NCF Nation: Deontay Greenberry

Most viewers figured the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl would be one of the more forgettable games of the college football postseason. A noon game between two programs that entered a combined 13-11 and without their head coaches, this wasn’t a contest highlighted by many to be one of the bowl season's best.

Yet Houston and Pittsburgh provided enough dramatics to help hold football fans over until the Jan. 12 national championship game (or at least Saturday’s NFL playoff games). Trailing Pitt by 25 in the fourth quarter, the Cougars’ 35-34 win represents the largest fourth-quarter comeback in bowl history, eclipsing the 24-point comeback orchestrated by Texas Tech against Minnesota in the 2006 Insight Bowl.

It was over when: Tyler Boyd, one of the ACC’s top playmakers, dropped a pass on third down that would have put the Panthers in position for a game-winning field goal. Boyd was open down the middle of the field but the ball hit his hands and fell to the ground. The Panthers still had a fourth-down play left, but they never had the chance, as Houston pressured quarterback Chad Voytik and he had no time to throw.

Game ball goes to: There are a few to go around after what could be the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in bowl history. The first goes to running back Kenneth Farrow, whose 100 rushing yards and two scores were rendered footnotes this afternoon. Farrow was the one to recover a second straight onside kick attempt from Houston kicker Ty Cummings.

Speaking of Cummings, he gets a game ball, too. Houston scored to cut the lead to 34-20, but there was only 3:41 remaining. Cummings and the Cougars’ special-teams unit, which gets the final game ball, executed a perfect onside kick. The Cougars scored to cut the lead to a score, and then Cummings helped Houston recover a second onside attempt. When Houston scored off of that onside kick, they went for two and won the game.

How the game was won: Houston won because of the dynamic between quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and receiver Deontay Greenberry on the game-winning drive. It began with a 38-yard completion to the Pitt 19 on the first play following the onside kick recovery. A penalty and two plays that netted negative yards put Houston in a third-and-16 situation, but Ward found Greenberry wide open in the middle of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. Instead of tying the game at 34 with a PAT, the Cougars went for the win. Ward rolled out right and initially couldn’t find anyone open. However, Greenberry freed himself up in the corner of the end zone and went up to catch the go-ahead conversion.

Stat of the game: Three-fifths of a percentage point, or 0.7. That was the probability of a Cougars win when they trailed by 21 points with about five minutes remaining and facing a third-and-long play.

Best play: Here’s the video of Greenberry and Ward hooking up for the Cougars’ final touchdown and the ensuing two-point conversion to complete arguably the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in bowl history.
video


It was a wild one in Birmingham, Ala., but behind 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, Vanderbilt defeated Houston 41-24 in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

The Commodores opened the game with a 24-0 lead at halftime before allowing the Cougars to score 24 straight points of their own in the third quarter.

However, a 21-yard touchdown run and late interceptions by safety Jahmel McIntosh and cornerback Andre Hal helped seal Vandy's win after a valiant Houston comeback.

It was over when: Hal intercepted Houston quarterback John O'Korn and returned it 30 yards to the Houston 2-yard line, setting up Vandy's final touchdown.

Game ball goes to: In his final game in a Vanderbilt uniform, senior receiver Jordan Matthews led the Commodores with five catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Surprisingly, this was Matthews' first multi-touchdown game of the season. All of Matthews' stats came in the first half. He caught five of quarterback Patton Robinette's six pass completions. The SEC's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards enjoyed a nice final game at the college level.

Stat of the game: It truly was a tale of two halves in Birmingham. The Commodores outgained Houston 232-22 in the first half and held the Cougars to just one first down. In the second half, Houston dominated the stat chart with 362 offensive yards to Vandy's 133. Houston outgained Vandy 309-44 in the third quarter alone.

Stat of the game II: Both teams combined to go 3-of-34 on third downs and punted 20 total times.

Unsung hero: Vandy kicker Carey Spear connected on two big field goals and five extra points. He also made a touchdown-saving tackle on a 62-yard kickoff return by Demarcus Ayers. The Cougars failed to score on the drive.

What it means for Vanderbilt: Vandy is now 16-4 in its past 20 games and has now won bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. The Commodores also have back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time ever. Expect coach James Franklin to hear his named mentioned even more when it comes to head-coaching vacancies at both the college and pro level. It wasn't the prettiest victory after a bit of a second-half lull for the Commodores, but this win should still give the Commodores a ton of momentum going into the offseason. It certainly won't hurt in recruiting either.

