Notre Dame Football: What Strong Recruiting Class Means for Program's Future

Justin OnslowContributor IIJanuary 5, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 24:  Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly looks on during the game against the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 24, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Brian Kelly has done a lot with Notre Dame football, and he’s not done yet.

Win or lose on Jan. 7, Kelly has already made huge strides with a program that experienced some troubled times in recent years. His program is on the rise.

Notre Dame has one of the best defenses in the nation this year, and Kelly’s 2013 recruiting class will only help to strengthen the Fighting Irish defense for years to come.

The Fighting Irish have received commitments from a 5-star recruit and 15 4-star recruits—the top four of which are all defensive players.

Jaylon Smith and Alex Anzalone are both linebackers, and their addition will help ease the sting of Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o’s departure to the NFL. Along with cornerback Cole Luke and safety Max Refield, Notre Dame’s defensive recruiting class is one of the best in the nation.

Kelly also recruited two 4-star running backs and four 4-star offensive linemen that committed to Notre Dame this year, and it’s clear what direction Kelly is taking his team.

Notre Dame’s passing offense was mediocre this season, but the Fighting Irish defense and a sound running attack propelled Notre Dame into the championship game with Alabama. That’s Kelly’s formula, and he recruited the perfect pieces to continue that style of play in the future.

What Kelly’s strong recruiting efforts mean to the future of Notre Dame football is obvious. He’s building the program from the ground up, and its championship run this year may not be Kelly’s last such campaign with this team. The pieces are in place for continuity with his program—something Notre Dame hasn’t had a lot of in recent years.

Kelly needed to push hard for top recruits this year. The 2012-13 Fighting Irish featured a roster with 29 seniors and a lot of room for personnel turnover heading into next season. Adding 23 total recruits makes the loss of some of those seniors easier, though, and gives Kelly another solid base for his team.

Notre Dame’s place in college football is one of high regard, and Kelly is making strides toward returning the program to dominance in the college football landscape.

What a strong recruiting class also means for Kelly is a solid platform for future recruiting, and a reason for top high school talent to consider Notre Dame over other major programs. Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Les Miles continually bring in quality talent year after year, and part of the appeal for those new recruits is the opportunity to play with some of the nation’s top talent.

That’s the strongest—and trickiest—side of the recruiting process, but it’s also the most stable platform on which to build. Kelly has placed his program on solid ground, and with the strides he made this season on the recruiting trail, the future of Notre Dame football is bright once again.