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Kelly credits Swarbrick, Elston & Core 15

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Of course Irish coach Brian Kelly would spend his National Signing Day press conference praising the 21 signees Notre Dame reeled in. (Those lauding snippets should float around here later today.) Kelly thanking his coaching staff, including five new assistant coaches, for its diligent recruiting efforts should not surprise anyone, either. In a bit of a departure from the annual prototypical script, however, Kelly heaped acknowledgement upon director of athletics Jack Swarbrick, as well.

“Every weekend, Jack Swarbirck … met with our recruits. That’s unusual,” Kelly said Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t think that happens everywhere that your athletic director makes himself available to meet with recruits.

Following a disappointing 4-8 season and vocal dismay from fans and alumni, Swarbrick’s role was as much about advocating for Notre Dame as it was about endorsing Kelly and his future.

“In a lot of instances, he had to be there to support our program and talk to recruits about where this program is and where it’s going,” Kelly said. “There are questions when a family comes on campus. He reminded them about the investment we were making in staff and what we were doing for the present and for the future.”

More directly, Swarbrick answered the questions recruits had but neither Kelly nor his staff could sufficiently answer.

“With the kind of season we had, the first question out of everybody, ‘How long is coach Kelly here? Is this his last year? What kind of year does he have to have?’” Kelly pointedly elaborated. “[Swarbrick] assured them there’s no problems with the football program. This is a program this on solid ground.”

Core 15 in “a difficult season”
Returning to the expected National Signing Day dialogue, Kelly expressed appreciation for the core of the Irish class of 2017—Fifteen recruits who stuck by Notre Dame despite the disappointing 2016 season and aggressive negative recruiting from other schools. The six exceptions include three National Signing Day commitments (defensive back Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and defensive linemen Kofi Wardlow and Myron Tagovailo-Amosa) and three commitments from the week prior to the first Wednesday in February (safety Jordan Genmark Heath, receiver Jafar Armstrong and kicker Jonathan Doerer).

Those 15 did not waver despite other recruits’ de-commitments, allowing Kelly & Co. to focus on strengthening the class, rather than only maintaining it.

“We couldn’t be where we are today unless we had 15 student-athletes that were committed to Notre Dame from the start to the finish,” Kelly said. “Really, during a very difficult season, this group of 15 had to endure the things that would occur out there in recruiting during a very difficult season: Other schools reminding them about a very difficult season that we had.”

Kudos to Elston
Those 15 remaining loyal granted Kelly a chance to restock a coaching staff with five new assistants—for these purposes, let’s discount new quarterbacks coach Thomas Rees, as he is technically a graduate assistant yet and, thus, was not personally involved in recruiting. While Kelly tackled that, defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Elston focused on staying in touch with the core 15. Better safe than sorry, after all.

“During this whole time, [Elston] was able to keep it together, relative to we were short on numbers in staff,” Kelly said. “He was calling a lot of those recruits that weren’t necessarily his geographically or by position and really keeping that 15 together so that we could get the staff back and get them back out on the road.

“He did a tremendous job of keeping that group together.”

Coaches AND Recruiters
With Elston in touch with the recruits, Kelly focused on the needed hires. More than any other time, filling the vacancies in January underscores the dueling needs of strong recruiters and talented player developers. Kelly said he did not make one aspect a priority compared to the other, instead focusing on both.

“I looked at everything,” he said. “They had to have all of those qualities. We were given the opportunity to go out and find the very best.”

Kelly implied further efforts from Swarbrick and University administration, adding there was not a distinct monetary cap on the five (eight if including Rees and two strength and conditioning additions) hires.

Elko’s Impetus to Late Additions
One new hire in particular altered some recruiting focus. New defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s focus brought the four late defensive commitments renewed and increased advances from Notre Dame, per Kelly.

“The defensive players, they were a better fit into the scheme,” Kelly said. “It was much more about being a better fit with a new defensive coordinator.”

Armstrong did not commit last week due to a defensive shift. Kelly said the receiver was long on Notre Dame’s radar, but there was only necessarily space for him in the class when another de-committed. (Kelly was presumably referencing Jordan Pouncey, who signed with Texas on Wednesday.)

“[Armstrong] was on our radar from day one… When we had somebody de-commit, he was the first guy we went after,” Kelly said. “We could have gone either way on that. Jafar was somebody we wanted from the very beginning. We just, from a numbers game, weren’t going to be able to take two.

“That was an easy one for us to get back into.”

Signing Day Victory: DL Wardlow concludes Irish class

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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.

Consensus three-star defensive lineman Kofi Wardlow (St. John’s College H.S.; Washington, D.C.) switched his commitment from Maryland to Notre Dame today, completing the Irish class of 2017 and the annual drama of National Signing Day. Wardlow’s commitment brings coach Brian Kelly’s haul to 21 recruits, including three commitments on Signing Day alone.

“We really liked his athleticism and his size,” Kelly said during his Signing Day press conference upon announcing Wardlow’s commitment. “… He really fit the profile, and then reminded us of a young [former Notre Dame and current New York Giants defensive lineman] Romeo Okwara. Not quite as long, is actually thicker than he is, but he’s really young, raw and extremely athletic.”

Wardlow joins Jonathon MacCollister as the only two genuine edge threats in this class, hence why his last-minute switch is so vital to Notre Dame.

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KOFI WARDLOW
St. John’s College H.S.; Washington, D.C.