What it means for Houston: The Cougars shouldn't hang their heads for too long after this loss. There is still a lot of good, young talent on this team, starting with O'Korn, receiver Deontay Greenberry and running back Ryan Jackson. The offense stalled against Vandy's stout defense early, but showed just how explosive it can be when things started to click in the third quarter. A solid second year under Tony Levine should help create higher expectations for a Houston program that should come back stronger in 2014.

To watch the trophy presentation of the BBVA Compass Bowl, click here.

BBVA Compass Bowl preview

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Vanderbilt is looking to win back-to-back bowl games for the first time, while Houston wants to show that its high-powered offense can send another SEC defense reeling in the postseason.

The Commodores (8-4) and Cougars (8-4) meet in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. Here's a quick preview:

Who to watch: Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews. The SEC's all-time leader in receptions and yards steps back into his home state to take on a pass defense that is allowing 276 passing yards per game (ranked 116th in the nation). Matthews was one of the SEC's best receivers this season, catching a league-high 107 passes for 1,334 yards and five touchdowns. He's averaging almost nine catches and 111.2 yards per game.

Matthews had eight 100-yard receiving games this season and has caught double-digit receptions in three consecutive games. But it will be interesting to see if he sniffs the end zone -- Houston has given up just 12 touchdown passes and has 23 interceptions.

What to watch: Both secondaries. Houston has given up a lot of yards through the air, but one thing that could work in the Cougars' favor is the fact that Vanderbilt starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels is out (knee surgery). That means backup Patton Robinette will have to lead this offense. Robinette has passed for 488 yards, 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions this season. If the Cougars can harass him and keep Matthews in check, Vandy will have a long day.

On the other side, Vandy's secondary has been solid all season, allowing just 204 passing yards a game. Leaders Andre Hal and Kenny Ladler had solid seasons, defending 21 passes and snagging seven interceptions. Houston freshman quarterback John O'Korn has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns, while receiver Deontay Greenberry has 76 receptions for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Why to watch: The Commodores have been a feel-good story since James Franklin took over as coach three years ago, and this is the last time we'll see Matthews play in a Vandy uniform. He's had a truly special career with the Commodores, and it was only elevated with the arrival of Franklin. Plus, the Commodores have a chip on their shoulders after getting passed by Mississippi State in the bowl pecking order.

With Houston, it's a chance to see a team possibly on the rise behind a pretty fun offense that could give the Commodores fits. Behind a young quarterback and young playmakers such as Greenberry and running back Ryan Jackson, the future could be very bright for the Cougars.

Prediction: Vanderbilt 23, Houston 21. Two fun offenses take the field in Birmingham, but Vandy will be without its starting quarterback. This is a big stage for Robinette, but having Matthews next to him to make plays should take the pressure off him.

Greenberry molding into leader for Houston

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Years before being tabbed one of the nation’s top prospects, becoming the first five-star recruit to sign with Houston and developing into the focal point of a Cougars offense that has accumulated more than 3,400 yards and 37 touchdowns, wide receiver Deontay Greenberry sat, eyes closed, at his home in Fresno, Calif., and envisioned his future.

[+] EnlargeDeontay Greenberry
AP Photo/Mel EvansDeontay Greenberry is leading the AAC in receiving this season.
“My sophomore year of high school, I started getting looks from colleges across the country and I began to understand that I could do something special,” Greenberry said. “It was pretty eye-opening when I realized that I could earn a scholarship for football. Sitting back and recognizing that was a real possibility truly changed my perspective.”

After setting California single-season state records with 2,165 receiving yards and 33 touchdowns while leading Washington Union High to a Division III State Championship as a senior, Greenberry, the No. 17 wide receiver in 2012’s ESPN 300, had his pick of practically every prominent football program.

“Without a doubt, Deontay was one of the more highly touted guys that we’ve targeted,” said Houston assistant coach Jamie Christian, who recruited Greenberry to UH. “Navigating that process can be tough on a young guy. But, he had a vision for what he wanted, and his mom and brothers did a lot in terms of helping him stay grounded and focused on his goals.”

On signing day, Greenberry stunned the nation by selecting Houston over USC, Alabama, Arizona State and his initial commitment, Notre Dame, among others.

