Defensive Lineman Eddie VanderdoesThe former USC pledge is without question the most important remaining target, and it could be argued, the second most-important and second-best prospect in the 2013 Irish class should he join the fold. Vanderdoes could compete for a rotation role similar to that held by Sheldon Day last season and for a starting job in 2014.
If Notre Dame is to compete in 2014-15-16 for a BCS Championship, and against the likes of Alabama, it must routinely bring in an interior defensive linemen of Vanderdoes' caliber in two out of three, or at least every other recruiting cycle. The addition of Vanderdoes would make the 2013 Irish class second to none in terms of need, fit, and cohesion.
Defensive linemen, 2013: Kona Schwenke (NG), Louis Nix (NG), Justin Utupo (ST/DE), Stephon Tuitt (DE/DT), Chase Hounshell (DE/DT), Tony Springmann (DE/NG/DT), Sheldon Day (DE/NG/DT), Jarron Jones (DE/DT), Isaac Rochell (DE), Jacob Matuska (DE/TE).
Probable defensive linemen, 2014: Chase Hounshell (DE/DT), Tony Springmann (DE/NG/DT), Sheldon Day (DE/NG/DT), Jarron Jones (DE/DT), Isaac Rochell (DE), Jacob Matuska (DE/TE), Jay Hayes (2014 pledge). The assumption is that Tuitt leaves early for the NFL Draft.
Probable defensive linemen, 2015: Chase Hounshell (DE/DT), Tony Springmann (DE/NG/DT), Sheldon Day (DE/NG/DT), Jarron Jones (DE/DT), Isaac Rochell (DE), Jacob Matuska (DE/TE), Jay Hayes (2014 pledge). Hounshell and Springmann would be fifth year players in 2015.
Defensive End Kylie FittsA former USC planned early enrollee, Fitts sheds blocks well, can play on the edge of a 4-3 front (Notre Dame's preferred front in 2012), and is relentless in pursuit -- a wrecking ball in his final burst to the ball carrier, using natural strength and hand placement to first win vs. opposing tackles and double teams.
At 6'4" 260 pounds and joining one of the nation's best defensive lines, Fitts would have the luxury of a redshirt-freshman season in 2013 with the chance to compete for a major backup role in spring 2014. He's similar in (listed) size to Irish junior Chase Hounshell upon the latter's arrival on campus in summer 2011. Because of the dearth of proven bodies at the position in 2014-15, Fitts might rank as the second-most important recruit remaining (behind Vanderdoes). His impact and importance is far greater for 2015-15 than next fall. 2014 would be a bonus should he contend for a major role in Year 2.
As noted in the text above, the opportunity for playing time up front exists in 2014 and beyond. (Note: See the Vanderdoes section for the team's defensive line depth in future seasons.)
Tight End Durham SmytheExit the greatest pass-catching tight end in program history. Add to that recovery from a torn ACL for one of your three returning competitors. Couple that with the exodus of 75 percent of your current tight end crop following 2014 (Smythe's sophomore year) and its easy to see why the Irish are going hard after Smythe to compliment Mike Heuerman in this year's recruiting cycle.
The former Texas pledge is not as remarkably fluid as the graduated Tyler Eifert (or Heuerman), but Smythe shows no hesitation going over the middle or down the seam. He easily accepts the football and uses his body (6'6" 240) to shield defenders and absorbs contact upon the catch.
Smythe would likely redshirt in 2013 and remain an understudy in 2014. He and Heuerman would could be a formidable pair for 2015, '16, and possibly '17 as well as the Tight End U machine continues to roll.
Tight Ends, 2014: Alex Welch (Sr.), Ben Koyack (Jr.), Troy Niklas (Jr.), Mike Heuerman (2013). Assumes a 5th-year for Welch.
Tight Ends, 2015: Mike Heuerman
Linebacker Deon HollinsAt 6'2" 222 pounds, Hollins' frame suggests the interior, where added bulk (20-25 pounds) would afford similar size to current inside 'backers Dan Fox (6'3" 245) and Carlo Calabrese (6'1" listed 245). But Hollins skill set and unique burst off the edge appears ideal for the Cat linebacker position currently manned by Prince Shembo (6'2" 260). Shembo was 6'2" 243 when he hit campus and excelled as a four-down defensive end last year (his junior).
Hollins appears much quicker and adept in space; Shembo naturally stronger at the point and his pass-rushing prowess in 2012 was exceeded by just three players at the program over the last decade: teammate Stephon Tuitt, former teammate Aaron Lynch, and program great Justin Tuck (2002-04).
Linebackers, 2013: Outside -- Prince Shembo (Cat), Danny Spond (Dog), Ishaq Wiliams (Cat), Ben Councell (Dog), Anthony Rabasa (Cat). Romeo Okwara (Dog/Cat/DE). Inside -- Dan Fox (Will), Carlo Calabrese (Will), Jarrett Grace (Mike), Kendall Moore (Mike), Michael Deeb (Mike).
Probable Linebackers, 2014: Outside -- Ishaq Wiliams (Cat), Ben Councell (Dog), Anthony Rabasa (Cat), Romeo Okwara (Dog/Cat/DE). Inside -- Jarrett Grace (Mike), Michael Deeb (Mike), Greer Martini (Mike - 2014 pledge)
Probable Linebackers, 2015: Outside -- Ben Councell (Dog), Anthony Rabasa (Cat), Romeo Okwara (Dog/Cat/DE). Inside -- Jarrett Grace (Mike), Michael Deeb (Mike), Greer Martini (Mike - 2014 pledge). Councell, Rabasa, and Grace would be in their 5th-seasons of eligibility.
Initial Slotting Should he Sign: Cat linebacker. There's a need inside, but Hollins is too quick (and light) to tangle with uncovered offensive guards. Hollins might be the least necessary remaining recruit on paper -- between the lines, you can never have enough fast, quick-twitch playmakers on the defensive perimeter. He and current pledge Jaylon Smith would give the Irish a dynamic Cat/Dog duo for the future. The post-season defections of Danny Mattingly (Cat/DE) and Alex Anzalone (WIll) hasten the need for another talented linebacker such as Hollins.
Hollins is at present, a UCLA pledge.