Brian VanGorder’s departure should have little impact on Irish recruiting
Marek Mazurek | Friday, September 30, 2016
While most of the talk about Brian VanGorder’s firing this week has focused on its impact for the Notre Dame defense in 2016, its effects on Notre Dame’s recruiting remain to be seen.
Blue Gold Illustrated analyst Bryan Driskell said he does not believe the change in direction will have a large impact on Notre Dame’s recruiting, as VanGorder was not highly involved in the recruiting process to begin with.
“Honestly, I don’t think the firing of Brian VanGorder really affected the players at all,” Driskell said. “Number one, VanGorder wasn’t overly involved in recruiting period. He talked to some kids and they knew him, but they weren’t invested in him. There’s a couple reasons for that. Number one, obviously [the recruits] have a better relationship with their position coaches and the guys recruiting them. Number two … outside of losing Taylor Decker when Ed Warinner left, Notre Dame has not really suffered losses when they’ve lost assistant coaches.
“The big reason for that is, Brian Kelly brought in a new philosophy of recruiting when he came to Notre Dame. He’s not selling Brian Kelly, he’s not selling Tony Alford or Harry Hiestand or those kind of things. He’s selling Notre Dame. And when kids commit to Notre Dame, they’re committed to Notre Dame because of what Notre Dame stands for and who Notre Dame is so to speak.”
In fact, Driskell said the promotion of former defensive analyst Greg Hudson to the role of defensive coordinator could actually have a positive impact on recruiting.
“If anything, it could have a positive impact because one of the things about Greg Hudson, when he was at Florida State, he was a great recruiter,” Driskell said. “I was talking to kids Notre Dame was recruiting against Florida State and they very adamant he was a very active recruiter, the kids like him, they like playing for him. If anything, now that he is the full-time coach, he can recruit and I imagine he will be somewhat involved with recruiting. He’s going to be able to put really a positive spin on this.”
While VanGorder’s departure may not affect recruits, Driskell did say the 38-35 loss to Duke almost certainly will, as recruits will start to consider if they see Notre Dame as a tier below where the Irish once were.
“A game here, a game there doesn’t really impact kids. But when you expect to enter the month of November in contention for a playoff spot and you then go 1-3, that’s going to have a big impact,” Driskell said. “Right now, you’re in that spot where you can recover, kids aren’t jumping ship. But if these losses continue to mount, especially losses to programs like Duke, recruits start to think, ‘Notre Dame’s more like Duke and Syracuse than they are like Stanford or Alabama or Ohio State.’ That’s when you start seeing kids start to reconsider.
“They may not lose any current commits, but where it’s going to crush them is their ability to add the kind of impacts players to the class they need in order to really get over this hump.”
Notre Dame is looking to right the ship against Syracuse, a game which will be played in Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Driskell said the game in the Meadowlands helps showcase the fact that Notre Dame is unique in its ability to play games all over the country.
“I think New Jersey especially has always been a good place for Notre Dame,” Driskell said. “For example, they have a pair of recruits from 2018 committed from New Jersey — the Ademilola twins [at linebacker and defensive tackle]. … Clearly that’s a state they want to have respect in. They haven’t had quite as much recent success this year. Playing a game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, home of the New York Giants and Jets and those kind of things is certainly going to help your status. … Very few programs can do that. What it does recruiting-wise is not specifically necessarily New England as much as it is just continuing to show that Notre Dame is genuinely a national program.”
Driskell also agreed with Kelly’s decision to call out his players’ performance in the loss to Duke, saying it will send a good message to the type of recruit coaches want on their teams.
“A kid who’s going to look at what Kelly said after the game and say, ‘I don’t want to play for a guy like that,’ is someone I don’t want on my football team,” Driskell said. “Because I don’t want players who are unwilling to be held accountable privately or publicly on my football team. You don’t win with players like that. We’ve seen Nick Saban challenge his players. Go back and read what Nick Saban said after they beat Western Kentucky. … Urban Meyer has said things like that before. If you don’t want to be held accountable for not playing with passion — it’s not like they went out there and played their guts out and just lost and then he went in there and just said, ‘You guys are the reason we lost’ — they played with no heart, no sacrifice, no passion.”