Thursday, February 10, 2011

ND Recruiting: A Ten Year Recap (Part V)

WeNeverGraduate's week long five part series analyzing the last ten years of Notre Dame Recruiting draws to a close today. In the final installment we examine the last two classes inked by Brian Kelly. It's impossible to assign an exit score for these two groups because the Class of 2010 has only had a year to make an impact while the vast majority of 2011 is still sitting in high school history classes jockeying for prom dates.

We'll take a dive in nonetheless, but before that here's a quick ranking of the contribution percentages and exit scores of the previous eight classes per the request of Piper.

Contribution Percentage
1. 2003 (71%)
2. 2007 (66%)
3. 2008 (65%)
4. 2009 (61%)
5. 2005 (53%)
6. 2002 (50%)
7. 2006 (43%)
8. 2004 (25%)

Exit Score
1. 2008 (48)
2. 2003 (45)
3. 2007 (39)
4. 2009 (32)
5. 2005 (25)
6. 2002 (21)
7. 2006 (18)
8. 2004 (5)

What to draw from these stats? There are a few things.

First of all, the Class of 2004 was epically horrendous and is the root cause for the 2007...I just spent three minutes trying to think of a word that's 10x stronger than disaster, catastrophe, and apocalyptic event rolled into one. There's a Lindsay Lohan joke that's just hovering in the meat of the strike zone but we're just going to let it go.

Another key takeaway helps explain why Weis ultimately failed: the Class of 2006 was a colossal, momentum killing bust. I've heard some accounts that Charlie saw what was coming in the '07-'08 seasons due to the recruiting crater left by the '04 and '05 classes. The low numbers (even before transfers) essentially acted as a self-imposed scholarship probation; the lack of talent across the board deepened the hole.

His three year plan to reemerge hinged on laying a strong foundation in his first full recruiting effort. He came out with guns blazing and landed a class huge on numbers (28) and high on hype (first Top 10 class in years). It was pegged to be the foundation of the rebuilding effort. When it crumbled and less than half made any contribution (while not one person emerged as a star...only class in this study where that was the case) it helped drive the nail in Charlie's coffin.

The good news is that the classes that followed that one have made larger impacts and have had far more significant contributions. It appears things are headed in the right direction not only in terms of bringing in highly touted classes but seeing that hype translate into productivity and ultimately wins. The players in the Class of 2008 are only just now rising seniors yet their Exit Score is already higher than the vaunted Class of 2003's. The Class of 2009 already has a 61% contribution score and they're only rising juniors!

All in all things are looking up. Now let's get to the final two classes.

Class of 2010

Rivals Ranking: #14
Number of Recruits: 23
5-Stars: 0
4-Stars: 10
3-Stars: 12
2-Stars: 1
Arrival Score: 55 (#4 since 2002)

Superstars: 0
Major Contributors: 1
Contributors: 4
Non-Descript/Liability: 4
Transfers/Never Played: 18
Contribution Pct.: Too early to fairly assess
Current Score: +15, -2 Transfers, -1 Matt James

Cat 1 – NONE
Cat 2 – Rees
Cat 3 – Schwenke, Jones, Jackson, Shembo
Cat 4 – Spond, Collinsworth, Smith, Wood
Cat 5 – Boyd, Roback, James, Moore, Nichols, Nix, Massa, Lombard, Hendrix, Heggie, Badger, Roberson, Utupo, Welch

Brian Kelly's first recruiting effort was light on superstars and heavy on what he infamously called "RKG's," which is an abbreviation for "Right Kind of Guys." He stocked the class with athletes that fit his system even if they weren't necessarily recognized as the most elite by the recruiting services.

When he'd finished he'd amassed a solid if not spectacular class that infused much needed numbers and depth to the roster. Three quarterbacks enrolled including Tommy Rees who would lead the Irish to four straight victories to end the season when starter Dayne Crist was knocked out. On the defensive side of the ball Prince Shembo and Kona Schwenke both earned playing time as the year wore on, showing that they would be capable of contributing earlier in their careers than many anticipated.

This class has already lost three members and most likely will lose one or two more to transfers, but early reports show that a significant amount fit Kelly's system and are poised to make their mark whether it be next year or when they're upperclassmen.

