An undefeated season and national title appearance offers Notre Dame fans an almost overwhelming amount of side stories and places to turn one’s attention. Six full weeks of non-stop media coverage involving the historic Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish contest will certainly help promote the Notre Dame brand, with radio and television shows from coast-to-coast having ample time to debate their talking points. Senior Irish linebacker Manti Te’o earning the distinction as the most decorated college football player in history during the post-season award circuit surely isn’t bad for business, either. But the biggest benefit won’t come until well after the lights have gone out in Miami.
On February 6, 2013, senior high school football players will sign their letters of intent and solidify their commitments to the school of their choice. And when it comes to recruiting, there is no better selling point than winning, something Notre Dame has done better this season than any other school in America, save the bowl ineligible Ohio State Buckeyes. How important is winning? Just ask Notre Dame Recruiting Coordinator, Tony Alford, a coach tasked with recruiting the hypercompetitive gold mine of talent in Florida.
Fifteen days after Notre Dame cemented its spot in the BCS National Championship by defeating USC, the Irish received a commitment from Rivals 5-star running back Greg Bryant. Bryant, a Florida native, was literally absent from ND’s recruiting board, having narrowed down his college choices to the likes of South Carolina, Auburn, Tennessee and Florida State. When Tony Alford reached out recently to gauge Bryant’s interest in the Irish, a campus visit was scheduled for Friday, December 7th. On Sunday, December 9th, Greg Bryant verbally committed to play football for the University of Notre Dame. While the recruitment process is generally lengthy (particularly for highly rated recruits) to allow high school recruits opportunities to visit and get to know potential schools, Bryant’s ended literally as quickly as it began. How much does winning mean? It took Notre Dame only a little over two weeks to secure a commitment from the highest rated running back the Irish have landed since the Internet recruiting era began, even surpassing former Rivals 5-stars James Aldridge and current Irish running back Cierre Wood.
Greg Bryant adds power to an already dominating recruiting class. Notre Dame currently sits #2 on Rivals.com with an average star rating of 3.77. To put it in perspective, ND’s current class is the 2nd best in program history since Rivals began in 2002. The only better recruiting year came in 2008 when Charlie Weis was able to sign three 5-star recruits in Kyle Rudolph, Dayne Crist and Michael Floyd. The 2008 class was assembled with the promise of one day becoming great – the 2013 class is being formed by a Notre Dame program that has already arrived. In essence, Notre Dame has yet to even begin to understand the recruiting greatness ahead, with many recruiting gurus predicting Notre Dame to secure the #1 class in the country come February.
The Fighting Irish of 2013 boast two 5-star recruits in running back Greg Bryant and linebacker Jaylon Smith, but more star power is within grasp. Notre Dame is making a strong push for 5-star safety and former USC commit Max Redfield, and is also in the mix for current USC commitments Sebastian Larue (4-star wide receiver), Ty Isaac (5-star running back) and Eddie Vanderdoes (4-star defensive tackle). Vanderdoes most recently agreed to a campus visit after a conversation with Notre Dame coaches. If that isn’t enough, as if to prove Brian Kelly’s “no stone unturned” approach to recruiting, Notre Dame has managed to secure a future visit from current 4-star Auburn commit Tashawn Bower (defensive end), a high school player from the same New Jersey high school as current ND running back, Theo Riddick.
With the potential to sway new, elite recruits Notre Dame’s way – as well as recruits ND has been recruiting for some time now (such as 4-star Florida running back, Tarean Folston) – the Irish are well on their way to their best recruiting sessions in the modern era. Brian Kelly and staff have even managed four commitments (three 4-stars) for the 2014 class (current high school sophomores), the earliest commitments in Notre Dame’s history.
On January 7th, 2013, Notre Dame will appear in its first national championship game in 23 years. And thanks to that appearance, the historic haul of names signed on February 6th will help make sure we never have to wait that long again.