USC Weekend Paying Dividends for Notre Dame

Will Fuller - Notre Dame WR v. USC
Photo: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame and Brian Kelly put a lot of their chips on the table for this year’s USC weekend with by far its biggest visitor list of the season.  Notre Dame hosted an elite group of recruits with their arch rival in town and while the weekend didn’t produce any on the spot commitments, the Irish are getting one heck of an ROI on what’s turned out to be a wise long-term investment by the Notre Dame coaching staff.

  • Daelin Hayes – Perhaps the headliner of the group, Hayes is listed as a 5-star prospect on some sites and is set to enroll at Notre Dame and begin his collegiate career today.  Hayes final position is still a bit up in the air in terms of whether or not he grows into a defensive end or if he stays at outside linebacker, but regardless he is one of the highest rated recruits in the class.  At the time of Hayes’ visit to Notre Dame for the USC game, he was also still committed to the Trojans.  Notre Dame on the field in October and on the recruiting trail in December for Hayes.
  • Javon McKinley – The latest addition from the USC visitor log, McKinley selected Notre Dame over Oregon and Washington during Saturday’s Army All-American bowl.  The California native held an offer from USC, but they were not one of his finalists.  The top 100, 4-star WR is currently the highest rated receiver in this year’s class.  Seeing Will Fuller burn Adoree Jackson for a long touchdown on Notre Dame’s first play of the game couldn’t have hurt the Irish’s chances.  McKinley isn’t a speed burner like Fuller, but he is the most versatile and complete wide receiver currently committed to Notre dame.
  • Devin Studstill – Another early enrollee at a critical position – safety – Studstill selected the Irish in December over Texas, West Virginia, Miami, and North Carolina.  It’s been rare for defensive backs to play early the last few seasons under Brian Vangorder’s defense, but the early start for Studstill could give him a chance to do so.  Notre Dame won’t have too many safeties on the roster this spring with Drue Tanquill on the mend from his ACL injury and Elijah Shumate and Matthias Farley headed to the NFL so he will get plenty of experience this spring.
  • Deon McIntosh – Yet another running back out of the state of Florida for Notre Dame, McIntosh joins classmate and fellow Floridian Tony Jones in this year’s backfield.  McIntosh is the speedier of the two backs for the Irish this year and held offers from Miami, Louisville, Michigan State, Penn State, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.  Kareem was just named the MVP of the Semper Fi Bowl after recovering two fumbles and returning one of them for a score.
  • Khalid Kareem – One of the most important recruits in this year’s class because of his position – defensive end – Kareem was at one time committed to Alabama.  The Michigan native selected the Irish though shortly after his visit for the USC game and he enrolls early today with Hayes and Studstill with a chance to earn playing time as a freshman just as Andrew Trumbetti did two years ago after enrolling early.  Kareem is destined for strong side defensive end, but could play on the weak-side this year where Notre Dame is in more of a position of need.
  • Troy Pride Jr – Notre Dame’s early Christmas present, Pride committed to Notre Dame on Christmas Eve with a name tailor made for headline writers covering Notre Dame and USC for the next 4-5 years.  Pride is one of a number of defensive backs in this year’s class and made a huge jump in the 247Sports rankings as a senior moving up to #85 overall and #9 at corner.  He was previously #263 overall and the 23rd ranked corner.
Brian Kelly is Building a Notre Dame Football Monster with 2020-21 Recruiting Classes

Notre Dame could further its ROI from the USC weekend if they are able to lure 4-star linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch out of Texas to join the class of 2016.  Even if they are unable to, the weekend was one of the most successful in-season recruiting weekends in years.  The fact that the Irish beat their rivals is not coincidental at all either.

