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NDNation.com Staff: Scott Engler - Michael Cash - John Vannie - Mike Coffey - Kayo - Bacchus

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Recruiting Video Review

posted by Scott Engler
Here are the videos of the 2010 recruiting class with a couple of useless comments to leave or leave as you see fit.

Andrew Hendrix
Useless comment: Great arm strength, great size, surprising speed, unpolished. Urban wanted him, so did Ohio State.

Tommy Rees
Useless comment: Very productive QB in a very weak league. Offered by Kiffin and Skippy.

Luke Massa
Useless comment: Not a highly recruited kid, but looks like a perfect QB for Kelly's system. He can "extend plays" which is a top priority for Kelly's QBs. Kelly offered Massa over Hendrix.

Useless comment: This kid is a great athlete for his size and tough. He'll be a player somewhere.

Derek Roback

Useless comment: Pretty damn athletic big skill kid. I like this philosophy.

Cameron Roberson:
Useless comment: Meets Kelly's criteria of making the first tackler miss. Kelly seems to love him.

Bennett Jackson
Useless comment: Potential sleeper prospect. Great feet, hands and runs a 10.9 100M.

Bennett Jackson (fast forward to the 1:02 and 1:38 marks - that's it, move on)

Tailer Jones
Useless comment: Kelly raved about him. Good bloodlines.

Austin Collinsworth
Useless comment: Tough kid with a supposed great work ethic.

Daniel Smith
Useless comment: Kelly called him big skill, could be a DCE candidate?

Alex Welch
Useless comment: Tough kid. All I got.

Christian Lombard
Useless comment: Played well at Army AA bowl. Important pick-up.

Matt James
Useless comment: Finally, an OT.

Tate Nichols
Useless comment: Love tight ends that convert to the OL, especially when they're 290lbs.

Bruce Heggie
Useless comment: If he really runs a 4.8, I think we've got a good OL candidate. Might be the most unheralded ND recruit in recent memory.

Louis Nix
Useless comment: Probably our most important recruit. An anchor on the DL. Big, big kid with surprising quickness.

Useless comment: I like the Hawaii pipeline. Probably a guy who takes three years to develop.

Justin Utupo
Useless comment: Here's an outlandish prediction, Zoro II even though he's slated for OLB.

Chris Badger
Useless comment: Nutcracker.

Lo Wood
Useless comment: A little slow and small, but rarely gets beat. Shane Walton?

Spencer Boyd
Useless comment: Wouldn't be surprised to see him return kicks or get a look at RB. Call me crazy, but Kelly mentioned his explosiveness with the ball in his hands.

Kendall Moore (no video)
Useless comment: Good middle linebacker prospect and good job by Kelly to keep him.

Prince Shembo (no video)
Useless comment: Decent middle linebacker prospect. Seems a little like Toryan Smith

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Recruiting, Stars and RKGs

posted by Scott Engler
See also: Recruiting Video Review

(The Rock Report) - The bottom line on this recruiting class, as new head Coach Brian Kelly readily acknowledges, is that it's not good enough for Notre Dame and coming after last year's disappointing class, Kelly has his work cut out for him in 2011. At the same time, it's a class that's similar to other top program's classes signed in a coaching transition.

Kelly seems aware that there's a lot of work to do, "We've got to have time. I mean, two months is not enough time to get the kind of guy that I want at the University of Notre Dame. You need time to build a relationship."

Do Stars Matter?

No team has won the BCS title without having its freshmen through senior classes rate at least 3.6 stars on average and when this class matriculates it will move Notre Dame below that line. Just as recruiting is worthless without development, development will only get you so far without the right talent. Championship coaches do both well. Some fans seem to focus on one or the other, but the bottom line is that you need both to compete at the very top level.

Just in case you had a question about how much recruiting can improve your odds, consider the 2008 draft as documented by Athlon. 12 of the players drafted in the first three rounds were 5-star prospects. On average there are 27 5-stars per class. That's a 44% hit rate. Now it's ballpark because of early entries and 5th years, but even adjusting the numbers substantially, 5-stars have a much, much greater chance of being drafted in the first three rounds. On average there are 300 4-star players each year, but only 30 were drafted in the top three rounds in 2008 or 10%. For 3-stars the average is just under 4% and 2-stars average exactly 1%.

Even using these as just ballpark indicators, the difference in probability of being drafted in the first three rounds (a decent barometer of very good college performance) is stark:
5-Star = 44%
4-Star = 10%
3-Star = 4%
2-Star = 1%
One way to look at this is that there's ample room for smart bottom fishing if you've got a great eye for development, but where would you place your bets? Exactly.

Development matters, but it's a hell of a lot easier if you're working with top athletes and Kelly's going to be competing against coaches who (unlike Weis) can recruit, coach and develop.

