Tracking the decommits from Brian Kelly's tenure at Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame’s last two opponents have featured former Irish recruits: North Carolina running back Elijah Hood and Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby. With the increased frequency in decommitments, such reunions are becoming commonplace in college football.

Each school loses commitments. In the four full recruiting cycles with head coach Brian Kelly, 15 recruits that were once committed to Notre Dame did not end up with the Irish.

Here’s a look back at each of those recruits, and a glance at how those former commits have fared elsewhere:

• 2014 RB Elijah Hood, 5-11, 222; Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic.

Former 2014 Notre Dame running back commit Elijah Hood. (Photo courtesy of Charlotte Observer)

Rivals: Five-star, No. 4 running back. 247Sports: Four-star, No. 8 running back.

THEN: Hood became one of the stars of Notre Dame’s recruiting class when he verbally committed to the Irish in April 2013 and established himself as a vocal member of the recruiting class known as #GoldenArmy14. The tough runner didn’t shy away from controversy either. He reached his social media zenith in June 2013 when he posted a video of himself flushing some recruiting mail from Alabama in the toilet after saying “Roll Toilet!”

Hood shied away from his Notre Dame commitment in August when he decided to stay closer to home and committed to North Carolina. He joined the Tar Heels as an early enrollee in January 2014.

NOW: Hood reacquainted himself with the Irish earlier this month with a game in South Bend. He totaled 33 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries in the stadium he could have called home.  The freshman back has rushed for 199 yards and four touchdowns in six games to start his North Carolina career.

• 2014 DL Matt Dickerson, 6-5, 275; San Mateo (Calif.) Serra.

Former 2014 Notre Dame defensive line commit Matt Dickerson. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Rivals: Four-star, No. 16 strongside defensive end. 247Sports: Three-star, No. 66 defensive tackle.

THEN: Dickerson fell in love with Notre Dame on his first campus visit. He offered the Irish his verbal commitment before leaving South Bend on that August 2013 trip. But in January, Dickerson had to face a harsher reality. With his father battling prostate cancer, Dickerson made the decision to stay closer to home and flipped his commitment to UCLA.

Dickerson was Notre Dame’s best option as a defensive tackle for most of the recruiting cycle. After losing his commitment, the Irish ended up landing Pete Mokwuah and Daniel Cage to fill the void.

NOW: Dickerson has played sparingly in six of UCLA’s first seven games of the season. The freshman was credited with half a sack in the 42-35 victory over Memphis, but hasn’t recorded a tackle since that game, UCLA's second of the season.

• 2014 LB Richard Yeargin III, 6-4, 225; Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School.

Rivals: Three-star, No. 24 outside linebacker. 247Sports: Four-star, No. 20 outside linebacker.

THEN: Yeargin joined the Irish recruiting class on the same day head coach Brian Kelly opened the 2013 season with a press conference. The versatile linebacker projected as a rush linebacker in defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s scheme.

Yeargin remained committed to the Irish through his performance in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January despite making an official visit to Clemson in November. He withdrew his commitment from Notre Dame later in January and signed with the Tigers in February.

NOW: Yeargin, who has yet to play in a game at Clemson, appears to be destined for a redshirt freshman year. The Tigers list him as a defensive end on their roster.

• 2013 RB Jamel James, 5-11, 215; Katy (Texas) Cinco Ranch.

Former 2013 Notre Dame running back commit Jamel James. (Photo courtesy of Houston Chronicle)

247Sports: Three-star, No. 66 running back. Rivals: Three-star, No. 100 overall in Texas.

THEN: James’ commitment to Notre Dame seemed doomed since the day he tweeted that he was committing to the Irish in July 2012. Few had James even on Notre Dame’s radar before the former Arkansas running back commit announced his pledge to the Irish.

When James decommitted from Notre Dame in December 2012, it seemed to be more of a mutual parting of ways than James nixing the Irish. He eventually signed with Texas State in February.

NOW: James didn’t last long at Texas State. After not playing as a freshman with the Bobcats in 2013, James transferred to Navarro College, a junior college in Corsicana, Texas. He has yet to receive a carry in his first season with the Bulldogs.

