Can Irish keep pace?

With limited targets left on the board, Notre Dame faces an uphill climb to match previous Brian Kelly classes in quality, even if the Irish score Demetris Robertson and Caleb Kelly.

Notre Dame could land its first pair of five-star prospects in four years and ink its biggest class under Brian Kelly. The Irish could also finish with one of the weaker recruiting hauls of the Kelly era. And that all may happen at once on National Signing Day, now just two weeks away.

So as another season of college football’s recruiting circus reaches its finale, keep in mind Notre Dame’s class won’t hit the hyperbolic highs thrown out by analysts, nor will the Irish take a step back in the College Football Playoff race.

Brian Kelly’s program, even with Caleb Kelly and Demetris Robertson, will hold serve.

If Notre Dame finishes with Kelly, Robertson and three-star linebacker Jonathan Jones, it would give the Irish the biggest class of the Kelly era, although it would average 3.6 stars per player with two five-star prospects, 11 four-star prospects and 12 three-star prospects.

That would rank ahead of only Kelly’s bridge class back in 2010 in terms of stars per player, which was down at 3.17 for the 23 players who signed. That class lost more than half its roster by the time its finished its eligibility. The group also produced just four NFL draft picks, none higher than the third round.

However, the Irish wouldn’t be that far off other Kelly classes in terms of average star ranking, following the ’13 haul (3.87), ’14 haul (3.74), ’15 haul (3.71) ’12 haul (3.71) and ’11 haul (3.61). For the sake of comparison, Alabama’s past two classes both hit an average star ranking of 4.04, but the Crimson Tide was the only program to go over 4.0 in either cycle.

Notre Dame sits fifth nationally in the Scout.com team rankings and it should stay in the Top 10 through National Signing Day assuming it can close Robertson and Kelly at the end. The Irish have signed Top 10 classes on Scout.com the past three cycles, finishing fifth, sixth and sixth respectively from 2013-15.

The Irish have finished just outside the Top 10 on Rivals, ESPN and 247 in each of the past two cycles, with an average ranking of 11.5. Notre Dame’s class is again outside the Top 10 on ESPN at No. 12, while Rivals has the Irish at No. 4 and 247 slots the program No. 5.

Looking big picture across the four major recruiting services, Notre Dame seems set for a class that meets Irish needs more in quantity than quality, although Kelly’s staff may close strong in star power two. A Kelly-Robertson combination would be Notre Dame’s first recruiting class with multiple five stars since it signed Sheldon Day, Gunner Kiel and Tee Shepard.

Notre Dame went one better with five-star talent a cycle earlier when it landed Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt, Ishaq Williams and Ben Koyack.

Technically, the Irish signed two five-star prospects in the ’13 haul in Jaylon Smith and Eddie Vanderdoes, but the defensive tackle from California never enrolled at Notre Dame and ended up at UCLA.

So what does it all mean? It’s easy to get lost in star ratings and team rankings. It’s also easy to get distracted by the circus feel of National Signing Day, where the newest, brightest and shiniest toys are advertised as the best.

In reality, Notre Dame is just where it needs to be with two weeks to go before National Signing Day. And if the Irish close with Robertson and Kelly, they’ll stay there.


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