Now that all the smoke has cleared and dust has settled from signing day, it is time for staffs and fans alike, to evaluate the final group of commitments. As with any post-signing day scenario, some programs are very happy, while others need to evaluate their approach and efforts. For the Irish, it’s probably a bit of both.
The most glaring heading into this year’s class were in the secondary, the offensive backfield and at linebacker. Most agree that the coaching did fine with the addition of Josh Adams, and Dexter Williams in the backfield; and that they knocked it out of the park in the regards to additions at linebacker with Asmar Bilal, Josh Barajas, and Tevon Coney. Unfortunately, the news on the secondary is not quite as positive.
There was a list of very talented secondary players where mutual interest was indicated, and yet, throughout the course of the process it was common to see each name on that list find a better fit at a different school. While that happens often to every program, it isn’t necessarily indicative of a poor effort from the Notre Dame coaching staff. With that said though, and from the information that was and is available, it seemed likely that the ball was dropped on more than one occasion. Here is a list of six secondary and linebacker recruits who we felt like the Irish program had a legitimate shot at signing, but ultimately did not.
- Arrington Farrar (4*S -Wisconsin)
- Prentice McKinney(3*S – Oklahoma)
- Nathan Meadors(4* Ath/S/QB – UCLA)
- Ben Edwards(3* S – Stanford)
- Frank Buncom(4* CB – Stanford)
In regards to Buncom, the four-star safety from San Diego, it was down to four schools, and all of them offered an elite academic opportunity. Notre Dame battled Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Cal for his services, but in the end, it was Stanford who won out. There was some real interest here for both he and the Irish, but in the end, his mother was very influential in his decision to pick the Cardinal. Hard to beat Mom, and we understand that.
Ben Edwards is one that we felt would end up at Notre Dame, but decided that, you guessed it, Stanford was a better fit. Originally committed to Ohio State, he backed off of that commitment, and the Irish jumped on the chance to sign him. During his press conference he mentioned that it was a tough decision, but in the end he felt that the Cardinal needed him more than Notre Dame – what? If that is true, and the Irish coaching staff made him feel like less of a priority, than we have huge issues with that. The safety position was a great need for Notre Dame, and there is something about this story that doesn’t add up.
UCLA had a great signing day, and the addition of three-star safety, Nathan Meadors certainly helped. Once again the Irish battled for a west-coast kid, and his desire to stay close to home, and play in front of friends and family. As signing day approached, and Meadors took his final visit to Notre Dame, many felt like it was a 50/50 proposition of him signing with the Irish. Although he said the Irish staff showed him a lot of love, and the decision was a tough one, The Bruins were the ultimately the winners here.
Most Irish fans are aware of the circumstances that surrounded the recruitment of Prentice McKinney, the four-star safety out of Texas. Originally committed to Notre Dame, that ended weeks before signing day, and rumors started in about his inability to meet the eligibility requirements put forth by the University. After decommitting from Notre Dame, McKinney jumped ship and landed at North Carolina – only to be swayed by a last minute visit to Norman, OK, and a reuniting with his former recruiter at Notre Dame, Kerry Cooks. Can’t really blame the staff for this one, as there is only so much influence and help they can offer.
Last, but definitely not least, is Arrington Farrar. Farrar is a prominent four-star safety out of Georgia, and one who we felt the Irish should have landed. With Stanford looking like the early favorites, the Notre Dame staff started making some headway late in the process, and had a chance to wow him on his late visit right before signing day. That is where the good news ended for Notre Dame though, as Brian Kelly would be contractually obligated to appear at the Super Bowl, and not available to meet with Farrar on campus. Not a huge deal; we can’t expect Brian to voluntarily open himself up to legal issues, simply to have one-on-time with a recruit. We are not entirely sure of the details, but whatever positive energy there was going into the visit, completely dissipated shortly after. So much so, that relative newcomer to the recruiting of Farrar, Wisconsin, almost immediately took the lead shortly after his visit with Notre Dame. Farrar had nothing bad to say about his visit to South Bend, but struggled to find excitement about describing the trip also.
These are the six athletes that we felt the Irish program had a strong chance at landing a commitment from, but for a multitude of reasons, simply did not. The majority of them we have no real issues with, but the in the cases of Farrar and Edwards, we feel like Notre Dame lost theses recruits, and as opposed to the respective schools who signed them, won their commitments.
It’s somewhat unfair to critique a class from the outside, and make judgments with only limited knowledge of the internal process, but we have done so anyways while trying to be fair in our approach. The 2015 class includes some extremely talented additions, but if the Irish coaching staff could have added simply one or two of the players listed above – this class could have been a difference maker. Now, the program is forced to go into next season with some very real question in the secondary, and there is no guarantee that the answers are on the currently roster.