Getty Images

Notre Dame preps for NSD with und.com homepage

6 Comments

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

Getty Images
37 Comments

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.

Fields says no to Irish; Four, including Harris, remain distinctly possible

Getty Images
16 Comments

Notre Dame’s recruiting momentum slowed a touch Monday when defensive back and rivals.com three-star recruit Evan Fields (Midwest City High School; Oklahoma City) chose Arizona State over the Irish. With that decision, Notre Dame narrows its focus to four recruits to add to its 18-commit class of 2017.

Theoretically, that list could be five, but receiver Mac Hippenhammer (Snider H.S.; Fort Wayne, Ind.) has given little-to-no indication he will de-commit from Penn State before Wednesday’s National Signing Day.

Defensive end Jalen Harris (Desert Ridge; Mesa, Ariz.), a consensus three-star, reportedly would announce his decision between the Irish and Arizona on Monday night, but as of this posting, Harris had not ended the suspense. According to the South Bend Tribune’s Tyler James, that should change yet today (Tuesday).

Harris has been committed to the Wildcats since August, but Notre Dame got the last visit of his recruitment, giving coach Brian Kelly and his defensive staff hope.

Two other defensive linemen have given Kelly & Co. hope to bolster their trenches come Wednesday. Rivals.com three-star recruit Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (Kapolei, Hawaii) visited the Irish, Vanderbilt and Navy in this last week, and Maryland-commit Kofi Wardlow (St. John’s College H.S.; Washington, D.C.), a consensus three-star recruit, made it to South Bend last weekend as well.

Lastly, consensus three-star safety Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Bethel; Hampton, Va.) remains on the board, likely choosing between Notre Dame and Michigan State.

Aside from Harris, look for all these decisions to be made, or at least finalized, at or shortly after 7 a.m. local time Wednesday. Of course, that will be an early morning for this site and as news comes in, updates will follow.

Flippin’ Sunday: Irish snag two more recruits

Getty Images
24 Comments

Notre Dame’s recruiting class jumped to 18 commitments Sunday night with the decisions of two players previously committed to other Power-Five schools.

Receiver Jafar Armstrong (Bishop Miege High School; Roeland Park, Kan.) visited coach Brian Kelly and other offensive coaches on campus this weekend, quickly de-committing from Missouri after his visit. By the end of the night, he doubled the incoming receiver count with an Irish decision.

Only hours later, kicker Jonathan Doerer (South Mecklenburg H.S.; Charlotte, N.C.) switched his commitment from Maryland to Notre Dame in one fell tweet.

“After some recent talks with my family and people whose opinion I hold in high esteem, I have decided that it would be in my best interest to decommit [sic] from UMD and spend the next 4 years of my life at the University of Notre Dame ☘️!!!”

Safety Evan Fields (Midwest City; Oklahoma City) could possibly make it a class of 19 commitments today (Jan. 30) at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time, when he has a ceremony scheduled at his high school for his announcement. Notre Dame received the final visit of Fields’s recruitment, hardly ever a bad sign.

Three days from Signing Day, a look at offensive recruits

Getty Images
23 Comments

Yesterday featured a quick look at defensive recruits. Some guy on Twitter joked today would bring a quicker glance at special teams recruits.

That attempt at humor pointed out there are no special teams recruits in Notre Dame’s current 2017 class. (Both kicker Justin Yoon and punter Tyler Newsome should be back handling those responsibilities in 2017.)

There are, however, nine offensive recruits with the increasingly likely potential of adding an additional receiver—or, though unlikely, two receivers—before Wednesday’s National Signing Day.

Coach Brian Kelly and his staff landed the commitment of Michael Young (Destrehan High School; Destrehan, La.) back in July, but Young remains the only receiver in the class. Former Missouri-commit Jafar Armstrong (Bishop Miege H.S.; Roeland Park, Kan.) spent this weekend on campus and announced on Twitter his de-commitment from Missouri on Sunday morning. He appears to be Notre Dame’s best chance at adding another outside play-maker this cycle, especially with that de-commitment coming in such short order from his visit with Kelly and, presumably, new offensive coordinator Chip Long and receivers coach Del Alexander.

Depending how much faith one puts in a peer’s influence on a teenager, picking up Armstrong’s prep teammate Colin Grunhard as a preferred walk-on offensive lineman this week could have played a part in Armstrong’s wavering.

If Armstrong did indeed reopen his recruitment with intentions of ending up with the Irish, Notre Dame will still look to Penn State-commit Mac Hippenhammer (Snider; Fort Wayne, Ind.) or Oliver Martin (West; Iowa City) with hopes of a Signing Day surprise and a third receiver in the class of 2017. Hippenhammer, a three-star recruit who should be noted for his five-star name if nothing else, made the 2 ½-hour drive to South Bend early last week shortly after receiving an offer, but an official visit to Penn State before Wednesday may bode poorly for Irish chances.

Martin, meanwhile, has defied the norms and kept his cards close to his figurative vest throughout his recruitment. Come Wednesday, he will delight the fans and coaching staff at likely Michigan, Michigan State or Notre Dame. Until then, well, stay tuned.

Theoretically, Kelly & Co. still have a chance at Jordan Pouncey (Winter Park; Winter Park, Fla.), but the receiver de-committed in December during the Irish coaching staff upheaval. He has supposedly kept Notre Dame in consideration, but let’s follow precedent and presume the Irish spurned.

Aside from receiver, the offensive half of this recruiting class has been set for some time, including four commitments—two tight ends and two offensive linemen—dating back to 2015.

CURRENT OFFENSIVE COMMITMENTS
QB: Avery Davis
RB: C.J. Holmes (early enrollee)
WR: Michael Young
TE: Brock Wright (early enrollee), Cole Kmet
OL: Aaron Banks (early enrollee), Robert Hainsey (early enrollee), Dillan Gibbons, Josh Lugg