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Putting in the time

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly estimated that he covered more than 15,000 miles in air travel and spent 54 to 55 hours on a plane in two months while recruiting.

The work and time Kelly and his staff put in paid off Wednesday, the first day players could sign with college programs as the Irish added 23 players in a class that is ranked in the top 10 by most recruiting sites.

"This business of recruiting is certainly not an exact science," Kelly said. "But let me tell you what has to happen. You have to have guys that are willing to grind it out. It's hard work.

"You know, this is work. You have to work at recruiting. There's been a number of stories about what happened in this recruiting effort or what happened in that. Let me tell you it's about working at it and our staff did a great job of working at it. They were diligent. We would not take no for an answer, especially when we had yes at the beginning. But, more importantly, it was staying after it. And understanding that in recruiting, especially at the University of Notre Dame, you're going into everybody else's backyard. And they do not want you to take their kids, whether it be in the south or in the east or the west or the Midwest, BCS programs, that being their base, they don't give up easy.

Notre Dame's recruiting class came from 14 different states, and Kelly said the biggest thing he learned in his first year of recruiting at Notre Dame was the strain it can put on his staff.

"I'm fortunate that a lot of times I don't have to fly commercial, but our staff has to fly commercial," Kelly said. "They've got to get in and out of airports and you've got to have a great network of support, which we do, in getting our coaches into geographical areas.

"That's why there's a lot of cross-over with our staff. It's not just one guy recruiting an area, because we have to be able to get other coaches in that area as well, because it's so difficult for us to saturate a particular geographical area where we can put five guys in an area."

The 2011 Class is very impressive on defense where the Irish added five-star prospects Stephon Tuitt, a defensive end, and Ishaq Williams, a linebacker, along with four-star defensive end prospect Aaron Lynch.

And Kelly's and his staff's ability to pluck players out of various regions can help calm the nerves of some fans who feared Kelly wouldn't be able to recruit nationally after sticking with regional recruiting at Cincinnati, Central Michigan and Grand Valley State.

"We are looking down here, they signed George Atkinston III. He had offers from Pac-10 schools. A California kid, and they stole him away," Barry Every, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, said. "Ben Councell is from right there in North Carolina, there is a lot of people in the ACC that wanted that kid. Everett Golson, again in ACC territory, they wanted that kid. They got him out of South Carolina.

"Matthew Hegarty, he could have gone anywhere he wanted to from New Mexico, and they took him. I would have had no idea he would have been a kid interested in Notre Dame. Usually, those kids in that area of the country, they are looking at Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, USC, UCLA and Cal. They are not looking at Notre Dame, but he was.

"Ben Koyak out of Pennsylvania, a lot people wanted an athletic tight end, a hybrid receiver, type guy.

"Aaron Lynch, you know back and forth with Florida State. Here's a kid from very southern Florida, way down there, everybody in Florida wanted him, and he picks Notre Dame.

"You look at Troy Niklas, USC wanted him. He is right there at Anaheim Servite, USC has a great history with getting kids from Servite, and where does he go? He goes to Notre Dame.

"Anthony Rabasa, he was offered by the Hurricanes, I believe. He's right there in Miami, and he picks Notre Dame.

"Stephon Tuitt, he lives literally halfway between Georgia Tech and Georgia. And where does he end up? He's the No. 2 player in Georgia, and he ends up at Notre Dame.

"Ishaq Williams, his parents went to Syracuse. People were like, oh, yeah, Notre Dame, but the bottom line is his parents went to Syracuse. He's going to Notre Dame.

"I think (Kelly) definitely proved that him and his staff can get out on the trail and get some of these national kids."

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