Justin Reid

Irish host safety recruit Justin Reid


Notre Dame has a final need in their recruiting class. And over the weekend, they sold Louisiana safety Justin Reid that he could fill it.

The Irish staff rolled out the red carpet for Reid and his father, the late-January official visit hopefully a compelling reason for the Louisiana product to pick Notre Dame when he decides between the Irish, Stanford and hometown LSU, where his brother Eric starred.

The early reports are in and just about all of them say Notre Dame did a good job making a solid first impression.

Just ask Reid himself:



How Reid’s recruitment shakes out should be interesting to watch. There are a variety of things pushing and pulling the talented safety from Baton Rouge. Late interest from hometown LSU. The allure of Stanford, with the added bonus of his older brother just minutes away, a second-year pro with the 49ers.

Yet Reid talked about why Notre Dame could give him the best of both worlds, even without some of the comforts of home and family.

“I’ve been trying to get a pros and cons list,” Reid told Irish Illustrated ($). “Pros for each, Notre Dame I feel a little bit more comfortable. The atmosphere around football is more of what I crave being from Louisiana and SEC country. Stanford has a little bit better weather and it’s nice having my brother living 15 minutes away from Stanford so if I ever want to get away from the university.”

One pro certainly on Notre Dame’s side is early playing time. The Irish will expect Reid to be able to contribute from the moment he steps onto campus, and made that clear over the weekend.

At six-foot, 195-pounds, Reid doesn’t strike you as a physically imposing safety, yet a quick look at his highlights shows a strong safety that could immediately compete with Elijah Shumate and a still-rehabbing Drue Tranquill as an in-the-box safety.

After spending the weekend with hosts Cole Luke and Durham Smythe, Notre Dame gave Reid the best look they could. Now it’s up to the young safety to make the best decision for him.

“I’m going to have to digest things from this weekend at Notre Dame. I’m going to go home, sleep on it and figure things out. I had a great time,” Reid told Irish 247 ($).

“It was a really good trip. It was way better than I expected. It was surprising to be honest. I didn’t know anything about the school, but now I have a great feel for everything.”

Mailbag: Sunday delivery

Jarrett Grace

A special Sunday delivery of the Mailbag. Let’s get to some questions.

idratherbeinsouthbend: The schedule at the end of the year always looks different than it does before the season, but looking at next year’s schedule, who’s got your attention other than USC and Georgia Tech?

Some of the worries (at least from a CFB Playoff resume perspective) that the Irish schedule wouldn’t be tough enough seem to be alleviated. This slate looks plenty challenging, with big, nationally interesting games seemingly every few weeks, from the season opener against Texas to the finale at Stanford.

Seeing Georgia Tech make such an impressive late-season run and win the Orange Bowl turns a mid-September test into a potential national showdown. Going to Death Valley two weeks later and battling a Clemson team that absolutely throttled Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl turns that into probably the toughest road game on the schedule.

Follow Clemson up with Navy and USC without a week off and that’s likely when we’ll know just how good this team can be. For the first Notre Dame schedule without a Big Ten game in nearly 100 years, it’ll be an interesting year.


fightinmad35: How do you think ND would handle iconic rapper Snoop Dogg being around the program if his son were to commit or would the school shy away from his complicated image? His son Cordell, who has an offer from ND, is best friends with safety commit Nicco Fertitta and new commit Alize Jones, all from the famed Bishop Gorman program in Vegas. I can’t imagine the traditionalist welcoming Snoop as easily as say David Robinson.

Snoop has been on campus before and was well received. So while he’s hardly on the David Robinson side of the celebrity spectrum, there’s little chance he’d receive anything less than a warm welcome.

(Remember, Notre Dame opened its arms to Alex Rodriguez this football season.)

While Snoop’s son isn’t coming to South Bend so this is kind of a moot point, for all the worries and bluster of the “traditionalists” (usually coming behind the anonymity of an internet handle), I’m still looking for a famous person who hasn’t been warmly received at Notre Dame.


grammarnazi69: With the return of Jarrett Grace, is he a lock for the first reserve MLB in? Could he challenge Schmidt for starting reps? Will he switch positions? Also, will Ben Council see the field much this year?

I’m not so sure that Grace is ready to be on the field yet. While we received a promising update on his health during bowl season, going through practice and being ready to take snaps and go live are two very different things.

What happens with the linebacking spots next season remains to be seen. After a strong finish to a freshman All-American campaign, Nyles Morgan certainly seems like a lock to get more playing time. Whether that’s beside Joe Schmidt or playing behind him remains to be seen.

