Not only will we see what Kelly had to say about each recruit on Signing Day, but see how that player panned out and give him one of three grades – star player, consistent contributor or bust.
This recruiting look back does not include offensive lineman Matt James, who tragically passed away in the spring of 2010.
A couple of the players listed still have yet to finish their Notre Dame playing careers, but we will judge their impact on the program up until now.Recruits: 23
Class ranking: Rivals.com – No. 11; Scout.com – No. 19; ESPN.com – No. 21DB Chris Badger, Provo, UT (three-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “I think the thing that stands out about Chris is his physical play … a guy that can play off the hash, play the ball in the air, and also play physical.”
Career analysis: Badger enrolled early in South Bend, but then decided to go on his two-year Mormon mission before competing in the fall for Notre Dame. He returned for the 2012 but then redshirted after not finding a place in the Fighting Irish depth chart in the secondary. He then transferred to BYU and played against Notre Dame in 2013.
Impact: Bust. This is kind of a harsh grade, but the fact is that Badger never made an impact for Notre Dame on the football field. But he put his religion first with his mission then felt more comfortable at his hometown university, so you cannot blame him too much for transferring.
DB Spencer Boyd, Cape Coral, FL (three-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “What we like again about his ability to tackle in open field which is absolutely crucial at the cornerback position, but he's also got to play the ball. Very short tackler, and again, possesses the ball skills. Here's a young man that is going to benefit from being here and getting an opportunity.
Career analysis: Also an early-enrollee, Boyd did not last long under Kelly after electing to transfer from Notre Dame in June of 2010. He went first to South Florida and played sparingly, then transferred again to Division II Shepherd.
Impact: Bust. Not hard when you went from Notre Dame to Division II.
DB Austin Collinsworth, Fort Thomas, KY (three-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “He's got great hips, great acceleration. Loves to play the game. Will be a young man that I think physically is going to be able to compete immediately … a young man that we think can help us in a number of different areas.
Career analysis: Recently granted a fifth year of eligibility, Collinsworth has battled injuries and competition over his time in South Bend. After playing in the first 26 games of his career, Collinsworth missed the 2012 campaign due to injury but returned to start 11 games in 2013 at safety.
Impact: Consistent contributor. Collinsworth has had a respectable career for the Fighting Irish.
OL Bruce Heggie, Mount Dora, FL (two-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “He's just a smart, tough football player. He's going to be a big, rangy player for us. Could play on the offensive line, could definitely play some defensive tackle for us as well.”
Career analysis: Heggie never really found a home at a position for the Fighting Irish, getting looks along both the offensive and defensive lines. In the end, he appeared in just nine games for Notre Dame before transferring to Ball State recently, where he will play in his final year of eligibility.
Impact: Bust. Heggie was a hard worker during his time at Notre Dame, but was buried for the most part by better talent along the lines. He will get to play significantly this coming season for Ball State.
QB Andrew Hendrix, Cincinnati, OH (four-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “He's got a very strong arm. I think what stands out about Andrew is that he's only been a starter for a year and a half. He has not played a lot of football. His best football is clearly in front of him.”
Career analysis: To put it mildly, Hendrix never really panned out at Notre Dame. Be it a bad schematic fit or the lack of confidence under the shadow of the Golden Dome, Hendrix never looked comfortable in games for Notre Dame. He has transferred to Miami (OH) to play out his fifth season after throwing for 360 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in 16 appearances over three years for the Fighting Irish.
Impact: Bust. Hendrix lacked even the capacity to be a solid backup during his time at Notre Dame.
WR Bennett Jackson, Hazlet, NJ (three-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “He's a young man that we feel can play a number of positions for us as a wide receiver … His ability not only to catch the football, but catch it in traffic and find his way and sift his way through to make plays (is impressive).”
Career analysis: Obviously, Jackson ended up making his biggest impact for the Fighting Irish on defense at the cornerback position. He moved positions in 2011 and played sparingly before breaking out in 2012 when he started all 13 games and picked off four passes. As a senior in 2013, Jackson finished with 64 tackles and two picks.
Impact: Star. The move from offense to defense not only helped Notre Dame become an elite defense in 2012, but also raised Jackson's pro stock.
WR T.J. Jones, Gainesville, GA (four-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “With the ball in his hands, he's as explosive a player as there is in the country.”
Career analysis: Jones showed his abilities early by appearing in 10 games as a true freshman, catching 23 passes and three touchdowns. He then went on to start for the Fighting Irish for three years. In 2013, Jones became just the seventh Notre Dame player in history to notch a 1,000-yard receiving season.