Measurements: 6’3”, 230 lbs.

Accolades: Three-star recruit; No. 47 at his position, per rivals.com

Other Notable Offers: Maryland, Michigan State, Missouri

Projected Position: Defensive end

Quick Take: Bolstering the edge rush is never a bad thing, especially in a class with only one other defensive end. Wardlow completes this Notre Dame recruiting cycle on a high note, and even that psychological factor alone should not be underrated.

Wardlow has played football for only two seasons, focusing on basketball in the past. Naturally, that leaves him with as much raw potential as realized. Furthermore, that basketball background established a level of agility and understanding of footwork not often seen from players of Wardlow’s size.

Signing Day Victory: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah picks Notre Dame

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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.

Consensus three-star defensive back Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Bethel; Hampton, Va.) just chose Notre Dame in a crucial Signing Day development. Owusu-Koramoah picked the Irish over Michigan State and single-handedly doubles the number of defensive backs joining Notre Dame in this recruiting cycle.

Owusu-Koramoah quite literally called Irish coach Brian Kelly in the middle of his Signing Day press conference. Kelly stepped away from the podium to answer it, but not quite out of ear shot of the media or the cameras. Upon returning to the podium, Kelly shared a quick anecdote from Owusu-Koramoah’s official visit: Linebacker and captain Nyles Morgan hosted him. Instead of living it up in the social scene, the two spent the entire weekend in the film room.

Owusu-Koramoah brings the Irish class of 2017 to 20 commits, with one more possibility yet this afternoon in consensus three-star defensive lineman Kofi Wardlow (St. John’s College H.S.; Washington, D.C.), currently a Maryland-commit.

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JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH
Bethel; Hampton, Va.

Measurements: 6’2”, 188 lbs.

Accolades: Consensus three-star recruit; No. 18 player in Virginia, per rivals.com, and 40th at position

Other Notable Offers: Michigan State, Virginia

Projected Position: Safety/linebacker

Quick Take: Owusu-Koramoah not only picked Notre Dame over Michigan State, but also de-committed from Virginia to focus on the two Midwestern schools. He fills what had been a huge hole in this recruiting class. Prior to his commitment, only Jordan Genmark Heath represented the defensive backfield in the class of 2017. Really, another would have been preferable—perhaps a cornerback to complement the two safeties—but bringing in two this cycle is acceptable, rather than an intimidating shortcoming.

Owusu-Koramoah may project as a “rover”, a crucial piece in new defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s defensive scheme.

Signing Day Victory: DL Tagovailoa-Amosa chooses ND over USC, others

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.

Rivals.com three-star and 247sports.com four-star defensive lineman Myron Tagovailo-Amosa (Kapolei, Hawaii) has added to the Irish defensive line depth by choosing Notre Dame today in a mid-Signing Day development. Tagovailoa-Amosa’s recruitment only picked up in the closing weeks—he had three visits in the final week alone—and he joins a class of three defensive linemen already.

Tagovailoa-Amosa (how long until it is appropriate to simply refer to him as MTA?) is the 19th recruit to join Notre Dame’s class of 2017, including five early enrollees.

Irish coach Brian Kelly and his staff await two more consensus three-star decisions this afternoon: Defensive lineman Kofi Wardlow (St. John’s College H.S.; Washington, D.C.), currently a Maryland-commit, and defensive back Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Bethel; Hampton, Va.), deciding between Notre Dame and Michigan State.

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MYRON TAGOVAILOA-AMOSA
Kapolei; Hawaii

Measurements: 6’4”, 270 lbs.

Accolades: 247sports.com four-star recruit; No. 4 player in Hawaii, per rivals.com, and 39th at the position

Other Notable Offers: USC, Georgia Tech, Oregon, Navy, Vanderbilt

Projected Position: Defensive tackle

Quick Take: Tagovailoa-Amosa continues a line of Hawaiian recruits landing in South Bend, following Manti Te’o and Kona Schwenke, both of whom excelled at Notre Dame. Do not be misled by his late recruitment and commitment: Some of that was due to various playoffs and all-star games specific to Hawaii. He was, after all, long expected to head to USC.

An excellent athlete, Tagovailoa-Amosa will be asked to fill the middle of the defensive line, but he could likely hold his own on the edge if needed in certain situations.

Letter is in: S Jordan Genmark Heath

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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.

JORDAN GENMARK HEATH
Cathedral Catholic; San Diego

Measurements: 6’2”, 205 lbs.

Accolades: Rivals.com three-star recruit; No. 73 player in California per rivals.com; 67th at position

Other Notable Offers: Cal, Oregon State, Vanderbilt, Washington State

Projected Position: Safety

Quick Take: The biggest shortcoming of this recruiting class is in the secondary. With defensive back Russ Yeast announcing today he would stay true to his Louisville commitment, Genmark Heath is the only defensive back in the class. (There is yet a chance with safety Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, but he is not due to announce his decision until this afternoon.) Even Genmark Heath only flipped to Notre Dame toward the end of the cycle, de-committing from Cal in the process.

Fortunately, his frame packs a wallop upon contact, and all reviews from his high school coaches involve praise of his understanding of the game as a whole. Both of those, obviously, are vital to strong safety play. So he may be the only defensive back in the class, he should fill the role nicely.

Nonetheless, another defensive back would have been preferred. For that matter, perhaps there is still one out there in Owusu-Koramoah.