As he stood on the field at Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium last April,
"I'm not comfortable with four-star guys," Kelly said.
Last week, Kelly arrived at the American Football Coaches Association convention wearing a tie festooned with a leprechaun pugilist. A pin bearing the letters N and D gleamed proudly from Kelly's lapel. The conversation turned to his recruiting philosophy, prompting an obvious question. Now that he's the coach at Notre Dame, how does Kelly feel about four-star (and five-star) recruits?
"I don't really know that my philosophy has changed relative to the process," Kelly said. "I can project because of my background. I think I'll continue to do that, so maybe I won't be necessarily just about four- and five-star guys. But as it relates to this year, right now, that's who's been recruited. Those have been identified by the former staff, and I'm really just trying to reel this one in."
Kelly had better hope Weis used high-test line. This week, he had an in-home visit scheduled with St. Paul, Minn., offensive tackle
Kelly probably appreciates Henderson's approach to the recruiting process. Henderson hasn't committed to anyone. He's barely even hinted at a favorite.
Now that Kelly works at a school that attracts in-demand recruits, he has had to wrap his brain around the liquid definition of commitment as it relates to recruiting. When he arrived last month, Kelly's plan was to honor every commitment to
Of all people, Kelly should understand that the process isn't that simple at this level. He spent the past month getting blasted for bailing on his undefeated Cincinnati team before the Sugar Bowl. Sometimes, people have to look out for No. 1.
That was the case with
During the weeks Notre Dame didn't have a coach, Hendrix spoke to other coaches. He was intrigued most by
When Hendrix visited Notre Dame for the first time since Kelly's hiring, Hendrix told Kelly about the impending visit to Florida. "He was a little upset about it, and rightfully so," Hendrix said. "He came in thinking I was 100 percent in."
Fortunately for Kelly, he's smart enough to know that an in or out policy isn't exactly prudent at this stage of the process, and he probably knew he would have looked downright hypocritical had he yanked Hendrix's offer for doing essentially the same thing Kelly did a month earlier. Plus, he could have missed out on a very good quarterback. After a frank discussion, Kelly softened. A few minutes later, Hendrix said, he and Kelly were chatting like old friends.
It turned out Kelly had nothing to worry about. Hendrix enjoyed his visit to Florida, but it didn't sway him. Last week, Hendrix told Kelly he was 100 percent in. "Being Catholic and going to a Catholic high school," Hendrix said, "it's always a dream to go to Notre Dame."
As for the rest of the class, Kelly has kept most of the players who pledged to Weis with a pair of notable exceptions. Defensive end
Five players -- quarterback
In the months after Kelly finishes his current fishing expedition on national signing day, he'll provide a better idea of how he'll approach recruiting now that a lot more doors are open to him. We'll have to see if he can enforce his you're-in-or-you're-out policy when he's recruiting four- and five-star players against some of the nation's best programs, but Kelly seems confident Notre Dame will give him the advantage he needs. "When you have the weight of a university that can carry the day over a coach, that's a good feeling," Kelly said. "Then I just have to make sure I don't mess it up."