Notre Dame Recruiting: Brian Kelly Enters Critical Final Stretch

image_gone Photo: © Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

With one week until thousands of high school players put pen to paper and officially become committed to their schools of choice, Brian Kelly and his football staff are working furiously to round out their staff. In the last couple of weeks, after a number of de-commitments from the 2017 class (after experiencing none last cycle), the Irish coaches added a slew of new offers, over 20, in an attempt to salvage what was once considered a top 10 class.  Will it work?

For the record, I’m not a big class ratings guy. Brian Kelly has proven again and again that he can find talented players that are clearly better than their star ratings would suggest (remember when Will Fuller was the worst player in the 2013 class, ESPN)?

My problems with Kelly the recruiter has never been about the players they get; like I said, they do a really good job evaluating talent. But, they always seem to fall short of the numbers they need, which is great for videos of walk-ons getting scholarships, but not so great in terms of depth of the roster which leads to things like the situation at safety last season.

As it stands right now, Notre Dame is sitting with 15 commitments with the goal of hopefully reaching 22. That’s a lot to do in a week. And Brian Kelly hasn’t shown himself to be a great closer.

National Signing Day Flops And Big Time Misses

I may be forgetting, but perhaps Notre Dame’s greatest signing day moment under Brian Kelly was the announcement and signing of five star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes. It was glorious, and it was the capper on a stellar class that also featured fellow five stars Jaylon Smith and Max Redfield. Of course, as everyone remembers, Vanderdoes didn’t last beyond spring practice before transferring to UCLA under some interesting circumstances. Yes, a five star that eventually never stepped foot as a student on the Notre Dame campus is the high point on signing day for Kelly.

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In 2014, following the de-commitment of safety Prentice McKinney, Notre Dame tried to get in late a couple of other safety prospects Justin Reid and Ben Edwards, who incidentally both ended up at Stanford. In both cases the players expressed intrigue toward the Irish, but ultimately felt more comfortable with the longer relationships they built with the staff at Stanford.

Last season, Notre Dame had five stars Ben Davis, Caleb Kelly, and Demetris Robertson all in their sights before ultimately losing out on all three and coming up short on their overall commit numbers for the class. While it’s true it’s hard to land elite players like this, just in general, to miss on all three is an indictment of the way Notre Dame recruits these types of players. Kelly and his staff wanted these guys bad, but they didn’t really put on the full court press till the final couple of months. It wasn’t enough. And since signing Smith and Redfield in 2013, according to 247 sports, Notre Dame hasn’t signed another consensus five star player, and won’t in 2017.

Brian VanGorder Continues To Haunt The Irish

You might have noticed all of the players, with the exception of Robertson, mentioned above have at least one thing in common.

They all play defense.

VanGorder as defensive coordinator was a disaster six ways to Sunday and this fact has been pointed here and every where else for the last two and a half seasons. But, his mistakes on the field were only part of the problem with him. He was also a terrible recruiter. He never cared for it, he wasn’t enthusiastic for it, and when you come in second with Ben Davis and Caleb Kelly, two guys who were legitimate stars, after a 10-3 season and with spots opening up following the departure of Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt, a coach who isn’t fired up about selling himself or the program is disastrous.

Notre Dame is left scrambling because they went almost three months without any direction or leader from the defense following VanGorders ouster in October.  In the process they lost corners Paulson Adebo and Elijah Hicks, linebacker Peter Werner, and defensive lineman Donovan Jeter. Players understand down seasons to a large extent, but going an extended period of time with uncertainty and without leadership, coupled with a down year, well suffice to say that is not a good recipe for success. There is hope that Mike Elko and co. can try and pull some magic in the final week of recruiting, but the damage has largely been done.

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Notre Dame hasn’t looked good on defense for three years now. That just doesn’t go away. Even with a new staff, there is uncertainty there, and even with the type of job Elko did at Wake Forest, he wouldn’t have had the type of contacts with the caliber of player Notre Dame is looking for. So he’s largely starting from scratch as well. Unfortunately, the VanGorder effect is still being felt and it is submarining this class in a big way.

Where Do Things Stand?

Things were pretty optimistic a week ago when it looked like the Irish stood on solid ground with a few of the new offers at positions of need. Things have taken a bit of a turn since then. Receiver Gavin Holmes looked like a promising option before committing to Baylor, defensive back Tre Norwood looked like a virtual lock to Notre Dame after de-committing from Louisville hours after his Notre Dame offer. But he went ahead and committed to Oklahoma Monday night, hours after getting back from his official visit in South Bend, and having never visited Oklahoma. And that my friends is how it goes.

