The Big Board: OL and QB

Our usual bi-weekly "Big Board" update has expanded as spring 2013 comes to a close. On tap today, a detailed look at Notre Dame's offensive line targets for 2014, with at least two more pledges expected prior to National Signing Day. Also included: a few quarterbacks of note with one pledge necessary following the transfer of redshirt-freshman Gunner Kiel.

Monday's pledge of offensive lineman Sam Mustipher is the most recent update for the Irisheyes.com "Big Board" 2014.

There are a combined 23 seniors and 5th-year competitors on Notre Dame's 2013 roster. Subtract that total from the 83 present scholarships (including incoming freshmen for '13) and Brian Kelly's program has 60 scholarships taken for the 2014 season.

Beginning with that number (60), Irisheyes.com expects at least five current seniors -- RT Christian Lombard, QB Andrew Hendrix, TE Alex Welch, CB Lo Wood, and S Austin Collinsworth -- to apply for and be granted a fifth season of eligibility. That would make the number of scholarships taken for the 2014 season, 65.

Rather than presuming 65 scholarships, which makes for 20 open spots in the 2014 class, it makes more sense at an early stage to account for attrition over the next 10 months. Consider 22 pledges for the 2014 class as the working total.

Six of those 22 scholarships are already accounted for with the pledges of Mustipher and his fellow 2014 class members Greer Martini, Justin Brent, Jay Hayes, Jimmy Byrne, and Andrew Trumbetti.

In this first of several updates leading up to the Blue Gold Game, Irisheyes.com recruiting reporter Anna Hickey updates Notre Dame's top offensive targets while O'Malley handles the team-centric aspect of each position group.

Expected scholarship distribution is broken down below, with the target number in parenthesis denoting need, more so than projected pledges at each position.

First on the docket, offensive linemen and quarterbacks.

Offensive Line (4)

In addition to Mustipher's pledge Monday, fellow four-star Cleveland (St. Ignatius) OT Jimmy Byrne chose Notre Dame on December 8, 2012.

O'Malley Expects: Two more to round out an essential position of need. Look for the Irish to hit that quota prior to the start of fall camp. A fifth offensive linemen is not out of the question despite an incoming quintet for 2012.

Before scoffing at another five-spot in this cycle as a possibility, consider the following: five total OL pledges would give head coach Brian Kelly 12 over the last three seasons. If recent history is any indication, at least two of those 12 won't be part of this conversation or the O-Line's equation two years from now. (Lost from the program since 2011 are transfer Jordan Prestwood and medical casualties Tate Nichols and Brad Carrico.)

Its unlikely the program will be caught shorthanded up front as it was in 2012 and to a lesser extent, entering 2013.

Hickey's Top OL Targets

-- OT Braden Smith (Olathe, Kansas) -- Vaulted Notre Dame into his top three (TCU, Texas A&M) after visit in March.
Decision timeline:  Not set, but he's not a fan of the attention the recruiting process brings, so if he's ready, a decision may come before it's time to take official visits.
Notre Dame visit date: March 22, Post visit story: click here
Schools to watch: Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M, TCU

-- OT Quenton Nelson (Red Bank, New Jersey): Left Notre Dame this month with an offer and the Irish positioned high on his list.
Decision timeline: None, but a commitment could come this summer or before.
Notre Dame visit date: April 6, Post visit story: click here
Schools to watch: Penn State, Rutgers, Ohio State, Boston College, Northwestern

-- OT Alex Bars (Nashville, Tennessee): Notre Dame legacy who has brothers who play for Penn State and Michigan.
Decision timeline:  Before summer, most likely towards the end of May.
Notre Dame visit date: March 23,  Post visit story:click here
Schools to watch: Florida State, Michigan (team to beat), Tennessee, Ohio State

-- OT/OG Damien Mama (Bellflower, California): Not naming favorites, Notre Dame will likely get an official visit.
Decision timeline: Plans to take all five officials.
Schools to watch: Alabama, USC (team to beat), UCLA

-- OT Jovan Pruitt (Dallas, Texas): Teammate of Notre Dame defensive back target Nick Watkins.
Schools to watch: Alabama (team to beat), Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas

-- OG Corey Martinez (Tampa, Florida): Hasn't named favorites, but has been to Florida State and Georgia this spring.
Decision timeline: Plans to visit more schools this spring and narrow list before entering senior year.
Schools to watch: Florida State (team to beat), Georgia, Miami

-- OT Jamarco Jones (Chicago, Illinois): Ohio State is the clear front-runner right now.
Notre Dame visit date: April 3. Post visit story: click here
Decision timeline: May or June
Schools to watch: Ohio State (team to beat), Michigan, Florida

Quarterbacks

The pre-spring transfer of Gunner Kiel turned quarterback recruitment from personal preference (Kelly's and mine) to necessity.

O'Malley Expects: Notre Dame must land one quarterback in the 2014 cycle to avoid entering the '14 season with three signal-callers, one of which would be potential 5th-year senior Andrew Hendrix, the other Malik Zaire, a player who will likely have no game day experience entering 2014.

Expect the Irish to then sign two triggermen in 2015, with one an athlete capable of playing multiple positions. Its relevant to note such an athlete could be inked in 2014 instead.)

Hickey's Top QB Targets

--Brandon Dawkins (Westlake Village, California): the lone quarterback in 2014 with an Irish offer.
Decision timeline None.
Schools to Watch: Utah and North Carolina State

--Michael O'Connor (Bradenton, Florida): No offer, staff plans to watch him during the evaluation period.
Decision timeline: None.
Schools to watch: Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Mississippi State.
Visit date: March 27, Post visit story: click here

-- Drew Barker (Hebron, Kentucky): No offer; Irish recently reached out to Barker who was close to committing to Kentucky before the evaluation period.
Decision timeline: Before the summer.
Schools to Watch: Kentucky (team to beat).

Note: Part II of the Big Board will include running back, wide receivers, and tight end targets.


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