“I felt very comfortable with Coach Christian, and UH just felt like home. I visited the week before signing day and it was everything that I wanted,” Greenberry said. “People told me that I was crazy for passing on some of the big-time teams. But, to me, being surrounded by good people was more important than the name of the school.”

As a true freshman in 2012, Greenberry made an immediate impact on the Cougars, collecting 47 receptions for 569 yards and three touchdowns, en route to earning Conference USA All-Freshman Team honors.

This season, Greenberry has served as a steadying force for a Cougars offense that has been in flux since concussions ended the career of starting quarterback David Piland in early October.

“Deontay has grown a lot in the short time that he’s been with us,” Christian said. “He is becoming a better player because he's learning to free up his teammates by blocking and running routes without the ball. He’s stepping up because he knows that the guys are depending on him.”

Through seven games this season, Greenberry has already eclipsed his rookie numbers by accounting for 842 yards and eight touchdowns, all while learning to become a leader.

“Deontay has always been a lead-by-example type of guy, but lately, he is starting to speak up and work into a more vocal role,” Christian said. “He has the chance to be as good as he wants to be, because he has the physical abilities, the football IQ and the desire to lead. Deontay is just beginning to tap into his true potential.”

It’s a work in progress, but one that was evident last week against Rutgers, when the shifty, 6-foot-3, 198-pound sophomore gashed the Scarlet Knights’ secondary for a career-best 168 yards and three touchdowns.

“The only thing that I’m focused on right now is working on the details,” Greenberry said. “Whether it’s throwing a block or catching a touchdown, my teammates look to me to make plays and contribute every week.

“In some ways, it’s kind of overwhelming to realize that I’m living out my dream right now,” Greenberry added. “Everything has happened really fast. To be honest, there are times that I’m afraid to blink because I’m scared I might miss something.”

Future American Power Rankings

June, 21, 2013
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You've seen the college football future power rankings. Let's take that to another level here, using the eye test to look at how this conference is set up in the years to come.

1) Cincinnati. With at least a share of four of the past five conference titles, and with a proven coach in Tommy Tuberville aboard, the Bearcats are the class of the conference.

2) UCF. The most ready-made of the conference newcomers this fall, the Knights have the ideal talent, recruiting tools and coaching to compete for the conference crown year-in and year-out moving forward.

3) USF. Like rival UCF, USF is ideally located to land top talent. The Bulls have had that talent in recent years, but the hope is that new coach Willie Taggart can make the most of it and thrive back on the recruiting trail in Tampa, Fla.

4) Tulsa. Three straight eight-plus win seasons show that this program is on the rise, as the Golden Hurricane, much like UCF, look ready to compete with the league's elite upon their arrival.

5) UConn. The last of the "old guard" of the old Big East is in need of a turnaround following consecutive 5-7 seasons under Paul Pasqualoni. A Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2010 and five draft picks this past April show that there is potential here.

6) SMU. June Jones and Hal Mumme together will be a fascinating experiment to watch this year. But with their history and an always-strong nonconference slate, the Mustangs can put themselves in position to be a conference contender only if the breaks fall their way.

7) Navy. The Midshipmen won't be aboard until 2015. But eight-plus wins in nine of the past 10 seasons against a solid independent schedule suggests the triple-option can give its new conference brethren problems upon its arrival in two years.

8) Houston. Kevin Sumlin had a great run in 2011. Tony Levine still has some work to do, especially on the defensive side of the ball, after a down season in 2012. But landing big-name receivers like Deontay Greenberry and Markeith Ambles shows that there is promise for the Cougars moving forward.

9) Temple. The Owls started off 2-0 in the Big East last season, but then received a rude awakening. New coach Matt Rhule seems perfect for the role, but the cupboard is bare as he tries to turn things around in Year 1.

10) East Carolina. The Pirates always face their share of tough nonconference opponents, but Ruffin McNeill seems to have the program trending upward after going bowling in two of his first three seasons.

11) Memphis. Justin Fuente won't let the Tigers get too high on themselves after a three-game winning streak to end last season. By opening up key spots -- including quarterback, where Jacob Karam returns -- he has shown that he is set on taking this program to another level as it enters a new conference and tries to put the Conference-USA era behind it. Still, Fuente faces an uphill battle.

12) Tulane. The Green Wave haven't won five games in a season since 2004. They have their work cut out for them, as they move up to a better version of the C-USA they have struggled in.

