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10-0 start endears Irish to elite recruits nationally

Chris Allen | Thursday, November 15, 2012

With the Irish just two games from an undefeated regular season – a position few could have imagined at the beginning of the season – Notre Dame has found itself quickly back among the recruiting elite in the country. With a class of 22 recruits set to come to campus for the 2013 season ranked No. 4 in the country by ESPN, the Irish are set to restock talent following the departure of their current seniors. The Irish have begun to attract talent from top recruits who were not considered targets a few weeks ago, including No. 1 wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.

Irish recruiting expert Mike Frank said the rise of the 2012 Irish has already begun to impact recruiting.

“I believe you’re already starting to see the success affect this current class,” said Frank, who runs the ESPN-affiliated Irish Sports Daily. “There are a couple of guys who are elite guys who I believe they wouldn’t be interested in Notre Dame if they were going to go 8-4. You look at a guy like Treadwell; he wouldn’t be looking at Notre Dame if they were 8-4.

“[Safety] Max Redfield is another guy who probably wouldn’t be so interested in Notre Dame if they weren’t having this kind of season.”

Frank said he believes Irish coach Brian Kelly has begun to build a dominant program around an identity formed through recruiting.

“You look at elite programs, what sets them apart is the depth. If you have a guy go down due to injury, usually you can have a guy step in and there won’t be too big of a drop-off,” Frank said. “The big thing that a lot of guys who don’t succeed as coaches don’t have is the consistency is recruiting. You can’t have one good class followed up by two bad ones. You need to have good classes every year. You also need to hit your numbers at each position in each class, or else you’ll be thin down the line.

“One thing [Notre Dame Director of Athletics] Jack Swarbrick said in an interview about Kelly was that he wasn’t interested in a guy who recruited the best or talked the best necessarily, but a person who can build the best program. Kelly did that at Grand Valley State, at Central Michigan and at Cincinnati. Now he’s starting to do that here through recruiting.”

With the imminent departures of a talented class of seniors to the NFL and other postgraduate opportunities, the Irish are set to welcome a group of six early-enrollee players from the current recruiting class. Quarterback Malik Zaire, wide receivers James Onwualu and Corey Robinson, tight end Mike Heuerman, offensive tackle Steve Elmer and linebacker Alex Anzalone will begin taking classes and working out with the football team in the upcoming spring semester. The opportunity to enroll early is generally seen as an advantage for recruits looking to make an early impact, and Frank said Elmer is one player who may benefit the most from the chance.

“You look at offensive tackle, that’s a need area. [Junior] Tate Nichols, you look at his situation and it’s kind of up in the air. Nobody really knows if Jordan Prestwood is going to return, so a guy like Elmer has some opportunities,” Frank said. “I don’t necessarily think he is going to start, but he could work his way onto the field early.”

With a star-studded group of seniors including All-Americans Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert set to play its final game at Notre Dame Stadium, Frank said the recruiting class of 2009 was destined to be a special one.

“I knew this was going to be a good class,” he said. “But I don’t necessarily think I would say I knew they were going to be in a position where as seniors they would be knocking on the door of a BCS championship.”


For more on Notre Dame recruiting, check out Mike Frank’s irishsportsdaily.com
Email Mike at [email protected] and tell him The Observer sent you.

Contact Chris Allen at [email protected]