I've touted nine as the likely number of recruits that will be brought on board, the total pending prospective 5th-year players and accounting for at least one (inevitable) transfer out of the program. The actual number of scholarships remaining, not including 5th years, is at 11. (There will of course be 5th-year returnees as discussed in Part I above).
Nine players gives the head coach Brian Kelly a 23-man class on the heels of his (now) 16-player haul last February.
"When we're crunching the numbers we're looking at, for us now moving forward, getting to that 85," said Kelly in February of the team's march toward a full roster. "So if it means that if there is a great defensive back (for example) out there we can take 'em next year. Where if there was a great position player we would shy away from that (because of numbers) but now maybe we can take that great player, or maybe have that luxury as part of our philosophy next year," he continued of the low numbers in 2012 turning higher in 2013.
Real World Realities vs. the RosterPart of the reason the Irish enter 2012 with just 82 scholarship players -- a number that includes a well-deserved free ride to former walk-on and two-deep safety Chris Salvi -- is the inevitable event of the transfer. Whether due to playing time, academics, homesickness, family commitments, or reasons fans and media need not know, the following seven underclassmen have left the Notre Dame program over Kelly's first 30 months: E.J. Banks, Spencer Boyd, Shaquelle Evans, Derek Roback, Alex Bullard, Tee Shepard, and Aaron Lynch.
I received several emails over the last two months wondering why I always "suggest" someone is about to transfer. I'm not suggesting its about to happen, rather, I'm certain its going to happen every year, and simply trying to apply logic and reality to any column I write that deals with roster management.
Transfers are the reality of major college football. The list of Lou Holtz recruits that left prior to graduation over his 11 seasons in South Bend is both voluminous and impressive in nature (future long-time NFL players Dorsey Levens and Kent Graham head the list). Its not always a negative for the player, the head coach, or the overall makeup of the team. And when it is, both move on.
In five years, Charlie Weis lost Derrell Hand, D.J. Hord, Joey Hiben, Joseph Fauria, Will Yeatman, Konrad Reuland (that's four consecutive tight ends if you're scoring at home), Aaron Nagel, Matt Carufel, Richard Jackson, Jashaad Gaines, Demetrius Jones, Bartley Webb (retired due to injury), Zach Frazer, and Munir Prince from his recruiting classes, all prior to their senior seasons. (Of note: the final 10 players listed are all from the 2006 class that once numbered 28 strong.)
In other words, accept the reality that there is no set recruiting number nine months prior to National Signing Day. Senior Nick Tausch could kick his way to a 5th-year offer as did former walk-on David Ruffer. Either Carlo Calabrese or Dan Fox could play well enough, or poorly enough, to make the other expendable/necessary to return. Zack Martin could become an All-America and leave; Tyler Eifert could find a nagging injury that forces him to stay for a 5th season. Cierre Wood…you get the idea.
For now, consider the number of remaining targets at 9. It accounts for attrition and nearly three decades of accumulated logic regarding prospective 5th-year returnees.
Inside the NumbersAs detailed in "The Nine," I expect Notre Dame to target/land another wide receiver, cornerback, two defensive linemen, potentially a running back, and four (as many as five, pending a true RB pledge) "Big Skill" profile athletes (LB, TE, big Safeties, hybrid DE/OLBs). The latter number is a key component and the initial focus of the class as Kelly has always prided himself on the ability to develop such prospects over their collegiate careers.
To be more specific in the Big Skill profile, the Irish could use at least two true linebacker prospects in addition to the WR/CB/DLs indicated above. And with 12 safeties on scholarship at present, as well as eight for 2013, if the Irish bring in a high school safety this cycle you can expect him to be A.) a major, top-tier prospect, or B.) a player capable of playing multiple positions.