Below is a look at Kelly's 2012 efforts at recruiting at the Power Profile positions.
Offensive LineAt least two veterans were lost due to graduation: 5th-year senior right tackle Taylor Dever and senior right guard Trevor Robinson. Senior center Braxston Cave is expected to return for a 5th-season while his backup, classmate Mike Golic, appears in line for a final season at the school as well.
Incoming: After bringing in five offensive line competitors in the 2011 cycle, the Irish secured commitments from two offensive linemen this February: Scout.com 4-star offensive tackle prospect Ronnie Stanley and 3-star OT prospect Mark Harrell. Harrell will switch to center for Notre Dame thus rendering his recruiting projections less relevant.
Kelly offered of Harrell: "I know you hear that all of the time, RKGs, they have to be RKGs ("Right Kind of Guys"). 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."
Said Kelly of Stanley: "He's probably as gifted of an offensive linemen that we have seen in many years…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 (Harry) Hiestand 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."
Disappointment: The Irish lost 4-star OT prospect and long-time verbal pledge Taylor Decker in early January when he de-committed and chose Ohio State. The loss of three of Notre Dame's five offensive coaches and the hiring of Urban Meyer in Columbus contributed greatly to Decker's defection. Two of the three coaches that left South Bend: running backs coach Tim Hinton and offensive line coach Ed Warinner, joined Meyer at OSU.
Was the need adequately addressed? The Irish came up one top tier prospect short, or failing that, two solid fits short. Because Kelly can bring back two seniors for 5th years, and because one defensive line prospect could switch sides of scrimmage, Notre Dame could still field a three-deep along its offensive front in 2012. Without the switch (detailed below) the unit will feature 14 players next fall. The addition of another 2012 prospect would have been ideal, and was obviously part of the staff's initial plan.
Defensive LineThree of the four freshmen defensive linemen from the 2011 class played significant minutes last fall. Aaron Lynch was the headliner though Stephon Tuitt was nearly as impressive albeit in fewer games played. Classmate Chase Hounshell rounded out the trio of first-year competitors.
Incoming: The Irish landed a Scout.com 5-star and a "former" 5-star. The latter, Jarron Jones, saw his designation reduced to a four late in the process. Jones is projected by most to be a top tier OT prospect in college but the Irish told him he'd have a shot at the defensive side of scrimmage before any move was made.
Said Kelly of the 6'6" 298-pound Jones: "Jarron is one of those young men when you talk about defensive linemen, you want to look toward their athletic ability…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…a young man that is going to impact our football program just because of his work ethic."
January enrollee Sheldon Day (6'2" 275 pounds) earned 5-star designation from Scout and was ranked as its 50th best overall prospect in the 2012 class. "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," Kelly said of Day.
Disappointment: Regardless of his final collegiate position, top prospect Arik Armstead was the team's top "Power" target, and the Irish remained in the hunt until the bitter end. The 5-star from Elk Grove, Calif. was rated as the top OT prospect in the country by Scout.com. Armstead's older brother, Armond, examined transferring to the University from USC for his fifth-season of eligibility but that decision was put on hold until after his spring semester in Los Angeles.
Was the need adequately addressed? Separate from last season's haul, definitively "no" but its hard to look at recruiting in one-year cycles. Day was the top interior defensive line prospect and he's already on campus. Jones is a versatile player that could move to the offensive side of scrimmage. Notre Dame could benefit from the addition of Armond Armstead to its roster next fall, but could have also from another Power Profile player to develop over the next five years. With 16 scholarships awarded (17 expected), its hard to believe Notre Dame couldn't find one more prospect to round out its DL and/or Power haul.
Note: Irisheyes.com's two-year breakdown of Brian Kelly's recruiting efforts is forthcoming.