2010 has been somewhat of a disappointing campaign thus far for Brian Kelly and his Irish.
But, as they always say, there is no negative without a positive—at least on the recruiting trail.
That positive comes in the form of one of the nation's best recruiting classes—the one that was formed and created by Kelly and his staff while traveling the states in search of John Hancock's from some of the best high school seniors the country has to offer.
There were plenty of doubters out there when the former Cincinnati head coach came to the Bend, knocking his ability to recruit nationwide and among the elite. However, after just his first recruiting class, he is already proving those critics wrong by hauling in some of the biggest names in the country.
Although this class may lack the five-star talent of Texas, it may be the second biggest assembly of talent out there currently. Thanks to recent surprising commitments, the Irish are looking to close out their class with a bang and a Top 5 finish.
Recently known for their offensive hauls, specifically during the Weis-era, the Irish have turned their focus mostly to the defensive side of the ball this go around. In addition to stockpiling an already bare defensive backfield with names like Eilar Hardy, Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown, Kelly has hauled in what may the best defensive-end combination in the country in Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt.
Although defenders have been the main target in this cycle, Kelly has also done a phenomenal job in getting verbals from top playmakers as well. Athlete George Atkinson is one of the most exciting players in the country, receiver Davaris Daniels is one of the best wideouts available and tight end Ben Koyack is getting praise as one of the best at his position.
Kelly putting together such a solid class so early on in the year gives him time not only to be selective with his last few scholarships, but also enables him to put in extra time in re-recruiting those who have already given him their verbal commitment.
As Notre Dame fans know, no recruit is solid until he signs his name on the dotted line and sends his fax to the football offices at the school, as evidenced by the recent decommitment of Jordan Prestwood, a four-star tackle out of Florida.
A solid verbal since April, Prestwood went on to say at his press conference, "The recruiting process is over for me. This is more than a verbal commitment. My decision is final. I will not be recruited anymore."
But after another glance, Prestwood backed out of his verbal and has now opened his recruitment up to not only the Irish, but Florida and Florida State as well.
This scenario shows just how important it is to get your class together early on in the process. With more time to work with, Kelly and his staff will be zoning in not only on Prestwood, but the rest of the verbals they have received.
With a total of eight four-stars on the board for Kelly, Notre Dame fans have plenty of talent to look forward to. Not to mention, last year's recruiting result didn't end half-bad considering the many factors (including a firing, a new coach and a new system) that would lead one to believe a subpar recruiting effort would be the end product.
There is plenty of talent looming in the dark on Notre Dame's roster and coming in thanks to the heroic efforts of Kelly and his staff in year one. That isn't to say that Notre Dame "is back" thanks to its recruiting efforts. Plenty of Irish fans learned that the hard way after Weis continually brought in top talent, only to deflate the hopes of Notre Dame fans when that same top talent failed to conquer much success at all.
The difference between Weis and Kelly is that the latter is an experienced, successful college football coach. On paper, it would be easy to predict Kelly succeeding once he brings players, or his "RKG's" into the program and those who fit his system.
But since this is Notre Dame nation, lessons have been learned. Until the product on the field matches the product in the recruiting rankings, no realistic expectations will be raised.