To the surprise of some fans and haters alike, one of the hottest teams on the recruiting trail right now is Notre Dame.
While Charlie Weis always recruited well for the Fighting Irish, it was unclear how Brian Kelly would fare in the limelight that beacons over the Notre Dame recruiting stage. Understanding the unique circumstances of Notre Dame's program, it probably should have been apparent that the Fighting Irish wouldn't slide too far.
However, the X-factor of Kelly's personal style and recruiting techniques has turned out to be very productive for Notre Dame nine months before he'll sign his first full class as head coach.
One of the most recent additions to Kelly's recruiting haul was Conor Hanratty, an offensive lineman from New Canaan (Conn.). According to Hanratty's head coach, Lou Marinelli, Kelly's charisma seemed to seal the deal.
"He (Hanratty) hadn't met Kelly, but once he met him, he said he wanted to commit right now," Marinelli said.
Truth be told, George Jetson could have been the coach of Notre Dame and Hanratty likely would've ended up in South Bend regardless. His father Terry starred at quarterback for the Irish, leading them to a national title in 1966.
However, it's clear that spending time with Kelly was the impetus for the talented guard to pull the trigger when he did.
"He was excited to have Kelly at the helm," said Marinelli.
Kelly's passionate persona has made a mark with other top recruits around the country, vital for a program that can't rely only on recruits from its own backyard.
Rich Hansen, head coach at St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.J.), is no stranger to Notre Dame recruiting his players. This year, it's star running back Savon Huggins who Notre Dame covets.
"I think the things that Savon is looking for are all present there," Hansen said. While Hansen pointed out Notre Dame's storied tradition and history as major selling points for the Irish, it was once again Kelly's recruiting charm that seemed to stand out.
"He's a dynamic kind of guy, very, very much in touch with his players. I think he's someone who will be well respected and well received in high school offices around the country."
This has been the case since Kelly's first commitment at Notre Dame, 2010 signee Austin Collinsworth, according to Highlands head coach Dale Mueller.
"Coach Kelly brings an incredible personality," Mueller said. "He's a great talker, a great speaker. Obviously he's a great coach. When he comes in and takes the time to sit and talk to you, that's impressive."
Thus far, Kelly has reeled in an outstanding set of offensive linemen. In addition to Hanratty, he's already received pledges from Jordan Prestwood, Tony Springmann, and highly sought-after tackle Matt Hegarty.
One of his biggest catches may prove to be tight end Ben Koyack. Koyack is one of the country's top players at his position, and chose the Fighting Irish over Ohio State and many other suitors.
Nine players currently are verbally committed, but only two play defense: Brad Carrico and Jarrett Grace. Come February, Kelly will need to land more key pieces on that side of the ball, specifically in the trenches. So despite the hot start, Kelly still needs to keep the heat on key targets to keep the blue-and-gold momentum going.
Mangiro could be a Buckeye
While many think Angelo Mangiro is leaning toward Penn State, he could end up committing to Ohio State.
He recently enjoyed a visit to Columbus and is high on the Buckeyes, according to a source close to the program.
Mangiro is likely the top offensive lineman in New Jersey's 2011 class. Penn State has yet to secure a verbal commitment, so losing Mangiro would not help a class that's already off to a slow start compared to other Big Ten teams. The real loser in that scenario, however, would be Rutgers, which is still struggling to keep top recruits from leaving the state.
Lemay bolsters Bulldogs
Mark Richt's recruiting efforts received a major boost recently when Butler (Matthews, N.C.) quarterback Christian Lemay named Georgia the leader for his services.
Lemay purposely avoided using the term "commit", according to numerous reports, but it looks as if he'll be a Bulldog come National Signing Day.
Though he's athletic, Lemay has tried to shake the temptation to label him anything but a pro-style quarterback. He rushed for 100 yards in a game only once last season. Meanwhile, he threw for a whopping 3,291 yards en route to being named the MaxPreps National Junior of the Year.
Lemay's brother, Uriah, is only a freshman but is already receiving college interest. Similarly, ninth-grade quarterback Riley Ferguson will also develop into a college prospect, according to head coach Mike Newsome.
Butler will be one of the nation's top-ranked teams in 2010 and Lemay is the early favorite to be named MaxPreps National Player of the Year.
Alabama has out-of-state linemen on the radar
While Alabama currently has a top-five class in the early 2011 team recruiting rankings, one spot that the Crimson Tide is currently short on is the offensive line. In a down year for in-state players at that position, Nick Saban is in the mix for several huge out-of-state targets that would certainly help bolster the Tide's high ranking.
The most obvious target for Alabama is Cyrus Kouandjio, brother of 2010 recruit Arie Kouandjio. The brothers played together on the DeMatha offensive line, and there's certainly some appeal to lining up together on the Crimson Tide's front.
There will be heavy competition for the younger Kouandjio, and he doesn't appear close to making a decision. Another offensive lineman on the radar is Ensworth (Nashville, Tenn.) star Antonio Richardson. The 6-foot-5 Richardson has a very high ceiling and could thrive in run-blocking at Alabama.
What bodes well for the Crimson Tide is that Jabriel Washington, one of Tennessee's other top recruits for 2011, recently pledged to Saban. Alabama had three players from the Volunteer State sign in 2010, so Saban has undoubtedly established a presence in the state.
Six-foot-7 tackle Brandon Shell from Goose Creek (S.C.) is yet another high-caliber target. Shell may be considered a Clemson-lean, but sources say that Alabama, along with LSU, have made a strong push recently.