Kelly's focused approach was nonetheless evident throughout the last calendar year and upon first review of the Class of 2011.
A breakdown, with a notable on-site adjustment from the staff prior to today's NSD press conference.
Power (8)"A ‘Power' player fits a profile for us: generally those are your linemen." – Brian Kelly
A portent for the 2011 class was offered by Kelly following his 2010 National Signing Day press conference. His first official recruiting class – the "Class on the Fly" – included 23 (now 20) competitors, but just three along the defensive line.
Kelly noted that afternoon that defensive end would be a point of emphasis for 2012.
Mission accomplished, as Kelly & Co. inked eight "power" players including five who are expected to receive their first look on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage. As many as three of the listed DL below could play along the offensive front in their collegiate careers. (Troy Niklas is officially considered a "Big Skill" prospect by the Irish coaching staff, as indicated below).
- DL Brad Carrico (6'6" 270)
- OL Connor Hanratty (6'4" 290)
- OL Matt Hegarty (6'6" 281)
- DL Chase Hounshell (6'5" 250)
- DL Aaron Lynch (6'6" 255)
- OL Nick Martin (6'5" 260)
- DL Tony Springmann (6'6" 260)
- DL Stephon Tuitt (6'5" 252)
Big Skill (6)"‘Big Skill' is profiling out – If I could take 20 guys that were tough gentlemen, that fit the profile at Notre Dame academically; were 6'4" 215 or 220 pounds, you'd never be able to track who's playing where. Some play defensive end, some play tight end, some are safeties. That's ‘Big Skill.'" – Brian Kelly
He didn't quite reach 20, but the dearth of Big Skill players signed is in direct correlation to the necessity of Power and Skill position athletes among the commitments. Look for nearly twice as many "Big Skill" players to pledge to Kelly in 2012.
Kelly's 2010 class – especially those signed after he took the helm – included three Big Skill athletes (Luke Massa, Derek Roback, Danny Spond) as well as one Skill position recruit, Austin Collinsworth, who was deemed capable at either wide receiver or defensive back. Versatility was then the key for Kelly who had less than two months to finish a solid class.
- OLB Ben Councell (6'5" 225)
- ILB Jarrett Grace (6'4" 230)
- TE Ben Koyack (6'5" 230)
- DL/OL/TE Troy Niklas (6'5" 265)
- OLB Anthony Rabasa (6'5" 215)
- OLB Ishaq Williams (6'5" 225)
Each of the four linebackers rank as ideal "Big Skill" athletes due to their height/weight entering college though Councell, Grace, Rabasa and Williams are expected to remain on the defensive side of scrimmage (there's little "projecting" for each). Expect next year's class to include a larger sampling of Big Skill players who aren't pigeon-holed at a particular position.
(I originally had Niklas listed among the Power group but learned that Coach Kelly considers him a Big Skill prospect.)
Skill (8) – Plus one specialist"Skill, obviously, is to have a specific strength in that particular area: ball skills, throwing it, kicking it…" – Brian Kelly
Versatility reigns among the group, though more so along the trio of athletic-focused positions: WR, CB, and S. Only Kyle Brindza (specialist), Davaris Daniels, and Everett Golson appear destined for one position in their collegiate careers. The remaining sextet will likely receive immediate evaluations for special teams duty as well.
- WR/RB/S George Atkinson (6'2.5" 200)
- CB Josh Atkinson (6'0" 180)
- CB Jalen Brown (6'0" 186)
- WR Davaris Daniels (6'2" 175)
- S Matthias Farley (6'1" 185) – Possibly the most versatile athlete of the Skill group
- QB Everett Golson (5'11" 170)
- S Eilar Hardy (6'0" 170)
- RB Cam McDaniel (5'10" 190) – Could compete at DB as well
- (Specialist) K Kyle Brindza (6'2" 195)
"I've always operated out of those three categories and will continue to operate out of those three categories here at Notre Dame."
At all levels, football games are first won up front. If the 2011 recruiting haul is any indication, a preponderance of "Power" will once again reign supreme in South Bend.