(Notre Dame Football News | The Rock Report) – Brian Kelly’s first full class ended up ranked 8th, 9th, 9th and 1st by different recruiting sites, but for Notre Dame’s needs it was a class that will likely have greater impact than the rankings due to the talent of the defensive front seven. This class rivals the class from 1990 (remember then?) and harkens back to Ara’s class from the early 1970s that included Luther Bradley, Ross Browner, and Willie Fry. If you want to see what a dominant young line looks like look at Fantastic Frosh – ’73 Notre Dame vs. USC.
What I think is most impressive is that this class has the building blocks for success (which is a simple equation but hard to execute,) a class that fills immediate needs, has no glaring holes, is strong in the trenches and has difference makers on both defense and offense. Michael Floyd causes defensive coordinators angina; they change game plans because of him. Manti Teo will do the same this year. You need those impact players because they have a disproportionate impact on game outcomes. If you couple good solid fundamental football with strength in the trenches and game changers, you can win. See Stanford this year.
A couple of key quotes from Kelly. He signaled that there will be a lot of things for “depth chart engineers” or “rosterbaters” to talk about. Kelly’s approach is not to recruit for position, but types.
I can tell you we’re a little bit more broad in the approach relative to once you fit that profile of size and weight, once you fit that profile relative to your academics and character, we’re a little bit more open ended relative to the position. So let’s not get caught on that today. You’ll see that we’ve listed our players either in the skill, big skill or power category, and we truly recruit that way. We look for players that are committed to being here at Notre Dame to help us win a championship, not because I gotta play this position, I have to be here.
He also talked about the process led by Chuck Martin which was a team effort (as opposed to the previous staff’s uneven effort) and included a lot of trench warfare. Coach Bob Diaco continued his zero to hero rise (zero after the Navy debacle) by securing Ishaq (e-Shock) Williams at 4:30am in the morning.
I know there are a lot of coaches that will be talking about what a great class it is for them. I don’t know what their plan was, but I can tell you our plan for this class came together very nicely for us. And let me make it clear it takes nine assistant coaches to put together a recruiting class of what we consider this magnitude. It requires a great deal of effort. Certainly there’s an evaluation and a profile that has to be met, but recruiting at the University of Notre Dame requires a great deal of effort.
This class addressed every immediate need, filled the trenches with “power” players and has impact players on both sides of the ball that can affect games. This class came up short at the defensive back, running back and offensive line (in name only) positions, but didn’t leave any of the positions bereft of talent. The offensive line and defensive back positions may yet to prove to be worthy of higher praise.
Notre Dame recruited six players that I would term elite and my definition of elite isn’t stars or cohort, but the ability to change the game significantly. This is by no means a definitive list, but a composite from what I’ve read and seen. In alphabetical order:
Atkinson, George WR 6’2″-195 - (Video and Breakdown)
Atkinson’s ability to explode through openings and run away from people will change the way defenses play Notre Dame. Coaches call it the ability to “blow the top off a defense”, what that means is that the presence of a speedster like Atkinson forces teams to account for him deep, which in turn, creates space. Perhaps his most impressive game was his second where he carried 5 times for 216 yards (43 yards per carry), had a 65 yard punt return for a touchdown and added a 22 yard touchdown catch. 303 yards on 7 touches has to be some sort of a record. I keep thinking Tim Brown.
Golson, Everett QB 6’0″ – 185 – (Video and Breakdown)
The only reason Golson isn’t a five star quarterback is his size, but playing against full sized players (including Ben Councell) in the Shrine Bowl, Golson still stole the show. Somehow Drew Brees and Michael Vick “survive” at the same height. In Golson’s senior year he completed 111 passes on 171 attempts for 1,770 yards, and 25 touchdowns against two interceptions. That’s a better TD/Int ratio than Jimmy Clausen had his senior year. Though he’s fast and elusive, Golson does not run the ball that much, what he does is buy time with incredibly quick feet (aka escape-ability,) and find open receivers by keeping his eyes down-field, but he also has the strength to deliver the ball anywhere on the field. He’s in this group because even if you know what’s coming as a defense and get a great rush on him, he can still make a play. He just plain wore out Javedon Clowney (considered the best DE prospect in many years) in the Shrine Bowl to lead his team to a state title.
