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Notre Dame

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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Linebacker Jaylon Smith – a Parade All-American and Indiana’s Mr. Football – talks Wednesday with friends at Bishop Luers before signing his national letter of intent to play for Notre Dame.
National signing day

Gold stars for Notre Dame

Several top recruits help put Irish’s class among nation’s elite

– Notre Dame’s 2013 recruiting class got even better Wednesday night

Defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes became the Irish’s fourth five-star recruit to join the program. The late addition of Vanderdoes, a 6-foot-3, 303-pounder from Placer High School in Auburn, Calif., pushed Notre Dame’s class to 24 members, helping it edge up the signing day rankings.

Bishop Luers linebacker Jaylon Smith, running back Greg Bryant and safety Max Redfield are the other five-star recruits in the Irish class.

Notre Dame’s class was ranked No. 3 by and 247Sports. Before Vanderdoes’ decision, Rivals had the class at No. 4 and 247Sports had it at No. 5. ranked the Irish’s class as the nation’s fifth best.

“With this class, it really addresses some of our depth needs across the board,” coach Brian Kelly said during a noon news conference Wednesday – before Vanderdoes made his decision public.

“We played the national championship game under 85 scholarships. We did not have 85 scholarship players at that time. We had some depth issues. We’ve addressed the depth issue in Year 3.”

Smith, Indiana’s Mr. Football and a four-time Class 2A champion with the Knights, will compete for playing time with outside linebacker Danny Spond, who started 11 games as a junior this season.

“He just has ‘it,’ ” Kelly said of Smith. “When he walks into a room, it kind of lights up. That is the kind of personality that he is. He is one tough football player as well.”

Bryant, a 5-11, 200-pound running back from Delray Beach, Fla., and Redfield, a 6-2, 195-pound defensive back from Mission Viejo, Calif., joined Notre Dame’s recruiting class after the Irish rose to No. 1 in regular-season polls, as did Tarean Folston, a 5-10, 190-pound running back from Cocoa, Fla., and Durham Smythe, a 6-5, 230-pound tight end from Belton, Texas. Folston is a four-star prospect, and Smythe is a three-star recruit.

While winning wasn’t the only reason the Irish were able to put together an impressive class, being able to pair the program’s first undefeated regular season since 1988 with the university’s reputation helped in recruiting.

“It can’t just be on academics. We don’t want them coming to Notre Dame just because of academics. We want the whole piece,” Kelly said. “You know, we had 19 committed before the season started, and the guys that we got late, I think winning definitely had something to do with that.”

Notre Dame addressed its issue with depth on the offensive line by signing 6-6, 290-pound Hunter Bivin, 6-5, 300-pound Steve Elmer, 6-7, 280-pound Mike McGlinchey and 6-5, 305-pound John Montelus.

“There were a number of times where I didn’t feel comfortable going live against our defense,” Kelly said. “One time we had five offensive linemen from that period of the USC game until the Alabama game that could go out there and function with five offensive linemen. That impacts your program, I’m telling you.”

Kelly said Notre Dame is at the point where the coaches can recruit for depth, and he isn’t worried about lack of immediate playing time scaring off high-caliber recruits.

“They are not elite players if they are afraid of competition,” Kelly said. “Those that back off and say, ‘Well, you know you got two of these guys, or you got three of those …’ Now sometimes that makes a difference, I understand that.

“But by and large, we’ve made the case in recruiting where we see you. We are honest with them. Here is where we see you’re at, and this is where you are going to be and if you do this, you are going to get your playing time. The elite players have that confidence that no matter who is in front of me, I’m going to beat them out.”