Rebuilding Notre Dame: Signing Day, Brian Kelly, and the Hope of 2010

Marc HalstedCorrespondent IFebruary 3, 2010

“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. We can make him better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.” – Introduction to “The Six Million Dollar Man.”

Steve Austin did not commit to Notre Dame during Wednesday's National Signing Day. But Matt James, Tai-ler Jones, and Louis Nix did.  Although none of them are the “Six Million Dollar Man,” they will bring volumes of skill to a South Bend talent pool that has Irish hopes soaring.

Coach Brian Kelly has been handed more talent than any of the three previous coaches received when they first stepped into the boiling cauldron of Notre Dame football. The University has handed him the technology, the facilities, and the all the capacity he needs to develop a national championship contender.

For Coach Kelly, it’s time to build the next great era of Notre Dame football.

Former Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis evolved into one of the best recruiters in the land during his five years in South Bend.

He put together the No. 8, No. 8, No. 2, and No. 21 rated recruiting classes going back to 2006. He brought in five-star talents like Manti Te’o, Dayne Crist, Michael Floyd, and Kyle Rudolph. All four are still on campus and ready to contribute to the pending success of 2010.

In addition, Weis left the Class of 2010 in good condition. Despite the defections of Chris Martin, Blake Lueders, and Gio Bernard, the first Kelly class looks like it will be a top-20 group.

Not bad for a small-time BCS coach in the first two months on the job.

Good recruiting news started to roll in late last weekend with the commitments of Ohio athlete Derek Roback, three-star quarterback Luke Massa, and everybody’s favorite unknown entity, Florida’s Bruce Heggie.

The start of the week brought more good news when uber-athlete Danny Spond from Littleton, Colorado left TCU and his home state school for ND. The four-star beast already possesses an impressive 6’2, 232-pound frame and could end up at linebacker, quarterback, or receiver for the Irish.

The final exclamation points came on National Signing Day with the commitments of five-star Ohio Offensive Lineman Matt James and three-star Hawaii defensive end Kona Schwenke. Both James and Schwenke fill positions of serious need for the Irish and bring big, athletic body types and the “Right Kind of Guy” label to Coach Kelly's charge.

And now, as the Rivals 13th ranked 2010 class of the present meets the great classes of the past, the new-look Irish will have five top-25 classes on campus, ample top-25 talent on the practice field, and serious top-10 expectations for the 2010 season.

Coach Kelly inherits two four-star offensive linemen from the 2006 class in Dan Wenger and Chris Stewart who both have extensive starting experience. Wenger will step into the center role and hold down a line that returns three starters. The smart and nasty Stewart will return at guard and continue his development as one of the most intimidating 340-pound road-graders in the country.

Brian Smith, Armando Allen, and Ian Williams highlight the returning starters from that 8th ranked ’07 class. Smith and Williams beat strong as the heart of the defense while Allen comes back as the teams leading rusher and most dynamically diverse play-maker out of the backfield.

The vaunted, star-laden ’08 class returns the type of offensive fire-starters that have Coach Kelly counting the hours until the first moment spring practice.

Quarterback Crist, receiver Floyd, and tight-end Rudolph will have the undivided attention of the 12 unfortunate opposing defensive coordinators charged with defending the new-look ND attack next fall.

But it’s the development of defensive front-men like Kapron Lewis-Moore and Ethan Johnson that will define the success of the Kelly Era in year one.

The current sophomore class is also full of potential.

Thanks to the epic recruiting talents of Coach Weis, Brian Kelly will have the chance to develop four-star headliners like WR Shaquelle Evans, RB Cierre Wood, and OL Chris Watt. 

And then there’s the Hawaiian Lion, Manti Te’o, who made a dramatic impression on the Irish linebacking corps last fall and finished with 63 tackles, good for fourth on the team.

"The Six Million Dollar Man" may not run through the tunnel in blue and gold next September but Irish Head Coach Brian Kelly has the type of talent that top programs lust for. Notre Dame has the technology, the talent, and the capability to return to prominence.

With National Recruiting day gone, 23 new Irishmen on board, and the Brian Kelly Era underway, it’s time for the reconstruction of the Irish, Kelly style, to officially begin.