Mack Brown Laying The Blueprint For Recruiting Success, Notre Dame Needs To Follow
The 2021 class has slipped for Notre Dame. Just a few months prior, the Fighting Irish had the second-ranked class and plenty of momentum going forward. Since the loss of a big recruiting weekend and the country being shut down, things have changed quite a bit and Notre Dame's recruiting class has tumbled down to 17th in the country at 247 Sports.
While plenty of potential still lingers around this class, things need to turn around before signing day. Luckily, North Carolina head coach, Mack Brown has laid out the blueprint.
The Mack Brown Effect
North Carolina hired Brown in November of 2018. This was his second time coaching the Tar Heels. He also returned from a five-year hiatus after stepping down at Texas and moving into a TV role at ESPN.
The five years off seemed to help rejuvenate Brown, and he spent half a decade watching tape and interviewing coaches. All of the work he was putting in has translated into success at UNC.
I honestly thought this was going to flop when Brown was hired. He was in his late 60's and it felt like North Carolina was trying to kick the tires on a coach that had success there in the 1990s. However, Brown proved he had the ability to adapt.
North Carolina currently has the third-ranked recruiting class in 2021. While a strong coaching staff with stud recruiters plays a major part, Brown is also doing something Brian Kelly has lacked. Brown spoke with Bill Bender of Sporting News as to how he has found so much success in a May Zoom call:
"The players obviously have been home more. Their parents have been home more. It's been easier to get a hold of them for one thing. They can call you and text you. I'm probably having more conversations with parents and recruits than I was when they were coming to campus."
It isn't a secret that Kelly doesn't hit the recruiting trail like Urban Meyer. It is also apparent he doesn't attack recruiting like the 69-year-old Brown. However, Brown isn't doing it all himself. The staff has also played a major part in the turnaround in Chapel Hill.
Coaches That Can Recruit
North Carolina just landed the number one corner in the country, and a Top 10 overall player, Tony Grimes. The biggest reason was having former NFL star, Dre Bly, on staff and recruiting Grimes. Bly is a legend and from the same area as Grimes, and he was an All-American for Brown at North Carolina, which helped UNC land him over the likes of Georgia and Ohio State.
Meyer has made comments recently that coaches on his staff need to be able to recruit at a high level. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has a staff built on recruiters and both Dabo Swinney at Clemson and Ed Orgeron at LSU are as good on the recruiting trail as they are with the X's and O's.
Furthermore, my recent article on the blue-chip ratio shows you need to pull a Top 15 class to even stand a chance at winning a title. Development is important, but landing the elite players still stands at the top. Kelly needs to put the work in. However, that won't magically turn Notre Dame into a top three class overnight.
More emphasis needs to be placed on recruiting ability when a coaching hire is made. Lance Taylor is proving he can recruit at a high level, at least with the 2020 class. Former offensive coordinator Chip Long was another that played a hand in bringing in high-end talent. However, a personal decision was made that could keep Notre Dame stuck in a recruiting rut.
Rumors popped up that former Penn State offensive coordinator and Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead was interested in the Notre Dame job. The once highly sought after coach ended up going to Oregon after Kelly chose to hire his 27-year old quarterbacks coach. Before Moorhead was hired, Penn State averaged the 34th ranked recruiting class from 2012-2014. Then, the Nittany Lions averaged the 16th ranked class from 2015-2017, the years Moorhead was there. Not even looking at his ability to run an offense, he is a solid recruiter as well.
Since Moorhead was hired, Oregon has landed seven four-star players on offense, and all came during the dead period that was brought on by COVID-19. Notre Dame has landed just one offensive player since October of 2019, and that is three-star offensive lineman Pat Coogan.
This isn't mentioned to bring up what could have been or rail on Rees. I believe Rees can be a good recruiter as well. But this is simply to point out, Notre Dame can land a top-five class, it isn't impossible.
The Notre Dame Difference
Pro-Kelly fans will point to the fact that Notre Dame can't land anybody they want because of academics. While that is a hindrance, it doesn't mean they can't pull elite prospects.
Stanford has had multiple five-star players commit in the last 10 years. The 2017 Stanford class had three guys rated as a five-star. Notre Dame has never had more than two in one class in the Kelly era.
When looking at the big picture of recruiting and how to fix it at Notre Dame, a Top 5 class isn't an unreachable goal. Brian Kelly needs to put more work in and put more emphasis on assistants that can recruit. Mack Brown was able to figure it out at a school that isn't known as a football power. Since 2012, North Carolina has one 10+ win season. Mack Brown is coming off a 7-6 season in 2019. North Carolina sits in a recruiting hotbed, but they don't have the name power or recent history that Notre Dame does.
There is no excuse to get out recruited at this point by Brown and the Tar Heels. Until Kelly starts working towards his comments that Notre Dame can reach a top-five class, more schools will continue to pass them by.
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