The ink is just barely dry on the letters of intent faxed into Notre Dame yesterday, but recruiting for 2011 is already well under way. With 23 recruits added to the Irish roster yesterday, Notre Dame is actually budding up next to the 85 scholarship max for the first time in years.
Here’s a quick rundown of how many scholarships could be available for the class of 2011.
As of now, Notre Dame will have 72 players with eligibility remaining at the end of the 2010 season meaning even if every potential fifth year player came back, no one left early for the draft, and no one transferred, Notre Dame would have a minimum of 13 scholarships for the Class of 2011. We’ll use this as our starting off point.
- Seniors – 23
- Juniors – 17
- Sophomores – 24
- Potential 5th Years – 8
- Total – 72
Potential 5th year Players
Notre Dame will have 8 potential fifth year seniors for the 2011 season. Here is how they breakdown:
- Offense – Steve Paskorz (FB), Mike Ragone (TE), Taylor Dever (OT), Matt Romine (OT), Andrew Nuss (OG)
- Defense – Emeka Nwankwo (DE), Gary Gray (CB), Harrison Smith (S)
Considering there will be a new offensive and defensive system installed this year with the new staff, it’s almost impossible to determine who may or may not come back from this group. Still, it’s a good bet that not all eight will be back. Gray and Smith have played a lot and seem like no brainers for 5th years. Depending on how the open offensive line spots get filled, the three linemen eligible for the 5th years could be back too. Ragone is a wild card here. He hasn’t shown the promise he had coming out of high school yet after suffering two major knee injuries.
The problem with trying to predict who might be back here is that none of the potential fifth year seniors for 2011 have firmly established themselves as a starter heading into this season, but many of them could be starters by the season opener. The closest heading into the season is Gary Gray who was, in my opinion, the best corner on the roster for the Irish in 2009.
It’s probably safe to assume that not all 8 will be back, but I could easily see at least 4-5 of them coming back depending on how the depth chart shakes out this year. Assuming 4-5 return, that would open a potential 3-4 spots to bring us up to 16-17 spots.
Possible Early NFL Draft Entrants
Notre Dame lost Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate to the draft this year, and could find themselves in a position to lose two more players early next year. Both Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph have the raw talent and skills to leave for the NFL early. That isn’t to say that they will or are even thinking about. Both, however, have the talent to be able to make that jump next spring should they so choose. For argument’s sake, let’s say one leaves early for the NFL. That brings up to 17-18 spots.
There are almost always transfers whenever there is a coaching change – it just happens. It’s impossible to predict who will end up transferring, but it’s safe to assume that there will be at least a couple at some point between now and National Signing Day 2011. Again, for argument’s sake, we’ll factor in two transfers in coming up with the total number of scholarships available for next year. That would bring us up to 19-20 available scholarships.
There are so many factors going into next year’s scholarship total that we likely won’t have a good understanding of just how many scholarships will be available until the season gets here and the roster starts to sort itself out a little. The absolute minimum will be 13, but I expect that number to be quite a bit higher before all is said and done.
Based on the comments from Kelly about having to restock the defense and needing to address some holes on that side of the ball with next year’s class, I would not be surprised if Kelly took as many as he could in 2011 even if it meant having to pass on a 5th year senior or two – especially if he can add some elite recruits in the process.