Feb. 1, 2012
COACH KELLY: Thank you, Brian. Afternoon. Exciting day for us here at Notre Dame. Clearly the process that we're involved in at Notre Dame requires the entire University and its commitment in recruiting and something I've gotten a chance to learn more about here in my time here as the head coach.
It's not just the football office that's recruiting, it's the entire University. I want to thank those that allow us to enter into a day like today, and that being the signing day, and getting young men admitted into the University of Notre Dame. I want to start with our Associate President for Undergraduate Enrollment, Don Bishop, who takes up his time on Saturdays. He has a full time job, and that is admissions, but on Saturdays when we have recruiting weekends, he gives up his time to be here. And Bob Monday is his assistant and is as good as it gets in terms of arranging his schedule to sit down on a Sunday or even sometimes during the week.
That I know is not what you're here to hear, but I got to tell you, as the head coach at Notre Dame, those people are invaluable. And our Vice President Fr. Tom Doyle, who meets with the kids, also, this is not just about watching film and saying, "Hey, that guy runs fast" or "he's a great blocker" or "he can tackle." It's a full investment by our entire University, so I want to thank them.
Today we have a class that represents the needs that we had in our football program. As you know last year our need base relative to our class was centered around the power position. I thought we did a great job of addressing that. This year was about that skill level, and especially at the defensive backfield and the wide receiver position, and we feel like we have addressed those needs within our program for the 2012 class that we're announcing.
2013 has already begun. I have had 15 phone calls today to 2013 recruits, so as you can see, there is not much time to sit around and think about the recruiting process. You have to react and keep moving forward, which we have done already today.
I think, again, when you look at the recruiting at Notre Dame it's coast to coast, and we have to be able to take our staff and make sure that they are in all areas of the country, because Notre Dame has that presence throughout the United States. I think we were able to do that as well. We've signed kids from the west coast to the east coast, from the south and the midwest, and we're excited about the class.
With that we will get into each individual and begin by giving you my insight as it relates to each one of the young men that have signed a letter of intent here to the University of Notre Dame. We will start with Nick Baratti. He was named All State in Texas, which is certainly not a feat that is easy to accomplish. He's an extremely versatile athlete. This year he played tight end, he has played quarterback, we see him fitting well in at the safety position for us, an outstanding athlete, great young man and somebody we're excited about here at the University of Notre Dame. Nick Baratti. Chris Brown, wide receiver from South Carolina. You know, here is a young man that had a short senior season because of injury, and I think if we were talking from an NFL standpoint, and I was the general manager after draft day, we would consider this young man a "steal" of the draft. We believe he has a skill set that we do not have currently on this football team. As you know he's also a top triple jumper in the nation. He's got great explosiveness, good size at 6 2. He's a guy that can take the quick short pass and turn it into a touchdown. Could be a 5 yard completion, and he can take it the rest of the way. He has size and he's got speed, and he hasn't come close to his potential. We're excited about Chris Brown, a great young man.
In each class there are specialists, and last year, as you know, we took a kicker in our class. This year we went with a long snapper, Scott Daly, from Downers Grove. Not often do you specialize, it sometimes might be two or three years before you do that, a lot of times a long snapper will walk on. His value will be seen immediately, and his value and the kind of kid he is somebody we could not overlook, especially somebody that brings that skill set to our football team.
Sheldon Day out of Indianapolis, Warren Central. The thing we love about him is not only his personality and who he is, but incredible motor, a great work ethic, he is already here and we have gotten comments back from our strength and conditioning staff and Coach Longo about his work volume and his work ethic and enthusiasm for what he is doing. He's a dynamic player, one of the best defensive linemen in the country, and he will immediately, like all of our freshmen, be expected to come in and complete right away.
As we talked about addressing the wide receiver position, Justin Ferguson out of Pembroke Pines, for us, a dynamic player with the ball in his hands. He can make things happen. He's physical, strong, but more importantly what we like about it is the yards after catch.
He has great front line speed, but the things he does with the football after the catch were probably the things that attracted us the most to him. A skilled player, but, again, yards after catch, the ability to break into the second level and separate himself. He's got the ability to be that big play wide receiver, guy that can catch it and go. Again, one of the top wide receivers in the country.
