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Leftovers & Links: Notre Dame’s 2021 recruiting already off to a fast start

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As it is exceedingly unlikely Notre Dame adds any recruits on February’s archaic Signing Day, the class of 2020 can be considered a wrap with its 18 signees. Before delving into a few lingering, broad strokes relative to that group, let’s take a look forward 51 weeks.

The Irish already have seven commits for the class of 2021, all of which are consensus four-star recruits. Obviously there is a long way to go in the cycle, but both Rivals and 247Sports currently consider that grouping to be the No. 1 class in 2021 recruiting. Notre Dame undoubtedly won’t stay that high, but that should nonetheless give an idea of how well the early parts of the cycle have gone.

Those seven commits are:
The No. 4 offensive tackle and No. 18 player in the country in Blake Fisher, per rivals.com.
The No. 5 receiver and No. 34 player in the country in Lorenzo Styles.
The No. 2 quarterback and No. 42 overall player in Tyler Buchner.
The No. 3 athlete and No. 72 player in Deion Colzie, likely a receiver at the next level.
The No. 8 defensive tackle and No. 95 overall player, Gabriel Rubio.
The No. 5 offensive guard and No. 125 overall player, Greg Crippen.
The No. 8 tight end and No. 215 overall player, Cane Berrong.

The class as a whole should not get much bigger than 22 or 23, at most. Consider, the roster currently has 89 players expected for the fall, a number that includes cornerback Shaun Crawford and tight end Cole Kmet, but does not include safety Alohi Gilman.

At least five players will need to move on in some form before the Irish head to Dublin. Not knowing who those will be, 15 more will be out of eligibility following the 2020 season, bringing this count down to 70 players. Nine will be eligible to return in 2021 for a fifth year, but a few are not likely to get that offer.

Without much work, the scholarship count is now down to 67 or 68 exiting the 2020 season. Presuming Notre Dame will not mind once again pushing 90 players exiting National Signing Day, that should leave room for a decently-sized recruiting class.

INCREASED IRISH PURSUIT OF … SPEED
Recruiting coordinator Brian Polian had a lengthy and insightful description of some of the difficulties in chasing speed on National Signing Day, too lengthy to include in full in a column afterward but appropriate now.

“If you look at how many guys go to the (NFL) combine and can actually run in the 4.4s, there’s not very many of them. But when we talk to high school coaches, there’s millions across the country. … We started to have serious conversations about how important track is, and also the education of a difference between a good 100 time. What if a guy only runs a 200 meter? What if he’s a distance guy? How do we translate a split in a 4-by-1 to a verified speed? We literally did some research on that in the winter into the spring in terms of, is he really fast? What does a really good 110 high hurdle — how does that equate to football speed?

“You know it when you see it on film, but the discipline to walk away if we did not have a verified speed. Or to be transparent and say to a young man, and a coach, we love your film, we love your makeup, your grades are great, but until we have a verified time, we can’t pull that trigger.

“That would motivate some kids to go out to a camp and post a 40, or in some cases run a 40 and have a coach film it and send us the tape. So we had to get outside the box a little bit in terms of, we can’t just take anybody’s word for it anymore. We got to find ways to verify the speed.”

INCREASED IRISH PURSUIT OF … VERSATILITY
The last couple of cycles have seen Notre Dame sign more prospects who played both sides of the ball in high school. In some cases, that prep strategy can be a detriment to the player’s initial college forays — Irish head coach Brian Kelly recently pointed to sophomore Braden Lenzy’s time devoted to defense in high school as part of the reason he struggled catching the ball as a freshman — but for the most part, that versatility in high school leads to roster flexibility in college.

“[Kelly] really keeps me balanced when it comes to this stuff, because I have a very analytical mind, and we have a scholarship model that we believe is responsible, and we’re trying to adhere to that as best we can,” Polian said. “Coach Kelly, every once in a while, will help rein me back in and say, let’s just get as many good football players as we can get. They will find their way into a position group one way or another.”

INCREASED IRISH PURSUIT OF … LENGTH
Wingspan is not cited often enough in recruiting discussions. It should be measured just as height and weight are.

“A great reminder of the power of length was Kyle Hamilton this year,” Polian said. “If you can get a really good athlete who has got length, that’s better than just a really good athlete that doesn’t. [Freshman defensive end Isaiah] Foskey, the same way. [Mike] McGlinchey before that.

“Just how powerful length is and especially at the skill positions. There was a concerted effort this year, if we have two equal grades on a guy, let’s go with the guy that’s got a little bit more length.”

PLAYING IN BOWL GAMES
Speaking of McGlinchey …

INSIDE THE IRISH READING
Claypool Notre Dame’s MVP, personnel tidbits
Despite a calm Signing Period and coaching change, Notre Dame on verge of talent influx
Elite offensive skill allowed Notre Dame to chase raw defensive potential
Notre Dame’s toughest fit in this recruiting class? Most underrated player? In Kelly’s words …
‘More’ collaboration remains focus of Notre Dame’s offense, not a specific play caller

OUTSIDE READING
Iowa State sees opportunity to enhance brand in Notre Dame matchup
How Notre Dame revealed itself to be five-star Chris Tyree’s perfect fit ($)
Pat Forde breaks down and predicts all 40 bowl games
Kedon Slovis, Graham Harrell talk USC QB’s early 2020 Heisman buzz
Stanford QB KJ Costello enters transfer portal
Charlie Weis, Jr., to be South Florida offensive coordinator
SEC football leaving CBS after 2023, likely for ESPN/ABC