The two highest ranked members of Notre Dame’s current senior class – both five-star prospects – never played a down.
The fourth highest ranked (#74 overall by Scout.com) played one season as an ineffectual punt returner before transfer.
Two others among the group transferred along the way with minimal impact prior, while yet another had his career arc devastated by multiple surgeries, though he perseveres still.
Brian Kelly’s smallish recruiting class of 2012 began with 17 signees. It will finish 12 strong, a whopping *eight of which now rank among the team’s 20 best football players as they conclude their senior years.
“It gives you great resolve that they're difficult to beat because they've invested so much,” said Kelly of his squad’s leaders. “They've invested on the practice field. They've invested in the weight room. They were in here this morning at 7:00 a.m., 65 of them lifting weights. Why are you here at 7:00 a.m. in November? You've invested. And they want to get the benefits of that investment and that's winning football games.
“They want to win badly,” he continued. “When your players want to win as bad as your coaches, that's a good thing. But when your coaches want it more than they do, that's never been a good thing for me.”
Standouts include DT Sheldon Day, LT Ronnie Stanley, RB C.J. Prosise, CB KeiVarae Russell, NT *Jarron Jones, WR Chris Brown, S Elijah Shumate, and DE Romeo Okwara – each a multi-year starter.
The oft-injured and previously referenced Nicky Baratti became a two-season contributor despite a quartet of shoulder injuries, and long-snapper Scott Daly has held the role for three straight seasons. Backup John Turner logged 28 games of action including at one point 26 straight, while Mark Harrell served as a reserve center, guard, and tackle along the way, playing four games this season after seeing little field time previously.
Together they’re approaching a program rarity – 40 career victories. It’s a feat not accomplished since the gold standard 1990 recruiting class did the same en route to a 40-8-1 final mark.
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL SINCE…
Bryant Young, Aaron Taylor, Jeff Burris, Jim Flannigan, Tim Ruddy, Jerome Bettis, Tom Carter, Kevin McDougal, Oliver Gibson, Greg Lane, Lake Dawson, Anthony Peterson, John Covington, Willie Clark, Clint Johnson, Oscar McBride, Brian Hamilton, Pete Bercich…
The names roll off the tongue. All-Americans, NFL Draft picks, multi-year starters, national award winners and program record holders.
The 1990 Notre Dame recruiting class won three major bowl games, enjoyed a trio of 10-plus win seasons, and played for a national championship their first season on campus. The end result was 40 victories with a whopping 18 members of the 22-player haul carving out quality to all-star careers in South Bend, and 15 appearing on an NFL roster (13 were drafted).
The 2012 class doesn’t even have 13 players remaining but is nonetheless the first since that star-studded ’90 class to have a chance at 40 victories, and it’s a group that thrived despite attrition from the outset.
“The people who stayed in my class were leaders and we were able to stick through it,” said senior Chris Brown. “We eventually were able to excel as leaders and really push this team to win some games.”
2012 CLASS SUPERLATIVES
Including the team’s six *fifth-year seniors – technically part of the 2011 recruiting class – players are listed by star designation and, in terms of the four- and five-star players, by their Scout 300 ranking.
5-Stars: Gunner Kiel (#38) Tee Shepard (#39), Sheldon Day (#50)
4-Stars: Elijah Shumate (#55), Ronnie Stanley #66), DaVonte Neal (#74), Will Mahone (#201), Jarron Jones (#229), KeiVarae Russell (#207), C.J. Prosise (#276)
3-Stars: Nicky Baratti (#17 LB), John Turner (#48 S), Mark Harrell (#52 OL), Romeo Okwara (#65 DE), Justin Ferguson (#61 WR), Chris Brown (#87 WR)
2-Stars: Scott Daly (#1 LS)
Fifth-Year Seniors Recruiting Info:
-- 4-Star transfer Amir Carlisle (#15 RB, #140 on Scout 300)
-- 4-Star Jarrett Grace (#14 LB, #235 on Scout 300)
-- 3-Star Nick Martin (#39 overall OL)
-- 3-Star Matthias Farley (#82 overall CB)
-- 3-Star Chase Hounshell (#97 DE)
-- Unranked LB Joe Schmidt
First 2012 pledge: Scott Daly
Last 2012 pledge: Tee Shepard
Most career games played: *Matthias Farley 48 – each since the outset of 2012, his redshirt freshman season
Most career starts: Ronnie Stanley and KeiVarae Russell 35 (Stanley 35 consecutive)
Most rushing yards in one game: Prosise 198 (Ga. Tech 2015)
Most receiving yards one game: Prosise 100 (Clemson 2015)
Most passing yards one game: N/A
Most touchdowns one game: Prosise 3 (Ga. Tech, Navy 2015)
Highest Career Honor: *Joe Schmidt, Team MVP 2014
Top Single Game Efforts
-- Chris Brown 4 receptions, 83 yards including two gains in excess of 30 yards, at Clemson 2015
-- *Amir Carlisle 7 targets, 7 receptions, 2 touchdowns vs. Michigan 2014
-- *Jarrett Grace 8 tackles including 3 Stuffs vs. MSU 2013
-- Mark Harrell UMass 2015
-- *Chase Hounshell Navy 2015
-- *Nick Martin Ga. Tech 2015
-- C.J. Prosise 198 yards, 3 TD vs. Ga. Tech, 2015
-- Ronnie Stanley LSU 2014
Top Single Game Efforts, Defense:
-- Nicky Baratti registered a goal line interception in a 13-6 win over Michigan, 2012
-- Scott Daly game-winning snap for Kyle Brindza field goal vs. LSU 2014
-- Sheldon Day 6 tackles including 5 Stuffs Temple 2015
-- *Matthias Farley 9 tackles including 5 Stuffs at USC 2012
-- Jarron Jones 6 tackles including 4 Stuffs vs. FSU 2014
-- Romeo Okwara 7 tackles including 4 Stuffs vs. Temple 2014
-- KeiVarae Russell 3 PD, INT, TD saving tackle at midfield (kickoff) vs. Rutgers 2013
-- Elijah Shumate 10 tackles (1 stuff), QB hurry, PD, INT vs. Michigan 2014
-- *Joe Schmidt 10 tackles including 5 Stuffs vs. Stanford 2014
-- John Turner game-saving midfield tackle on kickoff vs. Navy 2013
Memorable Wins (Listed by interviewed players):
-- Michigan State, Oklahoma, Stanford, and USC 2012
-- Michigan (due to the atmosphere created) Stanford and LSU 2014
-- USC 2015
-- Alabama BCS Championship Game
-- Michigan 2013
-- Florida State 2014
-- Clemson 2015