Notre Dame is still seriously in it for Indiana cornerback Russ Yeast and safety Jordan Genmark-Heath who visited last weekend.  Outside linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Karamoah visits this weekend after de-committing from Virginia last night. Safety Evan Fields was also a visitor last weekend and reportedly enjoyed himself immensely. The thing with him is he’s also seriously considering Arizona State. ASU and Notre Dame are, shall we say, not very much alike. That sort of situation usually ends poorly.

Wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer appears to be sticking with Penn State and Oliver Martin, the crown jewel of available players left, continues to be uncommitted, which is the good news. The bad news is every Midwest team is hot on his tail as Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan are all making big plays. Rumor has it Jim Harbaugh will be doing an in-school/in-home/possible slumber party, s’more making session for tonight, so we’ll see if he’s into that.

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As noted above, Kelly and Notre Dame haven’t been winning many of these battles lately, but there is always hope. Luck of the Irish, and all that. Receiver Jafar Armstrong remains very much in play; he’s currently committed to Missouri and isn’t talking much, which I always like in a player, but most of those close to Notre Dame feel good about him.

Defensive end Jalen Harris from Arizona appears to be a long shot, he’s an Arizona legacy who is currently committed there. He’s a guy Notre Dame obviously needs, but never seems to get. Even when they do, they actually don’t (see: Wallace, Bo). Hawaii defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa has that whole Manti Te’o thing going on, which is obviously a good thing, and the word is his family on board with the Irish, which also obviously a good thing. It’s hard to feel much about him until he visits, but if he ever did I’d think Notre Dame was in good shape.

In all, players I feel good about*:

  • Jafar Armstrong
  • Jeremiah Owusu-Karamoah

Players I think are toss-ups

  • Russ Yeast
  • Jordan Genmark-Heath
  • Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa
  • Evan Fields

Players I consider long shots

  • Jalen Harris
  • Mac Hippenhammer
  • Oliver Martin

*Should note this is all from what I’ve read online and heard on various podcasts, and no premium information.

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44 comments

  1. SubwayAlum 5 months ago

    @Frank Vitovitch, (in response to your comment)…

    First, isn’t this Greg’s post?

    second, you said…”we are considering suspending all commenting ability on posts and instead using the forums for discussing posts even though that could create less ad revenue…” with all due respect, eliminating all comments from these stories would not be a hardship to anyone except those who use the comments just to poke fun of some posters.

    third, do you make money on the # of ad cliks, or do you make money every time we access the story to read the latest comment?

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    1. Frank Vitovitch 5 months ago

      Yes this is Greg’s post but there have been a few comments lately from people who think that Kyle and I make up profiles to post comments under which we do not do.

      Agree that we can maintain the discuss of these posts on the forum and we’re looking into ways to tie the forum and commenting together.

      Not an easy answer for the ads, some ads are paid out based on how many times they are viewed, some on how many clicks are generated, some on revenue generated from purchases made. That said, please don’t click on any ads just to help us generate revenue. Only click on ads that you are genuinely interested in.

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      1. SubwayAlum 5 months ago

        Frank, thanks for responding.

        I have another question…if I would like to be notified only when someone comments/replies to my post, do I check the box “Notify me of follow-up comments by email”?

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  2. C-Dog 5 months ago

    Just read that PJ Fleck went to Minnesota. I wonder if he’d eventually be a good fit at Notre Dame.

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    1. Ron Burgundy 5 months ago

      Dude your internet connection is really slow.

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  3. SubwayAlum 5 months ago

    @ George…’ND is forced to target walk-ons”… another brilliant post. What you are saying is that KKK has given up on filling his scholarship quota for this year, witness his giving a walk-on one of what most HC’s would consider a very precious gift.

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    1. Mike 5 months ago

      @ George your rhetoric is so tiring. Let me take a shot here. Have you ever even coached a team?..Anything, Little League? Anything?.. I’m thinking not. But I’ve seen your type sitting up in the stands complaining. Guess what George…These young men coming out of high school, they indeed get to pick their coach. You on the other hand, do not get to pick the head coach of ND! You have no say in it. So, if you don’t like the head coach of ND, you really only have two choices. Either support the team and the head coach or move on to something else and give us all a break…

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      1. George 5 months ago

        Ok, let me know when you take your shot.

