Notre Dame's top-rated recruiting class pushed by two factors

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Notre Dame's top-rated recruiting class pushed by two factors

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame has seen a recruiting bump over the last few months thanks to a perfect 1-2 punch: A 10-0 team contending for a national title, and linebacker Manti Te'o.
Rivals' recruiting class rankings has Notre Dame's 2013 crop as the third-best in the country, led by five-star linebacker Jaylon Smith. Four-star linebacker Alex Anzalone recently reaffirmed his commitment to Notre Dame after plenty of chatter he would flip to Florida. The Irish feature 13 four or five-star players, easily the highest total of the Brian Kelly era.
"It's been a great year, there's no question," Kelly said Tuesday. "I will tell you that winning helps in recruiting. It also solidifies those commitments. We have a number of midyear enrollees that obviously are very excited about the direction of the football program.
"So there is no mistaking that that kind of success helps you in recruiting. Having said that, I think we had made great progress coming into the season where we had a number commitments already in place. I think the winning has obviously enhanced that and strengthened those commitments. But I don't think there is any question that winning definitely gives you a bump in recruiting."
On national signing day in February, Kelly described his 2012 class as one that filled needs, specifically at wide receiver and cornerback.
The Irish added much-needed depth at receiver, with Chris Brown and Davonte Neal playing roles in Notre Dame's offense and special teams as true freshmen. And KeiVarae Russell -- who wasn't recruited as a cornerback -- has been solid after getting the nod when Lo Wood went down with a season-ending injury.
But what Kelly noted in February, too, was that he and his coaching staff were ready to start recruiting "big skill" guys for 2013.
"We needed to take care of the needs within the program in this second recruiting class, and I think we all heard last year me talking about the "back end" and the skill players, and we think we have done that," Kelly explained. "Next year's class will have that versatility element and it will be centered around that big skill."
So far, so good. Being 10-0 has certainly helped Notre Dame's chances with high schoolers, but having an ambassador like Te'o has been important, too.
"I always tell them, hey, when you're a champion at other schools, you're a champion. But when you're a champion at Notre Dame, you become a legend," Te'o said of his pitch to recruits. "It wasn't hard for me to decide. We weren't doing so well, and yet still, there were talks about a legendary status, and just imagine if you experienced a successful season, what that would look like."

Bears reportedly won't franchise tag Alshon Jeffery, so what's next?

Bears reportedly won't franchise tag Alshon Jeffery, so what's next?

NFL.com's Insider Ian Rapoport dropped a news bomb in the middle of the night, Tweeting in the wee hours of Monday morning that the Bears will not sign receiver Alshon Jeffery to a franchise tag:

Jeffery played under the franchise tag in 2016, when he earned roughly $14.6 million. 

The Bears could still re-sign Jeffery to a longer deal in free agency, but the market on the 27-year-old receiver may climb out of their desired range.

The $17 million franchise tag was an awful lot of salary cap to spend on a guy who has missed 11 games over the last two seasons to injury and a PED suspension that stretched to four games in 2016.

When he was on the field last year, Jeffery turned in his worst stat line since his rookie season, catching only 52 balls for 821 yards and 2 TDs.

Still, his departure would leave a gaping hole in the Bears receiving corps as Cameron Meredith and Kevin White would emerge as the leaders of the group.

Meredith went undrafted out of Illinois State, but he has impressed in his two pro seasons, leading the Bears in receptions (66), targets (96), yards (888) and TDs (4) in 2016.

White was the Bears' first-round pick in 2015 (7th overall) but has played in just four games due to leg issues and has only 19 catches for 187 yards and 0 TDs under his belt.

David Kaplan believes if Jeffery does depart Chicago, it sends a bigger message about the state of the Bears:

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Sunday:

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

What if… Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s takeaways from epic World Series Game 7

Quick hits: Blackhawks start strong in win over Blues

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

White Sox: Happy with progress, Brett Lawrie tries to clear final hurdles

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Michigan State gets big win to boost tourney hopes, while Wisconsin loses for fourth time in five games