|Notre Dame's agreement to the ACC will continue a trend of the Irish recruiting the conference's footprint. (US Presswire)|
It's official, Notre Dame is (partially) headed to join the ACC and will play five games against conference teams in the future as conference realignment once again makes the college football world spin. Details of the move can be found here but if you've followed how the Irish have been recruiting as of late, it's a deal that makes perfect sense and will no doubt be a positive for Brian Kelly and his staff going forward.
|Brian Kelly has already done a good job in getting skill position players to Notre Dame from states like Virginia and both of the Carolinas. (US Presswire)|
A longtime player on the national recruiting scene, Notre Dame has always been able to cast a wide net and recruit just about every area of the country with their brand name and status as a football independent. Yet there has been an unmistakable focus the past decade or so on really recruiting top-flight athletes from the South, particularly in states like Virginia and the Carolinas in addition to Florida. Speed is the name of the game in college football right now and as the program has struggled over the years, getting more of it is a prime directive of the current coaching staff.
Under Kelly, the focus has been even more concentrated than his predecessors. A full 51 percent of players from the 2010-2013 classes have hailed from a state that has an ACC school. The total, 33, is six more than the nearest region of the Midwest and dwarfs the rest of the country. The upcoming class, only halfway done, currently has more players from the ACC footprint than any other with 10, including athletes from places like New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida.
More to the point, the Irish are going after a specific type of recruit in ACC territory and while they have played a number of conference teams (from Boston College to Miami) in the past, increased access and better away game setups will no doubt increase the local presence they have in specific areas. Defensive linemen have been the biggest target inside the ACC footprint, with nine in the fold the past four classes when you include 2013. Wide receiver, defensive back and linebacker are the next position groups where Notre Dame has hit up the area for talent with good success, including those such as quarterback Everett Golson, linebacker Prince Shembo and defensive tackle Louis Nix.
Add in the national exposure that comes from their NBC Network deal and trips to the West Coast to play USC and Stanford and Notre Dame has one of the deepest talent bases in the country. Sure, they always were able to go into a player's home anywhere and be recognized but it's the even more specific, local connection that the school is gaining with the ACC move that should really pay off with recruiting. It's easy to sell a kid on playing close to home for most schools but for the Irish and their independent schedule, it was much easier said than done. With the agreement stating that Notre Dame will play every conference school once every three years, it's now a matter of pulling up the calendar.
The Irish currently have MaxPreps' 8th-ranked recruiting class for 2013 and if Kelly and his staff can keep the ship afloat on the field going forward, they should be able to consistently have a highly regarded recruiting group going forward, as the move to the ACC won't hamper still-independent Notre Dame -- it should only aid it on the recruiting trail.