Out of Charlotte Catholic in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mark Harrell. I think when you talk about this class, it's still about Notre Dame and how they fit here, the right kind of guys and how they fit in here. And I know you hear that all of the time, RKGs, they have to be RKGs. They have to have the right character traits, they have to understand Notre Dame and the value of an education, and Mark Harrell comes from that environment. He's got a great family, he's very versatile, he's played at the center position in All Star games; he's played the tackle position, tight end. He's somebody when you talk about an offensive lineman, who can bend, he's flexible, has good feet, and we like the fact that he is an intense competitor. He will fit in very well with our offensive linemen.
Out of Aquinas Institute in Rochester, New York, Jarron Jones. Jarron is one of those young men when you talk about defensive linemen, you want to look toward their athletic ability. I think the other night he had incredible numbers on the floor, I got a chance to see him play basketball, an incredible athlete at 6 6, 290 pounds, and he still hasn't developed yet. His ceiling is so high relative to strength and work volume. He's a young man that plays the defensive side of the ball.
Again, I think when you look at Jarron Jones, you see a young man that is going to impact our football program just because of his work ethic. We love the way he handled himself when he came on campus, he's got a great family, and he's already done this before. He's at Aquinas Institute, and their curriculum and what they do in the high school prepares him to come to Notre Dame.
Out of Columbus East High School, Gunner Kiel. When you talk about Gunner, first of all, I think you have to appreciate the fact that he comes from a family of quarterbacks. They grew up playin' the game of football. I think one of the things that stands out on my visit to Gunner's home, they had the basketball courts, they had the football fields, and they had the pole barn with the batting cage. This is a young man that comes from a very competitive family; his brothers have played college football, and you can see that when you talk to Gunner.
He's a young man that loves to play the game. That's what you love when you're recruiting, you want to see that passion for the game and that probably stood out more than anything else. Certainly I think we all know about his ranking and how he's perceived. He fits in very well to our offense, somebody that is familiar with the spread, moves his feet very well. As I said earlier about our other early enrollees, really has been impressive to our strength and conditioning staff in his workouts, moves his feet very, very well and has a great focus.
I think when you cut through all of this, in the recruiting process I think everybody has heard about his process, really what you're looking for as a coach is that somebody is happy where he is. You can see that Gunner is happy at Notre Dame, and I think when you're dealing with 17 and 18 years old, the end, for me, is that they're at the right place, and Gunner is at the right place here at Notre Dame because he'll tell you that, Gunner Kiel.
Out of Austintown, Fitch High School, Will Mahone. When you talk about the running back position here at Notre Dame you've got to be able to do it all, pick up blitzing linebackers, catch the ball, lineup as a wide receiver, run the ball between tackles, get it out on the perimeter. We feel like he has that skill set that we're looking for at the running back position here at Notre Dame. Outstanding athlete, great character kid, and when you look at the players that are out there at the running back position, certainly you could make the case for another five or six or ten players.
What we liked about Will early on is he understood Notre Dame and recognized what was the ultimate goal for him. That was to get a degree, to win a national championship, and to continue on in his football career. We liked the principles in terms of what he was about in this process.
Romeo Okwara is out of Ardrey Kell, Charlotte, we have had great success at that high school, Prince Shembo, current starter for us was also at the same high school, so we have a young man who already done well here at Notre Dame, Romeo follows that line. Again, when you look at players that have not reached their potential yet, here is a young man just started playing the game just a few years ago, extremely athletic, love his size, almost 6 4, 240 pounds, and he's going to continue to get bigger. He's our one, big skill player in this group. As you know it's about our skill, our power, our specialist, and he's our one big skill player that really will impact our football team, and we will expect him to compete right away. We are excited about Romeo, his family and, again, you know, when you're looking for the kids out there, you want guys that love Notre Dame, and he was somebody that showed that right out of the gates.
Out of Woodberry Forest, C.J. Prosise, First Team All State and, again, when you talk about and I'm being redundant with each of these young men, but when you talk about the defensive backfield, we wanted versatility back there, because he can return punts, kick offs, and when you're talking about our defense he is somebody that can play half the field. He has to be a great tackler at times, he will be asked to play close to the line of scrimmage, he has the size and the athletic ability and, again, coming from Woodberry Forest, an excellent academic institution, there was a great connection right out of the starting box for us with C.J.
