It might be the dog days of July, but Brian Kelly and staff are recruiting like its the first week of February with National Signing Day right around the corner. Within a 24 hour period this weekend, Notre Dame secured verbal commitments from Justice Hayes (RB), Aaron Lunch (DE), Anthony Rabasa (DE), and Jalen Brown (CB).
The headliner of the group is Aaron Lynch (6’6″, 245 lbs, 4.66). The talented defensive end’s offer list reads like a Who’s Who of elite college programs. Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Ohio State, and Penn State all offered the 4-star recruit. Lynch is on just about every top 100 list you can find and is a perfect fit for the defensive end spot in Notre Dame’s 3-4 defense.
On paper, Lynch’s commitment is huge for Notre Dame, but it might be even bigger for what it says about where Brian Kelly has the program headed. Kelly and staff were able to pull one of the nation’s elite defenders out of Florida over in-state and SEC powers. That speaks volumes for Kelly’s recruiting prowess and how recruits are viewing the Notre Dame program in the early stages of the Kelly era.
With Lynch on board, Notre Dame now has three defensive ends with Brad Carico and Tony Springmann being the other two. Ben Council and Clay Burton are also listed as defensive ends on some websites, but both are slated to play outside linebacker for the Irish.
The other three recruits who joined Lynch in committing to Notre Dame this weekend are no slouches either. Anthony Rabasa (6’3″, 230), like Lynch, hails from the Sunshine State and held offers from the state’s big three. Along the way he also picked up offers from the likes of Nebraska and LSU as well. He is listed as a defensive end by some services, but he projects as an outside linebacker in Notre Dame’s 3-4 alignment.
Rabasa would be a tweener in a 4-3 defense, but in a 3-4 alignment like Notre Dame he fits in very well. He’s a high-motor player who is very athletic. He finished his junior season with 85 tackles and 13 sacks. Rabasa is a 3-star prospect on Socut and Rivas, but has a 4-star rating from ESPN and is their #98 overall recruit.
Rabasa joins Council and Burton at outside linebacker in this year’s class.
Sticking on the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Jalen Brown (6’0″, 180, 4.4) comes to Notre Dame out of Texas. Brown is a little raw at this point, but possess the profile Kelly looks for in a cornerback – he’s got good size, athleticism, and has a lot of upside. Some will be concerned that Brown did not pick up an offer from in-state power Texas, but he was one of Notre Dame’s earliest offers at cornerback. That should give anyone an indicator of how the staff views Brown.
Brown joins Mathias Farlye and Eilar Hardy in the defensive backfield in this class. All three have the ability to play corner, but all could potentially play safety as well. Notre Dame had a major need in the secondary for the class of 2011 and the trio already committed is an outstanding start.
Rounding out the weekend’s commitments is Justice Hayes (5’10”, 175, 4.4). The Michigan native picked Notre Dame over Michigan, Michigan State, and Tennessee and is a perfect fit for the spread offense Notre Dame will be running under Kelly. He is actually very similar is stature and skill-set as sophomore Theo Riddick.
Hayes is the first running back in this year’s class and could be the only one in the class if the staff can’t secure a commitment from Savon Huggins.
Not a bad haul for a weekend in July huh? Those questions about Kelly’s recruiting abilities should be hardly a whisper by now – especially after this staff was able to go into Florida and pull out two defensive recruits with offers from the state’s big three before ever coaching a game for Notre Dame.