Schwenke among 23 signed by Irish
By TOM COYNE
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly added offensive tackle Matt James from Cincinnati and defensive end Kona Schwenke from Hawai'i yesterday to his first recruiting class, giving the Fighting Irish what analysts described as a solid but unspectacular class.
"It's a very respectable class. Not a great one, but respectable," said Tom Lemming, CBS College Sports Network recruiting analyst.
Kelly described the 23 signees as a good class, especially after he spent his first few days on the job working to make sure the five early enrollees would stay committed and then working to hold together the rest of the class recruited by Charlie Weis.
"It's a good start for us," Kelly said. "I think you'll see a growth in the recruiting process for us next year. But I think it's a good start for us."
Kelly, who arrived on campus Dec. 11, said a lack of time was the biggest obstacle, saying two months isn't enough time to build relationships and do all the other work that needs to be done.
Recruiting analysts generally had the Irish out of the top 10 in their rankings, but in the top 25.
The highlight of the day was the announcement by James, who is 6 feet 6 and 291 pounds, that he would play for the Irish. He surprised some by selecting the Irish over Ohio State, the first big recruiting win for Kelly and his staff.
"I think it's important in the sense that it's pretty clear that our coaching staff is going to be able to recruit anywhere given they have the time to build those relationships," Kelly said.
James, who is from Cincinnati St. Xavier High School, already was familiar with Kelly and his staff because he had been recruited by Cincinnati, where Kelly coached the past three years.
Kahuku High's Schwenke, who is 6-3, 215 pounds, had originally committed to BYU but switched to Notre Dame after a campus visit this past weekend.
In addition to James, another highly rated recruit to sign with the Irish was defensive tackle Louis Nix of Jacksonville, Fla., who committed to the Irish a day after Weis was fired. Other highly rated players include offensive lineman Christian Lombard of Inverness, Ill., wide receiver Tai-ler Jones of Gainesville, Ga., and tight end Alex Welch of Cincinnati.
Left with only one scholarship quarterback after Jimmy Clausen left early for the NFL, Kelly signed Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa, both from Cincinnati, and Tommy Rees of Lake Forest, Ill., to play quarterback. Two others, Derek Roback of Waverly, Ohio, and Danny Spond of Littleton, Colo., played quarterback in high school.
A surprise came yesterday when defensive back Jeremy Ioane, who attended the same Hawai'i high school (Punahou) as Irish linebacker Manti Te'o and receiver Roby Toma, picked Boise State over Notre Dame.
"That's a perfect example of not having enough time to recruit a kid," Lemming said. "Notre Dame losing a kid to Boise State doesn't happen unless circumstances dictate it. If they had recruited him the whole year, they would have gotten him."
Another notable signing yesterday was defensive lineman Bruce Heggie from Sorrento, Fla. Heggie didn't have a scholarship offer from any school, the first time in recent memory the Irish signed a player without any offers from other colleges. That didn't concern Kelly.
"If you use the recruiting process as the standard, there's always going to be questions about recruits that don't have the pedigree," he said. "But I kind of like that because I certainly don't have the pedigree either."