Commitments Build Depth: DE

A year ago the Notre Dame coaching staff identified the numbers along the defensive line as an issue, so they made it a focal point for the 2011 recruiting class. After signing six prospects that could potentially play on the defensive line, the Irish will have the desired depth for the foreseeable future.

Notre Dame has been precariously thin along the defensive front the past two seasons, and while the group of defensive lineman the Irish recently signed likely won't be able to make an immediate impact, they will be able to provide depth.

There is little question that four-year starter Ethan Johnson and three-year starter Kapron Lewis Moore will hold down the starting defensive end spots heading into the first game of the 2011 season. Sean Cwynar played extremely well at the nose tackle position last season and should be the man playing in between Johnson and Moore.

If sophomore Louis Nix has developed after sitting out his freshman year, expect him to be in the mix at nose, which will allow Cwynar to slide over at times and provide a breather for Johnson. Like Cwynar, Hafis Williams can play both the nose and defensive end spots, but ideally you'd like him to settle at one position. Sophomore Kona Schwenke showed a lot of promise as a freshman and after a full year in the program, will be able to take additional snaps in 2011.

The six freshman defensive lineman that Notre Dame signed shouldn't be expected to jump in and be impact players for the Irish next season. In fact, several of these players could end up on the offensive side of the ball before fall camp breaks. What these players will provide is depth.

Brad Carrico (6-foot-5, 287-pounds) was the first commitment for in the 2011 recruiting class and it's fitting that he is one of the five prospects from the 2011 class to enroll early. He played on both sides of the ball in high school, so could be a candidate to switch to the offensive line, but he also has the motor and tenacity you look for in your defensive linemen. Depending on how he develops, Brad could play either defensive end or slide down to the nose tackle position.

Chase Hounshell isn't quite as big as Carrico at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, but brings the same amount of versatility to the team. He could play on either side of the football and was recruited as such. Notre Dame does like the way that he competes at defensive end, so he will get a long look there before he's shifted to another position.

Hounshell is versatile. He has a great motor, gives great effort and plays until the whistle. He's a very tough and aggressive kid. He gets off the ball very well, and he has tremendous instincts. Hounshell is a football player. He likes to compete and he's a hard-nosed kid that will give you everything that he has.

His senior season he had 36 tackles, five sacks, nine tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

Aaron Lynch is another one of the five early enrollees, and likely the player that is going to benefit the most by getting into a college weight program the most. Despite being a defensive lineman, Lynch is likely one of the freshman that should be able to work into the lineup at some point next season.

At 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Aaron is just starting to grow and develop. He won't have any trouble adding size and strength once in a college weight program. He is very quick for his size and gets off the ball with a burst. He is relentless in his pursuit of the football, but he plays under control. He is an outstanding athlete and will only get better as he progresses through the program. He's a big-time player that does have an opportunity to make an impact as a true freshman.

Aaron played in the U.S. Army All-American game. As a senior he registered 31 solo tackles and 10.5 sacks.

Troy Niklas is listed at defensive end, because that is the position that the Notre Dame coaching staff wanted to recruit him as initially, but he could play a number of positions, including tight end. He's just a big athletic player that like so many of the prospects in this recruiting class, bring a lot of flexibility. He played offensive guard and defensive end as at Servite High School (Anaheim, Calif.)

At 6-foot- 7, 240-pounds, Niklas is a big physical presence on the football field. He has very good feet and he is very mobile for his size. He has long arms which would make him an ideal candidate for offensive tackle. He also has the mobility and tenacity to make a very tough defensive end.

Tony Springmann (6-foot-6, 275-pounds) brings the same amount of size that Niklas has with a little more weight. Springmann played at Bishop Dwenger High School (Ft. Wayne, Ind.) the same high school that produced Notre Dame wide receiver John Goodman and tight end Tyler Eifert.

He's another prospect that gives the Notre Dame coaching staff a tremendous amount of flexibility. He was initially recruited to play offensive tackle, but as time moved on, the staff liked his potential at defensive end. He'll definitely get a look on the defensive side of the ball, but he would likely be a prime candidate to slide to the offensive side of the ball.

Stephon Tuitt (6-foot-5, 270-pounds) is just starting to grow into his body and learn the nuances of the game. He didn't start playing football until his freshman year in high school, and even then still considered himself a basketball player first.

He's another big physical prospect in this class. He's will likely end up settling in at the defensive end position currently held by Ethan Johnson. While Stephon looks to be physically ready to hit the field, don't be surprised to see him sit out his freshman season so that he can develop and learn what it will take to play at Division I football. Top Stories