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      2. SteelFanRob 5 months ago

        Amen, George! Amen, preach it to the choir of the settle-for-less, pie-in-the-sky faithful!

        I say let’s all support almost thirty years of mediocrity! Who will give me a hallelujah, brothers and sisters?!

        Who can be more loyal to ND than someone who makes excuses for a 4-8 season?! Amen and amen!

        Why should any true son of ND demand more and better from BK, his coaches, and his team?! Anathema to those who demand greatness!

        Perhaps the shot we should all be taking is at striving for better for ND football. Let’s take a shot at that!

        Amen?!

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      3. SteelFanRob 5 months ago

        Sorry, George, meant to address Mike, but you probably gathered as much.

        I didn’t realize that Mike was a Hall-of-Fame coach and therefore qualified to impugn your resume. I wonder if Mike is really not Mike Ditka.

        Of course, his brand of loyalty led the Cubs to over 100 years of futility. Funny how a winning coach and front-office can breed success. Believe it or not, even our resident clown-in-chief “Burgy” made that astute observation recently.

        Like I’ve said over and over, George, with excuse-makers like this as alleged ND fans, who needs enemies!

        Pax vobis!

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      4. George 5 months ago

        This character actually said that if I don’t support a four win coach, then I’m not a fan. Guess there’s just no avoiding the participation trophy crowd. Not sure how little league is relevant, but clearly some are adverse to having high standards. Maybe from now on I should just post comments such as “aw shucks” and “we’ll get ’em next year.” No emotion, opinion, or thought involved.

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      5. George 5 months ago

        He is either Mike Ditka or Brian Kelly’s dad.

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      6. SubwayAlum 5 months ago

        @Hurls…just read your bio. Taking you at your word, TBI, ouch. However, i believe I interpreted George as saying, King Kong Kelly has just given away one of his allotted scholarships to a current, in the fold walk-on.. needlessly. Unless, as I mentioned, he’s ‘giving up’ on getting more valuable recruits this year. That’s too bad.

        That’s a statement of opinion, not whining. Besides, this site in no way can ever be considered “productive”… or… just by sheer numbers of popular opinion, BVG would have been gone after 2015 and KKKelly would have been gone at last season’s end.

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      7. C-Dog 5 months ago

        Many of us support Notre Dame the school. But that does not mean blind obedience. As good Catholics or Catholic sympathizers, we know we are called to question. And that means the HC. Too. Kelly is a politician. He’s also not someone that in my opinion represents the old Catholic values of Notre Dame. Didn’t take responsibility for a student manager’s death when it was in fact due to his poor judgement. Didn’t take responsibility and investigate the suicide of a young female related potentially to behavior by s player. Hasn’t really addressed the repeated cheating incidents with a real solution.

        So those who bash the people who question this coach, you need to root for another team or you need to learn what it means to be part of Notre Dame.

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      8. George 5 months ago

        “Blind obedience” is the perfect way to put it.

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    2. HURLS 5 months ago

      @Sub@George@Mike – You 3 sound like girls. Stop bitching and be productive.

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      1. George 5 months ago

        Hurls – stop embarrassing yourself

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      2. SteelFanRob 5 months ago

        Look, there are “posters” on this board that aren’t actually real people. They are made up by those who manage this site. The idiocy of “HURLS,” “Burgundy,” “bj/Bruce Johnson” cannot be explained any other way.

        But, heck, accept the premise, accept the punchline. Just play along with the joke.

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      3. SubwayAlum 5 months ago

        @Steel Fan…one of the best posters on here, please keep it up.

        We’ll measure ‘productivity’ when our voices are heard.

        Fire KKKelly, HH, Swarbrick, and reassign Fr Jenkins. Then hire the last of the true ND believers, Lou Holtz as AD to get this flailing program back to prominence.

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      4. Frank Vitovitch 5 months ago

        The accusations of any site owner here making up personas here in the comments is getting old. Neither Kyle nor I post under any other names than our own. Because you all can’t get seem to get along, we are considering suspending all commenting ability on posts and instead using the forums for discussing posts even though that could create less ad revenue.

