Notre Dame Enters Recruiting Dead Period: What Are Brian Kelly's Biggest Needs?

Dan Scofield@BleedingGoldAnalyst IDecember 29, 2009

Brian Kelly accepted the challenge at Cincinnati in order to be a great football coach.

He won with diamonds in the rough, coaching those same players past the expectations set in stone for them when they were being recruited as high school seniors.

As well as that mindset worked in the Big East, many think Kelly will have to take a different approach in order to be successful playing an independent schedule next year.

Charlie Weis, a relentless recruiter, was not able to get it done, even though he had a depth chart filled with four and five-star athletes.

Tyrone Willingham, a poor, lackadasical recruiter, focused more on the coaching aspect of the game, while he was more likely to be found on the 18th green in Florida than in a recruit's living room.

Both of Kelly's predecessors at Notre Dame failed to combine the aspects of coaching and recruiting, leading to both of their demises.

Kelly has proven that he can get it done on the field while coaching. The Home Depot Coach of the Year doesn't win the award if he isn't proven in that aspect.

Now, Kelly's real test begins as he embarks on the home stretch of the recruiting year.

Saving his inherited class was step one. With only two decommitments, Kelly has moved on to step two: closing out the class strong.

Here's a look at what Kelly needs to do in order to get a passing grade on his first National Recruiting 101 exam:


Defensive Back

The Irish did not sign a single cornerback last year.

Taking into consideration that many teams that Notre Dame plays uses the spread offense as their base formation, the depth chart has a major glaring weakness.

Kelly has his sights set on Dionte Ponder (FL) who looks like he will receive a offer in the near future. With the lack of depth, Ponder should be easily lured to South Bend.

Another versatile defensive back that Kelly has his eyes on is Dietrich Riley, who already holds an offer and has a strong relationship with the school already.

If Kelly can pull in Riley, he will have already hit his first home run and could give him some much needed momentum and confidence to kick-start his national recruiting premiere.

If he strikes out with Riley, expect Kelly to look elsewhere to find another body for the defensive backfield.

Other possibilities : Sean Parker, Toney Hurd Jr. (still considering Notre Dame after decommitting from the Irish), David Amerson, Corey Cooper (Illinois verbal), and Gerrell Robinson (Arizona State transfer).

Defensive Tackle

The commitment of Louis Nix was a pleasant surprise for Kelly's first day on the job.

Although losing Chris Martin was a big blow, one could argue that the Irish needed an impact defensive tackle rather than a rush end. In that case, a big thank you to Tony Alford.

Now with one big boy on board, the Irish have put a full press on Bruce Gaston, who has been rumored to be ready to pull the trigger anyday now.

Gaston, another promising tackle, would be a perfect compliment in this class to Nix. Due to the fact that the hardest position to recruit for Weis during his five years in South Bend was defensive tackle, Kelly would definitely be opening some eyes with these two signatures.

If true, Kelly will be able to focus his attention elsewhere (Anthony Barr, Corey Cooper,  Christian Jones to name a few).

Other possibilities : J.R. Ferguson

Offensive Tackle

Everyone knows who the nation's No. 1 recruit is. However, many don't know that the Irish still remain in the running for his signature.

Seantrel Henderson, a former teammate of Michael Floyd, has always spoken highly of Notre Dame. Even through the coaching change, he has kept them in his top schools.

Two things that the Irish have going for them in this contest is that Henderson's father has fallen in love with the school and its academics, and Henderson himself has said that he would prefer to play tackle in a spread offense.

Kelly would be raising many eyebrows if he pulled this upset off, including Pete Carroll's.

Matt James, a four-star tackle from Cincinnati, has the Bearcats and the Irish in his top two schools. Thanks to the hiring of Kelly, there is no reason that James should end up anywhere but South Bend. This would be a fantastic addition to go alongside current verbal Christian Lombard.

Other possibilities : Arie Kouandjio, Tate Nichols (current Stanford verbal), James Hurst (current North Carolina verbal).


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