Notre Dame football staff makes most of new recruiting schedule

Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly speaks to the media at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex Wednesday in South Bend. The Fighting Irish coaches were taking part in festivities for National Signing Day. (By Tom Davis of

SOUTH BEND – National Signing Day has morphed into a holiday for college football fans throughout this country with the advent of the internet and social media.

However, the 2018 edition of the first Wednesday in February has lost a touch of its luster with the implementation of the early signing period, which ran for three days in December.

For the Notre Dame football program, that schedule alteration was mostly viewed as a positive, as the Fighting Irish signed a total of 27 prospects, but what was nice, according to veteran Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly, was that 21 of those were already in the fold prior to Wednesday, which allowed him and his staff to narrow their focus over the past six-plus weeks.

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“Having the ability to have the signing day,” Kelly said during the four-hour long festivities at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex Wednesday, “the early signing day, and have the 21, really puts you in a very good position looking at this second signing day in terms of what we were focusing on. That focus was the defensive backfield, offensive line, and then running back. And I think we hit all of those quite well.”

Kelly added commitments Wednesday from a pair of offensive linemen (Jarrett Patterson, Laguna Hills, Calif. and Luke Jones, Little Rock, Arkansas), a wide receiver (Lawrence Keys, New Orleans), a running back (C’Bo Flemister, Williamson, Georgia), and a pair of Washington, D.C.-area defensive backs (DJ Brown and Noah Boykin).

In all, the Irish added four offensive linemen in this class, four wide receivers, a couple of tight ends, a quarterback, two running backs, three defensive linemen, four linebackers, two safeties (though Houston Griffith has the versatility to play either cornerback or safety) and five cornerbacks (though Tariq Bracy has the versatility to potentially move to running back, while Joe Wilkins Jr. could also move to wide receiver).

Those newcomers also will be joined by former Navy safety Alohi Gilman, who will be eligible in the fall.

“We need to get better from 65 to 85 (scholarships),” Kelly said. “That 65th scholarship to the 85th scholarship. This will strengthen our football team at that area, which sometimes goes unnoticed in the length of your season.

“We have to play better football in November, and that’s my job and part of this recruiting class is going to address some of those needs in November. We play very well in September and October. I think we’ve got close to over a 700 percent winning percentage in September and October. I think we’ve 19-13 in November, and that has to be addressed through recruiting. It has to be addressed through training and it has to be addressed in how you work your team. So this will be that first stage of addressing it in terms of 65 to 85.”

In years past, Kelly explained, he and his staff may have had 21 verbal commitments from players in late December, but in today’s world of recruiting teenagers, that really meant very little.

College coaches had to spend an inordinate amount of time leading up to Wednesday continually recruiting players, even verbally committed ones.

In the case of Notre Dame, because of the program’s stature as a national program, that meant having to travel all over the country. The 2018 recruiting class for Notre Dame consists of players from 13 different states.

The new schedule allowed Kelly the luxury of zeroing in on his final list of prospects.

“It allowed us to be a lot more intentional with where we wanted to be in terms of those numbers,” Kelly said. “I’ll give you an example. In our last home visit we had four coaches in there. Sometimes when you’re trying to hold on to the other 21, you’re spread out all over the country.

“So the ability for each one of these recruits to really get to know more of the staff is, I think, a great advantage in this closing that can help that.”

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