und.com/signing day and WatchND throughout the day for real-time official announcements of national letters of intent and a live signing day show on the “Fighting Irish Board” presented by Vivid Seats.

DARNELL EWELL
Lake Taylor; Norfolk, Va.

Measurements: 6’4, 295 lbs.

Accolades: Consensus four-star recruit; No. 6 player in Virginia per rivals.com; ninth at position and 139th in country;

Other Considered Offers: Virginia Tech

Projected Position: Defensive tackle

Quick Take: Don’t expect Ewell to preserve a year of eligibility in 2017, barring injury. With his size and quickness, new defensive coordinator Mike Elko will likely want to get Ewell into the middle of the line as quickly as possible.

While many Irish fans have bemoaned this recruiting class, players like Ewell are why it will likely end up a top-20 or even top-15 class nationally.


JONATHON MACCOLLISTER
Bishop Moore; Deland, Fla.

Measurements: 6’4, 253 lbs.

Accolades: Consensus three-star recruit

Other Notable Offers: Auburn, Clemson, Michigan State, Ohio State

Projected Position: Defensive end

Quick Take: With Jalen Harris staying in the southwest, MacCollister may be the only true edge-rusher in this class. His length should serve him well in a three-down front, which is expected of new defensive coordinator Mike Elko.

Letters are in: OLs Josh Lugg and Dillan Gibbons

lugg
rivals.com
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Do not forget to tune into und.com/signing day and WatchND throughout the day for real-time official announcements of national letters of intent and a live signing day show on the “Fighting Irish Board” presented by Vivid Seats.

JOSH LUGG
North Allegheny; Wexford, Pa.

Measurements: 6’7, 293 lbs.

Accolades: Consensus four-star recruit; No. 6 player in Pennsylvania, per rivals.com; 22nd at position and 236th in country; U.S. Army All-American

Other Offers Considered: Maryland, Penn State

Projected Position: Offensive tackle

Quick Take: Those aren’t typos. 6-foot-7. 293 pounds. If they are typos, they are not by much. Notre Dame is touting Lugg as 6’6”, 280. His frame appears ready to hold more, at that. His long arms set him up well for pass protection. Do not be surprised to see Lugg continue the recent Irish tradition of top-tier offensive linemen.


DILLAN GIBBONS
Clearwater Central Catholic; Clearwater, Fla.

Measurements: 6’4, 311 lbs.

Accolades: Rivals.com three-star recruit; No. 74 player in Florida, per rivals.com; 56th at position

Other Notable Offers: Michigan State, Mississippi State, Ohio State

Projected Position: Offensive guard

Quick Take: Gibbons very well could be a prototypical Harry Hiestand offensive guard. Already coming in at a good size, some time in a college strength and conditioning program should serve to turn Gibbons into a stout offensive lineman. Just remember the spelling of his first name. That –an ending is bound to trip up some of us in the coming years.

Notre Dame preps for NSD with und.com homepage

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 17:  The Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot carries the school flag on the field before the game against the Michigan State Spartans on September 17, 2005 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Many times throughout the recruitment process, various media outlets break news regarding a prospect’s visit schedule, which school(s) he is most interested in and perhaps even his commitment. On National Signing Day, however, those with access to the proverbial fax machine have the edge. Thus, UND.com and WatchND will put together an entire day of programming presented by Vivid Seats for tomorrow’s events, beginning at 7 a.m. Eastern time.

At that point—yes, (long) before the sun rises—UND.com/signingday will go live as the home for all your 2017 National Signing Day needs. If you are impatient and head there early, you can get a refresher on last year’s class of recruits.

The “Fighting Irish Board” will update with each received official letter of intent. Spoiler alert: They are rarely faxes anymore. It is 2017. They are emails.

Jack Nolan will host the coverage, also available via Facebook Live. Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick will host the “Jack Swarbrick Radio Show” in the morning, and throughout the day, guests will pop in to supplement Nolan and Swarbrick, including Irish coach Brian Kelly, assistant football coaches, current players, former players and perhaps even some of the early enrollees (safety Isaiah Robertson, running back C.J. Holmes, tight end Brock Wright and offensive linemen Aaron Banks and Robert Hainsey).

Naturally, once each “fax” arrives, highlight reels of each commit will also be available alongside biographies of the high school seniors.

Kelly will host a press conference at 1:30 p.m. ET to discuss the completed class. It is worth noting that is 8:30 a.m. in Hawaii, possibly giving rivals.com three-star defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa a chance to swipe the snooze once or twice before sending in his letter, should he end up with the Irish.

As of now, Notre Dame’s class of 2017 includes 18 commits, though there is both room and a growing expectation for a few more. For example, rivals.com four-star defensive back Russ Yeast, a Louisville commit, teased the world with a tweet quickly retweeted by both Kelly and recruiting coordinator Mike Elston. In this era and industry, tweets are the best tea leaves around.

Around these parts, we will likely focus on those few last-minute additions, though there will also be updates after each set of letters arrives at the top of the hour, with the most expected shortly after 7 a.m. Eastern and then a handful more at 8 a.m. Eastern.

