Is Notre Dame's 2013 Attrition Rate a Red Flag for Brian Kelly?

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Is Notre Dame's 2013 Attrition Rate a Red Flag for Brian Kelly?
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Coming out of the 2012 college football regular season, it appeared that Notre Dame's biggest problem was solving Alabama's defense.

Since then, larger issues have arisen that need some attention.

The Irish were pummeled by Alabama 42-14 in the BCS Championship Game, effectively crushing their bid for a title with a panache only a Nick Saban-coached team could muster.

But it's not the embarrassing loss to Alabama that is creating a buzz around the Irish right now; it is the startling attrition rate that Brian Kelly and his staff are currently trying to remedy.

Yes, it's a problem, and Brian Kelly and his staff need to address it immediately, if not sooner.

Let's review some of the attrition that has taken place since Kelly arrived at Notre Dame. Following the 2011 season, stud defensive end Aaron Lynch departed South bend for USF and is currently primed for a monster season...as a member of the Bulls. Offensive lineman Jordan Prestwood, part of the 2011 recruiting class, left for UCF after transferring to the Irish from Florida State.

But the exodus of top recruits did not end there for the Irish.

Gunner Kiel, the top recruit in the nation when he initially committed to Indiana, switched to LSU and then transferred to Notre Dame. After last season, he departed for Cincinnati.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Gunner Kiel

The departures of Tee Shepard, Justin Ferguson and Davonte' Neal left the Irish without three of their four star 2012 recruits, and the teams' top three recruits from that class in Neal, Shepard and Kiel.

And these key losses are not the only ones suffered by the Irish. We're just warming up.

Recruit Alex Anzalone, who seemed to be about as firm as a wet noodle on his commitments during recruiting, decided to commit to Florida. In March, defensive end Chase Hounshell was injured and is likely to miss the season.

In May, the flood of bad news continued, as 5-star recruit Eddie Vanderdoes asked to be released from his letter of intent and wound up out west in sunny California at UCLA.  Kelly has refused to release him from his letter of intent, so Vanderdoes will sit out a season before playing at UCLA.

The same month, things got really ugly. News broke that quarterback Everett Golson is no longer with the program due to some type of academic issue. Golson was the man who helped the Irish to their perfect record last season, the only bright spot in a desolate BCS title game performance, and one of the most talented players on the team.

Notre Dame fans across the country are still wrestling with the realization that they are back to the Tommy Rees era. The screams are echoing across South Bend.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Tommy Rees will start for the Irish this fall

This is a huge problem.

While each of these recruits and departures seems to have some type of legitimate reason for leaving, it appears as if the attrition in South Bend is worse than it has been at other programs. No other supposedly elite program has lost so many top-flight recruits over the past two seasons while keeping the same head coach.

And Notre Dame is football royalty, seemingly on the way back to the top, fresh off an undefeated regular season with plenty of potential.

The loss of so many star recruits and players for so many different reasons has got to be a point of emphasis for Brian Kelly and his staff.

What good is all the recruiting and effort spent to get a kid to South Bend if he's going to turn around and star somewhere else after a season?

Kelly has got to make this a priority, and quickly. He must find a way to stop the flow of attrition, whether it be recruits flipping or players transferring, or the next few seasons of the Kelly regime at Notre Dame will be ugly, very much like the forgettable 2011 season.

With all the tradition, success and power Notre Dame is supposed to be able to bring to bear in recruiting, Kelly needs to be able to bring in these elite recruits and keep them on the field.

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