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.

Irish recruiting efforts coming into focus


While the Irish coaching staff traverses the country taking in-home visits, Notre Dame’s staff is close to putting the finishing touches on a stellar recruiting class. The additional of Aliz’e Jones pushes the Irish into a consensus Top 10 class — quite an accomplishment considering this was supposed to be a smaller group.

Yet with two weeks to go, the Irish sit at 23 recruits. And most believe they’ll end things with at 25 signees, with the possibility of landing one more if things go according to plans.

From a need perspective, it looks as if the Irish will be filling one very large hole with Dexter Williams. The running back has been an early target of the Irish staff and took his official visit last weekend. A one-time Miami commitment, Williams very well could have been the intended target of a since-deleted Tweet by a Miami assistant that compared weather forecasts in both cities. (Most assumed it was linebacker Tevon Coney.)

Williams is far from a consolation prize. His offer list is elite, his highlight film looks the part and all signs (and Crystal Balls) seem to point to Notre Dame. So while the Irish staff will still likely continue their chase of Soso Jamabo, Notre Dame should have a second running back in this class when it comes time to turn on the fax machine.

At wide receiver, it appears that just about everybody following things thinks the Irish will land another one of their early targets at the position in Equanimeous St. Brown. If it does happen, the Orange County, California prospect will have turned down a Dos Equis commercial a slew of other elite schools to come to South Bend, giving Notre Dame another big-bodied, lanky receiver in the mold of Corey Robinson, with better speed.

St. Brown’s recruiting stock seems to have roller-coastered a bit this year, but Notre Dame’s interest never did. And at a position where early playing time doesn’t necessarily look possible, playing the long game on an athletic talent as unique as St. Brown (he’s 6’5″ and fast) seems to be a good bet. Add to that another player from powerhouse Servite, and it’s a win-win-win for the Irish staff… assuming the Irish hear from the 949 area code in a few Wednesdays.

When it comes to filling a final hole at safety, things get a little interesting. The Irish are chasing multiple athletes at the position still, a priority spot in a class that already includes three commits. But with smoke surrounding Prentice McKinney‘s status, filling this slot is important, especially with the uncertain future of Nicky Baratti.

The Irish entertained Nathan Meadors last weekend, with Notre Dame “pulling even” with UCLA. A San Bernadino native, the Bruins are essentially the hometown school. But the Irish staff believes he’s a great prospect and a player that the recruiting services seem to undervalue. Expect the in-home visit to be important with Brian Kelly.

That’s hardly the only bet the Irish are taking. They’re still fighting for an official visit from Arrington Farrar, a long-time Stanford commit that’s on the market again. Louisiana safety Justin Reid will be on campus this weekend. LSU (where his brother played) will get a late look as well, but Kerry Cooks is working the case.

The Irish staff is still hunting some big fish as well. They haven’t given up on Biggie Marshall, though it’s a long shot to happen. And they just used an in-home visit on defensive end Mekhi Brown, an Alabama commitment who took an official to South Bend during the season.

With two weeks to go, the final pieces seem to be coming together. But none of that matters until Signing Day.



DaVaris Daniels to enter NFL Draft

Taylor Richards, DaVaris Daniels

Star-crossed Notre Dame wide receiver DaVaris Daniels‘ career with the Irish is over. After two seasons and two significant academic suspensions, Daniels decided to forgo any additional eligibility he has at the college level and turn professional.

Daniels is one of 74 players to officially declare early for the draft, joined by receivers Nelson Agholor, Amari Cooper, Stephon Diggs, George Farmer, Devin Funchess, Dorial Green-Beckham, Deontay Greenberry, Chris Harper, Breshad Perriman, Jaquel Pitts and Jaelen Strong.

(That list is filled with names Irish fans should know.)

