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Notre Dame’s No. 3 class, including four five-star players, a good start

Published: Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 11:03 a.m. CST

(MCT) — The best recruiting class Brian Kelly says he has signed in his relatively brief Notre Dame tenure, like everything else, now gets compartmentalized in one specific context: how it can help the Irish avoid future championship game disintegrations.

The celebrated group of signatures that arrived Wednesday was more milepost than launching pad. To continue competing for titles, it helps to collect the third-best group of recruits, according to the 247 composite rankings, as Notre Dame did. It helps to collect four five-star players, according to Rivals.com, three of whom play defense.

But it remains up to the players already on campus to traverse the chasm that appeared Jan. 7 between the Irish and Alabama. An auspicious signing day only allowed the faithful to continue to believe it’s possible.

“When you’re looking at it from my perspective, it meets the time and place as to where we are right now,” Kelly said. “We’re a team that has gone from unranked to top-10 ranking, top-five ranking, at times we’re the No. 1 team in the country. Your class begins to reflect that as you move forward.

“Secondly, as a staff, we feel it’s our best class because (in) the recruiting process for us, there was a lot of clarity.”

But not total clarity until Wednesday night. That’s when five-star defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes officially signed after Notre Dame mistakenly included the Auburn, Calif., native on its original release listing the members of the 2013 class.

The 285-pound Vanderdoes is the type of elite front-four talent the Irish need to hope to keep pace with the likes of Alabama. And he’s insurance against both Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix leaving after the 2013 season.

Then add five-star safety Max Redfield, who might start immediately, and five-star linebacker Jaylon Smith, the No. 2 player in the country in the composite rankings, which include Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN and 247 Sports.

“You keep moving the bar higher and higher and higher when you recruit these kind of young men in this class,” Kelly said. “We think we’ve got that, where we’ll have an influx of players that will continue to push the entire program.”

Redfield and five-star running back Greg Bryant are the most likely to assume major responsibility immediately, but even bringing in backups fills glaring needs.

Cole Luke and Devin Butler can offer depth at cornerback, where there was none in 2012. Five offensive linemen can help reinforce a unit Kelly said had five healthy players during BCS title game preparation. It’s all picking up pieces to help pick up the pieces.

“We targeted (positions) in year one and two; we addressed comprehensively needs throughout the entire class in year three,” Kelly said. “That’s what I’m most excited about. Now we’ll have the depth in the certain areas that we felt like we did not have in 2012 and in this offseason.”

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