Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2018

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

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30 FEBRUARY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING 30 FEBRUARY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI O ver the past 20 years, the col- lege football-recruiting calen- dar has been accelerated, but National Signing Day the first Wednesday of February remained a constant. This year with the first-ever early signing period (Dec. 20-22), college football coaching staffs had to recali- brate and embrace it on the fly rather than bemoan a break from a tradi- tional routine. "We looked at this date [Dec. 20] as 'The Date,'" Polian said of signing 21 Fighting Irish verbal commits to letters of intent in December rather than having to wait until this year's National Signing Day Feb. 7. Chances are the once celebrated Na- tional Signing Day in February will become passé, just like the April sign- ing period for seniors in college bas- ketball. That is because the vast major- ity of college basketball players sign during the early period in Novem- ber. Polian and others already have quizzed college basketball coaches on their modus operandi in recruiting. "The information we got back was ultimately the early signing date be- comes the signing date, and there are going to be outliers out there for specific reasons," Polian said. The outliers often fall into several categories. • One is the five-star prospect who schools are willing to wait on. An example is California five-star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who will announce at the Army All-American Bowl Jan. 6. If he still wants to sign with the Irish, Notre Dame is not going to say no. "The elite of the elite … that are good enough to say, 'Hey I'm going to decide in February and if you have a scholarship for me, great' — and that group is very small," Polian said. • The second group includes pros- pects who are borderline scholasti- cally, which basically is inconsequen- tial to Notre Dame. "There are going to be guys out there that have academic question marks that people are not going to want to sign until transcripts come in," Polian said. "That doesn't affect us because we don't swim in that pool." • Group three centers on various circumstances, from family issues to a time factor. "California just finished their state championship games," Polian said on Dec. 20. "How many official visits could those kids make if they were on a championship run?" Plus, this is relatively new ground for a student-athlete, too. "There were times when guys were like, 'Hey I'm just not ready yet,'" Polian said. "It's all new for us, and we're doing the best we can and try- ing to make educated decisions. A year from now we are going to have to step back and see if we need to retool our thinking a little bit." A point of emphasis from head coach Brian Kelly regarding the new early signing period was the "bird in the hand" theory and not becoming overly selective. "You can't be waiting on five of those guys at one position because what if you go 0 for 5?" Polian said. "It used to be, here is our A list, here is our B list. "A lot of people's B lists have signed letters today. That B list shrunk a lot [in December]." Had there been an early signing pe- riod last year, many a Notre Dame 2017 freshman who had committed elsewhere might have signed up at other schools in December rather than opt for the 4-8 Irish with a drastically revamped coaching staff in January. Among them were defensive end Kofi Wardlow and kicker Jonathan Doerer (both originally committed to Maryland), wide receiver Jafar Arm- strong (Missouri), safety Jordan Gen- mark Heath (California) and line- backer Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Virginia). "You've got to be careful about how many people are you willing to wait out at a given position because, if you don't strike gold, you could end up with a hole in a recruiting class because you held off guys that were signing," Polian said. "There had to be some strategic planning in terms of that." Especially vital to Polian is with the December early signing period, the NCAA now will also allow of- ficial spring and summer visits to campuses this year. Schools did not have that luxury in 2017. "This [2017] was a condensed calendar without the ability to get people on your campus officially sooner," Polian said. "That's impor- tant to a school like ours. There are [14] states represented in this signing class thus far. "… We're not a school that 80 per- cent of our class can drive here for an unofficial visit. The timing of the early signing day combined with not being able to bring young men here offi- cially in the spring and summer made it a little bit difficult and unique." ✦ Planning The FuTure Recruiting coordinator Brian Polian and the Irish adjust to the new early signing period Polian, who is in his first season as the recruit- ing coordinator on head coach Brian Kelly's staff, said Notre Dame treated the early signing period as "the signing date" rather then waiting until National Signing Day on Feb. 7. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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