Houston loses WR Dewayne Peace

June, 3, 2013
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Houston leading receiver Dewayne Peace is academically ineligible and no longer part of the program, a source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com Monday night.

Peace had 54 receptions for 603 yards last season, but he also missed three games while serving a suspension for a team rules violation. Despite his stats from a year ago, Peace was not a first-team receiver this spring. Deontay Greenberry, Larry McDuffey, Xavier Maxwell and Daniel Spencer were all ahead of Peace on the depth chart, a testament to the talent and depth the Cougars have at this position.

More is on the way. Houston also added transfer Markeith Ambles, who began his career at USC and is scheduled to to join the team this summer. Losing Peace hurts on the surface, but the Cougars have should have enough talent to negate his loss.

Still, Houston does go into 2013 without its leading returning receiver and leading returning rusher as Charles Sims abruptly decided to leave the team two weeks ago with one year of eligibility remaining. Sims has earned his degree, and is eligible to transfer or enter the NFL supplemental draft.
Following his introduction of the then-22 players entering the Notre Dame football program Wednesday, coach Brian Kelly left a cliffhanger that will not be fully answered until later in the evening.

"We feel like there's still some work to be done," Kelly said. "The day is not over yet. Stay tuned."

Whereas last year's national signing day for the Irish was marked by a notable defection, this year's -- already considered the best in Kelly's four years at Notre Dame -- could become even better when all is said and done.

[+] EnlargeJaylon Smith
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comFive-star linebacker Jaylon Smith leads a Notre Dame recruiting class which may yet grow bigger.
Kelly welcomed 22 players during a Wednesday afternoon news conference, and he added one more a few hours later when ESPN 150 athlete Tarean Folston signed his national letter of intent. At 8 p.m. ET tonight, Placer (Calif.) High's Eddie Vanderdoes, the nation's No. 1 defensive tackle prospect, will announce his decision, with Notre Dame right in the thick of things.

Deontay Greenberry's 2012 signing day defection to Houston this is not, but it could instead mark an even greater jolt to a class currently ranked fourth nationally following a season that ended in the Discover BCS National Championship.

"I love agreeing with experts," Kelly said, when told this was considered to be his best class. "It's a recruiting class that -- you know, when you're looking at it from my perspective, it meets the time and place as to where we are right now. 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, and I think your class begins to reflect that as you move forward."

The upcoming season should mark the first time during Kelly's Notre Dame tenure that he will be able to play a full season with 85 scholarship players, something the team was hamstrung by in its preparation for Alabama in the title game.

Kelly and his staff bolstered that depth significantly up front, where they added five offensive linemen to a position group that Kelly said was down to five fully functional bodies by the end of the regular season, limiting live action in practice.

While some of his earlier classes were built on the selling of opportunity on a re-building program, Kelly this year faced the challenge of convincing elite prospects that they could add value to the depth of a potential championship-caliber unit.

"Then they're not elite players if they're afraid of competition," Kelly said. "Those that back off and say, 'Well, you've got two of these guys and you've got three of those' -- now, sometimes that makes a difference, granted; I understand that. But by and large, we've made the case in recruiting where we see you, and we're honest with them.

"Here's where we see you're at and this is where you're going to be, and if you do this, you're going to get your playing time. So I think from our end, the elite players have that confidence, that no matter who's in front of me, I'm going to beat them out."

Wanted: Cornerback help

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Pretty prescient with the Bennett Jackson spotlight today, no?

Jackson's -- and every other defensive back's -- responsibilities just grew significantly in light of the news today that four-star cornerback Tee Shepard, an early enrollee, has left Notre Dame. (And yes, the Jackson post was a complete coincidence.)

Brian Kelly said during national signing day that the focus for the 2012 recruiting class was on wide receivers and players in the secondary. While the Irish notched a number of safety prospects, the loss of Shepard gives them zero cornerbacks for this class, and they now have just four on scholarship. None of those four -- Jackson, Lo Wood, Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown -- have started a college game.

Once Shepard decides on a new school, he will need a waiver just to play this fall. And this comes after he sat out his entire senior season of high school at Washington (Calif.) Union after transferring from Central East.

The late commitment of Davonte Neal is all the more important now, as cornerback will likely provide the quicker route for the athlete to get on the field, over receiver.

