Final Grades: 2012 Offense

In a year that saw one recruit pick a school because of access to a Chick-fil-A on campus, and another getting cold feet standing in front of the fax machine, it should be no surprise Notre Dame had its own drama on signing day. However, after looking at the group Brian Kelly brought in to his program the future looks bright in South Bend.

Each year fans get excited about the future of Notre Dame football as National Signing Day brings new blood into the Irish fold.

While many have focused on those who signed with other programs, the fact remains Notre Dame's 16-member class of 2012 was solid in many ways. The non-signing of Deontay Greenberry left a bruise, however, it did not kill a class filled with talent and needs met.

Quarterback

Gunner Kiel / Columbus (IN) East HS - #1 Ranked QB

Before Wednesday the main drama in the class came from the possibility of not having a quarterback in the 2012 class. After Maty Mauk and Kiel both looked elsewhere, the Irish got some luck as Kiel reevaluated his pledge to LSU and failed to show up at the SEC program.

Kiel has the tools to excel in Brian Kelly's offense physically and his early entrance will allow for him to pick up the offense this spring. Should fans look at Kiel as the starter when the season opens? No! However, he'll be in the mix to push the three other signal callers on the roster.

This signing filled a need in the program and getting the best quarterback in the country gives the Irish an A+.

Running Back

William Mahone / Youngstown (OH) Fitch - #23 Ranked RB | Keivarae Russell / Everett (WA) Mariner #24 Ranked RB | Amir Carlisle / Transfer from USC #15 Ranked RB in Class of 2011.

The Irish needed at least two backs in the class and filled those needs with two different types of backs in Mahone, Russell and Carlisle.

Mahone gives the Irish a power runner capable of hitting the field this fall. The fact he doesn't have a lot of carries on his body is an added bonus when he arrives on campus. Irish fans saw a glimpse of what a power back can do in the Irish offense this past season in Jonas Gray. If Mahone can grasp the offense he'll play early.

Russell is the lightning to Mahone's thunder bringing the ability to play two positions and excel in the Irish offense. The short passing game using a running back has yet to really be seen and Russell is just the right weapon capable of making it work.

With his speed and elusiveness, Russell in the open-field causes match-up problems for defenses. Also having the ability to jump out and play the slot gives Kelly more options with the Washington native.

Carlisle will have to sit out the 2012 season but must be listed in the class after his transfer from USC. The depth Carlisle gives the Irish could also mean moving Russell is a possibility without much thought. Great athlete with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes Carlisle a dual-threat.

This trio addresses the needs at the position giving the Irish a grade of A.

Offensive Line

Ronnie Stanley / Las Vegas (NV) Bishop Gorman - #11 Ranked OT | Mark Harrell / Charlotte (NC) Catholic - #52 Ranked OT

The plan was to have three or four offensive linemen filling needs at tackle and center in the class. Stanley has the ability to stay at tackle while Harrell looks headed to play center.

Harrell's move from tight end to offensive line is not a stretch as he brings good athletic ability. A move to center will allow his true abilities to shine as he's got the ability to reach second level defenders.

Stanley can play tackle or guard bringing great athletic ability with a frame to grow. Next fall should be looked as a year to get bigger and stronger for the Nevada native with year two being time to show his full potential.

If we graded the position on those the Irish didn't get it would not be a kind grade. However, we're looking only at the two players signed and their abilities giving the Irish a grade of B along the offensive line.

IE Note: Jarron Jones is ranked as an OT by Scout.com. Notre Dame is listing Jones as a defensive lineman, however, we project he could see a position move if the need would arise or he gets passed by on defense.

Wide Receiver

Justin Ferguson / Pembroke Pines (FL) Flanagan - #61 Ranked WR | Chris Brown – Hanahan (SC) - #87 Ranked WR

Irish fans will always remember being left at the altar by Deontay Greenberry and for good reasons. The California native looked to be an instant impact player capable of making big plays from the receiver spot.

While there is still a chance the Irish add another player to this combo in Davonte Neal, we have to grade on those who signed on Wednesday.

Ferguson gives the Irish a big-body (6-foot-2, 200-pounds) with speed to work with. Improved route running and continued work on his hands are a must. However, Ferguson is built to be a star in the short game as he does a great job of getting off the line and has a body to give defenders problems.

Brown gives the Irish a receiver with speed capable of taking a short pass and turning it up field for a big gain. He fits in Kelly's offense and will have a chance to be a major playmaker.

In giving a grade we feel the Irish got to very good receivers and give a grade of B-.

IE Note: There is also a chance Keivarae Russell could also see a position move to the slot which we would give a solid grade of B.


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