You heard the hype and know how big this past weekend's USC matchup was in terms of recruiting. Virtually almost every big name left on Notre Dame's board was in attendance, in addition to a large portion of the current verbals that make up the current recruiting class.
The buzz was set, the atmosphere was pumping and the spotlight was shining brightly on what was called "the most talented recruiting weekend" in the history of Irish football.
And then Brian Kelly and his team delivered a disappointing thud in their biggest game in the spotlight thus far into 2011.
As any recruiting follower understands, official visits are key to gaining a signature from top recruits. These are the rare moments the different coaching staffs and programs have alone with individual prospects, allowing for relationships to be built and pitches to be made. Usually, these visits are topped off with an all-access ticket to that week's game.
Understandably so, recruits must have been let down after Notre Dame's performance Saturday night. There were plenty of raves about the atmosphere of the game and the tradition of the campus, but how many of these top guys shared their thoughts about how well the Irish played? Or to be more specific, was there any word of positive comments coming from the mouths of top running back prospects (Keith and Byron Marshall) regarding the nine carries taken by Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood?
Despite the loss, there is reason to keep some hope for last weekend's visitors. Remember this—Michael Floyd and Manti Te'o, two of the highest-profile recruits to ever sign with the Irish, visited during games in which the Irish were dismantled.
Almost immediately following the game, rumors began to swirl about a possible decommitment from one of the top verbals on board. Tee Shepard was rumored to be interested in taking visits and seemed to be backing off his once strong pledge to Notre Dame. Luckily for Kelly and the rest of his staff, this rumor was put to rest after a reassuring tweet by Shepard, in which he compared his verbal to the Irish as a "marriage."
Where will this class finish?
This scenario is just one of many that will surface between now and National Signing Day. It's only October folks—just think of how much drama is to come.
Currently sitting at the 15th spot in Rivals' team rankings, you can expect that number to fluctuate plenty over the next few months. Whether that number goes up or down is something that will be determined by keeping this class glued while adding other big names (Shaq Thompson, Arik Armstead, anyone?) at the same time.
The key for Notre Dame is to keep this class together, no matter how many wins (or losses) the Irish end with. It is essential for this year's class to be an elite one. Last year's haul was a perfect example of what Kelly is capable of once settled into South Bend. However, if he cannot build on one good class by continuing the high-level recruiting, this team will need to reach national championship-caliber football.
So far, so good—it seems as if this group is closely-knit and firm in their commitments.The only thing that will change this is more losing.
Kelly will need to reassure his verbals that Notre Dame is in fact on the way back to the top. After all, Irish coaches have been preaching this concept ever since Charlie Weis stepped foot on campus. The results haven't shown, leading to doubt and questions that shouldn't be associated with this program considering its past.