Listen to Urban Meyer (no slouch at developing players) who prides himself on being able to recruit, motivate and develop top players, "If you know me, you know I think any offense can work if you have the right personnel back. Offenses are overrated. People are not... Again, it's based on people. I keep going back to that, but if you have really good players, it's really easy. If you don't, it's really hard. Is the West Coast offense easy to teach? If Joe Montana is throwing to Jerry Rice, yeah, Daffy Duck can teach it. I don't want to de-value teaching. It's absolutely critical, but I'm still going to go back to personnel."

When a well coached team with exceptionally developed lower level recruits meets a well coached team with exceptionally developed higher level recruits the result looks like this:

Florida 51
Total Yards: 659

Cincinnati 24
Total Yards: 246

And it wasn't even close to that close, the score was 37-3 at one point.

How Did Kelly Do Compared to Saban, Meyer and Stoops?

While this class is certainly in the "not good enough" category, it comes with an asterisk. This is a transitional class for Brian Kelly and in the end, it came in about on par with the transitional classes of top coaches who took over after the previous coach was fired. I used Rivals for consistency (for example Saban's first class at Alabama was ranked 22nd in Scout and 10th by Rivals) and Phil Steele's and others for classes that predated Rivals. For the record, Kelly's transitional class was ranked 14th by Rivals and 19th by Scout.
  • Kiffin (UT): 10th*
  • Saban (Bama): 10th*
  • Kelly: 14*
  • Meyer: 15th*
  • Holtz: 15-20***/14th***
  • Saban (LSU): 24th**
  • Stoops: 36th**

*Rivals **Phil Steele aggregate rankings. ***Joe Terranova/Tom Lemming

Here's what the breakdown of Rivals 5-star, 4-star and 3-star recruits looks like compared to recent coaches who have taken over after the previous coach was fired.

Kiffin 2-09-12
Neuheisal 0-12-11
Kelly 0-10-12
Saban 0-10-12
Chizek 0-09-16
Meyer 0-08-09
Spurrier 0-06-15

So not a great start, but certainly right in the pack when compared to the benchmark coaches Kelly is competing against (both current and historical.) As I wrote before, about all you can make of this class is that there were no major red flags and. as Mike Coffey pointed out, no green flags either. Next year will tell us what we need to know about Kelly and his staff's recruiting prowess.

Kelly, leveraging Weis holdover Dave Peloquin, dual tracked recruiting, "I think we've got our system in place in terms of our recruiting system. That is absolutely crucial. And now our coaches know their geographical areas. And I think now it's not a scramble. We have clearly identified prospects for 2011 that we have had conversations today with a number of juniors. And recreated the signing day, essentially for them with those phone calls today, and offering scholarships to the University of Notre Dame. Really getting them to think, hey, the culmination of this in the next 365 days is going to be you signing your national letter of intent to come to the University of Notre Dame. So that is really the most important thing."

From the "holy crap that was really bad file" the ten four-star recruits in this class (which equals last year's total) are eight more than Weis recruited in his first class and twice as many as ND signed in 2004 and 2005 combined.

By manor98's count on Rock's House, Notre Dame is slightly ahead of last year's pace as far as getting offers out early and 69% of those offers have gone to four or five star players. How does that compare with Saban, Meyer and Kiffin? 86% of Alabama's offers are to four or five star players, 67% of Meyer's offers are to four or five star players and 92% of Kiffin's offers are to four or five star players.

What The Hell is All This RKG Talk?

One big question many fans have about Kelly and recruiting is exactly what he means when he uses the acronym RKG (right kind of guys.) I, like many, feared RKG was code for taking low hanging fruit and shying away from star athletes who might have attitudes or need more social development (the kind of players who often win championships and turn out well in the end.)

Championship coaches don't take on head cases, but they also don't shy away from taking on the development challenge of bringing in the very best athletes. Good coaches find a way to mold (scared you with that word didn't I?) the best players. For example without Mardy Gilyard, Cincinatti wouldn't have been undefeated this past year, yet Gilyard was hardly a stellar citizen when he was recruited (and not by Kelly, btw.) Great coaches win championships with great players. USC wouldn't have won the National Championship without Bush. Texas wouldn't have won their title without Vince Young. Tressell may yet win it again with Terrell Pryor (whom many thought was a problem player.)

So is it code or is it something else? As with every thing else about Kelly ( he appears to be an organizational freak,) he's clearly defined what an RKG is so we don't have to guess.

Here's Kelly's definition of an RKG:
  1. They've got to make profile
  2. They've got to have the academics.
  3. We have to clear their medical history.
  4. They've got to be socially a young man that we trust.
  5. They've got to have the right character.
  6. They have to have a passion for the game.
So there's the RKG demystified. It still doesn't answer the question about whether Kelly values, is willing to fight for and can land the top players, but at least it's not mutually exclusive of 5-star athletes. The other important question is if RKGs include players like Chris Zorich.

