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Kelly unveils 2012 recruits

Chris Masoud | Wednesday, February 1, 2012

No pleasant surprises and no 11th-hour recruiting coups — National Signing Day 2012 simply turned out a group of solid football players. Irish coach Brian Kelly added one transfer student and 16 high school seniors to the 2012 football roster, including 10 skill players, four power players, one big skill player and one specialist.

“Today we have a class that represents the needs that we had in our football program,” Kelly said Wednesday. “As you know, last year our need base relative to our class was centered around the power position. I thought we did a great job of addressing that. This year was about that skill level, and especially at the defensive backfield and the wide receiver position, and we feel like we have addressed those needs within our program for the 2012 class that we’re announcing.”

Among the 16 high school recruits, defensive lineman Jarron Jones, quarterback Gunner Kiel, running back KeiVarae Russell and defensive back Elija Shumate were selected for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Kelly and his staff crisscrossed 13 states, visiting recruits and their families from the Midwest, the South and both coasts to secure National Letters of Intent.

“It starts with making sure that we talk about our distinctions and not shy away from them,” he said. “We talk about a faith based education; we talk about, ‘You got to live in the dorms.’ We talk about those things as they relate to Notre Dame because we don’t want you to get here, and you’ve signed a letter of intent, and it wasn’t the right fit. You just got sold a bill of goods.”

The lone surprise of the day was the fax that never came in. Wide receiver Deontay Greenberry, the No. 7 wide receiver ranked by Scout.com and a verbal commitment up until Wednesday, signed with Houston instead.

Kelly said conversations that took place between last night and this morning indicated Greenberry had changed his mind.

“I think we painted the picture … clearly about what we were about, and we made sure that this is what you’re going to get at Notre Dame. For me it’s hard to be disappointed about something you’ve never had or you’ve never coached,” he said. “I’m more excited about the guys that signed because they are the right kind of guys.”

Unlike previous years, Kelly said social media emerged as a factor in the recruiting process. Originally recruited by Notre Dame and Michigan, cornerback Yuri Wright committed instead to Colorado after being dismissed from his high school by posting inappropriate messages on Twitter.

“[Social media has] opened up the eyes of everybody, and in particular what you say tracks you. I think that’s appropriate … I think social media is definitely a window in which we can see more about a young man. Sometimes it’s just being silly, but the recognition that it does track you, it is very important and it’s a point that we made this year. I brought in a specialist this year to talk about social media and the implications of that. We’re going to have to continue to teach and educate.”

Transfer running back Amir Carlisle, defensive lineman Sheldon Day, defensive back Tee Shepard and Kiel enrolled at the University in January and have already started taking classes. Kelly said the coaching staff has maintained constant contact with the early enrollees to ease the transition process.

But Kelly quickly dashed any implications of coddling, adding he expects each recruit to push incoming players for time on the field.

“In the recruiting process we clearly tell our freshmen, ‘You better be ready to compete,’ whether it’s Gunner Kiel or Sheldon Day or Tee Shepard … If you think you’re going to come in and get a free year and red shirt, [that’s] somewhere else,” Kelly said. “Come to Notre Dame if you want to compete.”

Spring football practices begin March 21.