Where Jaylon Smith plays will factor into that. So will Brian VanGorder’s plan with the Sam linebacker — a spot that seemed to be more spare part than mandatory piece of the puzzle.

Ben Councell is an interesting player to watch. If you listen to some, you’d think a fifth-year isn’t necessarily assured. But if you look at his size and length, he’s a linebacker that is unlike any other in the depth chart, capable of banging in the box — if he’s healthy.

I guess I really don’t have an answer to your questions without seeing what happens this spring. So let’s revisit this after practice begins in early March.


runners00: When a recruit announces his intention to enroll at Notre Dame, has the recruit already been advised by Admissions that he is eligible to enroll at Notre Dame? Separately, when a verbal commit announces that he is no longer committed to Notre Dame, is it possible that Admissions denied his application?

The verbal commitment game is a tricky subject. It isn’t always as well orchestrated as you might suspect, and what a recruit says publicly (and what we run with) is likely viewed much differently by the coaching staff actually recruiting these players.

That said, Notre Dame has opened up their “offer” list to include players that still need to do work in the classroom. This is a function of existing in the modern ecosystem of recruiting, as it just isn’t possible to wait until the fall of a recruit’s senior season to make official offers like Notre Dame did during the Davie and Willingham era.

A recruit “de-committing” is often times code for admissions issues. Multiple reports from places like Irish 247 and Irish Sports Daily point to that being the culprit with Prentice McKinney.

But that’s life at Notre Dame. And Brian Kelly has done a very good job thriving even with those limitations.


onward2victory: Keith if you were a 5* recruit right now that had offers everywhere, what school would you choose (other than ND)? And how would you announce your decision?

I love this question. And I can certainly tell you that my answer today is much different than the one I’d have given you when I was a senior in high school.

But I’d take my official visits* (excluding Notre Dame) to the following schools:

Stanford — I’m a sucker for all things Palo Alto, and it’s a great place for life after football.
Michigan — As a kid growing up in the Midwest, it was the premier program of my youth.
UCLA — Playing college football in the Rose Bowl and going to school in Westwood. Not bad.
Miami — This goes back to former Cretin quarterback(s) Steve (and Chris) Walsh.
Washington — I’d want to go somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle sounds great.

I’d make my announcement on Twitter. Definitely not at the College Football Hall of Fame.

*Reserve the right to change any one of these if the bagman came with a compelling offer.





As expected, Eilar Hardy to transfer for fifth year

Navy v Notre Dame

Safety Eilar Hardy will finish his college football career elsewhere. After four seasons in South Bend, Hardy will earn his Notre Dame degree and be free to play out his eligibility in another program.

Per a report from Irish Illustrated, Notre Dame has granted Hardy his release, meaning he’ll be eligible to play in another program once her earns his degree this spring. That scenario didn’t always look to be possible amidst the academic suspensions that ensnared Hardy in the days before the season opener, the last member of the Frozen Five who was the only student-athlete to return to the field for the Irish.

With the safety depth chart being what it is in South Bend, the idea of returning to play as a fifth-year senior seemed logical. But approval into a graduate program in good standing wasn’t necessarily assured, and while the coaching staff would’ve likely welcomed Hardy back, cutting ties now makes the most sense.

The transfer options for Hardy will likely be plentiful. They include Miami (Ohio) and UConn, where Hardy would be reunited with former Irish coordinators Chuck Martin and Bob Diaco. Irish Illustrated also mentions Bowling Green, where Hardy could play with former high school teammate Roger Lewis. Hardy will begin to explore all of his options now.

As for any animosity between the Hardy family and Notre Dame after a difficult 2014 season spent in limbo, it seems like all parties walk away with their respect intact.

“I have no complaints about Notre Dame, never,” Bill Hardy, Eilar’s father told Irish Illustrated. “That’s my team.”

Mailbag: Finding the right 85 guys

Matthias Farley

With less than two weeks to go before Signing Day, recruiting is the focus for the Irish coaching staff. But as we crack open the mailbag, we cover a bit more ground than the usual will-he or won’t-he that comes along with the first Wednesday in February.

Instead of turning the mailbag into an opus, we’ll roll these out a few at a time, covering some ground this weekend as well.

Let’s get to it.


@Hank1st: Any reason to be concerned about the ESPN suit against ND? I can’t handle yet another offseason of controversy.

