Transfers help Kelly combat attrition

Notre Dame continues to battle previous defections from its ranks with "can't miss" transfers into the program.

A combined 40 committed prospects between the 2011 and 2012 recruiting cycles pledged to Brian Kelly's Notre Dame football program.

The total number of players from that recruited 40 to contribute with at least one snap to Kelly's 2014 Irish -- the 2011-12 class's junior and senior seasons, respectively?

Twenty-three...

Transfer, injury, suspensions, dismissals, inability to make the varsity, and the Siren's Song of NFL riches took the rest.

From that 23, three appeared only in spot duty: snakebitten safety Nicky Baratti (a third shoulder surgery), defensive end Chase Hounshell (multiple shoulder surgeries prior), and Anthony Rabasa, who appeared both in the season-opener as a dime package starter, and six games later made a big play as a pass rusher at Florida State -- oddly, his only appearance in the contest.

Additionally, among the ranks of the 20 remaining competitors was suspended safety Eilar Hardy (missed the first eight games), and little-used offensive lineman Mark Harrell (appeared in blowouts vs. Rice and Michigan, not again thereafter).

Thus, including long-snapper Scott Daly, only 18 of the combined 40 prospects from the 2011 and 2012 recruiting hauls played some type of weekly role for Notre Dame in 2014. Of those 18, three were solely on special teams.

With myriad upperclassmen lost, youth was served, and not necessarily by choice.

But credit Kelly and the University for finding a way to elicit veteran aid, as 2011 USC pledge Amir Carlisle and 2010 Florida signee Cody Riggs joined the ranks in the midst of this class attrition, Carlisle prior to 2012, Riggs prior to last season.

Now for the third time in four seasons, Kelly has dipped into the transfer pool again, landing soon-to-be California Bears graduate Avery Sebastian.

Like Riggs and Carlisle before him, Sebastian's move to South Bend includes the ability to play immediately (Riggs and Sebastian because they're/will be college graduates with eligibility remaining due to medical redshirts; Carlisle because he was granted a waiver).

With transfers out of the program an annual reality, Kelly has, to his credit, found a way to help his squad by bringing in talent in search of a second-chance.

In the instances of Carlisle and Riggs, both proved to be ideal teammates -- dedicated student-athletes whose values and talents mirror what every Notre Dame coach, current and past alike, has been charged with bringing to the University.

It appears he's found a third such fit in Avery Sebastian, a safety by trade who offered the following to Irish Illustrated's Pete Sampson earlier this week.

“Notre Dame is a great place with a great team coming back this fall,” he said. “Coach Kelly is looking for little pieces that will help gel the team together, get them to a national championship. I think I can be one of those pieces."

Riggs nearly was, at least prior to a stress fracture in his foot that interrupted his season after the squad raced to a 7-1 start during which Riggs was inarguably one of the team's 10 best players.

"I always have an interest in adding transfers if they fit academically," said Kelly last May of the addition of Riggs. "They've got to fit academically. We've got, obviously the young man coming in from Florida, fit into our accelerated one-year MBA program, was a great fit for us. Went for him. And he fit for us in terms of a veteran presence in the back end of our defense."

STEPPING INTO A ROLE
Sebastian joins a safety unit short on depth and health. Junior Max Redfield and senior Elijah Shumate will likely start. Injured sophomore Drue Tranquill (torn ACL in mid-November) and Sebastian appear slotted to be the unit's game-ready backups. The aforementioned Baratti continues to battle back from a third shoulder surgery -- he'll participate in spring ball, though not with contact -- the third consecutive spring under those parameters.

A pair of incoming freshmen, Mykelti Williams and Nicco Fertitta, join the fall fray as well.

Should either Sebastian or Tranquill beat out the supposed starting pair (both Redfield and Shumate lost starting jobs in November 2014), Kelly's move to included another post Signing Day transfer will appear genius rather than merely necessary.

In search of competition and set on competing with a full boat of 85 quality scholarship competitors for the first time in his Notre Dame tenure, Kelly believes the program is in a place where bringing a quality veteran to the mix won't upset the apple cart.

"I would only do it after your program is on good, solid ground," he said of graduate student transfers. "That you're not going to upset the locker room. That you're locker room is in a good position. Our locker room is in a very good position where you can bring in a guy and not feel like he's going to upset what's already developed.

"The first couple years I would not have gone that route, but where we are right now we can bring in a guy for a year and do that."
Sebastian isn't the first, nor will he be the last, as Kelly and Notre Dame combat attrition with valuable, logical, like-minded additions.


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