Regardless, following the national signing day de-commitment of Deontay Greenberry, Shepard's cousin, this is one blow Notre Dame will have to recover from quickly with spring practices less than a week away.

Nearly three weeks after national signing day and nearly four hours after 600 elementary school kids missed class for an announcement that didn't come, Notre Dame got its man.

Five-star athlete Davonte Neal (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral), the last unsigned member of the ESPNU 150 (No. 8 overall), committed to the Irish on Tuesday over North Carolina, Arizona and Arkansas.

Neal is the lone five-star prospect to commit to the Irish, who now come in at No. 9 in ESPNU's 2012 recruiting class rankings. Five other ESPNU 150 players are a part of the class.
At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, Neal played receiver in the Under Armour All-America Game, though he was picked for the event as a defensive back. As a senior, the two-time Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year scored 30 touchdowns on offense, added three on special teams and starred in the secondary with 12 pass breakups. He finished as the No. 8 overall prospect nationally.

Neal is recruit No. 17 for Notre Dame, which had dealt with the de-commitments of four-star cornerback Ronald Darby (Oxon Hill, Md./Potomac), three-star offensive tackle Taylor Decker (Vandalia, Ohio/Butler) and four-star wide receiver Deontay Greenberry (Fresno, Calif./Washington Union) in the month leading up to signing day. Greenberry, who flipped to Houston on signing day, was the most surprising of the defections, putting a damper on the Feb. 1 signing day for the Irish.

Twenty days later, they're singing a different tune in South Bend, Ind.

While his future position in the blue and gold remains unclear, Neal has the potential to make an immediate impact for the Irish in the return game, where Notre Dame averaged just 0.3 yards per punt return during the 2011 regular season.

Perhaps more importantly, Neal helps Notre Dame close the 2012 recruiting season on a strong note following a disappointing end to the 2011 football season and the ensuing de-commitments leading up to signing day.

Defections the story for ND's class

February, 3, 2012
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Gunner Kiel landed at Notre Dame after pledging to LSU and Indiana and now Deontay Greenberry is Houston-bound, after initially pledging to the Irish. The reverberations from both flips will likely be felt more in the years to come than the immediate future, but that didn't stop pettiness from reigning supreme Wednesday.

The video has gone viral, LSU coach Les Miles questioning the heart of Kiel at the Tiger Gridiron Club's annual national signing day "Bayou Bash" in Baton Rouge, La.

Miles
Miles
"There was a gentleman from Indiana that thought about coming to the Bayou state," Miles said. "He did not necessarily have the chest and the ability to lead a program, so you know."

And here Notre Dame fans were thinking they landed the upset of the 2012 recruiting class.

Adding to the sting of Miles' comments was the fact the coach said it to an audience, one that responded with a roar of approval to the millionaire coach's shot at a high-school kid for changing his mind.

No wonder fans spew so much vitriol to prospects who don't sign with their favorite schools.

If Kiel did not have the chest and the ability to lead a program, Miles sure did a lousy job of recognizing that, too. The performance of his quarterbacks suggest as much, as do his comments the day Kiel enrolled at Notre Dame, which offered a much more reasoned take on the Indiana native's decision to stay in Indiana.

"There's a point in time where young people make a variety of decisions, and for a variety of reasons," Miles said at the time. "The only thing I can tell you is there is a guy in the Midwest who felt staying close to home was the right thing."

Fortunately for the Irish, Miles' foolishness has in some ways overshadowed the lack of momentum Notre Dame had in this class, the Irish losing three commitments in the last month, Greenberry's defection to Houston coming at the very last minute.

But for now, they can take solace in the fact that much of that was salvaged by the last-minute landing of Kiel, chest and ability issues aside.

Greenberry's 11th-hour switch from the Irish to Houston may have been the biggest shocker on national signing day, but Kiel's 11th-hour de-commitment from the Tigers and ensuing early enrollment at Notre Dame served among the biggest shockers of this recruiting season.

Just look at others' reactions.

Notre Dame signing day wrap

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Biggest need filled: Last year it was fortifying the defensive line, something Notre Dame did with a bang in landing stud recruits Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt, immediate contributors. This year it was shoring up the secondary and receiving corps.

Despite a decommitment from a big prospect in each area, Brian Kelly must feel the Irish did that by adding two receivers, a corner and four safeties. Still, the loss of Deontay Greenberry will sting more than that of Ronald Darby, given the graduation of Michael Floyd and the uncertainty at the quarterback position.

