Now that the dust has settled on Notre Dame’s 2013 Recruiting class we are going to take a look back at how decommitments helped shaped what turned out to be the best recruiting class signed by Brian Kelly and his staff since their arrival in December 2009.
Overall, Notre Dame had three recruits who at one time or another were committed to Notre Dame who decommitted and signed with another school last Wednesday. On the flip side, however, the Irish were the beneficiaries of six such decommitments in their favor.
While some fans may get upset about the idea of a decommitment – and there were plenty up in arms over some of Notre Dame’s decommits – the Irish would not have signed the strong class that they did if there were an early signing period or if verbal commitments were actually binding. So, the next time you get upset over a recruit decommiting from Notre Dame, remember that Notre Dame would not have had three of the four 5-star recruits they signed this year, had they not decommitted from another school before selecting the Irish.
Decommitted from Notre Dame
Danny Mattingly – TE/OLB – 6’4″, 215 lbs
- Signed With: Oregon
- Rankings: Rivals (3-star, #33 OLB), ESPN (4-star, #34 ATH), 24/7 (4-star, #24 OLB)
Mattingly was an early commitment to Notre Dame but began to waver during the season, even as Notre Dame was having the unexpected regular season that they were in the midst of. Notre Dame recruited Mattingly as a linebacker although it was believed that his heart might be set on tight end where the Irish were set with Mike Heuerman and then added Durham Smythe.
At the time Mattingly decommitted from Notre Dame the Irish were set with four linebackers – Jaylon Smith, Doug Randolph, Michael Deeb, and Alex Anzalone. As we’ll discuss soon, not all four made it to Notre Dame, but Notre Dame still did more than OK at outside linebacker with Smith and Randolph joining a crowded position. Where the loss of Mattingly could hurt is if he is able to bulk up and playing inside where the Irish signed just one recruit, Deeb, and didn’t have a lot of depth to begin with.
Jamel James – RB – 5’11″, 220 lbs
- Signed With: Texas State
- Rankings: Rivals (3-star, unranked RB), ESPN (4-star, #20 RB, #232 overall), 24/7 (3-star, #68 RB)
James was an early, and surprise, commitment for Notre Dame when he committed without ever setting foot on the Notre Dame campus. Before his decommitment, James did visit Notre Dame, but that visit may have been the impetus behind his decommittment with rumors of academic concerns/issues from Notre Dame’s side coming out of the visit.
When James started to waver, he was the only running back in the Irish class. Before his official “decommitment” though, the Irish had picked up a commitment from 5-star running back Greg Bryant and were thought to be the clubhouse leader for 4-star speedster Tarean Folston. Folston ended up selecting Notre Dame at the Under Armor game to give the Irish the best running back duo in a single recruiting class in many years.
Despite his low ranking from Rivals, James has a lot of potential and upside if he handles his academics and settles in at Texas State. It would not surprise me one bit if James ends up being a very good running back at the college level, but with the additions of Bryant and Folston, Notre Dame is more than set at the position in this class and completely negated the loss of James. It will be interesting to watch his development over the next four years though.
Alex Anzalone -ILB – 6’3″, 230 lbs
- Signed With: Florida
- Rankings: Rivals (5-star, #2 ILB, #28 overall), ESPN (#11 ATH, #97 overall), 24/7 (5-star, #4 OLB, #32 overall)
Of all of the decommitments in this year’s recruiting cycle, this one hurt the most by far for Notre Dame. Some Notre Dame fans have convinced themselves since Anzalone’s decommitment that he is one of the most overrated recruits this year, but a lot of that is due to some sour grapes. Anzalone is one of the most athletically gifted recruits in the country and given the proper coaching, has the ability to become a great college linebacker.
Anzalone’s recruitment was reminiscent of that of Aaron Lynch a few years ago. He committed to Notre Dame, then wavered and was considered a long shot to sign with the Irish at one point before finally recommitting to Notre Dame in November. Things looked great for Notre Dame sign Anzalone, an early enrollee, before Brian Kelly’s interview with the Eagles caused the linebacker to decommit and quickly enroll at Florida before the dust settled and Brian Kelly announced that he was staying at Notre Dame for the long haul.
With just Deeb at inside linebacker and short numbers at the position to begin with, the loss of Anzalone hurts – especially since he looked very good at the Under Armor All American game. At the same time, it might not be a coincidence that his recruitment followed that of Lynch’s so closely and neither will be at Notre Dame in the fall.
Decommented to Notre Dame
Max Redfield – S – 6’2″, 195 lbs
- Originally Committed to USC
- Rankings: ESPN (4 star, #2 ATH, #23 overall), Rivals (5 star, #3 S, #30 overall), 24/7 (4 star, #5 S, #41 overall)
The California native is one of two 5-star recruits in this year’s class who initially committed to USC before committing to and signing with Notre Dame last week. Even after his decommitment from USC though, Redfield kept USC as one of his options and it came down to an Irish vs. Trojans battle for the services of one of the nation’s best safeties prospects in the class of 2013. A visit to Notre Dame for the Stanford game this past fall was enough to get Redfield to decommit originally and pushed the Irish over top of the Trojans.
Notre Dame needed a playmaking safety in this class. The Irish roster is pretty stocked at the position numbers wise, but Notre Dame lacked a true difference maker at safety – Matthias Farley looks like he has the potential to be one, but is still developing – making Redfield one of the mot important pickups in this year’s class. Add in the fact that Notre Dame’s gain was very much USC’s loss and it’s very easy to see why that is.