Koyack, Ben TE 6’5″-225 – (Video and Notes)
Koyack competed against Jay Rome (widely considered the best tight end in the country) at the Under Armour game and from all accounts was the better tight end all week. He’s a wide receiver in a tight end’s body who creates a match-up problem for defenses.
Lynch, Aaron DE 6’5″ – 250 – (Video and Notes)
I’m not sure the there’s much more to be written about Lynch. He was the most dominant player at the Army All-American game and ran by everyone he faced (including Matt Hegarty.) Might be the most important Notre Dame recruit in recent years.
Tuitt, Stephon DE 6’5″-260 – (Video and Notes)
He’s another player that Notre Dame just doesn’t seem to get, an athletic defensive end from the south. Tuitt overpowers offensive linemen at the line of scrimmage, which is impressive, but to then see him run down running backs from behind is remarkable. He’s going to be huge kid who will play in 2011.
Williams, Ishaq OLB 6’6″ – 240 – (Video and Notes)
The only player who was a better pass rusher at the Army All-American camp than Lynch, was Williams (when does ND ever sign two of the top pass rushers?) Williams has an “off the drawing board frame,” but also runs down the field on kick coverage like a wide receiver. The player he brings to mind is Justin Tuck, but Williams might have more ability to drop into coverage and play the Cat outside linebacker position.
In other years, any of Lynch, Tuitt or Williams would have been great to land, to sign them all in the same year will translate into defensive dominance down the road in 2013 when they’re juniors. Ben Councell, Davaris Daniels, Matt Hegarty and Kyle Brindza could also be added this list. Brindza’s ability to limit kick returns to the 20 pays dividends in two ways: 1. It avoids big returns. 2. It creates an almost one first down advantage on every kickoff. He also can kick 50 yard field goals and 45+ yard punts. That’s a game changing combination. Councell was thought to be the best defensive player in the Shrine Bowl by most in attendance.
All in all, not a perfect class, but one that filled immediate needs, is strong in the trenches, doesn’t have any gaping holes and has a handful of game changing players on defense and offense. You can win at a very high level with that kind of class.
Small pimp for our little online show:
Full 2011 Notre Dame Recruiting Class and Video
|ELIT||Kiel, Gunner||6'4" - 220|
|ELIT||Neal, Davonte||5'9" - 175|
|HIGH||Russell, KeiVarae||6'0" - 170|
|HIGH||Baratti, Nick||6'2" - 190|
|HIGH||Stanley, Ronnie||6'7" - 285|
|HIGH||Day, Sheldon||6'2" - 285|
|HIGH||Mahone, Will||5'10" - 205|
|HIGH||Ferguson, Justin||6'2" - 200|
|HIGH||Harrell, Mark||6'5" - 270|
|MID||Daly, Scott||6'3" - 230|
|MID||Okwara, Romeo||6'4" - 225|
|MID||Prosise, CJ||6'2" - 205|
|LOW||Turner, John||6'2" - 200|
|Bio||ELIT||Golson, Everett||6'0" - 185|
|Bio||ELIT||Lynch, Aaron||6'5" - 250|
|Bio||ELIT||Williams, Ishaq||6'6" - 240|
|Bio||HIGH||Daniels, Davaris||6'2" - 180|
|Bio||HIGH||Hounshell, Chase||6'6" - 260|
|Bio||HIGH||Niklas, Troy||6'6" - 245|
|Bio||MID||McDaniel, Cam||5'11" - 195|
|Bio||MID||Martin, NIck||6'5" - 260|