Brian Kelly leaves Notre Dame on the heels of reeling in its first top 10 recruiting class since 2013, according to 247Sports.
Kelly doesn’t have the recruiting reputation of other Southeastern Conference coaches, much less former LSU coach Ed Orgeron. But Kelly had to stretch far and wide across the U.S. searching for athletes who fit the bill of Notre Dame’s competitive academic requirements.
According to Next College Student Athlete, a national recruiting service, Notre Dame requires that football players — like every other student — are admitted to the university. According to the Notre Dame admissions website, the university admitted 15% of its applicants last year, where the middle 50% of those admitted had an SAT composite score of 1460 or higher.
New football coach Brian Kelly kept his words brief Wednesday night as he addressed fans at halftime of LSU’s men’s basketball game against Ohio.
Notre Dame’s Class of 2022 currently ranks No. 5 and its 2023 class is No. 2. LSU's Class of 2022 is No. 14, but recruits are expecting it will move up before the Dec. 15 early signing period, and in the coming years with Kelly at the helm.
“We're working on some other people,” LSU Class of 2022 offensive line recruit Will Campbell said. “Me and Walker (Howard) are working on some guys who were committed there that he’s close with, like five-star receiver C.J. Williams. I know Walker wants him bad. They developed a relationship together at the opening and elite camps and stuff.”
Campbell and quarterback Walker Howard are the two five-star recruits in LSU's recruiting class. As an offensive lineman out of Neville High School, Campbell is eager to learn who his position coach will be under Kelly.
He — like Howard and fellow offensive line commitment Bo Bordelon — also received an offer from Notre Dame, but Campbell hadn’t talked to Kelly because he was sold mostly on LSU. He had talked to Jeff Quinn, Notre Dame’s offensive line coach, but said LSU offensive line coach Brad Davis became like family to him.
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“Being offered by Notre Dame as an offensive lineman is a big deal to me, just because of how many guys they produce,” Campbell said. “It's kind of like an honor and, knowing that Kelly is going to be at LSU, it's very exciting to know.”
Bordelon said he talked to some recruiters at Notre Dame and admired the way Kelly ran his program. He also feels he'll see success in his position on the line.
Emery Jones, a four-star offensive lineman out of Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, said he’s always wanted to go to LSU anyway, but Davis played a large role in that after he arrived in the summer.
“I’m going to stay here no matter what the decision is,” Jones said. “When I heard it was (Brian) Kelly, it made me really excited because I know what he produces and I know I can be a product of that.”
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The winning reputation helps, too. Freshman wide receiver Jack Bech called Campbell after the team meeting with Kelly to let him know how it went.
“He just said this is what we need, and this is going to get us in the right direction,” Campbell said. “I mean, I know coach Kelly knows how to win.”
Recruits have been on edge for the past few weeks because they didn't which coach they were committed to. Jones grew tired of seeing the speculation of who might be LSU’s coach all over social media. Four-star defensive lineman Tygee Hill from Edna Karr echoed that sentiment.
“I’m glad LSU finally hired someone. It was stressful not knowing who was going to be the head coach,” Hill said. “I knew they were going to hire someone big. Now I’m just ready to build a relationship and get to work.”
Sam Spiegelman, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals based in New Orleans, said LSU not only has a fertile backyard of top talent but the program also is still relatively fresh off of a national championship. Kelly’s background only adds to the spotlight already on SEC matchups in Baton Rouge.
He also expects Kelly will use some of his old resources when it comes to recruiting both the offensive and defensive lines.
“You can expect Kelly to make a concerted effort in the trenches,” Spiegelman said. “That’s where games are ultimately won and lost in the SEC and, at times, it’s been a bugaboo for LSU recruiting. Louisiana has plenty of homegrown talent for him to consider, but in the trenches, we should expect LSU to have a more national scope.”
Kelly does have a bit of a recruiting footprint already established in Louisiana. While at Notre Dame, Kelly started dipping into Louisiana’s talent pool for the first time since 1999 when the Fighting Irish added Evangel Christian defensive end Jerry Tillery in Shreveport in 2015. Tillery is now with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Kelly also brought in Destrehan High School wide receiver Michael Young, who transferred to Cincinnati after three years of playing at Notre Dame. Irish senior wide receiver Lawrence Keys III is from McDonogh 35 in New Orleans.
Notre Dame also has three-star wide receiver Amorion Walker, who is from Ponchatoula, on its Class of 2022 list.
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“They're hard to get out of Louisiana, which is a great thing, because when we're recruiting from another school, you have to work really hard to get somebody to leave the state of Louisiana,” Kelly said. “So that bodes really well for us moving forward.”
The key to Kelly's recruiting success in the past was targeting kids who want a faith-based education with high academic standards. Now it’ll be easier to sell local kids who grew up dreaming of playing for the Tigers.
“He’s one of the best living room guys in college football,” 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong said. “His delivery is as good as you're gonna find. The way he communicates and talks about his program, he makes kids comfortable and makes families comfortable, and they know what they're getting. Brian Kelly has produced pros at every position and had teams in the national title hunt, so he checks all the boxes.”
LSU athletic director Scott Woodward went after the best resume he could find in his search for LSU's next head coach, he told reporters Wednesday.
Kelly said his first focus will be locking down in-state talent, and having conversations with the players who have already committed to LSU. Then, he will look to fill in wherever needed.
But he won’t tell you from where. On Dan Patrick’s radio show Wednesday, Kelly was asked whether he would try to poach anyone from his top 5 class at Notre Dame, like former Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley did when he left for USC.
"Lincoln can do what Lincoln wants to do; Brian Kelly is going to do what he does,” Kelly said.