• 2013 LB Danny Mattingly, 6-5, 225; Spokane (Wash.) Mead.

Former 2012 Notre Dame linebacker commit Danny Mattingly. (The Spokesman-Review)

247Sports: Four-star, No. 24 outside linebacker. Rivals: Three-star, No. 33 outside linebacker.

THEN: Mattingly became linebacker commit No. 2 in a class with five-star Jaylon Smith when he pledged to Notre Dame in June 2012. But by the time Christmas came around, the nephew of Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly held a commitment to Oregon. Mattingly and the Irish started to part ways when he started to visit other schools in late November.

NOW: Mattingly has seen action in only three games since becoming a Duck. He sat out his freshman year for a redshirt season and has yet to earn regular playing time. He recorded two tackles in the win over UCLA and has played in the last two games for the Ducks.

• 2013 LB Alex Anzalone, 6-3, 229; Wyomissing (Pa.) Area.

Former 2013 Notre Dame linebacker commit Alex Anzalone. (Photo courtesy of Reading Eagle)

Rivals: Five-star, No. 2 inside linebacker. 247Sports: Five-star, No. 4 outside linebacker.

THEN: Anzalone’s recruitment certainly had its ups and downs. Once an Ohio State commit, the talented linebacker pledged to Notre Dame in July 2012. An unofficial visit to Florida, his father’s alma mater, in October put Anzalone and Notre Dame on rocky ground, but he reaffirmed his commitment to the Irish in November following a South Bend visit.

Anzalone was set to enroll early at Notre Dame in January but was spooked by head coach Brian Kelly's flirtation with the Philadelphia Eagles. With Kelly’s future uncertain, Anzalone wasn’t willing to stick with Notre Dame. Just days before he was set to report to South Bend, Anzalone enrolled in classes at Florida in January 2013.

NOW: Anzalone’s start at Florida didn’t feature much luck. He suffered a torn labrum in spring practice after he enrolled early as a freshman. He recovered to play 10 games on special teams as a freshman and recorded two tackles before dislocating a shoulder to cut his season short. Healthy this season as a sophomore, Anzalone has played in all six games as a reserve linebacker, but has recorded just two tackles.

• 2013 DL Eddie Vanderdoes, 6-3, 305; Auburn (Calif.) Placer.

Former 2013 Notre Dame defensive line commit Eddie Vanderdoes. (Photo courtesy of Sacramento Bee)

247Sports: Five-star, No. 1 defensive tackle. Rivals: Five-star, No. 2 defensive tackle.

THEN: When Vanderdoes committed and signed with Notre Dame on signing day, no one could have known the circumstances that would follow. A month before the five-star prospect was set to arrive at Notre Dame, his want to join the UCLA program started to reveal itself. Vanderdoes committed to the Bruins in June, but Irish head coach Brian Kelly refused to release Vanderdoes from his national letter-of -intent.

Vanderdoes eventually won an appeal with the National Letter of Intent Policy and Review Committee that would allow him to play at UCLA as a freshman and not have to sit out a year as if he were a transfer student. Vanderdoes claimed to have a number of reasons for the switch, but told the Associated Press in August 2013 that his grandmother had breast cancer.

NOW: As expected, Vanderdoes made an instant impact at the college level. He started seven games and appeared in all 13 as a freshman in 2013. He recorded 39 tackles on the season with 11 coming in one game against Stanford. Vanderdoes has started six of the first seven games of the 2014 season for UCLA. He’s become a force on the defensive line with 24 tackles, four tackles for a loss and one sack. The Bruins also feature Vanderdoes in special packages on offense. He has scored one rushing touchdown each season.

• 2012 CB Ronald Darby, 5-11, 172; Oxon Hill (Md.) Potomac.

Former 2012 Notre Dame cornerback commit Ronald Darby (Photo courtesy of The Gazette)

247Sports: Five-star, No. 1 cornerback. Rivals: Four-star, No. 2 cornerback.

THEN: Notre Dame thought it landed one of the top cornerbacks in the country when Darby verbally committed in April 2011 during a visit for the Blue-Gold Game. But the Irish couldn’t hold onto the coveted cornerback. Darby withdrew his commitment to the Irish less than a month before signing day, when he formerly picked Florida State as his college destination.

