Quick Hits from Notre Dame football's signing day press conferences

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

You know what they say:

Early bird gets the worm.

Or, the recruit.

The NCAA's new early signing period officially began on Wednesday morning, with No. 14 Notre Dame expected to sign 20 future Irish players. Eighth-year head coach Brian Kelly and special teams coach and recruiting coordinator Brian Polian met the media to introduce the reinforcements.

Here are the highlights from Kelly and Polian's press conferences.

Brian Kelly

-- "You'd be hard-pressed to find a college football program that signed 20 players today," Kelly said. He added that he thinks Notre Dame has the best class in the country based on the players who have actually signed.

-- Kelly called this group of 20 players "a remarkable class."

-- Kelly said that Notre Dame is "still open for business," meaning that the Irish still plan to sign more players later in this early signing period as well as during the later signing period.

-- Kelly, on the early signing period: "It puts the commitment back in commitment." He said that he wanted to take the "circus atmosphere away from signing" and let the student-athlete be able to make the best decision for his future.

-- When asked to name a few underrated players in Notre Dame's class, Kelly listed quarterback Phil Jurkovec and cornerback Tariq Bracy. On Jurkovec, Kelly said, "I think he's the best quarterback in the country. He's someone I can put up against anyone I've ever seen."

-- Kelly wasn't willing to pigeonhole defensive back signee Houston Griffith into any one position. "He could be a corner," Kelly said. "He could play nickel for us. He could be a safety at the next level."

-- Kelly acknowledged that it can be difficult to get to the 85-man scholarship limit while also balancing which players on the current roster will return. "We've been more aggressive this year with (recruiting to that number)," Kelly said.

-- Kelly was complimentary of the readiness of his defensive class. "There's not many of these guys that we go and say, 'These are projects,'" Kelly said.

-- Kelly acknowledged that only one defensive end signed on Wednesday but said that going forward, Notre Dame won't sign a defensive end -- or any player -- just to fill a need. He added that they're very confident in the potential fits with defensive ends in the 2019 class.

-- Kelly called Kevin Austin "a unique player" that can play all three wide receiver positions. He added that the staff is hoping to add to the wide receiver corps in this class.

-- Kelly, on Notre Dame's recruitment of the state of Georgia, where the Irish signed two players in his cycle: "We need to have a great presence there."

-- Kelly, on the impact of defensive coordinator Mike Elko and offensive coordinator Chip Long in recruiting: "These guys are good recruiters. They were good recruiters before they got here, and they worked really hard in this process."

-- Might Jurkovec challenge for the starting quarterback job immediately this fall?  "I want him to challenge," Kelly said. "I want Brandon (Wimbush) to feel competition." He added that he expects Wimbush to welcome that competition.

Brian Polian

-- Polian cautioned fans and media not to put too much pressure on new signees. "Let's be very careful about who we're anointing the next stars," Polian said. "That puts pressure on 17-, 18-year-old kids. That's not fair."

-- Who would Polian identify as underrated players in this class? "I am a big Jahmir Smith fan, and I'm not sure he got the type of recognition he deserved." He also named cornerback Tariq Bracy, offensive linemen Cole Mabry and John Dirksen and safety Paul Moala. Pollen called Moala a guy that "ultimately we believe we can compete for a national championship with."

-- Polian highlighted just how much Moala impressed during last summer's Irish Invasion camp. "That was the kid in this class that came in and took advantage of a camp date and crushed it," Polian said.

-- Polian said that the days of one coach singlehandedly landing a recruit are done. For most of Notre Dame's signees, the area recruiter, position coach, coordinator and head coach all contributed to the recruitment. 

-- Polian said the fit is what he's most proud of in this class. "We're not going to hide from what makes us different," he said. "We're not going to apologize for it."

-- Polian stressed that he has never stopped recruiting the west coast, regardless of where he works. "I never left the west coast. I just changed golf shirts," Polian quipped. 

-- Polian rejected the notion of grading a class in the moment. "Talk to me in 10 years. That's when you'll know how good a class was," Polian said.

-- Polian said there isn't a set scholarship number he's trying to hit in this cycle, though he did specify that the class could grow to 25.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly will sign his latest crop of recruits on Wednesday. (Tribune File Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)