National signing day overview

February, 2, 2012
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National signing day is in the books. And though it was not without its surprises for Notre Dame, we won't know the true impact of Wednesday's additions until years from now.

With that, we take our best shot at predicting the future while recapping what went down.

Biggest surprise: There's only one choice to make here, and it's the flip of Deontay Greenberry to Houston on Wednesday morning. Notre Dame's 17-man class seemed all but set entering the day, but Greenberry changed that with the last-minute decision. Having his cousin, Tee Shepard, already enrolled at Notre Dame certainly makes this more surprising.

Player you'll see next season: Shepard figures to see playing time in the secondary upon his arrival. Brian Kelly called him the best cornerback in the country, and with the lack of depth there currently on the Notre Dame roster, Shepard will have the chance to earn extended minutes with an impressive spring and summer.

Dark horse contributors: Chris Brown and Nicky Baratti are both three-star prospects, but Kelly thinks they are both steals. Neither has a physique that will help him stand out on the field, but Brown is a versatile threat with the ball in his hands, short or deep. Baratti, labeled an "athlete," projects as a safety but displays the kind of adaptability and attitude that Kelly loves.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Recognizing the length of his question for Brian Kelly about Gunner Kiel, an inquiring reporter could not help but ask the coach if he had just asked a stupid question.

"It's a great question," Kelly immediately responded with a smile on his face. "All questions today are great questions."

The message, one Kelly would repeat throughout Wednesday's news conference, was clear: We won't worry about those who aren't at Notre Dame; we're happy with what we got.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Matt Cashore/US PresswireIrish head coach Brian Kelly speaks at a news conference for national signing day Wednesday.
Sporting a dark-grey suit and kelly-green tie, the Notre Dame football coach began his national signing day media session by praising those behind the scenes at the school -- the associate vice president for undergraduate enrollment, the director of admissions, the V.P. for student affairs -- before getting into specifics about the Irish's incoming class, though questions about two players dominated the 47-minute discussion.

Headlining the newcomers is Kiel, the prized quarterback prospect from Columbus, Ind., who enrolled in January. Headlining national signing day, however, is Deontay Greenberry, the four-star wide receiver from Fresno, Calif., who stunned virtually everyone by signing with Houston, nearly nine months after he verbally pledged to Notre Dame.

"Again, I think we painted the picture being clear about what we were about, and we made sure this is what you're gonna get at Notre Dame," Kelly said when asked what happened with Greenberry. "And for me it's hard to be disappointed about something you never had or you never coached. I'm more excited about the guys that signed because they are the right kind of guys."

Greenberry's cousin is four-star cornerback Tee Shepard, who had already enrolled at Notre Dame in January and whom Kelly called the best cornerback in the country. The common belief was that Greenberry would commit to the same school as his cousin.

Kelly said he talked to Greenberry on Tuesday night before finding out he was Houston-bound Wednesday from Jeff Freitas, Greenberry's high school coach. The Irish coach said he knew from experience that he had to brace himself for surprises when dealing with high school kids.

"I don't know that anybody would think differently when 17- and 18-year-olds are making decisions for the next five years," Kelly said. "It's arguably the biggest decision they've ever made and they're putting themselves in that position for the first time, many of them. So I don't think you ever go into signing day and say, 'Ah, this thing's over with.'

"I've been doing it now 23 years, and I've had surprises every single recruiting day. And some are good, some are not so good. As it relates to this one, I'm happy about the guys that signed with us because they know why they're here, and that's really the most important thing."

Greenberry was the not-so good. The good, however, came 15 days earlier, when Kiel enrolled at Notre Dame after previous verbal commitments to LSU and Indiana.

Kelly said the expectations for Kiel, who will be competing with three others for the starting quarterback job, are the same as they are for every recruit. He stressed that he wanted recruits who wanted to compete, not those who wanted a free year to redshirt.

"Honestly, we never really felt like we were done recruiting," Kelly said of Kiel's commitment. "In terms of, even though Gunner had made his decision, there just seemed to be a connection there that we weren't ready to give up on. And we were right, because Gunner's happy, he's happy to be here. Those stories happen. Some don't. Some you know, it's over. We felt like this was the right place for him, and maybe it was our belief that this was the right place, Notre Dame, that kept us involved."

