Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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56 MARCH 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING 2021 FOOTBALL RECRUITING ISSUE BY LOU SOMOGYI I n recent years, anecdotes have been highlighted about how Brian Kelly's efforts on the recruiting trail are lack- ing when compared to head coaches such as Alabama's indefatigable Nick Saban, or many others. Last year, the South Bend Tribune highlighted that a couple of top-100 prospects in wide receiver Jalen Mc- Millen and safety Lathan Ransom chose Washington and Ohio State, re- spectively, over Notre Dame because they never heard from Kelly, compared to other head coaches. Recently in The Athletic, 2022 four- star defensive end prospect Tyson Ford from St. Louis revealed he chose Notre Dame even though he had spoken with Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley at least a half-dozen times as op- posed to none with Kelly — although new Irish defensive coordinator Mar- cus Freeman did leave a powerful im- pression on him. "Some of the anecdotal stuff I truly believe is not fair," Notre Dame re- cruiting coordinator/special teams coordinator Brian Polian said of the perception that Kelly gets outworked on the recruiting trail. Polian pointed out that as a national school that had 31 different states rep- resented on the previous year's roster, there is a chain of command and ex- tensive vetting process that first in- volves geographical assignments for assistants and support staff, then get- ting the position coach involved, then the coordinators (including Polian and defensive line coach/associate head coach Mike Elston) — and finally Kelly. "I'm not saying it's better or worse, but it has to be different simply be- cause of the geography that we have to cover here," Polian said. "Because of that, Coach Kelly's pro- cess and the way it's set up is a little unique. We are decentralized. … "If we waited too long to get Coach Kelly involved strategically, then that's back on us. Every time I've gone to Coach Kelly and said, 'This is where we are in the process, and here's what we're asking from you in order to get this thing over the top or keep us mov- ing forward, he's always been there. And he's always been energetic and enthusiastic about it. "It's unfair to think that as we begin to vet our board that Coach Kelly is go- ing to text every recruit on our board six times. It's just not reasonable — not with the amount of ground we have to cover. When you compare other places where you're going to build a roster out of two states and they're not vet- ting the way we are, I just think it's a little bit different." During the 2021 recruiting cycle that was virtually (literally and figu- ratively) digital, Polian said Kelly was at his finest. "The amount of work that Coach Kelly did with this group via Zoom, phone calls and text messages was un- believable," Polian said. "There was a daily 'hit' list: 'Coach, we'd like you to do X, Y, Z,' and he was phenomenal." "In the end, the anecdotal stuff will be out there. … I think sometimes it's a little sensationalized, but it's the world that we live in. I thought he killed it in this class." FITTING IN Envision a one- or two-star football prospect going to a camp laden with Recruiting coordinator Brian Polian praised the work Kelly (above) did with Notre Dame's 2021 class via Zoom, phone calls and text messages. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER Brian Kelly As A Recruiter Is An Ongoing Debate Brian Kelly Era Recruiting Here are all of Notre Dame's classes under Brian Kelly, listing the number of recruits signed, Rivals' national ranking, the star ranking per recruit average, and the amount of five- and four-star prospects. 2021: 27 recruits No. 10 (3.44 average, one five-star, 11 four-stars) 2020: 17 recruits No. 22 (3.59 average, one five-star, nine four-stars) 2019: 22 recruits No. 14 (3.55 average, 0 five-stars, 12 four-stars) 2018: 27 recruits No. 11 (3.44 average, 0 five-stars, 12 four-stars) 2017: 21 recruits No. 13 (3.33 average, 0 five-stars, 12 four-stars) 2016: 23 recruits No. 13 (3.57 average, one five-star, 12 four-stars) 2015: 24 recruits No. 11 (3.54 average, 0 five-stars, 13 four-stars) 2014: 23 recruits No. 11 (3.52 average, one five-star, 10 four-stars) 2013: 24 recruits No. 3 (3.92, four five-stars, 14 four-stars) 2012: 17 recruits No. 20 (3.53 average, one five-star, eight four-stars) 2011: 23 recruits No. 10 (3.48 average, two five-stars, eight four-stars) 2010: 23 recruits No. 14 (3.39 average, 0 five-stars, 10 four-stars) — Mike Singer

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