Football Recruiting: Class of 2014 Offense
Michael Bryan | Thursday, February 4, 2010
Four-star offensive tackle Matt James highlights the class of 13 offensive players in Brian Kelly’s first class with Notre Dame. The veteran coach will look to add these new weapons into his spread offensive system and replace the output of departed stars Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate.
QB Andrew Hendrix, 6-2, 215, Moeller H.S., Cincinnati, Ohio
One of three quarterbacks signed in Brian Kelly’s first class at Notre Dame, Hendrix was ranked as the No. 11 quarterback in the Class of 2010. Hendrix has prototypical size for a quarterback and a cannon arm.
“He’s got a very strong arm. I think what stands out about Andrew is that he’s only been a starter for a year and a half,” Kelly said. “He has not played a lot of football. His best football is clearly in front of him.”
He led Moeller to a 9-2 record in his senior season, throwing for 1,242 yards and recording 14 total touchdowns.
QB Luke Massa, 6-5, 205, St. Xavier H.S., Cincinnati, Ohio
A one-time commit to Kelly at Cincinnati, Massa followed the coach to Notre Dame. Massa led football powerhouse St. Xavier to a 9-3 record and passed for 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“He led a very, very good football team for three years as the starter. The offense changed on three occasions. Very smart, very disciplined,” Kelly said. “He’s going to be really big. He’s going to be a strong player. He’s got great feet, outstanding basketball player.”
QB Tommy Rees, 6-3, 192, Lake Forest H.S., Lake Forest, Ill.
An early enrollee, Rees has a great opportunity to develop in the spring as the only healthy scholarship quarterback on the Irish roster.
“He’s going to get an opportunity to play a lot this spring,” Kelly said. “What a great opportunity for Tommy to get out and play in the spring game and get spring practice and develop and get stronger.”
While Lake Forest struggled in Rees’ senior season, the quarterback threw for 2,650 yards and 24 touchdowns, completing over 75 percent of his passes.
RB Cameron Roberson, 6-1, 220, Newbury Park H.S., Newbury, Calif.
A running back with both size and quickness, Roberson will be the lone running back in Kelly’s first class. His senior season Roberson rushed for 1,100 yards and 20 touchdowns, and added another two touchdowns on receptions.
“He really impressed us. I got to tell you. There was so much talk about another running back,” Kelly said. “We had our sights set on Cameron Roberson. You know, this is the guy that we felt as a staff that he fit precisely what we wanted to do in our offense.”
Roberson will join a stable of talented running backs including seniors Armando Allen and Robert Hughes.
WR Bennett Jackson, 6-1, 170, Raritan H.S., Hazlet, N.J.
A versatile wide receiver prospect, Jackson should be used in a number of ways in Kelly’s offense. As a senior, Jackson lined up both at wide receiver and in the backfield, scoring nine touchdowns off passes and five on the ground.
“The thing that kept bringing us back to Bennett was his ability to have yards after the catch,” Kelly said. “His ability not only to catch the football, but catch it in traffic and find his way and sift his way through to make plays.”
Jackson possesses good speed at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, and should add another playmaker to the new Notre Dame spread offense.
WR Daniel Smith, 6-4, 215, South Bend Clay H.S., South Bend, Ind.
One of the first verbal commitments to the Class of 2010, Smith is a local prospect with great size. Smith should provide a great red-zone threat and possession receiver.
“Obviously you can see his size. He uses it to his advantage in going up and getting the football,” Kelly said. “Lot of opportunities and possibilities for Daniel.”
While Clay struggled this season, Smith was a rare bright spot, catching 60 balls for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns.
WR Tai-ler Jones, 6-0, 183, Gainesville H.S., Gainesville, Ga.
Another early enrollee already on campus, Jones was an Under Armour All-American his senior season. Jones has great speed and route-running ability as well as soft hands, and should be able to contribute early.
In his final season Jones caught 75 passes for 1,394 yards and 18 touchdowns.
