So much for thinking that all the recruiting craziness was behind us.
As I said before in my Gunner Kiel post, my golden rule of following recruiting is that until a recruit actually enrolls early or faxes in his signed letter of intent,Â anything can and will happen. Today, the anything was a surprise defection from Deontay Greenberry to Houston of all places. Greenberry, a five star WR (or four star depending on which recruiting rankings you follow), made his eleventh hour decision despite telling the Irish staff that he was still in the fold on Tuesday night.
It wasn’t just the Irish staff that was in for a shock either. His own cousin, Tee Shepard was informed of the change of plans this morning after Greenberry called his father, Ray Shepard:
Greenberry called Ray Shepard, father of early enrollee Tee Shepard, on Wednesday morning to break the news of the flip. Greenberry and Shepard are cousins and it was assumed the pair would play together in college throughout the process. Greenberry called Notre Dame earlier this week to assure the staff heâ€™d sign with the Irish.
â€œHe sent his paperwork in to Houston,â€ Ray Shepard said. â€œI donâ€™t get that one at all. I don’t know what happened on that one.â€
Ray Shepard said Greenberry and Tee Shepard spoke before the Houston flip, with the cornerback telling his cousin to follow his heart in his decision, even if that didnâ€™t mean Notre Dame.
Even stranger in this story was that it appears that Greenberry nor his family had any direct contact with head Coach Brian Kelly. At his press conference this afternoon, Kelly said that he found out the news from Greenberry’s high school coach and that was it.
Greenberry’s last-minute decision is yet another disappointing decommit from the Irish. Cornerback Ronald Darby (Rivals 4 star/Scout 5 star) remained out of the Irish fold and signed with Florida State today. For a recruiting class whose primary focus was to stock up on skill players, losing two elite players with said skill-set, one of which was meant to retool a weak defensive backfield, is highly disappointing. Further frustrating for many is that only 16 scholarships will be used in this class as well.
However, those looking for some kind of silver lining can still find some in this class. Despite the losses mentioned above and small scholarship number, the surprise addition of Gunner Kiel, helped propel this class to remain on of the top-25 in the nation (Rivals 21/Scout 18). The average star rating for our 16 recruits is rather stout as well (Rivals 3.5 [ranked 11]/Scout 3.69 [ranked 7]). Plenty of skill players will be making their new home under the Dome as well with 9 of the 16 players falling under that description.
Although not included in any class ranking, the addition of RB Amir Carlisle should be mentioned as well. The Southern Cal transfer was an Irish target last season and adds additional depth to the two RBs coming in with the 2012 class.
So just how successful was this class? It depends on how you wish to look at it.
On one hand, this class could have been an absolutely stellar top-5 class had our targets stayed in the fold. Not to mention said players would have filled voids at positions that required immediate impacts.
On the other, the Irish did accomplish their goal of adding in the needed bodies in skill positions. For a team returning 8 starters on offense and 7 on defense, that doesn’t exactly leave for much immediate playing time on the field. With that in mind, a quick glace at the depth start can easily create several theories of players moving between RB and WR or even CB.
And perhaps that is the biggest failing and disappointment of this class. This could easily go either way.
Kelly could very well shuffle his roster around, fifth-years can make a breakthrough impact and a high percentage of these recruits hit to form a solid roster. On the flipside, said moves could disappoint and not make the impact Kelly hoped for, much like Theo Riddick to WR. If that were to happen, and recruits from this class do not make their projected impacts, we could see the reality of a shaky foundation in the future.
In comparison, Kelly’s 2010 class, one with a focus on the trenches and power positions, made an immediate impact and left very little doubt as to its success even before the first snap of the season. The play by freshmen like Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt removed anyÂ doubt as to its success as well.
2012 will already be a pivotal season for Kelly and his future plans for the Notre Dame program, but now I feel the pressure has turned up a notch or two. Kelly has already stated that his goal for the class of 2013 is to land those big-time impact players that (“Big Skill” players as he called them) that can make an impact at multiple positions in his spread offense. In order to get those players, he will need to deliver on the field as he transitions from building his program to running it. These are his guys now, and it is time to see what he will do with them.
With all that being said, congrats to the 17 new members of the Notre Dame football team and the Notre Dame family. Enjoy your new home under the Dome.
EDIT (6:14pm EST): Of course, after I publish this, more “anything” is happening: Davonte Neal is back in play.