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      5. Ron Burgundy 5 months ago

        Losing the comment section would be a real blow to the coaching staff with all the great suggestions and ideas on here.
        #savethecomments

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      6. SteelFanRob 5 months ago

        And we can disprove you exactly how, Frank?

        What I know for a fact is that on more than one occasion “Burgundy” has provided personal information about you without so much as a rebuke from you or Kyle.

        But now you get your panties in a bunch?! Wow, that’s really petty and pretty childish, Franky boy. Grow a sack or do due your diligence and better protect our identities.

        Also, Frank, how long did you let “Duranko” post articles and posts on this site belittling others? But now you decide you want to take your ball and skulk away?

        Really?!

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      7. SteelFanRob 5 months ago

        Meant to say “Burgundy” provided personal information about me, not Frank. Scumbag “Burgy” posted my name, place of employment, and residence. I’m sure that “Burgundy,” who has every post ever at UHND, will somehow not have that.

        BY THE WAY: Has anyone ever wondered how “Burgundy” has our posts going back almost ten years? How does he do that exactly without some kind of access to UHND files?

        Be that as it may, I find it hypocritical that Frank gets all upset at a sarcastic remark but not once publicly rebuked “Burgundy” for transgressing my privacy.

        Grow up, Frank, and get a pair! Perhaps then you’ll actually stand up for something real and not made up!

        BY THE WAY: If you don’t hear from “SteelFanRob” again know that it was because I was blocked by some gutless power that be at UHND.

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  4. Terry McManus 5 months ago

    Potential recruits come to Notre Dame for a visit, they are shown around, etc.

    And then they talk to the players who are already at the school – how many do we lose then? I’ve stated a few times that I think Kelly has lost the players, and when that happens – nothing good follows. I saw a short piece a few years ago about Notre Dame and part of it was a short interview of DeShone Kizer when he was just a freshman – his combination of poise and confidence was quite impressive. After 2 years under Kelly it seems gone, and whoever drafts him this spring should make sure he spends at least one season on the sidelines watching.

    We lost 8 games last season, and we’ve lost 6 recruits so far since the end of the season. Do the math.

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  5. Leo plenski 5 months ago

    I don’t care if u got saban coaching Norte dame if the administration don’t ease up on academics u will never win again. Could Holtz win in this age of players? They ease up on academics for him and than got rid of him. Enjoy the ND experience because u will never win again I truly accept it. Go Irish!!!!!

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  6. Ryan Reese 5 months ago

    Re-hire Diaco

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    1. Ron Burgundy 5 months ago

      And then Fire Diaco!

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      1. Ryan Reese 5 months ago

        Ya Fire Him because he did such a terrible job as both our D Coordinator and as a Recruiter!

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      2. George 5 months ago

        We need to introduce you to this guy named BJ

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      3. Ron Burgundy 5 months ago

        C’mon Ryan, we need you to run faster and keep up. Stick around a while and you’ll get the joke.

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      4. Ryan Reese 5 months ago

        Sorry Guys…Im an ND alum class of 2003 and have been a frequent visitor to this site but new to posting. Have some patience with me till I get better lol

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      5. C-Dog 5 months ago

        Ryan,
        No worries. Burgundy is the only one who thinks his jokes are funny. The rest of us think he’s at best a deuche bag, or possibly Kyle Flavin working the board for activity to get ad revenue. At worst Burghy is an Ohio State troll.
        If he’s real and sincere then the Lord help him because he’s probably been mocked often in real life.

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      6. Ron Burgundy 5 months ago

        Thanks for the shout out Dog!
        Big ups to you and enjoy the week ahead. May it be blessed.

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  7. pete 5 months ago

    I think the only hope is for a big turn around next year. I like all the coaching changes Kelly made including strength and conditioning. I don’t look for much success with this recruiting class however believe 2018 can be a great class with the new coaches if they can win on the field. I saw Jurcovic play. He looked great.

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  8. Joey 5 months ago

    When I look at ND recruiting, it always suffers on the D-side of the ball, most always ND gets great O talent. Maybe bringing in Polian, Elko, etc.. will re-invigorate recruiting but it needs to start on defense!