In all, Notre Dame announced the signing of 16 high school prospects, in addition to sophomore running back Amir Carlisle, a transfer from USC. While last year's recruiting centered around the power position, Kelly said, this year's centered on the secondary and receiving corp, something he believes was addressed despite the losses of Greenberry and four-star cornerback Ronald Darby (Oxon Hill, Md./Potomac), who de-committed from the Irish nearly a month ago before signing with Florida State on Wednesday.

By the end of Wednesday's festivities, the Irish had walked away with eight new offensive players, seven new defensive players and a new long-snapper. Nine of them were rated four-star prospects by ESPNU, six were three-stars and one was a two-star. They came from 12 different states and from each region of the country, and they all signed with Kelly and his staff following the vetting process that determined they would be a right fit for Notre Dame.

"I think that our coaches do a great job, and it starts with making sure that we talk about our distinctions and not shy away from them," Kelly said. "We talk about a faith-based education. We talk about, 'You gotta live in the dorms.' We talk about those things as they relate to Notre Dame, because we don't want to get here and you've signed a letter of intent and it wasn't the right fit — you just got sold a bill of goods. It does you no good to get sold a bill of goods, you come to Notre Dame, and it's not the right fit for you. So that's why you have a signing day, because you're going to have to make a decision based upon what we are talking about in the recruiting process.

"So I think it starts with immediately talking about what our distinctions are, and I think I mentioned it earlier: We're not better than anybody else, but you're shopping down a different aisle. And we make sure that's clear in the process."

Kelly talks ND recruits, Greenberry

February, 1, 2012
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly went through each of the 17 new Notre Dame players, one by one, listing their credentials and his expectations for them for the 2012 season and beyond.

Still, the biggest noise came from more than 1,100 miles South, the site of the biggest beneficiary from perhaps the biggest surprise on national signing day.

Four-star wide receiver Deontay Greenberry (Fresno, Calif./Washington Union) chose Houston over Notre Dame on Wednesday, more than eight months after verbally committing to the Irish.

"Again, I think we painted the picture being clear about what we were about, and we made sure this is what you're gonna get at Notre Dame," Kelly said when asked what happened with Greenberry. "And for me it's hard to be disappointed about something you never had or you never coached. I'm more excited about the guys that signed because they are the right kind of guys."

Kelly said he had some conversations with Greenberry on Tuesday night and found out from his high school coach Wednesday that Greenberry had signed with Houston.

Greenberry's cousin, Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif./Washington Union), is a four-star cornerback who had already enrolled at Notre Dame in January. It was widely believed that the two would commit to a school as a package deal.

National signing day was supposed to be a day of few surprises for the Irish, whose class appeared set entering the date. Still, Kelly said he knows better than to be caught off-guard when dealing with high school kids in these situations.

"I don't know that anybody would think differently when 17- and 18-year-olds are making decisions for the next five years," Kelly said. "It's arguably the biggest decision they've ever made and they're putting themselves in that position for the first time, many of them. So I don't think you ever go into signing day and say, 'Ah, this thing's over with.'

"I've been doing it now 23 years, and I've had surprises every single recruiting day. And some are good, some are not so good. As it relates to this one, I'm happy about the guys that signed with us because they know why they're here, and that's really the most important thing."

Greenberry shocks all, picks Houston

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
12:15
PM ET
Two of the three letters Notre Dame awaited from the West Coast arrived. The other got stuck in Texas.

In one of national signing day's most shocking moves, four-star WR Deontay Greenberry (Fresno, Calif./Washington Union) chose Houston over Notre Dame, the school he initially committed to on May 27.

Greenberry's cousin is Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif./Washington Union), the four-star cornerback who had already enrolled at Notre Dame in January. It appeared for some time that the two would commit to a school as a package deal.

Four-star offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) and three-star running back KeiVarae Russell (Everett, Wash./Mariner) faxed in their letters of intent within the past hour and are likely the final pieces to Notre Dame's 2012 recruiting class, barring anything unforeseen.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Greenberry is ESPNU's No. 17 wide receiver and its 106th overall prospect.

The Irish's 2012 class currently stands at 16 players, 13 of whom committed today. Gunner Kiel, Shepard and Sheldon Day have already enrolled.

Notre Dame held ESPNU's No. 9 2012 recruiting class before Greenberry's switch to Houston.

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