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Football Recruiting: LIVE BLOG, National Signing Day

Bill Brink, Michael Bryan and Matt Gamber | Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Check back in throughout the day as Irish football beat writers Bill Brink, Michael Bryan and Matt Gamber follow a critical day for coach Brian Kelly and his staff. Included are previews, predictions and commentary on what’s to come and up-to-the-minute news and analysis of National Signing Day 2010.

Bill Brink (4:50 p.m.): Updates from Irish coach Brian Kelly’s National Signing Day press conference LIVE:

“It’s a good day for Notre Dame football,” Kelly said.

The Irish signed 23 players as of right now.

“We’re hoping that this becomes a class like the 1946 class,” Kelly said. “That 1946 class came in and graduated without losing a game here at Notre Dame. And that’s how we want our guys to think.”

Kelly presented his plan for recruiting, followed by a breakdown of each player accompanied with clips from the player’s high school games.

Here are some of Kelly’s thoughts about the players:

DE Bruce Heggie
“He’s a young man that has great versatility for us. He’s 6-foot-4, about 240 pounds, he ranks 10th in his senior class, very very good student. He’s someone we had our eye on at Cincinnati and when it worked out that the numbers were in our favor ont eh defensive line we felt like he could do a number of things for us. Dad played at Florida State. He’s going to be a big rangy player for us. Could play on the offensive line, could play some defensive tackle for us as well.”

LB Prince Shembo
“Boy, he can come off the ball. I really like the way he explodes. Prince was another young man that we had to re-recruit and spend a lot of time with him. [He’s] another guy that can play a few different positions for us.”

DL Louis Nix
“Great character kid. I think he’ll be a real asset, somebody that can come in and compete right away. Likes his explosiveness.”

LB Justin Utupo
“He arrives at the ball with a bad attitude. He plays with a great passion. He tells coach [Bob] Diaco that he’s still angry after his loss, the last game of the year. Somebody that will breathe a lot of energy and passion into the defense.

ATH Daniel Spond
“He’s a guy that again has shown the ability to do a lot of jobs for us at the University of Notre Dame. Big kid, can play safety, outside backer.”

LB Kendall Moore
He is a defensive player for us that could probably play a couple different positions. Been looked at as tight end as well, he’s got the athleticism. A guy who will complement our defensive structure. Loves to play the game, great family and someone that I really enjoyed spending time with. He’s going to help our football team.”

DB Spencer Boyd
“What we liked again about the ability to tackle in the open field which is absolutely crucial in the cornerback position.”

DB Chris Badger
“I love his contact skills.” Kelly said he likes how he can play off the hash and attack the ball in the air.

LB Kona Schwenke
“He’s a young man who came on us late. We will say that we were out in Hawaii looking at another young man and well, it’s one of those things. Your attention now is focused on somebody else. We had such a need … for that outside guy who can come off the edge.”

DB Lo Wood
“What we liked about Lo again is a very physical player, good size, and he will compete with every ball thrown.”

WR Tai-ler Jones
“With the ball in his hands he’s as explosive a player as there is in this country. He’s already put on about 10 pounds.”

QB Tommy Rees
“Worked predominately out of the shotgun, gets the ball out of his hands quickly. The great thing about Tom is that he is here as well, one of our midyear enrollees. He’s going to get the opportunity to play a lot this spring.”

WR Austin Collinsworth
“Played with a broken thumb most of the year. He’s got great hips, great acceleration, loves to play the game.”

QB Andrew Hendrix
“Really gifted player, has all the tools to excel. As I mentioned, he’s a young man who had a chance to visit Florida as well. We had to go re-recruit Andrew. I think he felt at the end of the day obviously the opportunity here at Notre Dame, he was indicative of the guys we wanted to recruit. He wanted to be here, his dream was to be here.”

WR Bennett Jackson
“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. I think the thing that kept bringing us back to Bennett was his ability to make plays after the catch.”

OT Matt James
“It came down to Ohio State and Notre Dame. He was a young man that was torn between the two. There’s no question that it was a tough decision for him. Knowing that there was a clear opportunity to play here earlier. Great feet, can play tackle or guard.”

OT Christian Lombard
“Both these guys are going to help us short term and in the future.” Lombard struck up a rapport with James at the All-American Bowl.

QB Luke Massa
“He’s got great feet, outstanding basketball player. Very smart, he’s going to make good decisions for you play in and play out.”

OT Tate Nicols
“I was actually the first one to offer him a scholarship. He was an early commit to Stanford, took it back. Tight end in high school will be tackle at ND. He finishes. His wide receiver skills: he’s tall. That’s about it.”

ATH Derek Roback
“We think he can play probably as many as three or four positions. He’s a guy that does a little bit of everything for his football team.”

