After taking over the program in December 2009, Kelly had two months to complete what the former coaching staff started on the recruiting trail. Among his 23-player haul (now 18-strong as they enter their season season) for 2010 were four potential wide receiver prospects, each of which opened their careers at the position:
- Four-star Gainesville, GA prospect and Irish legacy, Tai-ler Jones
- Three-star South Bend, Clay High School target Daniel Smith
- Three-star speedster from Raritan High School (Hazlet, NJ) Bennett Jackson
- Three-star Fort Thomas, KY, slot and safety prospect, Austin Collinsworth
Jones started from the outset, starring as the team's No. 2 target last fall. The 6'4" 215-pound Smith emerged in 2012 as well, due largely to his blocking prowess. Jackson starred from Day One as a special team coverage maven but moved to the defensive backfield prior to his sophomore season and without earning scrimmage time as a true freshman receiver.
To date, Collinsworth's greatest impact is also as a special teams demon, following in Jackson's footsteps as the 2011 unit's player of the year. Like Jackson, Collinsworth never played important snaps on offense and switched to safety prior to his second season.
Why is this foursome's recruitment relevant to the wide receiver position entering 2013?
Because at the time, the presence of four sophomore targets likely assuaged any angst for the following recruiting cycle, 2011, when only four-star Vernon Hills, IL athlete DaVaris Daniels joined the program.
Kelly added Daniels, moved the Jackson/Collinsworth pair, then flipped their classmate, 2010 quarterback recruit Luke Massa to the receivers' unit. Combined, the 2010-11 classes had four pass catchers, making three mandatory for 2012, with four as the intended number.
One will wear blue and gold for his collegiate sophomore season in 2013.
Unexpected Attrition…Plus OneThough never officially a member of the program, the "loss" of Greenberry on Signing Day served as an undeniable sting for a staff coming off back-to-back 8-5 campaigns. But last week's defections by Neal and Ferguson might have hurt the program more -- unlike Greenberry, both were entrenched with the Irish, with a combined six seasons of remaining eligibility and two under Kelly's tutelage; monogram winners for a national runner-up squad.
Neither was necessarily instrumental to the 2013 team, but their departure leaves a future void: the 2012 class now has one wide receiver in Brown, ditto 2011 with Daniels.
Enter Brown's classmate, four-star safety prospect C.J. Prosise. A redshirt last fall as both a scout team dog linebacker and safety, Prosise has begun evaluation as a wide receiver, and the early returns appear glowing.
"He's been what we thought he could be, he's just done it a lot quicker than we thought," said Kelly of the conversion. "You're talking about a slot receiver that's 210 pounds. Nice hands, got deceptive speed, can pull away. Then in terms of the run game, we've got a big guy that can do some nice things."
Asked if Prosise's move was permanent, especially in the way of recent transfers Neal and Ferguson, Kelly offered, "As definitive as I can be at this point. It looks like that's where he's gonna be. We're still going to have some shifting and moving of slots on the roster, but I would say if I was to venture a guess right now, that's probably where he's going to stay."
Regardless of Prosise's progress, the incoming quartet of Torii Hunter, Jr., Will Fuller, James Onwualu, and Corey Robinson -- the latter pair early enrollees already on campus -- now represent the future game day depth of the program.
With seniors T.J. Jones and Daniels Smith moving on following 2013, that future, for each of the freshmen foursome, begins sooner than expected.
'13-14 Irish in Good Hands; '15 in need of aid…Daniels, Brown, Prosise, Hunter, Fuller, Onwualu, Robinson, and potentially the 5th-year Massa will be back in 2014 (Massa is a role player at present, not yet able to make an impact after his position switch and April 2012 ACL surgery.)
All of the above sans Massa are also eligible through 2015, the season serving as Daniels' potential fifth with the program after sitting out as a true freshman.
Chief targets include top-rated FOX Sports NEXT receiver Michiah Quick, and four-star prospects Malachi Dupre, Artavis Scott, Mark Andrews, Corey Holmes, and Trevion Thompson. Holmes will make his third visit to campus on April 6.
While Quick is obviously the crown jewel, its nearly as important that the Irish can land two of their top targets to join Brent. Another (fourth), one with the ability to move positions such as the 6'6" Andrews to tight end or a not-yet-offered bigger target that can move to the defensive backfield, would complete a quality haul.
Notre Dame needs a second straight three, possibly four-player collection of receivers among what Irisheyes.com forecasts will be a 22-player class for 2014.
The position's overall depth and potential is strong for 2013; solid for the following season.
The current recruiting cycle will determine if that remains the case for 2015 and beyond.