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Football: Staff focuses on recruiting

Matt Gamber | Thursday, January 14, 2010

With his staff completed and National Signing Day less than three weeks away, Irish coach Brian Kelly and his assistants will focus the majority of their attention on completing the recruiting class Charlie Weis’ regime began.

Notre Dame currently holds 18 verbal commitments, according to recruiting analyst Mike Frank’s irishsportsdaily.com. That number includes five early enrollees who were set to begin class this week — cornerbacks Lo Wood and Spencer Boyd, safety Chris Badger, wide receiver Tai-ler Jones and quarterback Tommy Rees. Only defensive end Chris Martin and defensive back Toney Hurd have withdrawn their verbal commitments to Notre Dame since Weis’ firing.

“So far I think [Kelly] has done a really good job keeping those players committed,” Frank said. “That’s not always an easy task with a whole bunch of new coaches coming in that these kids don’t have a relationship with. It’s a leap of faith that a lot of these kids that are committed are going to make.”

Though recruiting is always near the top of a coach’s to-do list, Frank said it has been Kelly’s top priority since his hiring Dec. 10.

“The big focus was to get a great staff and make sure he’s got in place the right types of coaches,” Frank said. “I know a lot of people wanted big-name coaches, but I think what he did was smart in that he got a bunch of people he knows and has worked with at various stages of his career.

“I used to be one of those guys who thought, get as many big-name recruiting guys as you can, but the more you follow it, the more you realize how important chemistry is on a coaching staff. I think that was priority number one.”

With the Feb. 3 National Signing Day looming, Kelly and his staff will continue to reach out to both committed and uncommitted players in the coming weeks, with the hopes of landing a few more players to fill out the Class of 2010.

“Right now, this is a solid class but there’s not a whole lot of star power in there,” Frank said. “You don’t need a ton of stars, what you need is some good football players. It’s important for him to land some guys, especially on the offensive line. Another defensive lineman, pass-rusher type. A safety would be ideal, although that might be tough, and a linebacker would be good but tough as well.”

“I think they’ll have a shot to land some of these guys, and they have been doing a good job getting in with these guys.”

Notre Dame remains in contention for several of the nation’s top uncommitted recruits, including Seantrel Henderson, the five-star offensive tackle from St. Paul, Minn. Other top targets include offensive tackle Matt James (Cincinnati, Ohio), athlete Anthony Barr (Los Angeles, Calif.), defensive lineman Ego Ferguson (Frederick, Md.) and linebacker Christian Jones (Oviedo, Fla.).

Frank said landing one or more of those prospects would be impressive considering the short timetable with which Kelly and his staff have to work, and that would likely be a good sign for the future of Notre Dame’s recruiting.

“But if they don’t [sign any], I don’t think it says anything about the future in recruiting,” Frank said. “It’s a difficult situation for anybody to come into. Look at Urban Meyer’s first class at Florida, Pete Carroll’s first at USC — they weren’t impressive.

“If they are able to land a couple guys it says quite a bit, but recruiting is a marathon and it’s about building relationships and trust. You just can’t do that in three weeks.”