Get some sleep tonight. Get the pot of coffee ready. It will be an early and busy morning. At least you won’t have to be camera-ready by 7 a.m. Tough break, Mr. Nolan.

Kelly praises new hires, especially three new coordinators Long, Elko and Polian

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 18:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish walks on the field before their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on October 18, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Rare is the boss who criticizes a brand new hire, if that boss exists at all. Thus, it comes as no surprise Irish coach Brian Kelly spent his Monday press conference praising his eight new hires—six assistant coaches and two strength and conditioning staffers—between acknowledgements of the program-wide missteps in 2016.

“Last year, certainly we didn’t live up to those expectations and that falls on me first and foremost,” Kelly said to the media in his first availability since the immediate aftermath of Notre Dame’s season-ending loss at USC in November. “We needed to make some significant changes, significant not just in terms of personnel, but in how we do things on a day-to-day basis, and it starts with me.”

Kelly focused on his two new coordinators, Chip Long on the offensive side and Mike Elko as his defensive counterpart. In something of a change from his preferred tendencies, Kelly intends to leave the play-calling to Long, largely so the head coach can be more involved on the defensive side of the ball, partly at his players’ behest.

“One of the first things that I did [after last season] was sit down and did exit interviews with 96 players, current players as well as players that were leaving,” he said. “I wanted to get their feedback on things that went on during the season, good and bad.

“One of the things that was pretty consistent across the board was that when I spent time on defense, our defensive personnel and players in particular really enjoyed having me part of that day-to-day schedule.”

When concerning himself with the particulars of play-calling and the minutiae of offensive gameplans, Kelly did not necessarily have the time to work with the defense. Removing some of the former burden should allow for greater emphasis on the latter task.

Knowing he wanted a play-caller as his offensive coordinator, Kelly focused on the fast-paced offenses of Long’s past. Though they were up-tempo, Kelly noted those offenses were still well-rounded.

“He was able to use the running game late in games,” Kelly said. “[Long] didn’t rely heavily on a passing game when he was forced to make up ground late in games. Utilized two tight ends, which was going to be a mode that we have to move toward with the great depth that we have at that position.”

Long’s offense maintained a greater pace partly because its communications are simpler than Notre Dame’s have been in recent years. While insisting the Irish playbook would not drastically change, Kelly did indicate the lexicon will.

“Within our offensive system, we want to run more plays. We can’t do it right now because of over a period of time, we’ve layered too much verbiage in the system to go as fast as we want across the board.”

Knowing he would work more with the defensive coordinator than he did in the past did not change Kelly’s top desire for the position. Quite simply, Kelly wants Elko to get the ball to Long.

“I was looking for something that would take the football away,” Kelly said. “Somebody that has had great success in doing so, as well as continued success as a coordinator.”

With both Elko and Long, as well as new director of football performance (otherwise known as the strength and conditioning coach) Matt Balis, Kelly praised University administration for aiding him in the hires. If nothing else, this is notable for the future, should Kelly ever want to bemoan a lack of support.

“We did our due diligence,” he said. “Got great support from [director of athletics] Jack Swarbrick, allowing us to go out and find the very best. We didn’t settle in any one of these three positions for anything but the best candidates in the country. I think that says a lot about who we have here in our administration and allowing us to go out and find the very best.”

Kelly and Swarbrick began the process of finding new coordinators immediately following the close of the 2016 season, though Kelly said they never discussed the fate of his own job.

“We didn’t discuss my job as much as we discussed a blueprint for what we needed to do to be successful … The great thing about Notre Dame is you’re not defined by what happened in the past. It’s about what you do in the future.”

At this point, Kelly’s future is staked to the success of his new hires. No wonder he praised them so extensively.

Additional Notes:

On new special teams coordinator Brian Polian:
“To have somebody with his experience, with his knowledge, with his background coaching our special teams and focusing primarily on that, without another position to pull his focus away…” Kelly said, never quite finishing that sentence but one presumes it included an implied positive ending.

“He’s also an outstanding recruiter,” Kelly said of Polian. “He’s able to recruit from coast-to-cast. We’ll feel his effects, I believe, right away, in the recruiting, and we hope to see that show itself here in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Exactly 43 hours from when Kelly’s press conference started, National Signing Day will begin, Wednesday at 7 a.m. Eastern time.

On having a former head coach on staff in Polian:
“The conversations are a little bit different sometimes. Just in recruiting, sometimes we talk about things that maybe haven’t necessarily crossed the desk of an assistant coach. Maybe fit over position skill, far-reaching effects more so than maybe immediate.”

On new quarterbacks coach, and former Irish quarterback, Tom(my) Rees:
“What I like to call him is our quarterbacks coach. For you guys that are counting, we have nine coaches, so he is officially in a graduate assistant’s role, but he is fully-empowered to coach [the quarterbacks]. He will have the room. He will coach those quarterbacks on a day-to-day basis, and I have great confidence in his ability to do so.”

Kelly later confirmed Rees will be Notre Dame’s 10th assistant coach should legislation allowing such pass in April as it is widely-presumed it will. Rees’s hiring was made with that understanding. When asked what slot he would have filled had the legislation not had such momentum, Kelly said Long would have coached the quarterbacks, and he still would have hired Polian as the special teams coordinator.