Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2018

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

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28 FEBRUARY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY LOU SOMOGYI T he first-ever early signing pe- riod (Dec. 20-22) in college football was a resounding suc- cess at Notre Dame, both in quantity/quality and academically/ athletically. On Dec. 20, all 20 of the Fighting Irish prospects who had given a ver- bal commitment to the school inked their names to make it official. Two days later in the closing hours of the early period, the Fighting Irish "of- ficially" added game-breaking speed to the receiving corps by signing Ti- gard, Ore., wideout Braden Lenzy. Among the three most recognized recruiting outlets, Notre Dame's early returns saw it ranked No. 6 by Rivals, No. 7 by 247Sports and No. 10 by ESPN. Five Notre Dame players are among Rivals' top 100 prospects: cor- nerback Houston Griffith (No. 35), quarterback Phil Jurkovec (No. 55), safety Derrik Allen (No. 66), line- backer Jack Lamb (No. 77) and wide receiver Kevin Austin (No. 81). Four others were among the top 250: linebackers Matthew "Bo" Bauer (No. 142) and Shayne Simon (No. 159), wide receiver Micah Jones (No. 179) and defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola (No. 219). The 21 new Notre Dame players — a school-record seven of whom will enroll at Notre Dame for the spring semester that begins Jan. 15 — are from 13 different states, with nine slated on offense and 12 on defense. (On Dec. 27, Notre Dame received a verbal commitment from a 22nd prospect, offensive lineman Luke Jones from Little Rock, Ark., who originally committed to the home- state Razorbacks.) The more traditional signing date will be the first Wednesday of Febru- ary (Feb. 7 this year), so to have at least 85 percent of the class already locked in was a huge relief for head coach Brian Kelly and his staff. What especially was gratifying to Kelly was to get all 21 academically cleared by December so that there would be no delays or drama down the road. Once upon a time at Notre Dame, many a prospect would not be approved by the school to enroll unless their first semester academic work was cleared in December. "You also have to do the work aca- demically and be given the thumbs up that you're coming to Notre Dame," Kelly said. "This is a remark- able class not only on the playing field, but in the classroom as well. "To be committed and signed to Notre Dame [by December] means that you have to do both on and off the field." ELIMINATING 'SOFT COMMITS' During the month of December, balancing bowl preparation, weight room training and the practice sched- ule with coaches traveling exten- sively across the country to secure signing the recruits is a difficult bal- ancing act, but one worth it to Kelly. "It's going to leave us with the op- portunity to start looking toward just a few players that need to be signed in February and moving ahead on the calendar to '19 and '20," Kelly said. "It's a short window of about three weeks. It's taxing but doable — and the net benefit of getting them locked down on Dec. 20." Above all, Kelly believes the early signing period plays to Notre Dame's strengths and takes the guesswork out in January. "It's put the 'commitment' back into commitment and really what that means," Kelly said of what he liked the most about the inaugural early signing period. "No more 'soft commitments.' The charge that I gave to our assistant coaches is that if a player has given us his commit- ment — we've been committed to them — that they're going to sign with us. "If not, that's fine, but we're go- ing to keep recruiting that position. … There are no 'Hey I'm committed BRIGHT & EARLY Notre Dame signs 21 players in December Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter four-star safety Derrik Allen was one of 21 Fighting Irish recruits to ink their let- ters of intent during the early signing period Dec. 20-22. PHOTO BY ED TURLINGTON

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