For those following the ins-and-outs of recruiting, the big picture, one-sentence recap of this past weekend’s Junior Day at Notre Dame is this: Nobody committed to the Irish.
That said, if we’ve learned anything during this era of recruiting, an early verbal commitment means just about nothing, and the Brian Kelly led Irish coaching staff doesn’t hold an unrealistic value on the word of a high school junior. (Plus, early commitments are boring!)
With the Midwest battling another winter storm, Kelly and company welcomed around 30 recruits to campus for their first official Junior Day. Just about every one of them that was interviewed by one of the recruiting websites had something nice to say about a) the academics b) the tradition and c) the upgraded facilities at Notre Dame. All things you’d expect from high school juniors taking their first visit to South Bend.
Here are a few interesting tidbits gathered from some of the not-so-stock quotes:
* If you’re wondering whether Notre Dame is in good shape with offensive lineman Dan Voltz after the visit, the answer is yes.
“I already want to go back,” Voltz told IrishSportsDaily.com. “I am going to go back two or three times this spring and summer… It’s going to be really hard to do better than that.”
Voltz has got to be a high-priority for the Irish and recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin, who is responsible for the Chicagoland area for the Irish.
* We mentioned Michael Moore as a potential defensive end and at 6-4, 255-pounds, you’d certainly think he’s got the potential to grow into a prototype 3-4 defensive end. But that’s not what the coaching staff sees when they look at the junior from Maryland’s tape.
According to IrishIllustrated.com, the coaching staff sees Moore at Darius Fleming’s ‘Cat’ linebacker position.
“They said I was real athletic to play it,” Moore told Irish Illustrated. “They said I was strong enough to play it because at that position they want a real strong guy that’s athletic enough. That really sticks out. It was just a real good thing to see where they’d like to see me play and a real good opportunity to see how I can choose schools and see a position.”
Moore’s an intriguing player and after bringing in Ishaq Williams in the current recruiting class, you begin to understand that a guy like Darius Fleming, who checks in at 6-2, 247-pounds, is undersized for the job he’s doing.
* A few more offers went out to junior prospects, but none larger (both in offer and prospect stature) than defensive lineman Jarron Jones of Rochester, New York.
BlueandGold.com reports that defensive coordinator Bob Diaco offered Jones, who already has Florida State, Penn State and Michigan among his 16 offers.
“Yes, he offered me today,” Jones told BlueandGold.com. “I’m really interested in Notre Dame. They like me at defensive end.”
At 6-6 or 6-7, and around 290-pounds, Jones has an absolutely massive frame, and he has pretty elite athleticism for a guy his size. Diaco’s a great guy to have recruiting Jones, and he’ll likely end up a national recruit as well.
* By way of Bob Wieneke at the South Bend Tribune, the original recruiting guru, Tom Lemming of CBS College Sports, says that the Irish have already made 100 verbal offers to juniors.
“I think it’s great,” Lemming said. “They should have 100, and they do.”
If you’re wondering if that number is higher than it has been in the past, it is. Using unofficial data from Rivals.com, here are the number of scholarships the Irish have offered since they started tracking stats like this:
2002 – 73
2003 – 55
2004 – 67
2005 – 65
2006 – 59
2007 – 64
2008 – 57
2009 – 77
2010 – 102
2011 – 124
It’s highly likely that Rivals has gotten better at tracking offers as the recruiting industry continues to evolve, but this is pretty convincing evidence that Kelly and company simply identify and offer more recruits, something that’s clearly a strategic decision, and likely comes from spending a career’s worth of time in the collegiate ranks.
Obviously, Charlie Weis was a great recruiter, but combining his penchant for minimal offers and his hard-line on the term commitment, it’s no wonder that when the Irish lost a top-caliber commitment late in the recruiting cycle, the Irish were stuck trying to make up ground with kids they only offered late in the game.
As we saw first-hand this recruiting season, Kelly isn’t afraid of pushing right up to the 85-man roster limit, chasing top prospects all the way until Signing Day, one philosophy change that’s already benefited the Irish during their recruitment of Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt.
(Tip of the cap to the band formerly known as Blue-Gray Sky for the Rivals data.)