NOW: Darby has matched expectations at Florida State. He received ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman and has yet to miss a game since joining the Seminoles. He has played in all 35 games at Florida State and started his 21st on Saturday against Notre Dame.

Darby recorded seven tackles and a pass breakup against the Irish but was also flagged for a big pass interference penalty in coverage of wide receiver Will Fuller in the end zone. Darby has 21 tackles, one tackle for a loss, two pass breakups and two pass deflections on the season.

• 2012 OL Taylor Decker, 6-7, 315; Vandalia (Ohio) Butler.

Former 2012 Notre Dame offensive line commit Taylor Decker. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Rivals: Four-star, No. 23 offensive tackle. 247Sports: Four-star, No. 28 offensive tackle

THEN: Notre Dame locked up Decker’s verbal commitment in March 2011, but when his future position coach and lead recruiter left the Irish program, Decker’s pledge was weakened. When offensive line coach Ed Warriner and running backs coach Tim Hinton were named as assistants at Ohio State, Decker followed them. He flipped his commitment to the Buckeyes in January 2012.

NOW: Decker has developed into a model of dependability at Ohio State. Decker played in all 12 games as a freshman after enrolling early in 2012. He started all 14 games at right tackle as a sophomore. Decker moved to left tackle, where he’s started all six games for the Buckeyes this season.

• 2012 DE David Perkins, 6-2, 230; South Bend (Ind.) Washington.

Former 2012 Notre Dame defensive end commit David Perkins (SBT File Photo)

Rivals: Four-star, No. 13 athlete. 247Sports: Four-star, No. 17 outside linebacker.

THEN: The local product didn’t waste much time in committing to Notre Dame in June when he received an Irish offer. But Perkins opened up his recruitment in late October when the relationship between he and the Irish soured. His recruitment took a backseat as Perkins helped Washington reach the state finals. He eventually committed to Ohio State a month before signing with the Buckeyes.

NOW: Perkins didn’t last long as a Buckeye. He played in nine games as a freshman at Ohio State, but transferred out of the school following spring practice in 2013. Perkins tallied six tackles at Ohio State, but his tackle of the Brutus the Buckeye mascot during a stunt for student appreciation day drew him more acclaim.

Perkins transferred to Illinois State, an FCS program, and played in all 11 games as a sophomore. He was named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Newcomer Team after recording 21 tackles, five tackles for a loss and four sacks in 2013. Perkins has started five of the six games for the Redbirds in 2014. He leads the team with 4.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss.

• 2012 WR Deontay Greenberry, 6-3, 185; Fresno (Calif.) Washington Union.

Former 2012 Notre Dame wide receiver commit Deontay Greenberry. (Photo courtesy of Fresno Bee)

247Sports: Five-star, No. 3 wide receiver. Rivals: Four-star, No. 7 wide receiver.

THEN: Greenberry left the Irish at the altar on signing day in 2012. The standout receiver joined his cousin, cornerback recruit Tee Shepard, as an Irish commit in May 2011. The two Fresno kids planned to play at Notre Dame together. The plan started to unravel the weekend before signing day when Greenberry was convinced to visit Houston by an assistant coach that previously recruited him at Arizona State. While the Irish waited for a fax from Greenberry on signing day, the wideout shipped his letter-of-intent to the Cougars. Shepard enrolled early with the Irish, but left the school before spring practice started.

NOW: Plenty of balls have been thrown Greenberry’s way in his two-plus seasons at Houston. He led all freshmen in Conference USA with 47 catches for 569 yards in 2012. His stellar sophomore campaign ended with team-high 82 receptions for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns. Greenberry is leading Houston in receiving once again this season as a junior, but his numbers have decreased. Through seven games, Greenberry hauled in 36 passes for 465 yards and three touchdowns.

• 2011 RB Justice Hayes, 5-10, 175; Grand Blanc (Mich.) High.

Former 2011 Notre Dame running back commit Justice Hayes. (Photo courtesy of The Flint Journal)

Rivals: Four-star, No. 3 all-purpose back. 247Sports: Four-star, No. 6 all-purpose back.