Impact: Star. Jones is one of the more underappreciated players over the last decade for Notre Dame. His loss will be felt next season.
OL Christian Lombard, Palatine, IL (four-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “The athletic ability, his ability to recover, to stay with the play (stand out) … Very competitive young man. Really, really think he's got incredible upside for us as well.”
Career analysis: Lombard has been an anchor on the offensive line for the past few years, minus the six games he missed in the second half of last season following back surgery. He started all 13 games in 2012 and was recently granted a fifth year of eligibility for 2014, where he will likely play right guard.
Impact: Star. Tough to say offensive linemen are star players when they are not blowing up the highlight shows, but Lombard will be a three-year starter for Notre Dame. That's star material at his position.
QB Luke Massa, Cincinnati, OH (three-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “Very smart, very disciplined. He's going to be really big. He's going to be a strong player. He's got great feet, outstanding basketball player.”
Career analysis: Massa skipped around from quarterback to tight end to wide receiver to holder on field goals this past season. He saw action in eight games as a sophomore, mostly on special teams. While he never contributed in the way most believed he would, being a consistent holder on kicks is an underrated job.
Impact: Consistent contributor. Could go either contributor or bust on this one. His role on special teams boosts Massa up.
LB Kendall Moore, Raleigh, NC (four-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “He is a defensive player for us that could probably play a couple of different positions. A guy who will complement our defensive structure. Loves to play the game.”
Career analysis: Moore has had trouble getting consistent playing time during his career at Notre Dame, but his role should expand next year as he was granted a fifth year of eligibility. He finished the 2013 season with 17 tackles and had his first career interception in the victory over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Impact: Consistent contributor. Despite Moore not starting for Notre Dame in his career, he has been solid on special teams and has been an emotional boost on defense when he has played. He could be poised for a breakout season in 2014.
OL Tate Nichols, Union, KY (three-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “Goes up and gets the football. I think that just says a little about his athletic ability and certainly somebody that we believe is going to be an outstanding offensive tackle for us.”
Career analysis: Nichols was derailed by a series of injuries in South Bend, eventually leading to his career officially ending in early 2013.
Impact: Bust. This sounds harsh, as Nichols appeared to be a solid player minus the wealth of shoulder and knee injuries. But it is what it is, a recruit that did not reach his potential with Notre Dame.
DT Louis Nix, Jacksonville, FL (four-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “Gives us some size in the middle … a young man that really enjoyed recruiting him, a great character kid. I think that he'll be a real asset, and somebody that can come in and compete right away.”
Career analysis: 'Irish Chocolate' will be remembered as one of the most energetic and personable players to ever don a Notre Dame uniform. The space-eating lineman redshirted his freshman year and was uncertain on his return. But he committed to growing as a person and a player, excelling at both and heads into the spring as a projected first-round NFL draft pick.
Impact: Star. A difference-making defensive tackle during his career at Notre Dame. Will be tough to replace at the position in the coming years.
QB Tommy Rees, Lake Forest, IL (three-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “He's a very, very good athlete … gets the ball out there. He's got a strong arm. Can make the throws.”
Career analysis: No player in recent Notre Dame history has had to endure the love-hate relationship with fans as Rees has. He never really fit Kelly's offensive style, but did the most that he could with his skill set, eventually throwing for 7,351 yards, 61 touchdowns and 37 interceptions in his Notre Dame career. He had a propensity to make big mistakes at big times, but he also came up with huge plays when it mattered most.
Impact: Consistent contributor. Some want to tear Rees down, but in the end he was a solid quarterback who manned the position as best he could for the Fighting Irish.
Athlete Derek Roback, Waverly, OH (three-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “We think he can play probably as many as three or four positions. Great student, great kid. Has great athleticism, good size. Very good speed. He's going to help our football team.”
Career analysis: Roback was brought in to play in the secondary for Notre Dame, but he never forgot his love of the quarterback position. In September of 2010, he decided to transfer to Ohio University, but suited up at tight end for the Bobcats and was a contributor at the position for two years. He had to retire from football in 2013 due to injuries.
Impact: Bust. Roback really did not have a position with Notre Dame, as he was too small to be the prototypical pass-catching tight end that the Fighting Irish covet.
RB Cameron Roberson, Newbury Park, CA (four-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “Outstanding player, outstanding character kid. It's one of those guys that you take a big sigh of relief that you got him, and that is this young man.”
