The ones that got away


Brian Kelly wanted to keep the focus on the players that decided to sign letters-of-intent with the Irish. And with a recruiting class compiled of 16 talented players — a lean class no doubt, but far from a program killer — that sentiment is certainly understandable.

But we’ll have four years to judge the talent coming in the door. Let’s take one last look at the one’s that got away:

DEONTAY GREENBERRY: From Notre Dame to Houston

How bad was it? Greenberry’s departure was one of the more shocking turns in recent Irish recruiting history, ranking up their with Lorenzo Booker picking the wrong hat and quarterback C.J. Leak leaving Bob Davie at the altar. Of course, both those losses seemed much worse at the time than during their playing careers with Leak flaming out and Booker never being able to carry the load of an every down back. Still, Greenberry’s shocking decision went viral on the internet, and the hundreds of comments that flooded into the live blog at least reflect the perceived importance of landing Mr. Football in California for the Irish, especially at a position of need.

Impact on the field? Greenberry seemed like the most likely to replace Michael Floyd, and he certainly has the jump ball skills to do so. That said, the fade route and 50/50 passing game that Charlie Weis employed with guys like Floyd and Jeff Samardzija left when Kelly came to town, and any receiver playing in the current offense needs route running precision to get on the field.

In his own words: “I was going to Notre Dame for the wrong reason,” Shepard told the Fresno Bee. “Tee had committed to Notre Dame, and I wanted to be where he was at. Then I started sitting down and really thinking what’s best for me, where I would feel most comfortable. I’ve talked with him, and he’s good with it.”

Final Assessment: This one certainly hurt. Any time you’ve got a recruit wrapped up until the morning of Signing Day, only to lose him to the seventh or eighth most impressive college football program in the state of Texas, well — that’s a head scratcher. Of course, Greenberry could make an instant impact like a Sammy Watkins or disappear like Kyle Prater or Markeith Ambles, just two of many recent five-star wide receivers that didn’t live up to the hype. Not to wish it on Greenberry, but that’s just the nature of recruiting.

RONALD DARBY: From Notre Dame to Florida State

How bad was it? Irish fans were salivating over the idea of Darby and Tee Shepard joining forces and given the Irish two potential lockdown cornerbacks in a recruiting class that needed to upgrade the secondary. Darby was always the number one flight risk in this recruiting class, and his decommitment — while predictable — didn’t hurt any less just because people saw it coming. Still, Irish fans had to almost expect this with Florida State, who I’m sure didn’t pull any punches after last year’s snatch-back of Aaron Lynch.

Impact on the field? Darby had one unquestionable five-star component: Speed. How well he develops as a cornerback and football player, we’ll have to see. Still, there’s no doubting he’d have immediately challenged for playing time at cornerback, where just about everyone is unproven, and his speed could’ve quickly found its way into the return game alongside George Atkinson.

In his own words: “I liked the home feeling at Clemson, I liked the home feeling at Auburn and I liked the home feeling at Florida State, but I had to look past the red carpet treatment and look at the program that could better me as a person,” Darby told the Washington Post. “The difference was the young talent they have going and the need for DBs. They played a safety at cornerback in the Champs Bowl.”

Final Assessment: Fans and recruitniks have pointed to a rift between Darby and the Irish coaching staff over some perceived change in Darby’s recruitment. Area recruiter Charley Molnar’s departure and the coaching staff transition likely hurt Notre Dame, but anything Kerry Cooks did or didn’t do isn’t what sent Darby looking elsewhere. Notre Dame tried multiple times to get in the door with Darby in recruiting’s final weeks, but they were never even let in the house. Casting that aside, you begin to forget that other schools have depth chart problems, too. Florida State obviously sold theirs, not to mention an ACC track program, and enacted a modicum of revenge for the loss of Aaron Lynch.

TAYLOR DECKER: From Notre Dame to Ohio State

How bad was it? The writing was on the wall when Urban Meyer offered Decker a scholarship, then proceeded to bring in Irish coaches Tim Hinton and Ed Warinner, Decker’s area recruiter and position coach respectively. Decker was one of two offensive tackles in a three-man offensive line class, and the six-foot-eight, 320-pound prospect certainly looked the part of a blue-chipper. That it took Meyer only a few weeks to undo a commitment that had been one of Notre Dame’s longest gives you a glimpse into how things are going to go in the Midwest now that Ohio State is being run by one of the sports most ruthless recruiters.

Impact on the field? Probably not all that large actually. The Irish actually have their depth chart at offensive tackle pretty solidified and already have one of the nation’s best 2013 prospects committed in Steve Elmer. That said, bringing in only two offensive linemen in the class means that Notre Dame can’t afford to miss next year.

In his own words: “It’s always been a dream of mine,” Decker told the Dayton Daily News. “I’ve grown up an Ohio State fan; I grew up in Ohio an hour from Columbus, an hour from Ohio State. That’s what I’ve always known as far as college football. Especially when I was younger, that was everything. It’s definitely a great feeling and I’m excited for it.”

Final Assessment: If you believe what some have reported, Kelly didn’t waste too much time crying over Decker’s departure. I’m not sure that’s 100 percent true, but of all the guys the Irish loss, this one certainly should sting the least.

