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Upcoming Junior Day could net Kelly first 2011 commitment

This Saturday, Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame coaching staff will have their first Junior Day on campus as a complete staff. While this will hardly go down in media guides as an important day in the Brian Kelly era, this is probably the most important day of recruiting that Kelly has had since taking the job in South Bend.

Recent reports say that Kelly will have upwards of 30 recruits on campus, nearly half with pending scholarship offers from the coaching staff. While a late January recruiting weekend already netted the staff a few late pickups that added some much needed depth to the 2010 recruiting class, this Junior Day will be even more important, as the Irish coaches will have a full allotment of offers available and their hand-picked recruits, all with open ears to the Irish’s recruiting pitch.

While there will be plenty of movement on this list in the next few days, here’s a quick look at some of the key targets arriving in South Bend this weekend that already have an offer from the Irish:


Defensive End
Brennen Beyer - Canton, MI: Wolverines among impressive list for this lanky defender.
Clay Burton - Venice, FL: Lanky defensive end with national offers.
Brad Carrico - Dublin, OH: Pipeline recruit many suspect as first official commit.
Chris Rock - Columbus, OH: Doesn’t have offer yet from OSU, but plenty of interest nationally.

Defensive Tackle
Vincent Croce - Olney, MD: Staff’s only DT offer has others from ACC and Big Ten teams.

Defensive Backs
Eilar Hardy - Pickerington, OH: Good size for a CB, and the offers to prove it.
Albert Louis-Jean - Brockton, MA: Big DB, Irish will battle Miami and BC among others.
Blake Countess - Owings Mills, MD: Lightning quick DB has speed to impress.

Jarrett Grace - Cincinnati, OH: Kelly & Co. have had plenty of time to recruit this jumbo backer.


Offensive Tackle

Brendon Austin - Parker, CO: Athletic tackle has Irish in his top three schools.
Matthew Hegarty - Aztec, NM: Coast to coast offers for this elite tackle prospect.

Wide Receiver
DeAnthony Arnett - Saginaw, MI: National recruit that’s high on the Irish.
Davaris Daniels - Vernon Hills, IL: Son of current NFLer has national slate of offers.
Devin Smith - Massilon, OH: Pure athlete with plenty of Big Ten offers.
Evan Spencer - Vernon Hills, IL: Another elite WR from North Chicago suburbs.

Running Back
Justice Hayes - Grand Blanc, MI: Much of the Midwest going after dynamic runner.

Braxton Miller - Huber Heights, OH: True Blue Chip. Kelly already has relationship built.
Bubba Starling - Gardner, KS: Lanky athlete with great upside. Also MLB prospect.

A few thoughts:

* It’s easy to see the recruiting footprint that the Irish staff has set. Eleven of the offered recruits that are visiting are from Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan, three states that this staff knows extremely well. With Rich Rodriguez expanding the traditional recruiting areas for Michigan and with Kelly’s recent success in the state of Ohio, not to mention the incredibly hot seat that Illinois coach Ron Zook finds himself on, this could be a historically good time for the Irish to try to reclaim their roots.

* All those afraid that Kelly wouldn’t target top-notch talent, fear not. The Irish may have some offers out to some very big fish. Kelly proved in January that he had the belief in his evaluation methods to offer an unknown like Bruce Heggie. He proves with his pursuit of Matthew Hegarty and other elite prospects that he’s not afraid to mix it up in the rarefied air of the recruiting world, too.

* The quarterback carousel should get started soon, and once one elite quarterback declares his choice, expect others to follow. I think the Irish are in a very good place with quarterbacks right now, and Kelly’s well-established relationship to Braxton Miller will certainly help in his recruitment. That said, the Irish would be very happy with either quarterback visiting, as Starling has a unique blend of athleticism that could wreak havoc on opposing defenses in Kelly’s spread attack.