January 11, 2013 // Recruiting

Danger Ahead for Notre Dame?

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Brian Kelly - 2012 BCS National championship Game

Jan 6, 2013; Fort Lauderdale FL, USA; Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly (left) answers questions during a press conference for the 2013 BCS National Championship game at Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There was little to be excited about after the lights were turned out in Miami this past Monday. Not only did Notre Dame fall short of its first championship in 24 years, they were humiliated in the process.  The one lone bright spot amidst the haze of pain and disappointment involves Notre Dame’s future.  Critics have said Notre Dame didn’t belong on the same field as Alabama in the national title game, and there is overwhelming evidence to support such a claim. However, following such logic, if Brian Kelly was able to navigate all the way to a championship game with inferior talent, how well could he possibly do if his talent matched or surpassed the likes of Alabama?

While Brian Kelly was unable to top Alabama on the football field, he has bested Nick Saban and the rest of the Crimson Tide staff on the recruiting trail. Notre Dame possessed the number one recruiting class in all of college football after falling to Bama, with a haul of three Rivals 5-stars, which has only been accomplished by the Fighting Irish once since Rivals.com began in 2000. While some recruiting analysts have opined ND could be at risk on the recruiting trail due to the blowout loss against the Crimson Tide, such a scenario is unlikely. If anything, Brian Kelly and his staff could argue they need just a bit more talent to get to the next level, which this current class provides. It would take something more jolting than a blowout loss to damage Notre Dame’s accomplishments on the recruiting trail.

That jolt turned into a tremor on Wednesday evening when ESPN reported Brian Kelly had indeed interviewed for the head coaching position of the Philadelphia Eagles. Very few things can dismantle a recruiting class as quickly as program instability, and Brian Kelly ducking media contact made the rumors and speculation all the more damaging and potent. While the overwhelming majority of Notre Dame’s recruiting class won’t sign their letter of intent until February, six members of Notre Dame’s class are set to enroll next week as early enrollees, providing a perfect litmus test for how damaging this latest news could be. And even though the Turning Point, a group of Notre Dame players from the Class of 2011, tweeted “All is well” earlier in the day, potentially indicating Kelly’s intention to stay, the damage had already been done.

Alex Anzalone, a Rivals 4-star linebacker and early enrollee from Pennsylvania, decommitted and switched his commitment to Florida, his other finalist. Anzalone’s decommittment comes less than 24 hours after the news of Kelly’s interview, and 24 hours before Anzalone would have travelled to South Bend to enroll as a Notre Dame student. The recruiting loss has since dropped Notre Dame from the top class in the country to #2 behind Florida, where Anzalone has given his commitment.

The implications of the decommitment are too still early to process. While Anzalone leaving is definitely a blow, how solid his commitment to Notre Dame actually was is debatable. In the past year Anzalone managed one of the wilder recruitments of the season, committing to Ohio State in early spring, only to decommit a few short weeks later. Anzalone then reopened his recruitment, eventually making his decision between Notre Dame and Penn State before selecting the Irish. Then, a few months ago, speculation began anew as Anzalone took an official visit to Florida, and word of a pending decommitment from Notre Dame began to grow. Anzalone admitted he considered leaving, but after a meeting with Kelly and staff he ultimately decided to stay. Now that Kelly’s future with the Irish appears to be in jeopardy, Anzalone has made a final decision regarding his future, and it doesn’t reside in South Bend.

While it’s impossible to know whether Anzalone truly intended to sign with Notre Dame, his decommitment serves as a potential warning sign for what lies ahead. Notre Dame still has five highly rated recruits set to enroll by next week, and it isn’t unreasonable for them to be wary of joining a program when the head coach’s future is unknown. If Notre Dame wishes to close the talent gap with the SEC – which was broadcast in the highest of high definition on Monday evening – Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and head coach Brian Kelly must work out the details of a contract agreement, and do so much sooner than later.

Comments to this Article

  • S-Man commented on January 11th, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    what an a-hole Kelly is. Wait for a few days until they enroll, the Eagles have made it clear they are taking there time in the process, how could he be such an idiot? Man, his credibility has taken a shot. A lot of suffering ND fans and players, and he takes an interview a day later? What a jag…

    [Reply]

  • Shazamrock commented on January 11th, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    S-Man,

    Don’t be such a hypocrite.

    If you had a chance to provide a better life for yourself and your family you would do the same. Or you would at least hear what they have to say so you could weigh your options. Don’t say that you wouldn’t!