Signing Day shocker: Greenberry signs with Houston


As of last night, Deontay Greenberry had confirmed with the Irish coaching staff that he was set to sign his letter-of-intent with Notre Dame. But as the morning hours roll on in South Bend, the Notre Dame fax machine that awaited the four-star recruit’s signature sits idle.

Multiple news outlets have reported a Signing Day surprise, with Greenberry reportedly flipping his pledge from Notre Dame and instead choosing to play for Houston. The move has been confirmed by Houston’s official athletic department Signing Day blog and official Twitter account. The loss of Greenberry is a shocking blow to the Irish recruiting class and arguably the biggest splash the Cougars have ever made in national recruiting game.

Greenberry visited Houston last weekend on an official visit but returned to Fresno still committed to the Irish. He reportedly took his visit to Houston based on his relationship with special teams and inside receivers coach Jamie Christian, who joined the staff from Arizona State, where he had recruited Greenberry. It was Christian who got Greenberry to visit the Conference USA school, that finished 13-1 last year under then head coach Ken Sumlin.

Greenberry has long said he’d be joining his cousin Tee Shepard at college. The two had taken various recruiting visits together, including a late season trip to USC on the weekend Shepard’s Washington Union squad played in the CIF state championship game. But with Shepard enrolled at Notre Dame, Greenberry took his official last week alone.

There is no official comment from Notre Dame on Greenberry’s commitment, due to NCAA rules. Greenberry’s defection leaves the Irish recruiting class at 16 members, with Las Vegas’ Ronnie Stanley still waiting to sign his letter-of-intent.

The Commitments: Wide receivers


Part three of our series recapping the recruits ready to sign letters-of-intent with Notre Dame next Wednesday. Previous installments include running backs and offensive linemen.

The shadow that Michael Floyd‘s graduation will leave over the Irish offense likely won’t clear in just one season. (Consider even Floyd’s No. 3 jersey won’t even be in uniform next year, with transfer Amir Carlisle sitting out the 2012 season thanks to NCAA transfer rules.) But like the Irish coaching staff did last year, they evaluated their roster deficiencies and took dead aim at them. And with the Irish’s 2012 slate of receivers — even if it doesn’t grow in the next week — they’ve done an excellent job bringing in impact players that can help jump-start the evolution of Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin’s spread offense.

Floyd’s departure leaves Notre Dame with no true game-breaker at wide receiver. Theo Riddick, who Kelly thought would be his answer at the slot has been anything but, and could potentially spend his final season in blue and gold at running back. The only receiving nightmare on the Irish roster is a tight end, with All-American Tyler Eifert the team’s best option through the air. Yet there’s reason to believe this offense can take strides forward, even while losing their best player. Redshirts Davaris Daniels and Matthias Farley will have their first shot at filling the void, but come summer they’ll be joined by three impressive incoming recruits, each with some game-breaking athleticism that is in short supply on the current roster.

High School: Hanahan High — Hanahan, South Carolina
Measureables: Six-foot-two, 175-pounds
Other major offers: Arkansas, Clemson, Illinois, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Fun Fact: Broke South Carolina’s oldest state record with a 51-foot, 2.5 inch triple jump during his junior year.
On choosing Notre Dame: “Towards the end of the visit I was just thinking to myself that this could be a place I could go and shine,” Brown told “There were a lot of positives about it.”
What he’ll bring to the offense: Brown might be one of the most under-the-radar players coming into Notre Dame. A collarbone injury robbed Brown of a large chunk of his senior season, but his speed and athleticism (his junior year triple-jump would’ve been eight inches shy of the Big East champion’s jump last year) will be a great blessing to go along with his six-foot-two frame. The Irish battled Steve Spurrier for Brown’s signature, and while it’ll take some time in the weight-room for Brown to be physically ready, the Irish won’t have many athletes with Brown’s ability in uniform next season. A true wildcard in the recruiting class.

High School: Flanagan High — Pembroke Pines, Florida
Measureables: Six-foot-two, 205-pounds
Other major offers: Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, UCF, Wisconsin
Fun Fact: One of the most impressive WRs at The Opening, the Nike’s invite-only scouting combine.
On choosing Notre Dame: “I liked them because of the education — that’s first and foremost,” Ferguson told the Sun Sentinel. “Once I got there, the coaches showed me a lot of love. They were really interested in me and told me it was the program that could benefit me the most.”
What he’ll bring to the offense: Ferguson is well put together physically, which could lead to early playing time. He reminds me a lot of a young David Givens, the highly-touted Irish wide receiver that didn’t hit his stride until joining the New England Patriots. Ferguson is a more natural receiver than Givens though, and while he might not be a true burner, he’ll be a tough assignment in the open field, whether starting at the slot or outside.

