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Irish recruiting efforts highlighted by offensive line commits

| Monday, September 2, 2019

Recruiting is the cornerstone of a successful college football program. Each of the last eight national champions have averaged a top-10 recruiting class in the four years prior to winning, so the Irish must be at this level to keep themselves in the elite tier. Brian Driskell, recruiting analyst for Blue and Gold Illustrated, spoke with The Observer to discuss the incoming 2019 class and the future classes to come. He emphasized Notre Dame’s lack of success in recruiting offensive linemen in 2018 and the turnaround they had last year.

“Well, the first thing about this incoming freshman class is, Notre Dame was coming off of a year which was the first really down year of offensive line recruiting,” he said. “They didn’t have a single rivals top-50 player — Jarrett Patterson was the only player that was ranked in the top 250 in 2018 by any of the services.”

To compensate, the team had a substantial offensive line recruiting season in 2019.

“Since ranking services began in 2002, Notre Dame had never signed three linemen in the top 130 nationally, and that’s exactly what they did in 2019. In the 2019 class, they got top-hundred offensive tackle Quinn Carroll, they also got top-130 player John Olmstead, and top 130 player Zeke Correll,” Driskell said. “On top of that, they got another four-star tackle in Andrew Kristofic, who is the only one to currently be in the two-deep depth chart.”

Kristofic is currently listed as the primary backup to starting senior right tackle Rob Hainsey. The true freshman has made a strong impact on the Irish coaching staff, earning that backup role over several higher ranked recruiting players. Driskell spoke positively about the new Irish lineman’s development.

“Andrew has a unique background because he was actually a football and a basketball player in high school. [He] and [Irish sophomore quarterback] Phil Jurkovic were part of Pine-Richland’s basketball team. Guys like that tend to be further behind physically, because they’re playing basketball,” he said. “Fast forward to August, and he looks like a different kid. He’s starting to fill out his body and now physically can hold up better. That’s why he’s been able to get in there and lock down that No. 2 right tackle spot.”

In addition to beefing up the offensive line with players like Kristofic, the team was able to sign some skill position players to help make an impact in the future.

“They also signed quarterback Brendon Clark, who they like, and then signed freshman running back Kyren Williams,” Driskell said. “Williams is a guy who was an incredibly prolific high school player and rushed for over 2,000 yards. He spent most of his career as a wide receiver and had over 1,000 yards receiving throughout his career.”

After discussing this year’s class, the conversation shifted to the long-term impact of what making the College Football Playoff means for Notre Dame recruiting in the long run. Driskell said being able to provide an opportunity to compete for a championship will be key to luring recruits from other marquee programs.

“Notre Dame can say, ‘You can come here and get a degree that surpasses anybody that‘s on your board right now,’” he said. “But we can also provide you an opportunity to be a high draft pick, we can provide you an opportunity to compete for championship — and I think they’ve always said that, but what the last couple years have done is show them that they actually are on the verge of that.”

Driskell believes Irish fans should expect to start seeing the benefits of last year’s College Football Playoff trip in recruiting as soon as next year.

“Where it really pays huge dividends is when we start looking at the 2020 and 2021 classes,” he said. “That’s when we get into that. You‘ll start to see a big difference, because there‘s some data that shows that Brian Kelly‘s never had a recruiting class offensively like the one that he‘s going to be getting in 2020. And I think that‘s when you‘re going to start seeing that successful payoff with some difference-makers.”

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