Notre Dame has tried the “all in” approach on other USC weekends such as 2011 and 2013 without nearly the same results after they displayed a poor product on the field.  In 2011 the Irish got knocked around by a weak USC team and in 2013, the Irish hung on for dear life when Tommy Rees was knocked out and the offense completely stalled under Andrew Hendrix.  This year, however, the Irish displayed a big play offense and made some opportune plays on defense such as Keivarae Russell’s game clinching interception to put on a show for those in attendance.

The gamble paid off this year.  Expect Notre Dame to employ a similar approach next year when Stanford visits for what could be another showdown of top 10 ranked teams in a game in which the Irish will be out for revenge.




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  1. Damian 4 years ago


    Agree about the defense. BVG needs to do a top down review. Firing him would be premature, I mean it’s was only his second year. You’d basically have to start from scratch if you hired a new DC at this point.

    The only way I’d fire him now is if he refused to make changes and insistent his coaching was working. Then they’d have no choice. But if he is willing to make adjustments and simplify his schemes I still think it could work. High pressure, heavy blitz defenses that BVG champions can work, but the players have to understand the schemes and you have to have the right players. And I do like BVG’s intensity on the field. You can tell he gets into it and loves what he does. Players do respond to that. But no doubt, he needs to make adjustments.

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  2. rmatteo 4 years ago

    Not bad for a start but crunch time will be here before we know it and the defense could use more help.
    They folded like a cheap suit when the chips were down. Hopefully it was the players rather then the defensive coach, but I’m afraid it may have been the “D” coach. Actually it easier to get a new “D” coach than a new defense. I don’t think they should fire VanGorder but another top game failure year should cook his goose. 10-3 although a nice record is not what the Irish need. We need to get over that hump, go 11-2, 12-1, or maybe even 13-0. Improvement needs on “D”. Plenty of good QBs, running backs and receivers. Let’s get some real beef and speed on “D”! Go Irish!!!!

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  3. Ron Burgundy 4 years ago

    Western Michigan

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  4. SteelFanRob 4 years ago

    Meant to say: “What has been a signature win that reoriented the ND football program that happened in the last 20 years?” Of course, Lou had several such wins within his first three seasons, culminating in a NC and a few other close calls (Lou should’ve had at least one more NC in 93, but we know what happened then). BK can’t come close to that!

    @45, if you’re pleading for “duranko” to do your debating for you, good luck. Unlike “JC,” “irisheye,” and “C-Dog,” among others, “duranko’s” rants have no effect on me. When I agree with him I have no problem giving the man his props. When I need to disagree with him I have no qualms about doing so. So don’t think he’ll scare me away!

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  5. SteelFanRob 4 years ago

    So beating a very average LSU team in a third-tier bowl is what you consider a signature win, @45? Really?! That’s your standard of greatness?

    You say you back with ND football to the 60s. I doubt it. If you really did, you would recall ND beating the likes of Bear Bryant’s powerful Bama teams in January 1 bowl games. Now that’s the standard I want to see ND return to. You’re happy beating a downtrodden team in a third-rate bowl game.

    I @45 just made my case for me.

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  6. SteelFanRob 4 years ago


    Here’s concise for you. Answer just one of these questions:

    1) What has been a signature win that reoriented the ND football program that happened in the last 30 years?

    2) What was our biggest win this past season?

    See, in addition to poor reading comprehension, you obviously don’t think very well on your feet. You keep on wanting to side step the issue. Sadly for you, some of us here can actually read and think critically.

    Like I said, @ 45, next time you elect to waste energy and time typing a response try actually addressing any of the number of questions I asked.

    Don’t bring a dull knife to fight some one with a bazooka!

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  7. Damian 4 years ago


    What’s the issue with the extra practices? I guarantee you, every college football coach in America treats every available practice like gold. Esp. considering practice time is strictly regulated in CFB.

    And those extra practices you seem so disdainful of did have one net positive–there was much improved red zone efficiency against one of the best defenses in the country. I’d say that was a good thing.

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  8. George 4 years ago

    I’m still just so pumped about those 15 extra practices

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