What Does he Mean by Profiling?

For example, Kelly wants defensive ends that have long arms and are in the 6'4" range; he also wants 6'6" offensive tackles. If a player doesn't make the profile, he has to have a compelling factor or intangibles that override the profile. One poster mentioned that Parcells used profiling as well, regardless, I think we've seen the end of the "smurf" cornerback. Little guys need not apply.

As he told told Irish Sports Daily, "I recruit power, big skill and skill. Those are the three categories, those are the only three categories I operate out of. Power, big skill and skill."

Kelly also places a premium on those "big skill" kids, of which he recruited more than a few in this class, "big skill is profiling out, if I could take 20 guys who are tough gentlemen who fit the profile at Notre Dame academically and were 6-foot-4, 215 or 220 pounds, you’d never be able to track whose playing where."

Kelly nabbed a couple of kids who were low rated quarterbacks, but have size and excellent athleticism for other positions. This was a smart route to go late in the game and is an underutilized recruiting stream.

Okay, that's a big download.

What's The Summary of All This by Position?

QB - Good numbers to work with, but no sure fire studs. We really needed a QB last year.
RB - One decent back. Not a great need.
WR - Numbers, but only one top recruit in Jones.
TE - Good, but not a gamechanger. Tough kid.
OL - Good. The development of Nichols will be interesting to watch. James and Lombard are very good. I'll bet Heggie ends up here.
NG - Very good get in Nix.
DE - Weak. Two projects and only one is a likely future DE. Warning: We have one real DE recruit in two years.
LB - Good, not great, but decent numbers if you include Spond and/or Roback.
CB - Okay. Wood and Boyd are good not great gets. Warning: We have three CB recruits in two years.
S - Okay, not great. Collinsworth could end up here. Warning: We have one S recruit in two years.

It's a decent glue/transition class, but Kelly needs to bring in the stars next year.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Invincible Invisibles?

posted by Scott Engler
Coach Kelly is certainly following through on his stated recruiting strategy of going after big skill players who can play a number of positions. Here's what Kelly told Irish Eyes:

"Big skill is profiling out, if I could take 20 guys who are tough gentlemen who fit the profile at Notre Dame academically and were 6-foot-4, 215 or 220 pounds, you’d never be able to track whose playing where. ‘I don’t know, he just takes a bunch of those guys and some play defensive end, some play tight end, some are safeties, big skill."

But some of these big skill guys Kelly's contacted are so under the radar, they have Irish fans scratching their collective heads. Used to chasing 4-star recruits, Kelly's bringing in a Toledo quarterback commitment, a Stanford running back commitment, a Colorado former quarterback/linebacker commitment and two players out of Hawaii, one a former Teo teammate and the other a BYU defensive end commitment.

Here's some video of the Invincible Invisibles (or Invisible Invincibles) and a hodgepodge of notes (not mine.)

Brandon Bourbon
"Brandon finished last year with 2420 yards on 248 carries and 29 touchdowns. Here's a little on Bourbon from a Nike Combine - "Bourbon wowed in all four testing categories, clocking 4.54 seconds in the 40 and 4.08 in the short shuttle, jumping 34.3 inches in the vertical and launching the power ball 45 feet. He finished first in the power ball, second in the 40 and third in the shuttle, which is really amazing considering there were 825 participants Sunday."

Kona Schwenke
"He is a true speed rusher off the edge who can get to the outside before the offensive tackle can set back and anchor down. Active with his hands, Schwenke would often chop the outside hand of the pass blocker as he accelerated upfield practically untouched. He also proved he could mix it up by setting the offensive blocker up to the outside with his first two steps then slant back underneath by using the short swim technique. Schwenke comes out of his stance a little high and needs to improve his overall strength, but he has the athleticism, size and quickness that has attracted over half-a-dozen offers."

Danny Spond

Jeremy Ioane

Derek Roback
"The QB MVP went to Derek Roback of Waverly High School in Ohio. Roback, 6-foot-1 1/2 and 194-pounds, was fantastic with his leadership and decision making while leading the ?White Team? to the 7-on-7 championship. He also had a 4.65 40, 29.5-inch vertical, 8?7 1/2? broad, 4.48 shuttle, and 20 reps on 135-pounds." "Roback has excellent size already at 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds. In 2006 he was a national finalist in the Pepsi Punt, Pass and Kick competition and is an outstanding athlete ? he runs better than 4.8 in the 40-yard dash. He was the quarterback MVP at the NationalUnderclassmen.com Ultimate 100 in June."

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