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After early surge, ’12 recruiting finishes slowly

Allan Joseph | Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When Irish recruiting expert Mike Frank considers recruiting classes, he uses three all-important criteria for evaluation.

“The first thing you want to do is make sure you fill all your needs, and the second thing you want to do is make sure you get some quality depth,” said Frank, who runs the ESPN-affiliated Irish Sports Daily. “The third thing is that you’ve got to get some impact players. You’ve got to get guys that when you watch them on film, you look at them and you say, ‘Okay, that guy is going to play here. I have no doubt that he’s going to be a player here.'”

Based on those criteria, Frank said Notre Dame’s 2012 class was a good class, although not a spectacular one like the 2011 signing class.

“I think it was a solid class,” Frank said. “Last year they got a number of [impact players.] This year, they’ve got quite a few, but it’s not as many as last year. They got some key players, though, at need positions.”

Despite California receiver Deontay Greenberry’s surprise commitment to Houston over the Irish, Frank said he was still pleased with the receivers who signed letters of intent.

“Overall, I really like the receiver class. I like all the guys there,” Frank said. “I think one highly underrated player is KeiVarae Russell … He’s a guy that can get moving in a hurry, and he’s exactly the type of player they’ve been lacking.

“I think Chris Brown brings a lot of good size and speed. He’s a guy that can stretch the field and get behind the secondary.”

Despite a solid group of recruits, Frank said there were still a few weaknesses in the incoming group of freshmen.

“They really needed another corner — they missed there,” Frank said. “I think they needed at least one more offensive lineman. I really like the two they have … they definitely needed one more, and maybe another, and unfortunately they missed there.

“I think they would have liked to have another running back other than Will Mahone … I Like Will Mahone, but I just think they would have liked to have another different type of running back.”

Frank said the late-season surge the Irish had on the field in 2010 helped the 2011 signing class, while the late-season inconsistency in the 2011 season hampered the 2012 class.

“[Last year,] people looked at it and said, ‘Well, Brian Kelly’s turning this around. This is a program on the rise, and I want to jump aboard,'” Frank said.

“This year, ups and downs all throughout the season, and unfortunately the last two games didn’t go their way … I think what you’re seeing now is just perception. These recruits are having a little pause, saying, ‘I thought this was turning around but maybe it’s not.’

“I don’t think it was any lack of effort. I think Notre Dame’s staff really worked hard to get these players, but they came out just a bit short.”

Frank said Notre Dame relies on winning football games to recruit most effectively.

“There are three things recruits look for when they’re considering schools. One is good football, one’s a good social life and one is a good education — and I think for a lot of these guys, it’s in that order,” Frank said.

“Notre Dame has always been able to land elite players from all across the country when they play good football. They’ve never had a problem.

“When they were winning enough games, kids were lining up to come here. They were turning kids away.”

As Frank looked ahead to the class of 2013, he pointed out a number of positions the Irish will need to fill, including inside linebacker, running back and defensive end. One position, however, stood out more than any other.

“Without a question, offensive line is huge,” Frank said. “They’re going to have to get five [linemen], and they’re going to need to get some guys who can play already … These guys know how to evaluate offensive line talent. I’ve been really impressed with that they’ve done so far in that area.”

All in all, Frank said Kelly and his staff did a good job recruiting.

“They got a lot of really good players. They did a good job,” Frank said. “Unfortunately, they’re about two or three impact players away from this being a great class … They were so close on so many of these guys.”

For more information on Notre Dame recruiting, check out Mike Frank’s irishsportsdaily.com.

Email Mike at mikefrank18@sbcglobal.net and tell him The Observer sent you.

Contact Allan Joseph at ajoseph2@nd.edu