I don’t think so. (And me, neither!) In case you missed it, there’s a legal battle brewing over the status of police and incident reports of the Notre Dame Security Police force. ESPN and The South Bend Tribune believe they should be public records. Notre Dame, a private university, believes that they shouldn’t be.

Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt believes they should be (not a surprise), Notre Dame countered with their own opinion.

“Our practices are in full accord with the Access to Public Records Act and consistent with multiple advisory opinions that have addressed this matter over the past 12 years. We are confident that our position will be affirmed in court,” Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said.

This doesn’t necessarily appear to be a football issue, nor connected to any yet-to-be-unearthed event. But of course, it’s worth watching, though I can’t imagine any legal swashbuckling will be complete any time quickly.


simmel65: Can you give us a breakdown on how big a class ND can sign and what that means in terms of 5th years? Seems like this recruiting class might get large and we may have to lose some key 5th years?

mediocrebob: Any insight on the number for this years class? I’ve read 25, 26 and then read that Notre Dame would “make room for this kid if he wants to committ”. If they take more than predicted, does that mean less seniors asked to come back for 5th years?

Every college program gets 85 scholarships. And right now, my rough math shows 14 seniors eligible for a fifth year of competition. So if you’re doing the math (22 (for now)+23+22+12+14), it’s pretty clear that not all 14 are returning for a final season at Notre Dame.

Here’s another thing that’s clear: This shouldn’t be the worry that we all tend to make it each offseason. Before the 2013 season, there were people honestly wondering/arguing that Kelly might not bring back Dan Fox or Carlo Calabrese. They’ll likely do the same this year, arguing that Amir Carlisle or Matt Hegarty shouldn’t return, because even though they are starters, you’ve got to make room for 4-star X or 5-star Y…

Brian Kelly has shown his loyalty — and preference for — upperclassmen. And nobody builds a program by running key contributors out as veterans. I expect a large group to return for their final year of eligibility.

But we already know a few moves: No Davaris Daniels. Eilar Hardy is also likely gone. If you were forcing me to guess, I’m also thinking Chase Hounshell, Anthony Rabasa, Jalen Brown,  and Josh Atkinson are also looking for a new home for a fifth year (if they want it), with Conor Hanratty potentially done because of concussions.

Between other injury questions (Jarrett Grace, Nicky Baratti) and some potential transfers that I’m sure the staff is more up to speed on than any beat reporter out there, Kelly and the Irish coaching staff wouldn’t be taking recruits if they didn’t have a spot for them on the roster.

So fear not. A plan is in place.


@DrewBrennan77: Does Brian Kelly lose his job as head football coach at ND with a 9-4 record in 2015?

I don’t think so. While that record would be really disappointing, I don’t think it’s enough to get Kelly fired. And as we saw this offseason, outside of Jim Harbaugh was there a head coaching hire that blew people away? So if you are going to make a move and change coaches is there a guy that you’re convinced will do a better job in South Bend than Kelly?

I have great expectations for next season. And I really don’t want to be around these parts if that’s how next fall goes. So if somebody has a crystal ball, let me know a few winning lotto numbers and I’ll be on a plane to some tropical island with no internet access before the DeLorean and Doc Brown can catch me.

Prentice McKinney flips commitment to UNC


One of Notre Dame’s long-time verbal commitments is no longer planning on joining the Irish’s 2015 recruiting class. Texas safety Prentice McKinney took an official visit to North Carolina last weekend and flipped his commitment to Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels on Wednesday, dropping Notre Dame’s recruiting class down to 22 players and just two safeties.

McKinney took to Twitter to announce the news.

“I want to thank everybody that helped me throughout my recruiting process and appreciate your support. I’ve officially decided to flip my commitment to the University of North Carolina,” McKinney said (before using a few interesting emoticons).

For much of the past month, McKinney’s commitment was being questioned, with multiple outlets reporting that there was an admissions snag at Notre Dame. While those surrounding the safety denied it — and McKinney looked the part of a totally committed Irish recruit as recently as the Semper Fi All-Star game — the idea that he was visiting North Carolina and would eventually be a part of another school’s 2015 haul seemed to be an assumption the Irish coaching staff worked from as they’ve been in pursuit of another safety.

What the Irish lose in McKinney will be interesting to see. A large, physical presence in the middle of the field, Notre Dame plucked the Dallas safety from relative obscurity, offering and accepting his commitment before he had arrived on the national scene. He’s seen his profile rise since then, with offers from Oklahoma, TCU and Arizona State among others before ultimately picking North Carolina.

McKinney’s flip pushes the Irish back to 22 commitments with just under two weeks to go before Signing Day.