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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, February 07, 2018 1:40 pm

Irish add depth on signing day

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

A Notre Dame recruiting class that already ranked in the top 10 in the country and among the best in Brian Kelly's tenure as head coach added more depth at key positions Wednesday.

Six players, including an elite offensive lineman, from the class of 2018 submitted letters of intent on National Signing Day to play for the Irish, joining with 21 players who had already signed on Dec. 20.

"This is a great class, we're really excited about what it does to strengthen our '85,'" coach Brian Kelly said Wednesday, referring to the total number of scholarship players on the roster. "We've got a lot of starters back, but the great teams, the teams that win national championships year in and year out, it's from 65 to 85 (where they excel)."

Possibly the most important player who signed with the Irish Wednesday was four-star offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson from Mission Viejo, California. Patterson originally committed to Arizona State, but that fell through after the Sun Devils fired coach Todd Graham. Notre Dame ended up vying with UCLA for the lineman's signature.

"After visiting, I knew the players and coaches really well," Patterson told 24/7 Sports about Notre Dame. "Coach (Brian) Polian, coach Kelly, (offensive line) coach (Jeff) Quinn, they were coaches I wanted to be around and I know I can do something great there."

Polian, the team's recruiting coordinator, said Wednesday that Patterson's mind was not made up until very recently.

"There have been some conversations going on (with Patterson), Sunday, Monday, Tuesday night, well past the midnight hour eastern time," he said laughing.

The Irish also signed three-star offensive lineman Luke Jones from Little Rock, Arkansas. Patterson and Jones fill out an offensive line that had been one of the weaker positions in the class for the Irish. Signing both also helps make up for losing out on top target Nicholas Petit-Frere. Notre Dame was still in the running for Petit-Frere, the top offensive lineman in the country per 24/7's rankings, as of Wednesday morning, but he signed with Ohio State.

In addition to Patterson and Jones, Notre Dame also secured letters of intent from a pair of Wasington, D.C. cornerbacks, four-star Noah Boykin and Under Armour All-American DJ Brown. The Irish signed players from D.C., Arkansas, California, Georgia and Louisiana on Wednesday.

"Our footprint is always going to be big," Polian said of recruiting nationally. "That's part of who we are. We are a national brand. We're a national university, not a regional one and I think our recruiting reflects that."

National Signing Day has long been the most important day on the recruiting calendar, but it was overshadowed this year by the addition of the early signing period in December. 

"It's much more manageable, a lot less stress," Kelly said of this year's National Signing Day. "It didn't mean that the last couple of weeks weren't as hectic, because they were. You're still building those relationships with guys who haven't made the decisions, so it was hectic the last couple of weeks, but I think as you come into today there's a lot less drama."