SOUTH BEND — A convalescing right knee hasn’t turned Dayne Crist into a complete bystander. Two months removed from reconstructive knee surgery, the heir-obvious to the Notre Dame football team’s starting quarterback job is already making new Irish coach Brian Kelly’s transition from the University of Cincinnati a little less frantic. Recently, Crist has been trying to allay the anxiety of Andrew Hendrix, a senior quarterback at Cincinnati Moeller High School who could be vying for the No. 2 spot behind Crist in August. ... Or trying to climb the depth chart somewhere else. A couple of days after Hendrix was quoted as being close to 99 percent certain that he’d honor his verbal commitment to Notre Dame, doubts still stir inside the 6-foot-3, 220-pound four-star prospect. “He hasn’t scheduled any other visits,” Moeller coach John Rodenberg said Saturday via cell phone from Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he was watching Hendrix start under center for the East in a 35-0 loss in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. “My read is that he will end up at Notre Dame. It’s just that (head coach) Charlie Weis’ firing was disappointing to him. And he had a great relationship with (former QBs coach) Ron Powlus. It was a great fit for him and still probably will be. “He’s tried to call coach Kelly a couple of times and he’s missed a couple of calls going the other way. He had a nice visit up there back a couple of weeks ago. But he doesn’t know who his position coach is going to be. We’re assuming it’s going to be Greg Forest (from Cincinnati), but we’re not sure.” Actually, Forest is expected to head to Buffalo with UC offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn, the latter recently named the Bulls’ head coach. “It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just the way it is,” Rodenberg said of the confusion. “It has been great the way Dayne Crist has reached out to him.” Once the recruiting dead period ended Saturday, Kelly was free to reach out to recruits again. After watching Cincinnati’s 51-24 dismantling by Florida in the Sugar Bowl at home in Cincy with his family Friday night, Kelly planned to drive to South Bend on Sunday and hit the road to visit recruits early this week. Here’s a glimpse of what his world will look like in the five weeks and change until National Signing Day on Feb. 3.
- 1. Kelly’s staff should be unveiled soon, though likely in pieces staggered over the next week or so rather than as a group. That’s due to ND’s exhaustive background checks and logistics of getting contracts signed. If you’ve followed the rumors and rumblings, it might appear Notre Dame is poised to hire five offensive line coaches. The Irish will actually hire two - sort of. Former Irish assistant Mike Denbrock is set to return as a tackles/tight ends coach. Denbrock and the man who will actually wear the title, former Kansas offensive coordinator/line coach Ed Warinner, will get funneled right into recruiting. “This staff, including the head coach, is unproven at being able to recruit five-star players, the kind of players you need to compete with the Floridas, Texases and Southern Cals,” said CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “I’m sure Kelly knows what he is doing, but Notre Dame is just a different animal. There are things that happen at this stage of recruiting that don’t happen at Cincinnati. You saw people go after Florida’s recruits when Urban Meyer made his announcement about stepping away. “They’ll come after Kelly’s recruits too. They’re going to pound away at Notre Dame. (Linebacker/end) Kendall Moore is the guy they can’t afford to lose at this point. You can’t expect big, seismic things to happen the rest of the recruiting period. It’s not fair to expect that. This year is about saving the class that Charlie Weis started.” Want to know what Kelly’s up against? Notre Dame commit Prince Shembo, in an article published on the Web site of the Myrtle Beach Sun News, provides a glimpse. “It’s kind of messed up how he left his team at Cincinnati,” said Shembo, a linebacker from Charlotte, N.C., who played with Hendrix in the Myrtle Beach all-star game. “I mean, if Texas would have lost in the Big 12 championship, he could be playing for a national title. “That just tells me that he is in it for the money. Obviously, it’s a business, but it is also my future. He is coming to my house on Jan. 5, but I am still going to take my visit to Miami.”
- 2. It’s not just about the recruiting class of 2010. Lemming has been traveling in Texas the past few days, talking to the top juniors about their early leaders. And the reaction to Notre Dame so far? A flat line. “Not one kid has mentioned Notre Dame,” Lemming said. “That’s to be expected. They didn’t have a staff. They’ve done a real good job with their mailings, but with no contacts and no one around, they’re not getting mentioned. “I’m sure Brian Kelly has his staff ready to go and has a game plan. As much as they need to work on this class, you can’t ignore the juniors in January or you’ll get behind. You can’t call juniors, you have to visit the school. I was at a school the other day, and almost every big-name program was there - except Notre Dame. It’s time to play catch-up.”
- 3. Kelly is breaking ground on some of his own recruits. The first prospect to schedule an official visit to ND with Kelly as the head coach is Danny Spond, a 6-3, 232-pound multi-position prospect from Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Spond, who prefers to play quarterback but is open to playing other positions, is scheduled to visit ND the weekend of Jan. 29. Lemming likes Spond, originally a Colorado commit, at linebacker. The other schools in his new final three are Stanford and TCU. Lemming also expects Kelly to make a run at committed prospects Michael Taylor, a defensive back from Westlake High in Atlanta (Tennessee commit) and Kadron Boone, a wide receiver from Ocala, Fla. (Texas Tech commit). “There’s a lot of good players in that Texas Tech class,” said Lemming of the school that fired its head coach, Mike Leach, on Wednesday. “But Boone is the guy Notre Dame has the best chance with.” A potentially ticklish situation now involves Indianapolis Pike High standout receiver Dyjuan Lewis, who up until this week was the University of Cincinnati’s top-rated recruit of this decade. However, he’s reopened his recruitment and now lists Notre Dame as one of his five finalists. The Irish have yet to respond with a scholarship offer.
All-star updateTwo Notre Dame recruits played in Saturday’s Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., although it was a former Irish commitment who made the biggest splash, at least in terms of grabbing a headline. Missouri City, Texas, cornerback Toney Hurd Jr., who committed to the Irish in October but backed out of his pledge last month after not hearing from new coach Brian Kelly, announced during the game that he will play for Texas A&M. Receiver Tai-ler Jones of Gainesville, Ga., caught three passes for 28 yards for the White team. Jones will enroll at Notre Dame later this month. Future teammate Louis Nix played defensive tackle for the White team, which was a 32-7 loser to the Black team. The game was played in front of 21,221 at Tropicana Field.
- Notre Dame defensive line commit Justin Utupo, meanwhile, played against presumed future Irish teammates Hendrix and Shembo at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, Saturday. Utupo’s West team was the 35-0 winner over the East, for which Hendrix and Shembo played. The East punted eight times in the game.
Staff writer Eric Hansen: firstname.lastname@example.org (574) 235-6470