“As you know, Tai-ler Jones, father Andre Jones was a defensive end at Notre Dame from ‘87 to ‘91. And played on the 1988 Notre Dame National Championship team. And his godfather is former Notre Dame flanker, Rocket Ismail,” Kelly said. “With the ball in his hands, he’s as explosive a player as there is in the country.”
WR Austin Collinsworth, 6-1, 195, Highlands H.S., Fort Thomas, Ky.
A U.S. Army All-American, Collinsworth played safety, wide receiver and running back in high school, and also made appearances as a punt and kick returner. He was Kelly’s first commitment when Kelly took the job at Notre Dame.
“[Collinsworth] loves to play the game. [He] will be a young man that I think physically is going to be able to compete immediately,” Kelly said. “He’s got just a great love for the game.”
Collinsworth’s father, Cris Collinsworth, was a NFL receiver and now is an announcer for Sunday Night Football on NBC.
In 2009, Collinsworth had 1,502 yards on 171 carries and 23 touchdowns.
TE Alex Welch, 6-5, 225, Elder H.S., Cincinnati, Ohio
Another commitment from the Cincinnati area, Welch comes from the same program as rising junior Kyle Rudolph. Welch is a productive all-around tight end, and recorded six touchdowns and 420 yards his senior season.
“He’s tough, a great competitor. Really excited about having Alex in the program,” Kelly said. “You know, we look at the finish. That’s what we look for. It’s not necessarily the first, but how you finish it off. He does a great job here finishing the block off.”
Welch has a great frame and should become a powerful blocker at the collegiate level.
OT Matt James, 6-6, 291, St. Xavier H.S., Cincinnati, Ohio
The biggest Signing Day commitment for Kelly and Notre Dame, James is rated as the No. 14 offensive tackle in this class. A teammate of quarterback Luke Massa, James has incredible size at 6-foot-7, 280 pounds.
“At the end of the day he felt the opportunity here at Notre Dame, the academic opportunities that it gave him, the opportunity to play for a National Championship and knowing that there was going to be a clear opportunity for him to play here earlier,” Kelly said.
With his footwork, athleticism and massive frame, James should be able to make an early impact on the Irish offensive line.
OT Tate Nichols, 6-7, 291, Ryle H.S., Union, Ky.
After a late offer from Kelly, Nichols quickly switched his commitment from Stanford to Notre Dame. Nichols is another lineman with great size at 6-foot-7 and 278 pounds. The tackle prospect paved the way for his Ryle High School team to go 9-4 his senior season.
“When I recruited him, he was [6-foot-6], 242 pounds. We had him on the scale on his official visit at 6-foot-7, 292 [pounds]. He is one big guy,” Kelly said.
Nichols played some tight end in high school, but Kelly said those days should be over.
“His wide receiver skills, um, he’s tall. That’s about it. So these memories of him will be etched in his mind because they’ve got no more of them,” Kelly said.
OG Christian Lombard, 6-5, 293, Fremd H.S., Palatine, Ill.
The first commitment of this Notre Dame class, Lombard gave his verbal to the Irish over a year ago. An Army All-American, Lombard was also named a USA Today first team All-American.
“If you’re looking at national recruits, both Lombard and James fill the bill for that, and on the offensive line, that’s why we’ve got some short term successes and both of these guys are going to help us short term and in the future as we develop our football program,” Kelly said.
ATH Derek Roback, 6-3, 225, Waverly H.S., Waverly, Ohio
A high school quarterback that had been committed to Toledo, Roback joined Kelly’s offense as a talented athlete that will be used in a number of ways. Roback threw for 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns in his senior season, but has the size to be used as an h-back in Kelly’s offense.
“Wherever they needed a play, he returns punts, sweeps out the stadium after the game. He just is a guy that, you know, does a little bit of everything for his football team. Very athletic kid,” Kelly said. “We think he can play probably as many as three or four positions. Great student, great kid. He’s going to help our football team.”