Monday, February 01, 2010

Bringing in the reinforcements | by Pat

It's a wild finish to the recruiting season as Kelly and his new staff brought in a large group of uncommitted players this past weekend and so far have gained three public commitments with the possibility of a few more deciding to join up shortly. Ohio QB Luke Massa, Ohio athlete Derek Roback, and Florida DE Bruce Heggie all jumped on their chance to be a part of the 2010 recruiting class, bringing the total number of public commits up to 20.

First up, let's start with the latest quarterback to hop on board. Ohio QB Luke Massa was a Cincinnati commit since July, but when Kelly left for ND it was pretty obvious that Massa would be interested in following him if ND showed interest.

"I was definitely thinking in the back of my mind," Massa said, "is this gonna happen or not?"

Notre Dame eventually did become involved after Steve Specht, Massa's coach at St. Xavier, reached out to Kelly and an offer arrived. Prior to his weekend visit, Massa had a big interest in ND, but the trip made him feel comfortable and wanted.

"The decision was easy for me," Massa said.
After assuming the starting QB role following an injury to the starter, Massa as a sophomore led St. Xavier to eight straight wins and the Ohio state title. He was an up and coming QB prospect, but a foot injury followed by a broken collarbone kept him on the sideline nearly his entire junior season. He still had the offer from UC though and committed that summer before his senior year. His only other offer at the time was from Wisconsin while schools like Michigan State and N.C. State were understandably waiting to see how he'd look as a healthy senior. His senior year Massa stayed healthy while completing 67% of his passes for 1,800 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions.

The recruiting sites slot Massa as an average QB recruit with both Rivals and Scout giving him 3 stars. Rivals has Massa as the 28th overall QB recruit while Scout is a little more critical and has him down as the 75th overall QB recruit. ESPN has the harshest rating, giving Massa 2 stars, a 72 rating, and tabbing him as the 129th overall QB recruit. You can check out Massa's highlight clips for yourself here.

The 6'4" 205 pound Massa gives ND a third QB recruit in a single class, which is very high number. The last time ND brought in three QBs in a single class was under Davie when Jared Clark, Abram Elam, Matt LoVecchio, and Carlyle Holiday all signed on to play quarterback at Notre Dame. Only Clark and Holiday finished their careers at ND while LoVecchio was the only one of the four that didn't move to a new position.

Massa, Hendrix, and Rees will have a three way fight this fall in order to grab the open backup spot behind the recovering Dayne Crist. The winner will likely see some playing time while the other two presumably will stay on the sidelines and preserve a year of eligibility. Rees has the clear advantage as he's already enrolled and will be able to go through spring practice. Massa and Hendrix won't show up until the summer and will have to make do with informal 7 on 7 sessions to prep for the fall camp showdown. Interestingly, Massa and Hendrix come from the same conference -- the Ohio powerhouse GCL conference -- and while Hendrix is rated higher than Massa by every recruiting service, Kelly offered Massa a scholarship to UC before Hendrix.

Taking a look at the 2010 QB depth chart, you can see just how thin and unbalanced ND is at the quarterback position thanks to not taking a QB last year and Clausen exceeding expectations and heading off to the NFL a year early. Add in the fact that Crist is coming off an ACL injury and it's clear why the QB position is concern #1 heading into spring ball. Walk-on Nate Montana is back at ND and will add some depth this spring, but I left him off this table for the time being.

Fifth Year
Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman

Dayne Crist*

Andrew Hendrix

Tommy Rees

Luke Massa