THEN: Hayes, one of former assistant coach Chuck Martin’s first recruiting targets at Notre Dame, committed to the Irish in August 2010. That relationship only lasted three months. Hayes said he felt disconnected to the Notre Dame staff following a November visit. A couple weeks later he backed out of his commitment and joined Michigan’s recruiting class.

NOW: Hayes has been lost in the shuffle for most of his career at Michigan. Hayes saw his first action with the Wolverines as a redshirt freshman in 2012. He earned 18 carries for 83 yards and one touchdown that season. Hayes remained a reserve running back in 2013 before making his first career start in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to close the season.

The Wolverines have used Hayes only slightly more this season. He’s appeared in all seven games and tallied 121 rushing yards on 26 carries and 47 receiving yards on five catches.

• 2011 OLB Clay Burton, 6-3, 230; Venice (Fla.) High.

Former 2011 Notre Dame outside linebacker commit Clay Burton (Photo provided)

Rivals: Three-star, No. 19 weakside defensive end. 247Sports: Three-star, No. 20 strongside defensive end

THEN: Burton wanted a Florida offer, but he didn’t have one. So instead of waiting, Burton, the younger brother of Florida quarterback Trey Burton, committed to Notre Dame in 2010. But when the Gators and head coach Urban Meyer eventually came calling in October, the younger Burton made the switch to join his brother.

NOW: Burton has been a regular presence in the Florida lineup since 2012. He started six games and played in all 12 as a sophomore. He made nine starts and played in all 12 games again as a junior in 2013. But the playing time resulted in just three catches for 24 yards in three seasons. That’s changed for Burton as a senior this season. His 15 catches, good for second on the team, have resulted in 104 yards for a struggling Gators offense. 

• 2011 CB Bennett Okotcha, 5-11, 175; Coppell (Texas) High.

Bennett Okotcha from Coppell committed to play football today at Notre Dame. (Photo courtesy of Dallas Morning News)

Rivals: Three-star, No. 64 cornerback. 247Sports: Three-star, no position rankings.

THEN: Okotcha appeared to be destined for the same college as high school teammate Cam McDaniel. Once a Wisconisn commit, Okotcha flipped to Notre Dame in December 2010. Unfortunately for the Irish, that wouldn’t be the only time he changed his mind. Just days before signing day, Okotcha ditched Notre Dame for Oklahoma.

NOW: Okotcha left the Sooners program for Texas-San Antonio after a redshirt freshman season. He finally saw the field in 2013 after sitting out another year because of the transfer. As a sophomore in 2013, Okotcha tallies 29 tackles, one interception and a team-high 11 pass breakups. Okotcha has started all seven games this season with 15 tackles, one interception, four pass deflections and three pass breakups.

• 2011 OL Jordan Prestwood, 6-6, 280; Plant City (Fla.) High.

247Sports: Four-star, No. 4 offensive tackle. Rivals: Three-star, No. 28 offensive tackle.

THEN: Few recruitments mimicked a middle school romance more than Prestwood’s. The offensive lineman committed to Notre Dame in April 2010, but that was only the beginning of his on-and-off relationship with the Irish. Prestwood backed out of his commitment in October while leaving the door open for Notre Dame. He eventually closed the door, but not for good, when he committed to Florida State in November.

NOW: Prestwood didn’t last more than a semester at Florida State. He transferred from the school after enrolling early in January. The destination? Notre Dame, of course. Prestwood joined the Irish for the 2011 season and had to sit out the year as a transfer. Prestwood seemed destined to finally see the playing field in 2012 before Kelly announced that Prestwood left the program in early August.

Prestwood’s next stop was supposed to be Central Florida in 2013, but Knights head coach George O’Leary announced in July of that year that Prestwood failed to meet academic requirements. That led Prestwood to the junior college ranks at Arizona Western College for the 2013 season. Prestwood’s performance earned him attention from major programs again, but nothing materialized. Plans to enroll at Auburn in January 2014 fell through because of a shortage of credits. It appears Prestwood is no longer playing football.

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Former 2011 Notre Dame offensive line commit Jordan Prestwood. (Photo provided)