National Signing Day 2010: How Did Notre Dame Fare?
For Brian Kelly, today in many ways is Chapter One of his Notre Dame story.
National Signing Day has turned into a miniature holiday for football crazies and, like baseball's Opening Day, teams across the land are filled with renewed hope and zest for a football season still six months away.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish class of 2010 won't go down in Irish lore as its most impressive class, but considering the near-complete overhaul of an entire coaching staff, this class will do just fine.
As with most schools and recruits, there were some players that got away from the Fighting Irish, but that is to be expected when one man, Charlie Weis, recruits you for 18 months, and another man, Brian Kelly recruits you for one month.
Here is how the Notre Dame class breaks down. There are certainly a handful of players to keep your eye on, as Brian Kelly and his staff will be in charge of developing many players and tailoring them for the next level.
Both literally and figuratively, the top two recruits for Notre Dame are offensive tackle Matt James (6-8/290) and defensive tackle Louis Nix (6-2/320).
James, out of Cincinnati, seems like a natural signing for Kelly, who has roots in Cincinnati from his days as Bearcats head coach.
James also seems like a natural tackle for the Fighting Irish offense. Rivals.com has James ranked No. 86 overall in the nation, 14th at his position.
He will have a chance to compete for a starting tackle job as soon as he steps on campus as Sam Young and Paul Duncan, last year's starters, have moved on.
In Nix, a Jacksonville native, the Irish get a major boost at a position in need.
The past several seasons, it is no secret that the weakness of the Notre Dame team has been their front-seven. All you have to do is watch the tape of the Navy game last year to see just how bad their rush defense was.
Nix, No. 85 nationally (7th in his position) will play a big role in improving that porous Irish defensive line.
Tai-ler Jones adds another impressive body to the wide receiver group; he is the 19th-best wide receiver in the nation.
After Dayne Crist, Who's Under Center?
Assuming Dayne Crist will be ready to take snaps when the year begins, he'll be Notre Dame's starting quarterback.
But his No. 2 man will most likely be a true freshman.
The class of 2010 at Notre Dame could be referred to as the Quarterback Class, because Brian Kelly will bring in as many as five new signal-callers (some could move to the defensive side of the ball).
The headliner figures to be Andrew Hendrix.
Brian Kelly used his Cincinnati connection once again to reel in the No. 13 Pro-Style quarterback in the nation.
Hendrix could be thrust into action if Crist is banged up, a drastic change for a team that once had a Junior Heisman Trophy candidate (Jimmy Clausen), a High School All-American (Crist) as No. 2, and a fifth-year senior (Evan Sharpley).
Speaking of Cincinnati connections, Kelly also reels in Luke Massa. Massa was the No. 28 Pro-Style quarterback in Rivals.com rankings.
Tommy Rees, from Lake Forest, IL, makes it a terrific trio of quarterbacks to enter South Bend.
Rees, No. 31 in the Pro-Style group, is already on campus at Notre Dame, an early enrollee who could be the No. 2 behind Crist when it's all said and done.
Danny Spond and Derek Roback are two more impressive recruits who could eventually play quarterback for the Irish; both are listed as athletes.
No offense, but Defense Needs Work
There was nothing wrong with the Irish offense under Charlie Weis, and there will likely be nothing wrong with it under Brian Kelly.
But, oh, that defense.
Consistently ranked in the bottom half of the nation in yards allowed and points per game, the Irish defensive unit gets a face-lift with a new defensive coordinator and a new batch of recruits.
Three four-star recruits will join the fold, and, luckily for Notre Dame, they happen to play positions of need.
Louis Nix is the best of the three, but linebackers Prince Shembo (can you get a better name than that?) and Kendall Moore will certainly help the Irish front-seven get a little more size and speed.
Shembo holds a No. 7 ranking for his position according to Rivals, while Moore stands at No. 22.
A problem could be the lack of depth for this unit.
Unless the "athletes" become defenders, this class will only add nine total defensive players out of 23 total recruits.
When you're as bad at defense as Notre Dame has been, you want to add as many bodies as you can to try and find a diamond in the rough.
Of course, Notre Dame will return nine defensive starters from last year, so the lack of depth won't be seen for a few years.
Unfortunately, Notre Dame missed out on several recruits that would have bumped them up in the rankings.
The biggest miss was Seantrel Henderson. Ranked No. 2 overall by Rivals.com, Henderson would have been the next left tackle for Notre Dame.
Henderson's miss hurts for two reasons.
He attended the same high school as star wideout Michael Floyd, so one would think that could have played a factor in his recruitment.
But nothing hurts worse than seeing where Henderson (after much delay) actually signed with: USC.
Not only will Henderson's absence in South Bend sting, but seeing him every year for the Trojans will leave a little more salt in the wounds.
Blake Lueders and Chris Martin were committed to the Irish at one point and both played a position of need, defensive end.
But both will be playing elsewhere next season.
Lueders, ranked No. 12 for his position, will play for Stanford, as Jim Harbaugh did some last-minute wooing of the Indiana prospect.
Chris Martin signed with Cal; he was No. 2 for strong-side defensive ends.
Both would have been great additions for the Irish defensive line, but now Brian Kelly is wondering "What if?"
Notre Dame was also believed to be in the mix for Christian Jones (linebacker, No. 20 overall) and J.R. Ferguson (defensive end, No. 31 overall), but neither will play for the Irish.
On the offensive side of the ball, running back Giovanni Bernard decommitted from Notre Dame after the coaching change. His loss will certainly be felt, but the Irish sit comfortably at running back with Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, Cierre Wood, Jonas Gray, and Theo Riddick all still on the roster.
Sadly, the "Biggest Misses" section runs a little too long, but that should be expected when a university makes a major coaching change so late in the recruiting season.
Overall, Notre Dame's class is ranked No. 14 according to Rivals.com, and No. 21 according to ESPN.com.
While it's not a top-ten class according to the experts, it's a far-cry from the last recruiting class Notre Dame signed during their last coaching change.
After Tyrone Willingham was fired, Charlie Weis inherited a class that didn't crack the top-25 in any major publication, and that class was part of the reason Notre Dame suffered through its embarrassing 3-9 season.
That year, it was mainly freshmen and sophomores on the field for the Irish.
Brian Kelly had his work cut out for him and should be commended for landing the class he did.
Some will say he didn't land "the big one" like a Clausen, Floyd, or Golden Tate, but in his month and a half on the job, he more than held his own.
As with all classes, only time will tell the true impact of the Class of 2010.
Fighting Irish fans are hoping that Chapter One of the Brian Kelly story is the beginning of a best-seller.
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