RB Cameron Roberson
“He really impressed us. There was so much talk about another running back, we had our sights set on Cameron Roberson. This is the guy hat we felt as a staff that he fit precisely with what we wanted to do in our offense. If you had asked me which guy did we go out to California, this is the guy. We had three different coaches go out to California to make sure that we were going to keep Cameron Roberson. He’s one of those players who you breathe a sigh of relief when you got him.”

TE Alex Welch
“He’s tough, a great competitor, really excited about having Alex in the program. Very difficult to defend him, and he’s got the size that he’s going to be really big.”

WR Daniel Smith
“Outstanding young man.” Kelly liked his big-play ability and size (6-foot-4).

Kelly said next year’s recruiting class needed to focus on the defensive end position.

Check back for more updates regarding the recruits, the rest of Kelly’s press conference and the class as a whole here at ndsmcobserver.com and in tomorrow’s issue of The Observer.


Matt Gamber (3:15 p.m.): Like the Irish, I missed on Ioane. Shows how wild the recruiting ride can be that Notre Dame lost out on a Hawaii prospect not to a warm-weather, sun-kissed destination, but to Boise State. As for Ferguson (LSU) and Jones (Florida State), can’t say I’m surprised. Wasn’t sure where Ferguson would wind up, and I figured Jones would become a Seminole, but I held out a bit of hope for each. Would be shocked if Notre Dame earns another commitment today from either Henderson or Riley. I think the Irish finish third for each, with Henderson choosing between USC and Ohio State and Riley deciding to stay at home, either with USC or UCLA.

Bill Brink (2:17 p.m.): Ego Ferguson chose Death Valley, signing with LSU this afternoon, and Jeremy Ioane decided to play on the blue field and signed with Boise State. Kona Schwenke, however, chose the Irish all the way from Hawaii. And people wondered whether Brian Kelly could recruit nationally.

Seantrel Henderson will make his announcement later this afternoon, as will safety Dietrich Riley from La Canada, Calif.

Michael Bryan (11:06 a.m.): It’s been a solid start so far for the Irish on Signing Day, highlighted by Ohio offensive tackle Matt James signing his letter of intent to come play for Brian Kelly. James is one of the top tackle prospects in the nation, and pulling any elite Ohio player away from the Buckeyes is a huge win for Kelly and Notre Dame. James definitely fills a position of great need in this recruiting class and joins tackle Tate Nichols and guard Christian Lombard to make up the offensive line unit for the class of 2010.

The minor early disappointment for Notre Dame was linebacker Christian Jones committing to Florida State. The Seminoles were the favorites all the way as Jones is an FSU legacy, but the Irish were a darkhorse in the race and seeing Jones line up alongside Manti Te’o would have caused nightmares for opposing offenses.

The Irish have also already received letters of intent from all 17 verbal commitments that had not enrolled early, so no there won’t be any drama or last-minute cold feet with any Notre Dame recruits for the rest of the day.

Next up in announcements for Notre Dame to watch is defensive end Ego Ferguson, who should be announcing just before noon. Shortly after noon Hawaiian prospects Jeremy Ioane and Kona Schwenke should make their decisions, followed by five-star offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson in the early afternon.

Matt Gamber (2:02 a.m.): Hard to believe, but in the next 12-to-18 hours, Notre Dame’s 2010 recruiting class will be signed, sealed and — well, not quite delivered, but you get the cliche. For a preview of what’s likely to come, check out the related links to the right. The graphic above lays out what we should expect. The 16 verbal commits signing Letters of Intent are as close to a sure thing as possible (we think), and the additional five early enrollees, which are already official, bring the current class to 21.

By our count, six remaining prospects still have Notre Dame among their finalists and could become Irish at some point today. Based mostly off of what I’ve read, and also off of a few people I’ve talked to, and, in some cases my gut feeling, I think we’ll get three of the six. My three are offensive tackle Matt James, safety Jeremy Ioane and defensive end Kona Schwenke. In other words, we miss out on tackle Seantrel Henderson, defensive end J.R. Ferguson and linebacker Christian Jones. I hope I’m wrong, and I’ll be disappointed if I’m right, about losing out on those guys. But it can’t be overlooked that James, Ioane and Schwenke aren’t done deals, and that Notre Dame would be very fortunate to secure those three commitments today.

Again, it will be interesting to see how today unfolds. It’s been a hectic but entertaining recruiting cycle for Irish fans, and I know many of us are ready for it to be over. I’m most excited for Kelly’s 4 p.m. press conference today for our first chance to hear him talk about these individual recruits and answer more specific questions about his first recruiting experience at Notre Dame.