Brian Kelly addressed the media as he discussed the Irish schedule heading into their December 31st date with the Miami Hurricanes in El Paso. We’ve got plenty of time to discuss some of the intricacies of the bowl preparation, but one comment should likely steal most of the attention from today.
After avoiding the topic for much of the regular season, Kelly came out openly as he pushed hard for wide receiver Michael Floyd and tight end Kyle Rudolph to stick around for their senior seasons.
“We’re heavily recruiting them,” Kelly said candidly. “We’re recruiting them for Notre Dame. But they’ve got to make decisions. We’ve already begun the early evaluation process for them, they’ve asked, both of them.”
That Floyd and Rudolph would request the NFL advisory committee to give them an idea of their draft ranking should be a surprise to absolutely nobody, and might be the best thing to happen if the Irish want to keep either Floyd or Rudolph around for a senior season. Kelly alluded to the fact that neither Jimmy Clausen nor Golden Tate did that after big junior seasons led them to leave Notre Dame early.
“Last year, I don’t know if either one of those players even asked to be evaluated early,” Kelly said. “They were going to go. Both of these men asked to be evaluated by the NFL committee. We should be able to get some information on where they’re projected to go in the next few weeks.”
Kelly’s philosophy here is obviously different than the one employed by former head coach Charlie Weis, who had many more connections to the NFL through his coaching tree than Kelly. Still, if Tate or Clausen didn’t get a draft grade by the advisory board, you’ve got to think they were dealing with some pretty faulty information when deciding whether or not to forgo their senior season at Notre Dame. This might have been a case where Weis’ NFL relationships actually hurt his players, providing biased information to both Irish stars last year instead of an accurate predictor of where Clausen or Tate would end up.
It’s easy to play a guessing game now, but another year of Clausen or Tate in college wouldn’t have hurt either players’ draft standing, barring a major injury. If you look at the work that Floyd did becoming a more complete wide receiver and the QB-friendly system Clausen would’ve learned, it’s doubtful that he’d have been picked any later than 48th, regardless of guys like Andrew Luck and Jake Locker in the draft.
Still, the wildcard in all of this is the uncertainty of the labor agreement between the NFL and its players union. There’s no one out there that truly has any idea when this will get settled and what the landscape will look like after a new agreement has been reached, and what the timeline for signing draft picks will be.
It’s easy for those of us not making a multi-million dollar decision to say that your senior season at Notre Dame is priceless. But for the legacy of two great players, both Floyd and Rudolph could become immortal as Irish players if they sign up for one more autumn in South Bend.