Out of Evert, Washington, KeiVarae Russell, running back. I think the first thing that hit me when recruiting KeiVarae is his personality, always positive, always talking about the future and what he hopes to accomplish. I love being around young men that have a plan, have an understanding of what their future looks like and how Notre Dame can best help him get there. Always has a smile on his face, always upbeat and, again, he's an outstanding player or we wouldn't be recruiting him. The playing ability fits that profile that we're looking for at the running back position, he lined up in the All Star game as a wide receiver, he can play wide receiver, he can play the running back position and also can be a specialist for us, so he is a guy that has the ability to do a lot of jobs for us, if you will.
Tee Shepard out of Fresno, California. Tee is here, an early enrollee and, you know, I think it's been well chronicled, he did not play his senior season but that did not change our feelings about Tee and what he stood for. He's always wanted to be at Notre Dame, he knew that coming here would set him up for the rest of his life. It was great to see him, again, this morning with a smile on his face, excited about being here at Notre Dame and we believe he is the best corner back in the country, and he can come in and compete right away just like all of our freshmen, and he's excited about the challenge, about coming in here now and getting an opportunity to compete as a freshman, Tee Shepard.
Out of Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey, Elijah Shumate. Here is a young man who played on the best high school team, well coached, Coach Toal does an incredible job of teaching and demanding excellence from his kids on a day to day basis, and that's why this was an immediate thing for us, because he's been down that road, excellence in the classroom and on the football field he's already heard that story, so this isn't anything new to Elijah Shumate.
He's a young man that played running back, returned kicks, played safety position. He's got great versatility, can play off the hash, close to the ball, excited about having Elijah with us. He's a young man and his family understood and recognized what Notre Dame could do for him, and we're excited about Tee Shepard being part of our program.
Out of Bishop Gorman high school in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ronnie Stanley. He's probably as gifted of an offensive linemen that we have seen in many years. A great basketball player but also when it comes to football, just has all the things necessary to be that left tackle, if you will, when you use that term. He can bend, he plays with toughness, he has a skill level already that is very, very impressive. I know Coach Elstan was excited about getting the opportunity to spend time and be one on one with Ronnie, as you know he's played in a number of the All Star games but, again, he gives us that athleticism at the tackle position and he's still growing, 6 6, 280 pounds and brings that athleticism that we look for at the tackle position.
Out of Cathedral high school the state champs in 2011 in Indianapolis, John Turner. John is a young man that comes from a very, very successful high school football program. Well coached, very disciplined. The high school demands excellence on a day to day basis so if there is a current theme in terms of the kids and what we're looking for, for them to be the right fit here at Notre Dame, John is certainly that. Now there is more to it than that, you have to be a really good football player, too, and we got a chance to spend time with John. He was here on campus, we really loved him in person and in personal workouts, and he carried that on to the field.
He's a young man that's continually getting better and, again, when you talk about the secondary, has the versatility at that position that we really, really like. John Turner.
Our final recruit today is Amir Carlisle. As you know, he has transferred into the University of Notre Dame, he attended USC in 2010. He played in a number of games for them last year, and, you know, the transfer process is never an easy one, but we knew Amir, we recruited him last year, we knew about his background, his academics at Kings Academy. We knew about his family, and when he approached us about the potential for transferring, we were excited about it because we felt like he had the right traits, the right character traits to come here and be extremely successful. He's here on campus right now, he was released by USC to pursue the transfer, so he is on scholarship and he is in our workouts right now and, again, we're very, very excited about adding his speed, his athleticism to our football team.
Those are the 17 players that signed letters of intent or 16 plus Amir that have signed a letter of intent to be here at the University of Notre Dame as well as the early enrollees. Our coaches, we talked about our administration and how important they are, but this doesn't happen without our support staff. Dave Peloquin and Tim McDonnell do an incredible job of putting this together for us, the logistics, the operations, there is so much work that goes into this on a day to day basis, and of course our assistant coaches who are out there trying to get that flight into South Bend that normally gets cancelled. They know the airports, and it's a tough job, but they relish it because they get an incredible opportunity to sell the University of Notre Dame. I know that's what energizes them as well as me on a day to day basis. Brian did we cover everything?
BRIAN HARDIN: That was thorough.