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  9. Damian 5 months ago

    I honestly don’t think ND will pick up many more recruits this year. Maybe 2 or 3 tops. The 4-8 season hurts of course. But the biggest factor I believe is that BK at this point appears to be a dead coach walking. Most players don’t want to play for a coach that could very well be fired the next year. And you can bet opposing coaches are using that on recruits “Brian Kelly won’t be there after next year, you don’t want to play for a school that will be going through a coaching change.” I hate to be a Debbie downer, but this year is pretty much a wash. ND’s only hope is it does well next year and things stabilize. Otherwise BK will be gone and it will be back to square one. As things look now, IMHO, if BK ultimately gets fired, depending on who his replacement is, my guess is we’d be looking at 3 to 4 years from now for ND to be in the mix again (again, depending on what kind of coach comes in next).

    My fear for ND football is, though, if the next coach is equally unsuccessful, ND’s days of being an elite powerhouse may be finished. I hope not, but I really do believe ND has to hit a homerun with the next coach if BK ultimately fails.

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  10. Rick 5 months ago

    Only way notre dame gets 4 and 5 stars if notre dame has a winning season. And not just 8 or 9 wins I mean 10 or 11 wins. This year is going to show if we will have a top 5 recruiting class or the regular top 20 we usually have. Brian Kelly is a good recruiter when winning. I can see us getting 4 guys from the list. Jeremiah Owusu-Karamoah, Oliver Martin,Russ Yeast and Jordan Genmark-Heath and maybe one of the DE. GO IRISH

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  11. Rich M 5 months ago

    Let’s face it NDs recruiting season has been lackluster to say the least! Players bond with certain recruiters and it’s very hard to break that bond. The number of quality players the Irish have lost says it all and it’s going to be difficult trying to right the ship. It’s two years in a row that ND has come up short on signing day. A 4-8 team cannot afford to do that too many times. I guess we can only wait and see if ND can recover even slightly from this dismal recruiting class. If they are unable to land a few that are still out there it will probably be a long unhappy year for the Irish faithful. Go Irish! It looks rather dismal right now!

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  12. SubwayAlum 5 months ago

    Greg, a really nice job of laying out the landscape and the likelihood of success. I confess I don’t any longer follow the ups and downs of ND”s recruiting. Truthfully, I don’t get how anyone can convince a warm weather kid with 4 or 5-star talent to come to a cold weather environment and insist that he attends class and maintains his grades. Show me the final product King Kelly puts on the field, then I’ll judge whether or not he had a good recruiting class.

    I was surprised to read that you believed him to not be a great closer. I guess because I’ve not followed his failures at recruiting that I actually believed he had done a good job of organizing his efforts, going after the kids who would firm up our weaknesses and promote the school (see recruiting tour bus).

    If not a great recruiter, what then can we say positive about him?

    BTW, nice words about Will Fuller, but I can’t credit the King for developing that talent. To my thinking Will was the reason we had a decent season in 2015, and his absence in 2016 probably resulted in 3 or 4 losses he could have reversed. But, King had 3 years to teach him how to catch a ball in his hands, and he never did. Fuller’s greatest asset was his speed, which he said he developed on his own after his freshman year at ND.

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  13. Mike "King" Kelly 5 months ago

    I think we should take a page from Navys book. Get players who truly appreciate being at Notre Dame(Joe Schmidt) they may not play for awhile, but when they do they will be ready. (JohnHuarte, Jack Snow) . I’m tired of this starting as a freshman thing, it only works if the guy is at least five star and can put points on the board immediately or record sacks every game. No more prima donnas (Jimmy Clausen) I’d rather have a Joe Theismann type shrink armed type arrive via a Greyhound bus. Signing day has become a show. The guys We want should be in the weight room pumping iron instead of having five hats lined up.

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    1. SubwayAlum 5 months ago

      @Mike “King” Kelly…please forgive my reference to B Kelly as King, I mean no disrespect to you or your “moniker”. I look at Kelly and think (KK) King Kong.

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    2. George 5 months ago

      You are absolutely correct in that Signing Day has become a show. But guess what – ND needs to start participating in that show if they don’t want to keep losing to Navy, Duke, 3-win MSU, and 5-win Texas who canned their coach.

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      1. SubwayAlum 5 months ago

        @George…beautifully put. The failure of our 2016 season is intensified when you look hard at who we lost to. Yet King Kong Kelly remains.

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      2. George 5 months ago

        Thanks. And in regards to BK, I’m sure there was a lot of truth to those comments that Donovan Jeter made. ND has a coach who is unapproachable, yet we can’t figure out why ND is forced to target walk-ons as Signing Day approaches.

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