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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Kelly, ND Embrace December Signing Day

December 18, 2019

While Notre Dame could selectively add the right player to its football program should the opportunity arise, Brian Kelly made clear on Wednesday that the Fighting Irish have moved forward on the recruiting calendar.

And not to the now-anticlimactic first Wednesday in February.

Rather, with 18 National Letters of Intent inked by noon in Notre Dame’s 2020 class, Kelly pointed to this day as the crescendo of the coaching staff’s recruiting work.

“I think we did a great job in terms of the calendar; this is two years in a row now that this quote-unquote early signing day … This is THE signing day for us, so I don’t know why we continue to call it the early signing day,” Kelly declared inside the Guglielmino Athletics Complex. “It is the signing day, and it will be moving forward. There are some challenges there, but nothing that really has kept us from keeping our staff out of here in July and giving them a great break.

“I think it’s worked out quite well to have these guys all signed here in December.”

Notre Dame’s ability to effectively reel in its entire ’20 class, just 18 days after it wrapped the regular season with a convincing win at Stanford, also positions it for immediate work on the Fighting Irish’s 2021 class.

While other programs are perhaps scrambling to fill their rosters the next seven weeks, with a large chunk of the NCAA-mandated no-contact period during that time, Kelly & Co. are free to focus strictly on bowl prep, roster management and long-term recruiting plans.

For example, Arkansas, which visits Notre Dame Stadium in September, was scrambling to cobble together any semblance of a class after firing coach Chad Morris in mid-November and not tabbing former Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman, a first-time head coach, as its program head just 10 days ago. The Razorbacks had just five official signatures as of noon.

At Southern Cal, where no change was made and the school announced coach Clay Helton had been retained, the Trojans had signed just 11 players.

Stanford had signed a top-25 national class on Wednesday that ranked in the upper third of the Pac-12, but the Cardinal also have dealt with a recent spate of attrition. Stanford has 13 players in the NCAA’s Transfer Portal --- a dozen of whom declared their intentions to explore a transfer since December 3.

“We’re a little bit of an outlier,” said Irish recruiting coordinator and special teams coach Brian Polian. “We don’t have 12 guys in the portal like we have seen in the last month at some other places.

“So trying to judge what will the movement be on our roster and how does that affect our numbers and what we can do.”

The Irish now have signed almost 60 players across the first three December signing periods for football.

“I don’t know that we were ever scrambling, per se, but it’s allowed us to plan further ahead,” Kelly said. “I think everybody was kind of seeing two years ago when we went to the early signing day, how would this play out moving forward, especially in the summer months? In terms of who was going to take visits, things of that nature. So I think we were a bit reactive. But I think now that we’ve established a pretty good calendar, it’s allowed us to plan accordingly a couple years out in terms of what this looks like.

“As I said earlier, I think this is the established signing day for us and we’ll continue to operate accordingly, moving a lot of the things that we do around this signing day.”

Meanwhile, Notre Dame didn’t lose a single pledge in the run-up to this signing day nor in the wake of the dismissal of offensive coordinator Chip Long.

“I think having this process be one where you’re on them earlier and have identified your prospects earlier, it feels like we’ve been recruiting these guys a lot longer for me and having a longer time in a relationship with them,” Kelly said. “That makes a bigger difference to me. I feel that way over my time here; this is one where we’ve established a better calendar and deeper evaluation protocol and a sense that we’re on them sooner and have been able to build that relationship.”

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