Notre Dame is closing fast on a Top 10 class nationally according to the 247Sports Composite on Wednesday, the first day of college football’s new Early Signing Period.
Irish coach Brian Kelly provided his initial thoughts on the program’s 2019 haul during ESPN’s special show and highlighted Notre Dame’s need for defense this cycle.
“Each year you’re looking at the needs within your program and we knew early on that we wanted to address the offensive and defensive lines,” Kelly said. “We’ve got seven o-lineman, d-line. From there, it starts to grow and we needed to get some depth at the linebacker position — length and athleticism. That was the core of what we weer looking for and we found those guys.”
Notre Dame has signed four Top 150 players according to the 247Sports Composite, including four-star safety Kyle Hamilton and four-star pass rusher NaNa Osafo-Mensah. Keeping this class intact defensively wasn’t as big a challenge as some outsiders expected, Kelly says, after the Irish went through several coaching staff changes.
“Replacing coordinators, there’s different scenarios right? Some move on to head coaching positions and you try to prepare them for that opportunity and others you’re not having the success that you want, so you’re making changes there,” Kelly said. “We’ve been mostly moving our guys on to better opportunities. We lost our defensive coordinator last year, but we had somebody from within in Clark Lea that was seamlessly able to step in and run our defensive structure that was already in place.
“That transition can me be much more difficult if it’s an upheaval and you’re changing systems, but we really haven’t had to do that. Chip has run the base of my offense that has been installed here. He’s had the freedom to put his own personality in there. And we’ve kept our base on defense that Mike Elko put in.”
Kelly says the new recruiting calendar has made December quite busy, not to mention the fact Notre Dame is prepping for a College Football Playoff appearance vs. Clemson on Dec. 29 in the middle of it all.
“Preparation for the CFP, recruiting, award shows … for me, it’s a lot,” Kelly said. “But our university provides the resources. I’ve been from California to Connecticut. We’ve got a class from 16 different states. It’s difficult but it really makes January a lot easier for us to get in with the ’21s and the ’22s as crazy as that sounds. We can now get to work on that class down the road.
“As hectic as it is in December, it helps us here at Notre Dame moving forward.”