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As a National Signing Day primer, some mailbag questions

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Notre Dame knows its figurative floor for the class of 2018. Thanks to December’s early signing period, and the success the Irish had in that three-day span, adding a mere three commitments to the class tomorrow would make National Signing Day a success. With eight possibilities remaining on the board to varying degrees, reaching that mark seems rather likely.

Anything further would make it a banner week and the cycle as a whole a strong one for Notre Dame’s coaching staff. Pulling that off is even more notable when considering seven of the 10 assistant coaches were not yet with the Irish when the scholarship offers began flowing to the class of 2018.

In many regards, the early signing period rendered this February stretch relatively anticlimactic. While that may not be the case in each and every year to come, this first rendition sets a precedent.

With that in mind and few updates (read: none) to offer in the 24- to 48-hour window preceding the close to the recruiting cycle, let’s knock out a few broad recruiting questions.

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“Can you identify five-year transfers available for the Irish to sign? Any QBs?” — Kevin from Pasadena

“Regarding grad transfers, are we in the mix for Calvin Anderson and are we recruiting Tre Watson at all?” — The Dude

With just three commits signing along with consensus three-star offensive tackle Luke Jones (Pulaski Academy; Little Rock, Ark.) tomorrow, Notre Dame would reach 87 rostered players slated for the fall. Losing more than two to transfer, career-ending injury or dismissal is realistic, but expecting four or five begins to stretch the norms. Yet, the Irish may need exactly that to occur if Wednesday sees five new commitments.

Thus, do not expect any graduate transfers to arrive this summer. This is not like last year, when Notre Dame already knew its offensive line reserves may be in flux after spring practices and some roster spots could open up. This is, in fact, a first for the Irish. If being honest, it is a welcome first. It is also a nationwide norm.

“You just look at the culture of college athletics in general right now, people are transferring at a much higher rate than they did 10 years ago,” Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Brian Polian said in December. “… Let’s go under the assumption that there is going to be a little bit of turnover this year, and sometimes you don’t know who they are. Guys come in and surprise you.”

That absence of a graduate transfer at quarterback may seem like the abandonment of a possible bandage, but that would ignore two facts. First of all, there are not a plethora of bona fide quarterbacks looking to parachute in for one season. Secondly, the Irish do not lack quarterbacks. There are options — four, to be exact.

The same could largely be said of Anderson, a Rice tackle with transfer plans. While Notre Dame did touch base with him, he was not an inherent need and he has narrowed his focus to Michigan and Texas, with Auburn, Oklahoma and TCU on the fringe of his considerations.

Watson, a Cal running back, declared a want to transfer only two weeks ago. If he had been in the market the first week of January, perhaps the Irish would have chased him to fill the void in the depth chart left by the dismissals of sophomore Deon McIntosh and freshman C.J. Holmes, but since then Notre Dame has aggressively pursued Georgia Tech commit C’Bo Flemister. Presuming Flemister flips to the Irish tomorrow, that would salve those issues well enough.

“What’s the story with Daniel Cage? Last I remember hearing, Kelly was going to reassess this January. Is he just done?” — NDIrishCO

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Cage’s return was always doubtful. If a concussion forces you to take off a season, then the long-term decision has somewhat been made for you.

Notre Dame’s hopes of North Carolina State-commit Derrick Eason finding his way to landing with the Irish is a symptom of that conclusion. If Cage had found unexpected health in September yet still spent 2017 on the sidelines, then he may have been a piece of the puzzle in 2018. Instead, finding another body like Eason’s to plug into the defensive line can provide some depth.

Admittedly, the return of current junior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery already bolstered that depth to rather excellent levels. A healthy Cage at his best would have struggled to find much playing time amid Tillery, current senior Jonathan Bonner and freshman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, not to mention the latter’s two classmates, Kurt Hinish and Darnell Ewell.

“How come Notre Dame automatically does not get the best players in Indiana every year? There’s always only a handful of elite talent every year and you would think the flagship school in the state will automatically get them.” — ND16

Simply enough, you answered your own question. There are only so many players in Indiana that the Irish should be outright pursuing in the first place. In looking at both the current cycle and the class of 2017, only four players each year exceeded the average of Notre Dame’s signed players if measuring by ratings on rivals.com.

Last year, those four landed at Clemson, Ohio State, Cincinnati and Louisville. The last of those was cornerback Russ Yeast, and the Irish very much would have liked to reel him in, but he actually chose a school 50 miles closer to him.

This year, those four players have committed to Alabama, Michigan, Iowa and USC, not exactly shoddy football programs.

Even if bothered by the inclusion of Cincinnati and Iowa in those two lists, the sample size invalidates the argument. To point to one recruit’s decision each year as an indictment on Notre Dame’s recruiting is to completely disregard the natures of recruiting in general.

Further questions are always welcome at insidetheirish@gmail.com