After a disappointing 9-4 season Brian Kelly was able to excite Irish fans on national signing day by bringing in his second consecutive top 10 recruiting class, according to 247sports.com’s class rankings. The No. 10 recruiting class is made up of 23 signees, 16 of whom are 4-star recruits.
This class is headlined by the No. 3 inside linebacker Nyles Morgan. The 6″1 225 pound linebacker picked Notre Dame over other big schools like Alabama, Oklahoma and USC. “I think there’s still some competition there that he’s got to get through, but his skill set, it’s pretty easy to see. That’s what a Mike linebacker looks like,” said Kelly. After losing inside linebackers and leading tacklers Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese, Morgan will play a crucial role in filling the hole at the linebacker position.
Notre Dame added a lot of depth to their offensive and defensive lines on signing day as 12 of their 23 signees were linemen. After losing Zack Martin and Chris Watt on the offensive line, and Louis Nix II and Stephon Tuitt on the defensive line, the Irish were forced to reload their fronts.
This class brought in a tremendous amount of talent on the defensive line. The Irish signed eight defensive linemen, including signing day surprise Daniel Cage. Notre Dame started pursuing Cage very late in the recruiting process, but was able to snag him away from rival Michigan State. Under new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder the Irish will play a variation of three and four-down linemen. This forced them to make recruiting defensive linemen a focal point of this years class. “So because we’re going to play both three and four-down, we’re really duplicating the position. So we’re adding one guy and instead of just saying one guy playing the position, we’re saying two guys for that one position,” Kelly said. This depth on the front line should help VanGorder build a successful defense.
Notre Dame did miss out on a few signing day hopefuls. John “JuJu” Smith the No. 3 ranked athlete in the class passed on Notre Dame to continue his football career at USC. Also, wide receivers Isaiah Mackenzie and Micah Quick turned down playing in South Bend to play at UGA and UCLA respectively. Terrence Alexander the No. 36 cornerback in the class chose to play at Stanford over Notre Dame. Even without landing these prospects Kelly was able to bring a top 10 recruiting class in for the Irish.
One noticeable thing about this class is that there are no 5-star recruits. “If they want to come here just to hang their hat to play football and go to the NFL, we passed on some pretty good players, because I don’t want guys to come here and not finish their degree,” said Kelly. Some may knock Kelly for not landing any “superstar” recruits, but ultimately he got the kids that fit into his system and will make Notre Dame better for the next four years.