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Kelly introduces class of 24 signed recruits

Andrew Owens | Thursday, February 7, 2013

Irish coach Brian Kelly arrived at the Signing Day press conference looking relaxed after a tumultuous month that included a blowout loss to Alabama, a flirtation with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Manti Te’o controversy.

But Wednesday was a cause for celebration for Kelly and his staff as they finalized a stellar 24-man recruiting haul that spanned the country and resulted in a consensus top-five finish for the Irish.

“It’s an exciting day at Notre Dame, and it’s exciting because it’s centered upon our future,” Kelly said. “I think we all know … that after the last game you play, you want to begin taking that next step forward, and for us, taking that next step forward is to continue to build our football program within and developing football players, so when they get back on that field in 2013, we finish it.”

Three of the five-star jewels of the class will fill needed positions for the Irish: linebacker Jaylon Smith, safety Max Redfield and running back Greg Bryant. While nearly all of the class had verbally committed prior to the start of the 12-1 season, Kelly said the successful season aided the recruiting process.

“I think it’s crucial,” said Kelly of the team’s success. “I think you have to have both to be able to get the players like a Greg Bryant. It can’t just be on academics. We don’t want them coming to Notre Dame just because of academics.  We want the whole piece.  And this was an indication that 12 wins definitely helps you in that process with a Greg Bryant.

“You know, we had 19 committed before the season started, and the guys that we got late, I think winning definitely had something to do with that.”
Redfield, originally a USC commit, and defensive-line recruit Eddie Vanderdoes give the Irish more five-star commitments from California than any other school.

Vanderdoes faxed his Letter of Intent to Notre Dame just before 8 p.m. Wednesday and announced his decision minutes later at a press conference.

Whereas last year’s class experienced late defections, the 2013 haul endured little adversity, with the exception of linebacker Alex Anzalone’s January decommitment.

“I think what we did this year is that we made sure where that commitment was,” Kelly said. “In other words, if you’re committed, that means you’ve ended this recruiting process. And I think in some instances, being firmer toward that end allowed this not to take shape.

“Now, I’m going to tell you, these are young guys.  Things happen every year, and I think you have to be prepared for that, too.”
Kelly said one of the key components of the class’ camaraderie was Smith, a Fort Wayne, Ind., product and the state’s top-rated player.

“I think leadership takes different forms, and he can be a leader just by his own actions, the way he handles himself,” Kelly said. “He’ll look you in the eye. I think those are all leadership qualities, as well. Do I think he’s going to come in and be the vocal leader like [former Irish linebacker Manti Te’o] was on the field? No, I don’t think so. But his actions and the way that he prepares himself and the way he plays the game, I think a lot of people will want to model after him.”

With the 24 additions to the roster, Kelly said Notre Dame’s depth is the best at any point during his three-year tenure.

“With this class, it really addresses some of our depth needs across the board,” he said. “We played the national championship game under 85 scholarships. We did not have 85 scholarship players at that time. We had some depth issues. And I think we’ve addressed those depth issues across the board in year three.”
Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu