Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly got his first chance to speak publicly about the incoming class of recruits Wednesday afternoon. As expected, Kelly was full of high praise for the 23 players that sent letters of intent to the Fighting Irish football office. Here are his thoughts on each new member of the Irish.
Brian Kelly broke down his class of 2014 signees Wednesday afternoon at the Guglielmino Complex.
WR Justin Brent — Speedway H.S. (Indianapolis)
“When I got a chance to see him work out this morning, the first thing that stood out to me is that he does not look like a freshman. He had his shirt off this morning and he was running around, and he looks like a senior. He is a physically gifted young man. You can see a lot of the accolades that are out there with him in terms of where he was ranked.
“… We were looking for a physical player at this position, somebody that could impose their physicality, could run after the catch. His ability to run after the catch was very impressive for us.”
DE Andrew Trumbetti — Northern Valley Regional H.S. (Demarest, N.J.)
“The thing that really put him over the top for us is when we were watching his film he was returning kickoffs in high school. Not many times do you see a defensive lineman returning kickoffs. We knew about his athletic ability right away, and certainly we loved the fact that he was a multisport player — was a track athlete.
“When Coach [Bob] Diaco was here before he moved on to Connecticut, [he] got a chance to see him in track practice and got a chance to see his footwork and his quickness and all those things, and that started the recruiting process for us.”
LB Nyles Morgan — Crete-Monee H.S. (Crete, Ill.)
“He couldn’t wait for today because after today he gets to talk a lot more football, and on a daily basis he’s going to be talking about football.
“Just got a great nose for the football, plays downhill, plays fast, great instincts, and when he arrives, he arrives with a bad attitude when he gets to the football. He’s just that kind of player. Very, very talented. You know, I think from our standpoint, an inside guy that certainly has the physical tools to be an exceptional player here at Notre Dame.”
OT Quenton Nelson — Red Bank Catholic H.S. (Red Bank, N.J.)
“I think the one thing that stands out about Q is that here’s a guy that just is relentless. He’s going to come after you play after play after play. And again, his desire to want to be great is what always stood out about Quenton … he's always pushing himself.
“Every time we talk to him he’s coming back from something. He plays basketball, he’s working out, he’s a guy that’s driving himself always to be the best he can be. One of the best players in the country at his position.”
Cornerback Nick Watkins is a "No. 1 pick" according to Kelly.
OL Alex Bars — Montgomery Bell Academy (Nashville, Tenn.)
“[He] can play the tackle position, again, another young man that we got a chance to see in the summer, has a great pedigree, a couple of brothers that play college ball, dad played here at Notre Dame. You know, everyone thinks, well, if the parent played here you have an easy connection. Sometimes it’s the most difficult. Dad played here, it’s an easy leap; not so much. Sometimes you’ve got to work harder to get that young man to come to Notre Dame because he wants to go off on his own sometimes.”
CB Nick Watkins — Bishop Dunne Catholic H.S. (Dallas)
“This is a long corner. This is draft day, you’re getting a No.1 draft pick. This kid is an exceptional football player. We think we got one of the best corners around. Long, athletic, can really do a lot of things for us.
“He can play man, he can play zone. I got a chance to see him play. I didn’t see him play one game in person, but I saw a lot of his tape. I just think he’s an outstanding player that is going to develop here, and again, from my standpoint, love the ability that we can get a corner that has some size to him.”
WR Corey Holmes — St. Thomas Aquinas H.S. (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
“He is a mature player — very mature in the way he handles himself in the classroom. Off the field, [I] really like everything about Corey Holmes. I can’t tell you anything I don’t like about this young man. His family is just a great fit for Notre Dame. Very mature kid, one that’s wanting to take on all the challenges of Notre Dame.
“I don’t like to make the comparisons, but he has a lot of the same feelings in terms of where TJ Jones developed, but he’s 6-2. This kid is longer. He’s a bigger kid than TJ, but he’s got a lot of those mannerisms and characteristics.”
OL Sam Mustipher — Good Counsel H.S. (Olney, Md.)
“Here’s a powerful guy inside, and again, I think what stood out for us with Sam was his ability to move his feet. All these guys can be big and strong and physical, but if they can’t move their feet, if they can’t bend, if they can’t get out of their stance and do a good job and moving and bending, then we’re moving on.
“I sound like a broken record with the offensive line, but those are the characteristics.”
QB DeShone Kizer — Central Catholic H.S. (Toledo, Ohio)
“You’ve got a tall, athletic quarterback who’s got good size. He’s going to be able to do the multidimensional things that we love. Now we’ve got three quarterbacks on campus that all do the same things. You don’t have to adjust your offense. All three of the quarterbacks, we finally all do the same things.
Defensive tackle Jay Hayes was a constant help to Notre Dame coaches on the recruiting trail.
“But the one thing that I loved about him, and it’s similar to the other two guys that we have: This kid loves to have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.”
DT Jay Hayes — Poly Prep Country Day School (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
“He has been probably one of our, I would say, best recruiters in a sense. From day one, he’s talked about Notre Dame and why you make a decision to come to Notre Dame. I remember one of his quotes when I was with him was, ‘Coach, some of these guys don’t get it. They don’t really understand why you would come to Notre Dame.’
“He’s such a thoughtful kid at his age that he understands why he would come to Notre Dame for all the right reasons, getting a degree and opening up doors for him for the rest of his life.”
TE Nic Weishar — Marist H.S. (Chicago)
“He’s the finest pass catching tight end that we saw. You could argue about who it is, but we think he is. We love his ball skills, we love his ability to use his body to control defenders, has a knack of catching the football in the air and taking it away from people. He’s a guy that will have a great career here at Notre Dame. He’s got that model and size that we’ve had here at Notre Dame.”
DE Grant Blankenship — The Colony H.S. (The Colony, Texas)
“Here’s a young man that has just blossomed in the last couple years, 6-6. I was in his home last week, and he just continues to grow. He’s about 265 pounds. We loved him in camp. We had a hard time with anybody blocking him.
“He was a guy that just stood out right away for us when we saw him in our summer camp working out. Had a great senior year, and again, a guy that continued to just grow. I think he’s just starting to hit his potential level, and it’s only going to get better and better.”
DB Drue Tranquill — Carroll H.S. (Fort Wayne, Ind.)
“I loved his attitude. I loved the way he played the game. I said, we’re going to offer him as a head coach’s offer. Head coach can offer anybody, right? Coach, we don’t have a scholarship. I said, well, we’ve got a scholarship now. So I offered him a scholarship, and we really didn’t have a position for him because we just loved the way he played the game.
“… I don’t know where he plays, but he’s going to play somewhere here at Notre Dame because he’s a darned good football player. He’s athletic, he’s competitive, and we’ll find a place for him somewhere. He’s one of those guys if he’s going to play at Notre Dame he’s going to play somewhere because he’s a really good football player.”
TE Tyler Luatua — La Mirada H.S. (La Mirada, Calif.)
“As a tight end, he’s a pass catching tight end. No, he’s not the 6-5, 6-6 tight ends that we’ve had, but he is a really good tight end. He can catch the football. He can block for us. He’s going to be able to do all the jobs that we have at the tight end position for us. And again, we think we got one of the best tight ends in the country in Tyler Luatua.”
OL Jimmy Byrne — St. Ignatius H.S. (Cleveland)
“Really love the way Jimmy has progressed, especially his senior year. We liked Jimmy last year. He was an early offer for us and committed, and then really had a great senior year from our standpoint. Physical, moves his feet well.
“I think what you’ll see with all of our offensive linemen, they all can get out and move their feet. They all have the ability to run block, pass pro. We like our guys to move, whether we’re running zone schemes or gap schemes, screens, all those things. You’re going to see that there’s an athletic component to all of these guys, and Jimmy certainly fits that.”
DT Daniel Cage — Winton Woods H.S. (Cincinnati)
“This guy is a ferocious player. He’s an inside player, and we love the way he got off the ball. His strength, lower body strength, he’s a guy that’s going to play the shade, he can play the nose. He’s a guy that’s very disruptive inside.
“I know that area pretty good. It’s good football, Winton Woods, they play a great schedule. He’s got a real good nose for the football. Just good competition and plays the game hard every snap. Really pleased in getting Daniel.”
LB Greer Martini — Woodberry Forest School (Woodberry Forest, Va.)
“That’s been a really good high school for us. Obviously we’ve got a couple guys in [freshman linebacker Doug] Randolph and [sophomore wide receiver C.J.] Prosise, so there will be our third. Coach Alexander does a great job of developing his players, and they’re just a great fit here at Notre Dame. Greer Martini is one of the smarter defensive players we signed.
“We got a chance to spend some time with him here on campus. His leadership skills, his ability to recognize and really you have to have leaders. He’s a really good player, and he’s a really good leader. He’ll be a very good linebacker for us here at Notre Dame and will also be a guy that makes others around him better.”
LB Nile Sykes — Montini Catholic H.S. (Lombard, Ill.)
“We want people that want to be part of Notre Dame and be part of our family. …He’s a versatile player. He can play inside. He can play outside. He is a physical player. He’s got very good ball skills, instincts, and again, another versatile player in our front seven that’s going to add to the depth of our football team.”
LB Jonathon Bonner — Parkway Central H.S. (Chesterfield, Mo.)
“We really project him to be an outside player for us, an edge player, rush player, a guy that gets after the quarterback, and really was impressed with Jonathan, his personality, his character. He has a bit of a connection here with Notre Dame, as well.
“When you talk about the right fit to Notre Dame, Jonathan possessed all of the right characteristics, academics, socially, and then as a football player. When he came up here, again, a lot of these guys we see firsthand, so our evaluations in a lot of these young men, we got a chance to see them. Jonathan really impressed us in all of those areas.”
LB Kolin Hill — Samuel Clemens H.S. (Schertz, Texas)
“Kolin was a young man that we offered when he didn’t have a lot of action, but we saw a young man that we thought we could develop into just an outstanding football player. First of all, we loved him as a person. Again, a right fit for Notre Dame.
“Character, high energy, ‘Yes, sir. No, sir.’ He had all those things that we really liked. He was engaging. Really impressed our admissions people. He had all the things that we were looking for as well as somebody that we felt we could develop.”
DE Jhonathon Williams — Berrien Springs H.S. (Benton Harbor, Mich.)
“Who knows what his future is going to be? There’s no ceiling on Jhonny Williams’ future. He’s an engaging young man. He just recognizes that he’s got a great opportunity at Notre Dame, and we’re excited to provide him that opportunity.
You know, he’s one of the top players in the state of Michigan, and I think from our perspective, we’ve got one of those guys that if you call him a sleeper or whatever you want to call it.”
DT Pete Mokwuah — St. Joseph By The Sea H.S. (Staten Island, N.Y.)
“Pete was a great fit for us, in looking to augment our defensive line position. We wanted to find the right profile young man. He’s Nigerian. We’ve had a great Nigerian connection here — Romeo Okwara, Prince Shembo, just to name a few, and then Pete was able to connect Catholic institution.
“He goes to a Catholic school. That profile fit very well for us. A kid that’s serious about his academics here at Notre Dame. All very good profiling for us in terms of the right fit here at Notre Dame.”
P/K Tyler Newsome — Carrollton H.S. (Carrollton, Ga.)
“He’s going to be a really big kid. We loved the pop that he had as a kicker, but we were most intrigued by his punting, and that’s an area that he’s going to continue to work on and continue to develop, but he was such an intriguing young man in all the kids that we saw that when we saw him punting, there was nobody that was even close to with the potential upside that he has.”