Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly has always had a reliable trump card to play in his recruiting efforts with young athletes: I’m a winner.
Kelly has been a head coach for 25 years and only one team (the 2004 Central Michigan squad) has had a losing season. However, at 2-5, it’s going to take some marked improvement from his current group to avert becoming the second squad with the ignominious mark.
It remains to be seen how the 2016 season will finish, and in terms of recruiting, it’s been spotty of late. The Irish lost to Stanford 17-10 last week, and Kelly’s program got bad news (a de-commitment from a 4-star defensive lineman) and good news (a commitment from a 4-star senior defensive back).
“It’s never really been brought up,” Kelly said of the team’s current record in recruiting talks. “(The recruits) are more interested in the environment of Notre Dame, what it can do for their son, relative to the academic institution.”
That must have resonated with California athlete Elijah Hicks, who pledged his commitment to the Fighting Irish Tuesday on social media.
The 6-foot-, 170-pound Hicks was in South Bend for the first time to watch Saturday’s defeat, but the loss obviously didn’t negatively influence his choice.
“They’re in the locker room after (a game),” Kelly said of the recruits that visit. “They see my message to my team. They see the interactions, so it is full transparency.
“They’re able to understand what we’re about on a day-to-day basis by messaging us and talking to us, so (recruiting) is business as usual.”
Hicks chose Notre Dame over offers from Michigan, Washington and UCLA.
He plays for LaMirada High School in southern California and is rated as the No. 27 athlete nationally (Rivals).
“We don’t really change who we are,” Kelly said of recruiting, “or what we do, so we don’t, we’re not trying to impress them. They know who we are and they know we’re struggling. But we’re like anybody else, we’re going to let them know who we are and they’re going to make their decisions based upon whether this is the right place for them.”
Kelly speaks big-picture with recruits, which includes success at multiple levels and with multiple programs, including with the Irish at the highest level of college football. What has happened over the last six weeks is really an aberration when it comes to his programs.
“I would say that they’re minimal as long as (the recruits) see that the environment isn’t toxic,” Kelly said of any difficulties recruiting this fall. “If they see that the environment is one where there is great energy and enthusiasm and that they can see themselves being a difference and being part of the solution.
“I think that it’s not a negative in that sense. It’s a temporary situation in their mind and that they’re going to be the solution in helping bring the program back up to that top status that it is used to being in.”
Notre Dame is off today and Kelly has spent this past week on the road recruiting along with his assistants.
The Fighting Irish will host 17th-ranked Miami (Fla.) at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (NBC).
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