As the snow was falling and the fireplaces were being awakened last weekend, Brian Kelly was in his new football office, meeting with most of his inherited recruiting class.
After securing the verbals of most of the 2010 class, Kelly spent over seven hours watching and analyzing film of both committed and uncommitted recruits.
Although the dead period has arrived, Kelly has plenty of catching-up to do if he wants to secure yet another top-15 class for the Irish. By doing this, he would already have passed his first test and taken a step on the path of success in South Bend.
A path found only by one man recently—Dr. Lou himself.
Where will Kelly start? Who will he get? Who will he offer?
These are only a few examples of recent questions asked by Irish fans regarding their newest coaches' responsibility.
But for now, as Kelly is sipping on his cup of hot cocoa and putting the final gift wrapping on his 2010 recruiting class, let's take a look at his wish list this holiday season.
The name most frequently read by Santa this year will be Henderson's. His name sits atop almost every program's big board.
A product of Cretin-Derham Hall in Minnesota, the same school as Michael Floyd, Henderson has been Notre Dame's top target since day one. It is the popular belief that Henderson will end up with the Trojans, but the Irish are still a big-player in the sweepstakes.
Henderson said he would prefer to play in a spread offense in college. Check number one for Brian Kelly.
Throw in the fact that Henderson would likely compete for the starting left tackle position next season alongside Matt Romine, and the Irish present a pretty intriguing situation for the mammoth of an 18-year old.
Another player on the top of the Irish big board is a legacy derived from the Brooks family.
Barr, a rare physical specimen, could play running back, defensive end, tight end, linebacker, or even safety at the next level. However, no matter where he plays, he will be special.
Barr is most likely the biggest must-get for this year's class.
With too many Notre Dame connections to count, there is no reason that Barr should wind up at UCLA. Being the son of Tony Brooks and the nephew of Reggie Brooks, losing the five-star athlete would be detrimental to Kelly's early recruiting progress and confidence.
With the commitment of Beau Allen to Wisconsin, Gaston becomes an even bigger must-get for the Irish.
Luckily for the Irish, Gaston is a big, talented boy who ate a few too many candy canes-exactly what they are out to find in this year's class.
Now that J.R Ferguson looks to be a long-shot and only one defensive tackle being hauled in last year, the Irish need a second tackle in this class to go along with impact player Louis Nix.
Adding Gaston's body to the roster would be a huge accomplishment for Kelly, especially since the defensive line recruitment was the most scrutinized during the Weis era.
There always seems to be a repeat request on Christmas list's each and every year.
For most college football programs, offensive tackles are that request.
Matt James, a four-star stud straight out of the backyard of Kelly's former backyard in Cincinnati, had both Notre Dame and Cincy in his top three before the Kelly hiring.
Now with Kelly in South Bend, many believe that James is Notre Dame's to lose. With the thin depth at left and right tackle, Kelly can use the early playing time card once again to get James' important signature in this class.
Along with Barr, James might be the biggest must get left on the board.
Cooper, a Chicago native, is a threat on both sides of the ball and could play either defensive back or receiver at the next level.
With the Irish in need of help in the defensive backfield, there is no reason that Kelly should not be pursuing this athletically-gifted football player. Not only does he have nice speed, but he plays with tons of emotion.
Although a soft verbal to Illinois, Cooper has mentioned Notre Dame quite a bit lately and was rumored to be trying to make it to campus alongside Kyle Prater last weekend before the snow arrived.
Expect Kelly to put in some extra effort with Cooper as he and Prater could arrive in South Bend as a package deal.
Riley is a dynamic defensive back with a special skill set.
He is also a player that the current safety position lacks.
The depth chart at safety may intrigue Riley to come to South Bend, especially after the success of former Domers Tom Zbikowski and David Bruton, both of whom are currently in the NFL.
One of Kelly's first calls was to Riley, and for a good reason. Although left tackle and defensive tackle may be the biggest need, the Irish need to get at least one more verbal from a safety to feel comfortable.
Riley would not only make them feel safe, but would give them an early impact player that would at least make a difference on special teams next fall.
Irish fans would be ecstatic to find themselves with a monstrosity of a box on Christmas morning if it held one of, or multiple five-star prospects in J.R Ferguson, Christian Jones, or even Cooper's best friend, Kyle Prater.
Ferguson is a long-shot with most of the nation offering him a scholarship, but with the name of the University, the recent hiring of Brian Kelly, and the fact that his father has fallen in love with the school, don't count the Irish out just yet.
Jones is one of the best defensive players in this year's class, and thanks to Tony Alford, Notre Dame still has a slim chance at getting an early impact linebacker for the second year in a row. However, Alford will have to go up against the regulars, including USC and Oklahoma, for this Floridian's signature.
Luckily for the Irish, Prater and Cooper may end up being a package deal when all is said and done. The quicker the staff gets assembled, the better chance you will see both of these guys in blue and gold come next fall. If Cooper signs with Notre Dame, Prater will have to think twice about his verbal to Southern Cal, especially after Golden Tate bolted for the draft.