Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly’s second full recruiting class lacks some of the drama of last year, but it doesn’t lack talent.
The Irish will officially announce what is expected to be a 17-member class around 1 p.m. today with the program’s biggest recruiting prize already on campus. This is the first day college recruits can sign their national letters of intent.
Gunner Kiel, the nation’s top-ranked pro-style quarterback and five-star prospect, joined defensive linemen Sheldon Day and defensive back Tee Shepard as early-enrollees Jan. 17.
Kiel originally committed to Indiana but switched to LSU. Then the day before classes were scheduled to begin, he flipped one more time and landed at Notre Dame. The Columbus East product is the most high-profile prospect to join the Irish, who last year got late commitments from highly-regarded defensive ends Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch.
“They got to a real good start, but they kind of – except for Gunner Kiel – they’ve kind of hit the skids a little bit,” CBS Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “It’s still a good class. Right now, they are 15th in the country, but they didn’t close as well as they would have liked. Since the USC game, they lost almost every big name they went after.”
Lemming said missing on offensive linemen Zach Banner and Joshua Garnett along with safety Shaquille Thompson were among Notre Dame’s biggest misses. Offensive linemen Taylor Decker changed his commitment from Notre Dame to Ohio State, cornerback Ronald Darby backed out of his commitment, and the Irish were unable to reel in cornerback Anthony Standifer.
Notre Dame is still filling plenty of needs with this recruiting cycle, and the Irish could still land cornerback Brian Poole, a four-star prospect who has committed to Florida.
The Irish will boost their defensive backfield with Shepard and safety Elijah Shumate. Four-star prospects William Mahone and KieVarae Russell will add depth at running back. Four-star recruit Deontay Greenberry leads a talent trio of receivers, which also includes three-star prospects Chris Brown and Justin Ferguson.
“There is talent at just about every position,” Scout.com recruiting analyst Scott Kennedy said. “I don’t look at the list and say there is a gapping hole right there. Except, they are missing on a tight end, but they are bringing one of the best back in the country (former Bishop Dwenger standout Tyler Eifert). I would rather have that than any recruit.”
Notre Dame's Class of 2012
Signed letter of intent
Sheldon Day, DT, 6-2, 278, Warren Central, Indianapolis
Gunner Kiel, QB, 6-4, 220, Columbus East, Columbus
Tee Shepard, DB, 6-1, 175, Central East; Fresno, Calif.
Expected to sign today
Nicky Baratti, Ath., 6-2, 215, Klein Oak; Spring, Texas
Chris Brown, WR, 6-2, 185, Hanahan, Hanahan, S.C.
Scott Daly, OL, 6-4, 230, Downers Grove South; Downers Grove South, Ill.
Justin Ferguson, WR, 6-1, 200, Flanagan; Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Deontay Greenberry, WR, 6-3, 187, Washington Union; Fresno, Calif
Mark Harell, OL, 6-5, 265, Charlotte Catholic; Charlotte, N.C.
Jarron Jones, DT, 6-7, 308, Aquinas Institue, Rochester, N.Y.
William Mahone, RB, 5-11, 205, Austintown Fitch, Austintown, Ohio
Romeo Okwara, DE, 6-4, 235, Ardrey Kell, Charlotte, N.C.
C.J. Prosise, DB, 6-2, 190, Woodberry Forest; Woodberry Forest, Va.
KeiVarae Russell, WR, 6-foot, 170, Mariner, Everett, Wash.
Elijah Shumate, DB, 6-1, 205, Don Bosco Prep, West Orange, N.J.
Ronnie Stanley, OL, 6-7, 285, Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, Nev.
John Turner, DB, 6-2, 200, Cathedral, Indianapolis