Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Early official visits should boost Irish

The NCAA made historic changes to the recruiting playbook on Friday. But the biggest change for Notre Dame won’t be the proposed early signing period. It will be the official visits the Irish could be hosting right now.

Brian Kelly has already weighed in on the early signing period.

To summarize his commentary from National Signing Day: Meh.

It won’t be portrayed that way nationally after the Division I Council voted to allow conference commissioners to move forward with the earlier date to sign National Letters of Intent during meetings in Indianapolis. Prospects should be able to sign this December this year pending final legislation in the coming months.

It means the circus of National Signing Day may be dead as we know it.

Still, Kelly was lukewarm at best on the early signing date. It’s not that he’s against it. He just doesn’t think it’s going to change a lot around Notre Dame, even if it means locking up Derrik Allen, Kalon Gervin and Braden Lenzy six weeks early.

“I think each kid is going to have to react to it based upon also how their school is going to be dealing with it,” Kelly said. “I think some will come off the board at that time. I think we're kind of getting our hands around it a little bit. We're expecting some to sign early. But I think our mindset is we're going into it business as usual. We're all going to have to fight till February.”

That doesn’t mean nothing in today’s legislation will excite Kelly.

The 10th assistant coach – effective Jan. 9, 2018 – will be nice but doesn’t alter much with quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees. He’s still Notre Dame’s quarterbacks coach and can still recruit, but can only do it on campus until next year. Limiting class sizes to 25 players doesn’t impact Notre Dame much as Kelly has never signed a class that large. The Individual Associated With a Prospect (IWAP) rule is one Notre Dame beat when it hired Dave Ballou from IMG to the strength staff before the Jan. 18 cutoff. The adjustment to satellite camps is irrelevant for a program that doesn’t run them.

But the change to the official visit calendar could be big for Notre Dame.

Starting next cycle – the current 2019 class – prospects will be able to take official visits in April, May and June. For a program with 12 verbal commitments from 10 different states, that’s legislation in Notre Dame’s favor.

Consider the prospects who visited Notre Dame this spring: defensive end Thomas Booker (Maryland), defensive tackle Ja’mion Franklin (Maryland), defensive end Andrew Chatfield (Florida), tight end George Takacs (Florida) and athlete Shayne Simon (New Jersey). For next week’s Blue-Gold Game the Irish expect to host talent from Oregon, New Jersey, Georgia, Florida, Arizona and Texas.

Now imagine how much talent Notre Dame could get to campus if it paid for that travel.

Yes, an early official visit means that game day trip would have to be paid for by the prospects themselves. But that’s a trade Notre Dame will make, in part because it’s a trade the prospects themselves will likely make.

The Irish often run into prospects who can’t afford flights to South Bend in spring or summer, instead waiting for a fall official to see Notre Dame. By that point they’ve probably visited more local programs – see: SEC country – multiple times.

Now that prospect can get a jump on that process and Notre Dame can make an early impression instead of a last-ditch one. Even if that means the Irish get crossed off the list, the fact that would happen in April instead of November would give Notre Dame more time to find a Plan B.

And assuming those spring official visits go well, paying your own way to see Notre Dame-Michigan or Notre Dame-USC seems worth the investment.

The recruiting landscape changed Friday with that Division I Council vote.

For most programs the big story will be December signing day, now a fait accompli.

But for Notre Dame it’s something else. And for Brian Kelly, the changes in April, May and June could alter the Irish recruiting approach in campaigns to come.


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