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Irish still have strong class, despite miss

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly ran through each of the program's new players one at time Wednesday during a news conference.

The Irish coach talked about versatility, desire to play and how each of the 16 recruits and one transfer impressed him and the coaching staff.

But the one that got away was also a hot topic for Kelly.

Receiver Deontay Greenberry, a four-star prospect from Fresno, Calif., made one of the biggest surprise decisions on Signing Day, opting to go to Houston instead of Notre Dame.

Greenberry's cousin Tee Shepard enrolled early at Notre Dame, and the receiver was expected to follow after being committed to the Irish for more than eight months.

"I think we painted the picture being clear about what we were about, and we made sure this is what you're gonna get at Notre Dame," Kelly said about Greenberry's defection. "And for me it's hard to be disappointed about something you never had or you never coached. I'm more excited about the guys that signed because they are the right kind of guys."

The loss of Greenberry left Notre Dame with two receivers for this year's recruiting class. Chris Brown and Justin Ferguson, who are both rated as three-star prospects.

"No one player is going to make or break a recruiting class, but when you're in the business of ranking classes, it took Notre Dame from the early teens and pushed them down towards the late teens," recruiting analyst Scott Kennedy said. "I don't know that there are too many receivers out there with his skill set, but Justin Ferguson is a big, strong, fast receive who just needs to develop the same kind of consistency, and Chris Brown is has elite type of speed. So there are two guys already on the list who could step up and make the plays that we expected Greenberry to make for the Irish."

Greenberry's loss took some of the shine off Notre Dame's class, but the Irish are still expected to have a Top 25 recruiting haul.

The Irish already have quarterback Gunner Kiel, the nation's top pro-style quarterback, on campus along with Shepard and defensive lineman Sheldon Day.

"This thing is moving in the right direction," 247Sports recruiting analyst Steve Wiltfong said. "They are getting better in the front seven on defense, and they are getting better on the offensive line. And that's the keys to winning football games.

"Moving forward, I think you will see a better product on the field."

The Journal Gazette's Assistant Sports Editor Tony Krausz covers The University of Notre Dame. Krausz, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of St. Louis, has been assistant sports editor since October 2005. Prior to joining the JG, he worked at two papers in Mississippi covering high school and college athletics.