Last we saw Daniels on the football field, he was the team’s second-leading receiver in 2013, scoring seven touchdowns and hauling in 49 passes for 745 yards in a redshirt sophomore season that was plagued by injury. But that season ended on a down note, with Daniels finding out he was academically ineligible from the university for the spring semester.

After sitting out last spring, head coach Brian Kelly still called Daniels the team’s No. 1 receiver, and expected big things from him as he returned for summer session. But Daniels never saw the field again, caught up in the academic dishonesty suspension that ended four players seasons and kept Eilar Hardy out for the majority of 2014.

Daniels weighed a return to college football — exploring options to return to Notre Dame and likely examining other schools as well. Sports Illustrated’s Brian Hamilton reports via Twitter that the additional semester suspension and grade adjustments for forfeited classes made eligibility for 2015 no sure thing.

Neither is Daniels’ draft stock. A physically gifted athlete, we’ve only seen a glimpse of that talent on the football field.

While a strong performance in a one-sided BCS title game as a redshirt freshman might count as his best game film (or a big night against Purdue in 2013), Daniels will need to be a workout warrior to find his way up draft boards.

Daniels has reportedly signed with agent Hadley Engelhard. Most expect him to be a late-round pick.

After being the lone player to remain vocal on social media throughout the lengthy suspension process during the season, Daniels took a philosophical approach to the news today, saying on Twitter, “There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.”

Kelly hits the recruiting trail to bring back Stanley and Day

Notre Dame v Syracuse

Say this for Brian Kelly. He learns from his mistakes.

And after losing Stephon Tuitt and Troy Niklas after just three seasons in South Bend, Notre Dame’s head coach made sure he had a final say before Ronnie Stanley and Sheldon Day made their stay-or-go decision.

Kelly hit the road over winter break to make sure his best two seniors understood how badly the Irish coaching staff wanted them to return next season, and — just as important — how it would be in their best interest to do so.

Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman has more, including quotes from Kelly on the recruiting trips the Irish head coach — and a caravan including assistant coaches and athletic director Jack Swarbrick — took to both Stanley and Day’s homes.

“I’ve had great success keeping Michael Floyd here, keeping Tyler Eifert here, keeping Manti Te’o here and then last year I was disappointed about one of our players not staying,” Kelly told Fox Sports. “I was not going to leave it up to fate anymore that somebody would understand from my perspective that you should stay for these reasons. I was gonna get on the road and make sure we did this.”

For Stanley, that meant bringing Harry Hiestand to Las Vegas and connecting the junior offensive tackle with Dallas Cowboys All-Pro rookie Zack Martin. It also meant bringing an academic advisor along to help better understand the timing of things like OTAs and an academic plan that’ll have him ready for graduation after next season.

For Day, it meant a visit from Mike Elston and Paul Longo. It also meant an apples to apples comparison with former Pitt star Aaron Donald, who Irish fans have already deemed the optimal prototype for the undersized defensive tackle.

“Our strength coach was with us on that one because we wanted to look at some numbers from the Combine that we wanted to make him aware of,” said Kelly. “We felt like we wanted to get him into (former Pitt All-American) Aaron Donald’s numbers. It was, ‘Right now let’s say four teams really like you. If you start hitting these physical numbers, we think 20 teams are gonna really like you, and that’s the net benefit for you.'”

More important than any sales pitch was another option Notre Dame was offering. An insurance policy the university would pay for that would cover any loss of value, a commitment that Swarbrick himself gave to both players.

At a school that’s promoting a 40-year decision, adding success stories like Stanley and Day is crucial to the recruiting message to other elite prospects hoping to have the chance to play at the next level. Adding an All-American like Stanley to the “Notre Dame graduate” list continues to separate the Irish from other programs that look more like football factories.

On the field, bringing back this duo is just as critical. After seeing holes in the depth chart after early departures ripped some key building blocks off the 2014 roster, hitting the road and protecting his own roster is just as key to building the 2015 team as finishing the recruiting class strong.

Do yourself a favor and read Feldman’s complete story here.