Career analysis: Roberson's career was also derailed by injury, suffering a significant knee injury in spring practice in 2011. He eventually took a medical hardship and did not play again.
Impact: Bust. Kelly was almost giddy on Signing Day in 2010 when talking about Roberson. Turned out he barely contributed due to injuries.
DE Kona Schwenke, Kahuku, HI (three-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “We had such a need … for that outside guy that could come off the edge, and Kona gives us that.”
Career analysis: Schwenke never really filled the stat sheets in four years with Notre Dame, but he seemed to always be there when the Fighting Irish needed him most. During his senior year in 2013, he stepped up admirably along the defensive line in the absence of Louis Nix. Over the course of his career he went from 225 pounds to 300 to compete in the trenches.
Impact: Consistent contributor. Schwenke was versatile along the defensive line and played well whenever he was called upon.
LB Prince Shembo, Charlotte, NC (four-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “Boy he can come off the ball. Really like the way he explodes … I think that he'll be a real asset, and somebody that can come in and compete right away.”
Career analysis: Shembo was a four-year contributor for the Fighting Irish, seeing action in all 13 games as a rookie and being one of the top defensive players in the team in 2012-13. Over those two seasons, he amassed 16 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and 97 tackles.
Impact: Star. Shembo was primarily a pass rusher off the edge, but grew into being an all-around good linebacker during his career in South Bend.
WR Daniel Smith, South Bend, IN (three-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “Outstanding young man … extremely athletic.”
Career analysis: Smith never really had the impact on the field that many hoped, but he was a leader of the wide receiver corps as an upperclassman for Notre Dame. His senior season and career with the Fighting Irish ended with an injury against Arizona State last year.
Impact: Consistent contributor. While the overall stats are not impressive, Smith stuck with the program for four years and was a good mentor for younger players.
Athlete Danny Spond, Littleton, CO (four-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “A young man who can play a number of different positions. Very athletic.”
Career analysis: It took a few years, but Spond emerged as an asset at linebacker for Notre Dame. Spond notched 38 tackles and an interception in his junior season in 2012. However, dealt with massive migraines during his college career, eventually retiring in August of 2013.
Impact: Consistent contributor. Not only did Spond contribute on the field, especially in his junior season, he also emerged as a pseudo-coach with the program in the 2013 season, talking with teammates and offering encouragement on the sidelines.
DT Justin Utupo, Lakewood, CA (three-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “He plays with a great passion … he'll breathe a lot of energy and passion into our defense. Loves to play the game.”
Career analysis: Utupo has been a reserve for most of his Notre Dame playing career, but saw his playing time pick up in 2013 when injuries gutted the defensive line. He finished the 2013 campaign with seven tackles and one tackles for loss. He will return for a fifth season in 2014.
Impact: Consistent contributor. Utupo has not allowed lack of playing time get him down and comes to practice every day ready to work. His hard-nosed attitude is infectious and he is not a liability when he sees action on game day.
TE Alex Welch, Cincinnati, OH (four-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “He's a very, very skilled player. He's tough, a great competitor. Outstanding tight end.”
Career analysis: Welch waited patiently for a shot in the always-loaded Notre Dame tight end depth chart only to get hurt in fall camp of 2012. During his recovery, Ben Koyack stepped up as a solid No. 1 behind Troy Niklas and, with both seemingly returning for 2014, Welch decided to transfer for his fifth year of eligibility to Miami (OH). Unfortunately, once Niklas changed his mind and decided to go pro, the depth chart at tight end opened up a spot for Welch, who had already decided to depart.
Impact: Bust. Welch had all the tools to be an outstanding tight end at Notre Dame, but the combination of injuries and a competitive depth chart prevented him from reaching those heights.
DB Lo Wood, Apopka, FL (three-star prospect)
Brian Kelly: “What we liked about Lo is again, very physical player, good size, and he comes up and will play and compete for every ball thrown.”
Career analysis: After sitting out in 2010, Wood saw action at cornerback in 2011 and returned an interception for a touchdown. He was set to be the frontrunner for a starting corner spot in 2012 but a ruptured Achilles ended his season. The injury allowed others to pass him on the depth chart, and Wood decided to transfer to Miami (OH) for his final season in 2014.
Impact: Consistent contributor. While never really a starter for Notre Dame, Wood showed an eye for the football when he played and was poised to be a key contributor in 2012 before he suffered an injury.