Q. Coach, I think one of the first conversations we ever had was talking about big skill players and how if you got your choice you may have 15 or 20 of them running around in a class and we wouldn't know where they were going to play. Is that something that you can target for next year, have you filled the holes that you were looking for in the first two years?
Q. In terms of the numbers last year, 24, 25 with transfer, and now 16, 17, do you look at things at a two year span and that ads up to half your scholarships over two years? Some would say 16 is a low number, 24
Q. Running down the class, I think you used the term principle, family, love of Notre Dame, is that something you can research in a kid when you start recruiting them? How does that factor into the process moving forward to get a better handle on who wants to be here before we get to signing day.
Q. Do you think all the kids that you were in on were cognizant of that aisle, that they felt like that was going to be a good fit for them?
Q. Does that make you uneasy when you see that as a head coach when you see the complete opposite of your school?
Q. And just to be blunt about it, can you explain what happened with Deontay Greenberry? Was there a surprise? Was that something that you were concerned about coming into today?
Q. Coach, talk about what you hope Gunner Kiel ads to the quarterback position. Last year you had an up and down season with your quarterbacks, so what are you hoping that he brings that maybe the other three don't have or is that a bad question?
Q. How equipped is Gunner Kiel? I know it's only been a couple of weeks since he's been on campus to tell but he's going to have a head start. How quickly do you think he will be competitive in the spring and moving forward?
Q. You guys set your sights pretty high, there were a few top 100 kids that you didn't get. How do you view that in view of the kids you got and shooting for some coveted kids and missing on them this time around?
Q. Coach, at what point did you realize Deontay Greenberry was not coming? Did you know last night or was it something that just kinda just came out of nowhere this morning?
Q. It felt like today was going to be a day of no surprises and then obviously that ends up being one. Can you talk about that aspect of recruiting that to the very last second it doesn't matter there is always that possibility of that craziness, that change in this process?
Q. Coach, lower the bar now. With the numbers that you got at running back and wide receiver, do those affect at all what you want to do with maybe Theo, George, Cam McDaniel, in other words, because of the numbers or who you have they may end up at one position or another, you may look at George as a wide receiver, for instance?
Q. Somewhat along the same lines, you have a lot of safeties in this class and I know you're getting older at safety, you're going to lose some people soon, but what Morris was able to do, drop down and be that linebacker, is that a plus to adding more safeties?
Q. Social media, how did that affect recruiting this year?
Q. What did you learn from the recruiting process this year if nothing else, that you're doing the right thing or are there tweaks that you feel like you need to make based on the way the recruiting game is changing?
Q. You mentioned Chris Brown as a "steal" of the draft. Anybody else that pops into your head immediately among the three star guys?
Q. When you get a verbal commitment from Gunner Kiel, a surprise to everybody on the outside, do you expect to have more of a flurry down the stretch with wide receivers or did it happen too late in the process to sway those guys your way?
Q. In terms of your approach in recruiting, how is it different now than it was when you picked up midstream in your first year, are you less inclined to go to the "plan B" guy because you are further along in the development of your recruiting?
Q. Of the XYZ positions, can you say where you project Chris Brown and Justin Ferguson?
Q. And obviously a lot of things are going to evolve with your roster between now and next recruiting season but what would you say your priorities are now going into this next recruiting season?
Q. Coach, you specified corner as a need for this area. Tee Shepard is considered the prototype corner there. Is there anybody else from this group of five that you would see as that corner back or do you see Hardy from last year moving to that position?
Q. When Gunner Kiel made that 11th hour 59th minute call or whatever, was there a reaction on your part, "I was waiting for this call," even though he had committed originally to LSU?
Q. Jarron Jones, so many people have him listed as an offensive tackle prospect. What do you see in him that you see more as a defensive end?
Q. Coach, how quickly do you think the current enrollees that are here now are adjust to go day to day life on campus and working out with you guys?
Q. Brian, in terms of Gunner, is there something else you or Notre Dame has to maybe not coach but talk to him about in terms of expectations at that position with the way he came here at this school?
Q. In terms of fifth year guys was that something you're waiting for for the recruiting class to
Q. Coach, several of the Big 10 schools announced they will be getting four year scholarships instead of one. Is Notre Dame moving in that direction?
Q. Brian, you mentioned the process of talking to the parent and making sure the recruits are coming from a good family, can you talk about how much time you spent selling the parents and how that's changed over the last 20 years?