High School: Washington Union — Fresno, California
Measureables: Six-foot-three, 185-pounds
Other major offers: Alabama, Cal, LSU, UCLA, USC, Washington
Fun Fact: Named Mr. Football in California after breaking yardage and 41-year touchdown catch state record.
On choosing Notre Dame: “We agreed since we were little we were going to the same college,” Greenberry said of playing with cousin Tee Shepard, an early-enrollee cornerback.
What he’ll bring to the offense: Having watched Greenberry a handful of times during his senior season, you start to think he’ll make a difference the minute he steps on campus. With jump-ball skills that rival Michael Floyd’s, Greenberry’s prodigious stats — crushing California records while leading his team to a state championship — match the physical attributes he brings to the field. It’s hard to find a receiver that’s got better game tape than Greenberry, and he’s seen his recruiting profile sky-rocket since exiting his junior year with only four scholarship offers. If there’s an offensive recruit that’s the most important on the Irish board, it’s Greenberry.





High School: Hanahan High — Hanahan, South Carolina
Measureables: Six-foot-two, 175-pounds
Other major offers: Arkansas, Clemson, Illinois, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Fun Fact: Broke South Carolina’s oldest state record with a 51-foot, 2.5 inch triple jump during his junior year.
On choosing Notre Dame: “Towards the end of the visit I was just thinking to myself that this could be a place I could go and shine,” Brown told “There were a lot of positives about it.”
What he’ll bring to the offense: Brown might be one of the most under-the-radar players coming into Notre Dame. A collarbone injury robbed Brown of

Irish recruits representing at “The Opening”

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If you’ve been clamoring for more coverage on “The Opening,” Nike’s foray into the 7-on-7, recruiting world/hype machine, there’s plenty of places on the internet that’ll satisfy your needs. (My personal favorite right now is the Nike official website, where they show actual laser-recorded 40-yard dash times, which helps get rid of some of the fake 40 times and dispel the speed myths that get readily perpetrated.)

While something about the televised, Nike-ization (new word) of the whole thing makes me feel a little slimy, I’d be doing you all a great disservice if I didn’t mention the impressive showing that Irish recruits are having in Beaverton, Oregon.

Irish commitments Justin Ferguson, Deontay Greenberry, Mark Harrell, David Perkins and Tee Shepard have taken their talents to Niketown, and the recruiting world has taken notice. As he’s done throughout the offseason, Greenberry has been a handful in seven-on-seven, and reports out of the combine are confirming that the Irish will be bringing a big time ball-skills guy to campus. Shepard has looked good at both corner and has shown some athleticism at wide receiver as well, measuring in at a legit 6-foot-1, 180-pounds. Harrell measured in at 6-foot-5, 267-pounds (and ran a very lineman like 5.57 40), and Justin Ferguson has looked smooth from a variety of reports.

All that being said, if Irish fans want to be excited about anyone, look no further than South Bend’s own David Perkins. Blazing to an electric 4.50 forty and leading the camp in the powerball toss, Perkins was a national finalist in the SPARQ competition, a cumulative scoring system that takes into account size, speed, 40-time, shuttle run, vertical leap and powerball. It’s pretty clear that the Irish coaching staff didn’t make their scholarship offer to Perkins based on proximity and instead found an elite athlete that could easily see the field at multiple positions.

The Irish are targeting over 20 guys at the camp, with familiar names like Armani Reeves, William Mahone, Sheldon Day, and Zach Banner all making noise. Still, in a combine that’s attracted some of the nation’s best talent, Notre Dame made its presence felt.

“A lot of people are trying to show us love now,” Greenberry told ESPN. “Back a few years ago, people weren’t really high on Notre Dame. But now they see me and Tee representing the school and performing at a high level, and it’s a different reaction.”

Perhaps Shepard had the quote that should have Irish fans most excited.

“It’s exciting because once ND comes back up, it’s over for everyone else,” Shepard said. “We’re going to compete for championships and beat the best every week.”

Greenberry and Prosise join the Irish recruiting fold


It’s been a busy weekend for the Irish coaching staff, as they’ve reeled in two more recruits, with safety CJ Prosise and wide receiver Deontay Greenberg pledging their commitment to Notre Dame.

The news that Greenberry committed was far less of a surprise than Prosise, as Greenberry’s been on Irish fans’ radar for months. The lanky receiver has long been rumored to join his cousin Tee Shepard in South Bend eventually, and Mike Denbrock’s visit to Fresno in early May with a scholarship offer was all Greenberry needed.

“It was just a matter of time,” Greenberry told “I pretty much knew what I was gonna do. I kind of knew it was gonna be them this whole time. My coaches were kinda getting tired of all the colleges coming up. Since I knew I decided to pull the trigger.”

Greenberry is a highly-ranked prospect, checking in just outside’s first Top 100 list, and has been lighting up the summer camp 7-on-7 circuit.

As for Prosise, the Irish are getting a physical presence at safety, with legit size at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds. He also has some speed, finishing second in the in the 100-meter dash at the Virginia state track meet. As important as any other factors, Prosise adds more depth to a secondary that’ll need to replace Harrison Smith, Gary Gray and Robert Blanton after this season.

Prosise has offers from Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Penn State and North Carolina and will visit South Bend for the first time next weekend. He’s also got the ability to play offense for the Irish, another potential cross-over in a diverse group of players.

The Irish have nine verbal commitments in their 2012 recruiting class.