Notre Dame football has, by their standards, struggled since the turn of the century after only putting together winning records in six of the past 10 seasons, but their 2012 class of recruits could help change that.
While second-year head coach Brian Kelly didn't set the world on fire with his second recruiting class, he made some major strides in the right direction. As of signing day the Irish had brought in the 19th best class in the country, according to Rivals.com.
Any discussion of the Fighting Irish's class begins with top overall quarterback prospect Gunnar Kiel. The 6'4, 220-pound pro-style quarterback was a major coup for the Irish. He had committed to LSU very early in the recruiting season, and was to begin his school career as an early enrollment in Baton Rouge.
To the surprise of Les Miles and his staff, Kiel never arrived in Louisiana, and a few weeks later committed to Notre Dame. There were some rumblings that his family was not happy with the distance between his home in Columbus, Ind. and LSU's campus.
The Irish also picked up a four star running back William Mahone, a 6'0, 200-pound back with a strong compact running style. The knock on Mahone is a big one: his speed. However, Mahone has been a very effective running back and return man in high school so it will be interesting to see how he transitions into the college ranks.
The Irish got stronger along their interior defensive line, picking up two stud defensive tackle prospects in Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day. Both players were early commits and have been in the stable since August but they form a bulky chunk of the class both in talent and pure size.
Day is 6'2 and weights 286 pounds, while Jones, who went to football factory Aquinas Institute in Rochester, NY is already 6'7 and weighs in at 308 pounds. Both should be an imposing force along the defensive front.
The Irish also bring in Tee Shepard, one of the top defensive backs in the nation. Coming out of Fresno, Calif. Shepard is rangy defender who has played both safety and cornerback in high school projects more as a corner at the next level due to his lack of size (6', 172 lbs.) and a lack of real toughness near the line of scrimmage.
Shepard was ineligible for his entire senior season which had brought into question his status with the Irish. But he played well in two different post season All-Star games and has said publicly that he intends to enroll early in South Bend.
Joining Shepard in the backfield will be Elijah Shumate from one of the top high school teams in the country Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey. Shumate is 6'1 and weighs 205 pounds; he was an outside linebacker this year for Bosco but is projected as a safety in college.
Because of the position shift he is going to have to work on his coverage skills but he demonstrated an ability to cover slot receivers from his outside linebacker position at the high school level.
Though no one can predict which of these players will truly be able to come through and make an impact, the Fighting Irish seem to be reloading and may have the foundations in place for a solid future.
Here is the complete Notre Dame recruiting class:
Name Position Height Weight
Gunnar Kiel QB 6'4 220
Sheldon Day DT 6'2 286
Jarron Jones DT 6'7 308
KeiVarae Russell ATH 6'0 170
Ronnie Stanley OL 6'7 285
Tee Shepard DB 6'1 180
Elijah Shumate DB 6'1 205
Nicky Baratti ATH 6'2 215
Chris Brown WR 6'2 185
Justin Ferguson WR 6'2 205
Mark Harrell OL 6'5 270
Romeo Okwara DE 6'5 240
C.J. Prosise DB 6'1 202
John Turner DB 6'2 205
Scott Daly OL 6'4 230