    Second, it’s still a free country. The man has a “RIGHT” to talk to whomever he wants.

    Third, I hate people who rush to judgement. There is far too much of that in our society already, and it continues on with no accountability.

    There is a big difference between hearing what someone has to offer, and actually taking the job.

    As far as waiting for players to enroll to then pull the rug out from under them… now that’s something only a true A-Hole would do or even suggest.

    At least Kelly was up front and honest.

    It would serve you well to remember that.

    [Reply]

    qb2333 replied on January 11th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    what? he’s screwing the program and breaching his contract. there’s a right way to renegotiate but lying on the podium and then turning around the next day without telling anyone anything isn’t it. “Honest”? That’s definitely NOT the way I would describe MR. Leaving is Not an Option. Please

    [Reply]

    S-Man replied on November 28th, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    u r an idiot!

    [Reply]

  • Damian commented on January 11th, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    People need to relax. Likely this is just a bargaining ploy. He wants a few things from Swarbick is all (I’ve read things like a new scoreboard, new turf, and more money for assistants). This may not even be about more money for him; sometimes head coaches do this to get better contracts for their assistants because they want their assistants to stick around.

    If this is quashed by Kelly within a few days, this could actually help recruiting, because he can say he was good enough to be looked at by the NFL (and many top recruits are interested in an NFL future, so any sentence with the initials NFL in it never hurts). It would only hurt if it drags on and it appears he is seriously considering it. As far as losing Anzalone, it appears he was only a soft commitment to begin with (as this would be the 3rd commitment for him). The timing may be a coincidence (he has to be in Florida within a day if he is to early enroll there–so that likely was a bigger factor).

    [Reply]

    Pat replied on January 11th, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    I agree with you 100%.

    [Reply]

  • C-Dog commented on January 11th, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Regarding guys who commit and decommit, I don’t want to be harsh, but sometimes I suspect they are looking too far ahead, but in a tunnel. You can go to any of the top football schools and not get the situation that will put you in the pros. No highscool athlete school be looking at that. So I think when a kid flips often or seems to be highly sensitive to getting just the right deal, then typically that kid doesn’t have their priorities right. They are thinking about the carrot, not doing the trick first. I will not project that on this Anzalone kid, but losing one like that isn’t a big deal. It’s when you lose 5 to 10 that you know something is up.

    Kelly isn’t stupid, he’ll have an answer by Monday assuming he’s back in the country by then. Personally I don’t think he’s ready for the NFL. His staff certainly isn’t and he’s been with those guys for a while.

    The Eagles should re-assess and decide whether they want 2 to 3 years of horrible failure before they find the coach they really want instead of finding that coach now. Because as good as Kelly is for Notre Dame, his work is unfinished and he needs more development as a coach and head of program. The Eagles would get the same thing the Dolphins got with Saban, a guy who will fail and return to college to succeed. Why would you want that. Philly fans are bad and would either not show up or would boo the team, cheer the opponents, and even throw things.

    It would be a disaster for Kelly himself to leave now. Despite the loss, he is on top and everyone expects stronger teams next year. He’s now got the program where he can take player development to the next level. Why give that up, just when the world is about to see the fruits of 3 years hard work. And let’s face it, other than going up against a professional level program last Monday, Notre Dame re-established itself as a perennial top 10 program…….IF Kelly stays.

    [Reply]

  • Ghost of Joe Moore commented on January 11th, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    BK isnt dumb and this stunt or avenue to a better life as one poster has put it has definitely impacted recruiting as BK realizes. In light of that – there may be a genuine interest in the next level for BK. You wouldnt jeopardize recruiting at this point if you werent truly testing the waters to go elsewhere.

    I still cant not however get over the lack of even a minimal attempt to run the ball in that game. ND played right into Bamas hands, making themselves a one dimensional team. After 40 days prep, a jump ball 25-30 yrds down the field on several occassions against one the best DB’s in the country on 3rd and short is all you came up with? A defense that totally forgot how to tackle, a lack of any evidence of fire and desire on the field that night, in short a total disgrace of a game, the Eagles interview sort of puts things into better perspective for me going into next season.

    [Reply]

  • NDfaninmonterey commented on January 12th, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    I would like to interview Al Golden, if Brian Kelly leaves.

    [Reply]

  • NDfaninmonterey commented on January 12th, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I hope Swarbrick has watched the national championship game at least 2 more times before he decides if on whether or not to give Kelly both, a pay raise and extention.

    [Reply]

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