Here are some quick hit predictions for guys who vault themselves from Category 5 to Category 1 or 2 in the next couple years:

* NT Louis Nix...the immovable object is penciled in as a starter by coaches and as superstar by fans.
* OT Tate of the lowest rated recruits of the class, he's a athletic freak who will find a way into the starting lineup on the O-Line.
* OT Christian Lombard...word is that he's been extremely impressive and like Nichols is poised to make an impact.
* LB Kendall Moore...he was scout team defensive player of the year and is a perfect fit for inside linebacker.
* S Chris Badger...a forgotten man since he's on a Mormon mission, but he's a smart player who will step in and provide immediate (and crucial) quality depth when he returns in 2012.

Class of 2011

Rivals Ranking: #9
Number of Recruits: 23
5-Stars: 2
4-Stars: 8
3-Stars: 12
2-Stars: 1
Arrival Score: 57 (#3 since 2002)

THE REALITY - Impossible to assess.

Brian Kelly has answered a lot of the critics that didn’t believe he could recruit on a national level this off-season by delivering a consensus top ten class. A highly touted group of high schoolers pledging their commitment to ND isn’t something that’s particularly new—Charlie Weis brought in some huge and even higher rated hauls—but what has Irish fans especially excited is the fact that this class is loaded with potential difference makers on the defensive side of the ball.

The three stories that accompany the three commitments of Stephon Tuitt, Aaron Lynch, and Ishaq Williams show exactly why this staff deserves nothing less than an A for this year’s recruiting cycle. All three seemed bound for other schools—in fact, two were well publicized Notre Dame decommitments—but relentless work by Bob Diaco, Chuck Martin, Tony Alford, and the big man BK himself ensured that all three ended up in blue and gold.

With Tuitt, the trio of Diaco, Martin, and Kelly were in his living room within 24 hours of his decommitment from Notre Dame and by the time they left he was back in the fold. Aaron Lynch was ready to enroll in Florida State just days before Tony Alford was able to sway him back to Notre Dame. And perhaps most famously, Bob Diaco paid Ishaq a 4:30am visit the morning he was supposed to visit Penn State and convinced him to head to the Midwest instead of central Pennsylvania.

The class itself is not flawless which is why it’s not an A. There are holes that must be addressed quickly in the next recruiting cycle (CB, RB, NT) and some stinging misses, but this was a serious “mythbusting” class.

The myth that Notre Dame couldn’t recruit top defensive talent was debunked by landing three of the top five defensive ends in the country according to Rivals. The myth that Notre Dame was forever doomed to lose every major defensive line recruit that gave a verbal commitment was busted. And perhaps most importantly (at least in the mind of skeptics among the Irish Faithful), the myth that Brian Kelly was too “small-time” to handle national recruiting was proved completely false thanks to his effort and the staff’s entire body of work.

Things are snowballing in South Bend—and for once the momentum is headed in the right direction.


  1. Fair to list Collinsworth as non-descript/liability? He made some playes on special teams this year.

  2. It's debatable, you could certainly make a case to bump him up. I just didn't think his contribution was enough to warrant it. Just my opinion, no knock on AC.

    Hopefully he's a definite Cat 3 this year with his apparent move to safety.

  3. I'm not going to call for a BCS bowl win, a BCS Nat'l Title or anything. I think predictions are for blowhards.

    But I put together my own excel spreadsheet back a couple of months ago, and there were 2 incontrovertible facts I came up with:

    1) The upcoming 2011 team is the most talented on paper since at least Davie (more likely Holtz) was coach.

    2) This is the most talented team on the defensive side of the field since 1995.

    The most accurate predictor of a college football team's success is the talent/experience of the offensive/defensive lines...not position players. But this is the most experienced and talented DL we've had (I'm including OLBs as DEs) since at least 1998.

    Throw in that we have what I believe are our 3 best OLs returning (Martin, Cave, Robinson).

    Execution here will be huge for our success.

  4. Fantastic series. Please update it every year

  5. Mattare,

    Please tell me you're not penalizing the Class of 2010 one point because their highest-rated member tragically died before he could reach campus.

    Other than that, fantastic series from a fantastic blog. Keep it up!

    Thank you!