Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD

The Back Corner Fade

January 31, 2017

Twas the night before Signing Day……always a fun time for college football fans no matter what school you root for. Since the last game, Irish fans have been apprehensive for a multitude of reasons and one of the chief concerns has been: what is this class going to look like coming off a 4-8 record? More than a fair question even after the SC game, and one that got even more complicated with the musical chairs that went on in the coaching department. We’ll get to ND’s recruiting efforts in a bit, but let’s take a quick peak at some of the other schools, primarily on the Irish schedule and how their recruiting efforts have paid off.

For starters, how about the Georgia Bulldogs? Mediocre season? No problem. They just went out and bagged 20, yes 20 four-star recruits and according to have the number one class in the country heading in to Wednesday. Georgia has a beautiful campus, a proud football tradition, a track record of putting guys in The League, and a propensity for choking all that talent away and losing 3 games every year. I realize it’s probably not fair to put a stamp on Kirby Smart just yet, but until this trend ends, Georgia is what it is: a program with exceptional potential.

The rest of the Rivals Top 10 has the usual suspects in it and then you get to the No. 10 ranking. Can anyone guess who that is? I’ll save you the trouble, you’ll never get it. Folks, the Maryland Terrapins are number 10. Since when did UMD become a place that young ballers actually want to attend? If you’ve ever been to Byrd Stadium, it’s about as breathtaking as your local Wal-Mart. The campus is average at best, but I guess the allure of all the 70’s pimp suits that Under Armor slaps on their backs is a heck of recruiting tool. 
Rick Kimball/ISD

Oddly enough, the defending national champion Clemson Tigers only have 14 commits so far this winter. I’m sure that Jamie and Matt have a good reason why so few verbals, but it one would think that kids would be beating down the door to play there. I know it’s been discussed on the boards, but if you haven’t had a chance to look at the “dorm rooms” that the Tiger football players live in, give it a look. These kids aren’t wanting for anything.

Looking at ND’s opponents for next season, I’ve already mentioned Georgia and then the next closest to the Dawgs is USC at 12 (1 5-star player) and then Miami at 17, MSU at 19, and Stanford rounding out the Top 25 at just that, No. 25. The two glaring “rankings” that I noticed were our friends in Chestnut Hill doing what they normally do, which is to say not being very good at recruiting at No. 67 and ND’s first opponent next season, Temple, checking in at No. 114. Really. According to this, the Charlotte 49’s have a better recruiting class then the Owls. Wow.

So what does this all mean at the end of the day? Not much. Yes, it’s obviously very important to the health and development of your program, but does anybody really believe Wisconsin (currently at No. 51 on Rivals) is going to be behind Maryland in the Big 10 standings four years or five years from now when these classes flush out? Navy is always ranked in the bottom half of the recruiting service rankings yet every year they find a way to win 9-10 games. It’s not the ingredients so much but the chef that’s cooking up the dish and the other cooks in the kitchen helping him prepare the meal.

This being said, I’m impressed with what Kelly has done since that last kick in the junk in L.A. He’s done what so many of us (everyday armchair QB’s) have been calling for some time: better assistant coaches and an overhaul of the strength and conditioning program. Reading the articles that the staff has written over the last few weeks about the strength program is encouraging. Very encouraging. Stories about how engaged the players are and how nasty it’s been is not only good for the overall conditioning of the athletes, obviously, but it serves as a bonding period for the players. They’re all going through hell together and getting better at the same time. This goes a long way. Having kids going to local gyms on their own isn’t going to help that process. It’s both pathetic and appalling at the same time that some of the players actually had to do this because they didn’t feel they were strong enough within the framework of the last strength program.

I’m also really interested to see what Kelly does with Chip Long. He’s been brought in to add his version of the spread offense and (allegedly) will be calling the plays. I wonder if this really is going to be the case when they trot out there for the first game against Temple? I really hope this is the case. Not to say that Kelly’s offense has ever been bad as a whole, because they haven’t been. Of all of Kelly’s faults, and there may be a few here and there, putting points on the board has never been an issue. It would be nice, however, to see FG’s turn in TD’s in the red zone which has been an Achilles Heel from Day 1, and more consistency, especially in the run game. My hope is that Long can bring this to the offense. The elephant in the room is Kelly actually letting him do it. We shall see.

As we get ready to close up this chapter of recruiting, I think the Irish coaching staff did a decent job considering the circumstances. Name a year that the list of commitments remained the same from October 1st to signing day…….and this goes for any program, not just ND. When dealing with 17-18 year old kids, these things are simply going to happen and no program is bullet proof from kids flipping. We may just end up with 18 players or we may get some last minute surprises. Either way, it seems that the staff now in place is hungry to get the best student-athletes they can. That’s refreshing to read. I’m interested to see what they can do with a full recruiting cycle, not just burning up jet fuel in January.
Discussion from...

The Back Corner Fade

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Good read. I think the recruiting rankings of our best opponents are off though, especially for Stanford and USC. 247's composite ranking for SC was #8 last night and Stanford with 13 commits was #13. Both teams are going to end up with several true difference makers even if their total no. of commits, like ND, isn't that high.
Sgt Hulka
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Good point, Irv.
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