Why transfers are good business

There’s the four-year decision and the 40-year decision. Bigger than both, though, is the 85-man roster decision, one that makes Notre Dame’s recent transfers good business.

Here’s the truth about transfers.

They feel like a big deal when they happen and worth a recruiting retrospective. How did we all miss on Josh Barajas? Did the coaching staff not give Tristen Hoge a fair look? Didn’t Parker Boudreaux commit to Notre Dame by pulling that bus?

And that’s about it.

Talking about transfers can feel cold and calculated considering they are the end of a Notre Dame career and an acknowledgement that something wasn’t working here. Maybe it was a staff misevaluation. Maybe Notre Dame recruited over top of the player. Maybe, just maybe, it’s impossible to predict the careers of every high school prospect when placed the pressure cooker of major college football.

But here’s the bigger fact about these departures during an off-season when the Irish also shed six graduate transfers: Malik Zaire, Corey Holmes, Justin Brent, Colin McGovern, Devin Butler and John Montelus.

They are good for business. They are necessary for business.

Add tight end Tyler Luatua’s medical disqualification to the equation and that’s nine roster deletions from last season. Brian Kelly will never say it publicly, but the Irish might need every single one when working against the 85-man limit.

Notre Dame already took two graduate transfer receivers in Freddy Canteen and Cameron Smith. The Irish want to take Navy transfer Alohi Gilman, who was on his official visit to South Bend when Notre Dame announced the Boudreaux and Luatua scratches. Land Gilman, even though he wouldn’t be able to play this year, and it puts Notre Dame at 84 scholarship players, just one short of the 85-man NCAA limit.

But the real issue for Notre Dame isn’t hitting the 85-man limit this year.

It’s hitting it next year when factoring the current recruiting class into the mix.

With Gilman, Notre Dame is already at 84 projected scholarship players for 2018, which assumes Equanimeous St. Brown and Alizé Mack return for their senior seasons while Canteen, Nic Weishar, Alex Bars, Sam Mustipher, Jay Hayes, Jonathan Bonner, Drue Tranquill, Nick Watkins and Tyler Newsome are all back for fifth years. That would be a record number of fifth-year seniors under Kelly, but it’s hard to imagine the Irish not wanting almost all of them back.

If everybody returned and Gilman committed, that would mean the Irish have room for just one more verbal commitment this cycle. And that’s not even close to the target number inside the Irish recruiting offices.

Notre Dame has 12 verbal commitments on board but wants at least two more skill players on offense, two more offensive linemen, two more defensive linemen, at least one linebacker and three cornerbacks. That means the Irish would need 10 more spots on the 2018 roster when on paper there would only be one assured.

This year’s graduate transfer exodus won’t help that, but the departures of Boudreaux, Barajas and Hoge can because they were set to be part of next year’s scholarship count and a few seasons beyond.

That gets to the foundation of these transfers and whatever ones comes next off-season. And they will happen next off-season considering Notre Dame has lost at least one transfer every year since 1980, as far back as Irish Illustrate has checked.

Would Notre Dame rather have Parker Boudreaux or Thomas Booker? Would the Irish be better off with Josh Barajas or Kevin Austin? What about Tristen Hoge versus Shayne Simon? Yes, it looks harsh to compare and contrast by name, but these are the scholarship limits Notre Dame has to work right now.

There’s a four-year decision and a 40-year decision.

But this is about the 85-man decision.

In that department, Notre Dame’s recent roster losses are actually wins.

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