Kelly's Class of 2010 Finds a Way

Notre Dame's graduating seniors -- the "Class on the Fly" pieced together between the conclusion of Charlie Weis and outset of Brian Kelly eras -- won more games than any incoming group at Notre Dame since Lou Holtz's 1992 freshmen.

Bobby Taylor, Renaldo Wynn, Derrick Mayes.

Each a Notre Dame legend, each an NFL first- or second-round draft pick. Each a member of Lou Holtz's 1992 freshmen haul that long-time recruiting guru Allen Wallace ranked as the nation's seventh-best. (Tom Lemming had the Irish No. 1.)

Tommy Rees, Prince Shembo, and T.J. Jones will likely combine to win more.

Both classes, Holtz's from '92 and Brian Kelly's from 2010 stand currently at 36 victories, the latter with a pair to play.

(It's relevant to note that the '92 freshmen played the maximum of 48 total games while the current class will finish playing 52).

"This is a unique class…this was kind of that class that we tried to hold onto when we got here," said Kelly of what was for a long stretch a two-person coaching staff (with lone Weis-era holdover Tony Alford).

"This development of relationships with this group was one where they were a group of guys that we didn't have a strong bond with, but we had to build one over time, and I think we have.  I think we have a different relationship in a sense, a unique relationship with these guys in that they have to trust us, and that in itself as a group is a great dynamic."

The class's internal bonds were forged quickly and grew through trials, then triumph.

  • They began their careers 1-3 and leveled off at 4-5 before finishing on a 4-0 run that included wins over Utah, USC, and Miami. The early November 2010 win over Utah was the program's first over a ranked foe since September 2006; the victory over USC the program's first since October 2001.

  • An 0-2 start to the 2011 season put the group at just 8-7 in their first 15 games. They've since won 28 of 35 contests including 15 of 17 at home.

  • A 12-0 run through 2012 ended with the program's first No. 1 ranking since November, 15, 1993.

With two games remaining, the now 17-player class is likely to break its tie with the 1992 group, a collection of talent that included seven future draft picks.

2010: 36 wins and counting

23 prospects inked Irish on Signing Day 2010 -- just 16 were active on the roster this fall due to injuries, transfer, and the passing of Matt James in April 2010.

-- Three had their careers truncated due to injury: offensive tackle Tate Nichols (as a junior in 2012), running back Cameron Roberson (as junior in 2012 as well), and linebacker Danny Spond (August 2013). Roberson never played a game, redshirting as a true freshman and never recovering from a spring 2011 ACL tear thereafter.

-- Three transferred -- two before Kelly's first season kicked off: LB Derek Roback (Ohio), CB Spencer Boyd (multiple), S Chris Badger (BYU). Of the three, only Roback committed to Kelly. None of the trio played a game for the Irish, bringing the number from the 23-player class that failed to appear in a contest at five (James, Roberson, Roback, Boyd, Badger).

-- 10 have been full or part-time starters during their tenures: Spond, Kona Schwenke, Austin Collinsworth, Louis Nix, TJ Jones, Tommy Rees, Bennett Jackson, Prince Shembo, Daniel Smith, and Christian Lombard.

- Two were named team captains: Jones and Jackson.

-- Five were listed for at least three seasons on the team's official two-deep but did not start and played sparingly from scrimmage. Four of the five served as a special teams starter: Alex Welch, Lo Wood, Kendall Moore, Justin Utupo, and Andrew Hendrix. Another, Bruce Heggie, served as a permanent backup role, outside the team's two-deep,

-- Eight have won a post-season program award: Rees, Nix, Jackson, Collinsworth, Roberson, Moore, Shembo, and Spond, with another, Jones, certain to do so following the season.

-- Of the 23 players signed in February 2010 -- Eight pledged to Kelly (chronologically from first to last): Collinsworth, Nichols, Heggie, Roback, Massa, Spond, James, and Schwenke.

-- Longest winning streak: 12 (2012 regular season)
-- Longest losing streak: 3 (September 2010)
-- Losing streaks of two (or more): 4
-- Winning streaks of four or more: 5 -- one to conclude 2010; two separate in 2011; a 12-game streak last season; one this year (ASU, USC, Air Force, Navy).

Note: The classes of 2011, 2012, and 2013 will be reviewed during the week following Saturday's game at Stanford.


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