With the news earlier this week that Jamoris Slaughter was denied a 6th year of eligibility to an injury hardship waiver, the chances of Redfield seeing action s a freshman have increased even more… and they were pretty high to begin with. Notre Dame has a lot of bodies at safety right now, but none have the pedigree that Redfield comes in with . Getting Redfield over USC was a major win for Notre Dame against their biggest rival.
Eddie Vanderdoes – DT – 6’3″, 285 lbs
- Originally Committed to USC
- Ranking: ESPN (5-star, #1 DT, #10 overall), Rivals (5-star, #2 DT, #21 overall), 24/7 (5-star, #1 DT, #6 overall)
Notre Dame’s Signing Day surprise, Eddie Vanderdoes originally committed to USC but decommitted from the Trojans in late 2012 and quickly named Notre Dame as one of his top schools. It took Kelly and staff a little while to get the massive defensive tackle on campus for a visit, but once they did they won him over and added the next cornerstone of the Irish defense in the process.
Without Vanderdoes, Notre Dame had a good class but it was lacking on the defensive line – specifically in the middle where the Irish hadn’t landed a true NT since Louis Nix committed to Notre Dame without a head coach and became part of Brian Kelly’s first class. With Vanderdoes though, Notre Dame had a great class. That’s how importnat his signature was for Notre Dame on National Signing Day.
Vanderdoes and Nix bonded on his visit and I expect Notre Dame’s lovable nose tackle to take Vanderdoes under his wing this year as the defensive staff grooms the California native to be Nix’s eventual replacement – most likely in 2014 even though Nix does have a 5th year of eligibility remaining.
Just like Nix, I expect the Irish defense to center around Vanderodes being a disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line for years to come. And, just like with Redfield, not only did Notre Dame gain a potential All American here, they did so at the expense of a team that they face every fall.
Greg Bryant – RB – 5’11″, 200 lbs
- Originally committed to Oklahoma
- Rankings: Rivals (5-star, #3 RB, #19 overall), ESPN (4-star, #2 RB,. #22 overall), 24/7 (4-star, #10 RB, #128 overall)
Moving right along through Notre Dame’s 5-star recruits this year, we come to Greg Bryant, the highest rated running back Notre Dame has signed since Tony Driver. Bryant originally committed to Oklahoma, but decommitted from the Sooners over the summer and Notre Dame almost came out of nowhere to gain a commitment from one of the nation’s top running backs at the end of the season.
Shortly after visiting Notre Dame in early December, Bryant committed to Notre Dame teaming at the time with Jamel James in the Irish backfield. James ended up deocmmitting shortly after due to academic issues but the Irish did add Tarean Folston to pair with Bryant in what could be an explosive offensive backfield for the next few years.
Bryant will step in and challenge for carries from day one. With Notre Dame losing both Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, the door is wide open here and it will be more surprising if Bryant doesn’t see carries as a freshman than if he does.
William Fuller – WR
- Originally committed to Penn State
- Rankings: Rivals (4-star, #19 WR, #176 overall), ESPN (3-star, #172 WR), 24/7 (4-star, #46 WR)
William Fuller had Notre Dame and Penn State as his top schools before he originally committed to the Nittany Lions. After the sever sanctions that were handed down on Penn State due to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the Philadelphia native opened his recruitment back up and was quick to switch his committed to Notre Dame.
Fuller doesn’t have quite the accolades that some of the other members on this list have, but he is a heck of a prospect that is easily one of the recruits in this class that could surprise people. He might not have the instant impact Bryant or Redfield does, but he has the potential to be a very good wide receiver in this offense once he
Doug Randolph – LB
- Originally committed to Stanford
- Rankings: ESPN (4 star, #12 OLB, #142 overall), Rivals (4 star, #13 OLB, #134 overall), 24/7 (4 star, #28 OLB)
When Doug Randolph committed to Notre Dame it was assumed that he was a shoe in to play outside linebacker. When he committed to Notre Dame, though, Alex Anzalone was still part of Notre Dame’s 2013 recruiting class. With Anzalone currently enrolled at Florida, there is now a chance that the one time Stanford commitment moves inside.
Randolph decommitted from Stanford in September and quickly switched to Notre Dame after his high school teammate, inside linebacker Greer Martini, had already committed to Notre Dame as part of the class of 2014. Randolph will likely start off as an OLB, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he at least got a look inside given the lack of numbers the Irish have at the position.
Durham Smythe – TE
- Originally committed to Texas
- Rankings: Rivals (3-star, #15 TE), ESPN (4-star, #6 TE), 24/7 (4-star, #6 TE, #188 overall)
Notre Dame added a second tight end to its recruiting class of 2013 very late in the game with Durham Smythe. After originally committing to Texas, Smythe opened up his recruiting in December looking at Notre Dame, Michigan, and Stanford. He visited Notre Dame at the end of January along with several other high profile recruits including Eddie Vanderdoes and ended up committing during his visit and canceling a visit scheduled to Ann Arbor for the last weekend before Signing Day.
Smythe is an all around tight end that adds some much needed depth to an offense that utilizes multiple tight end ends more often than not lately. Smith is not a defense stretching tight end like Tyler Efiert, but is more in the mold of an Anthony Fasano – a big, reliable target, that can block and use his body to get open. Smythe may have been a late addition for the Irish but his commitment was a big pick up for the Irish given the injury history and lack of depth Notre Dame has at tight end.