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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, February 01, 2017 10:03 pm

Swarbrick eases recruits' doubts

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

Before any recruit pledged his future to Notre Dame, that old proverbial elephant in the room needed to be addressed.

"What about Brian Kelly?"

Prospects like to know with certainty that their coach will be in place throughout their collegiate career, and the Irish’s 4-8 season in 2016 created degrees of doubt.

"With the kind of year we had," Kelly said, "the first question out of everybody was, ‘Is this his last year?’ It was not the year anybody wanted."

So athletic director Jack Swarbrick spent his weekends reassuring recruits that Notre Dame fully supported Kelly.

"That’s unusual," Kelly said. "Don’t think that happens everywhere, that your athletic director makes himself able to meet with recruits.

"There were questions when a family comes on campus. He assured them there’s no problems, that this is a program on solid ground. So having Jack’s involvement in (the 2017 class) was absolutely crucial to get to where we are."

National signing day was a success by most measures, as all 13 players who had pledged to the Irish before Wednesday filed their letters of intent as expected, making them official members of a program looking to rebound from its poor 2016 campaign.

And there were three new additions Wednesday: three-star prospect Kofi Wardlow (a defensive end out of Saint John’s College High School in Washington, D.C.), three-star defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa (from Hawaii’s Kapolei High School), and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (a defensive player, three stars by most recruiting services, from Bethel High School in Hampton, Virginia).

Counting the Irish’s five early enrollees, they have 21 total signees in a touted 2017 class.

By mid-afternoon, various recruiting outlets differed on the national rank of the Irish haul. The class was No. 10 according to 247Sports but only No. 18 at, No. 15 at ESPN and No. 13 for

"This class has had a lot of guys committed for a very long time, so they made their decision early and stuck with it," Irish recruiting coordinator Mike Elston said. "They are great students and great guys that are going to be awesome socially, fit the student body."

Eleven states (but not Indiana) plus D.C. are represented in Elston’s second class as recruiting coordinator.

The main strength of this latest infusion of talent, in Kelly’s opinion, is the offensive linemen and the tight ends.

"Brock Wright, arguably best tight end in the country, and Cole Kmet, we don’t think there can be a better tandem at tight end in a signing class," Kelly said. "Very, very good offensive linemen coming in."

Combine Robert Hainsey, Aaron Banks, Josh Lugg and Dillan Gibbons – the four offensive linemen – with five defensive linemen, and nearly half of the class will play in the trenches.

As the next wave of Irish players were revealed, Kelly did announce the departures of a couple of current ones. Colin McGovern, the starting right guard for much of 2016 before losing his job late in the year, is transferring. Backup tight end Jacob Matuska decided to conclude his playing career.