Irish Report Card: 2012 Defense

The 2012 Notre Dame recruiting class is in the books. We've already handed out our grades for the offensive side of the ball. Now we grade the players on defense.

Click here for Part I and our grades for Notre Dame's 2012 recruiting effort on offense.

How did Brian Kelly and his staff do in adding more depth to the Irish defense? Here are my grades.

Defensive Line

Sheldon Day / Indianapolis (IN) Warren Central HS - #6 Ranked DT | Romeo Okwara / Charlotte (NC) Ardrey Kelly HS - #65 Ranked DE | Jarron Jones / Rochester (NY) Aquinas Institute - #28 Ranked OT

There is no mistaking the ability Day has shown during his high school career as a high motor and extremely quick defensive lineman. Already enrolled in classes at ND will allow Day a chance to hit the weight room and take part in spring practices. This makes him a player capable of taking the field in an expanded role next fall.

Okwara is young and listed by the Irish staff as a linebacker. However, with his frame and athletic ability the North Carolina native has all the makings of becoming a major rush end at some point during his career. We'll list him here now as we feel he can easily add 20-30 pounds to his frame if not more in the coming years. Keep in mind he's only 16 years old.

Jones was ranked by Scout.com as a defensive lineman early in the process before a ranking position change to offensive tackle. The Irish will give a first look on defense and if he is able to meet the demands of the position he'll stick. However, right now we feel his greatest advantage could be on the offensive side of the ball.

If all three stick to the defensive line the Irish did a solid job of getting players who can make an impact. Day may be ranked the top guy now, but keep an eye on the progress of Okwara who has a very bright future.

This group is a great haul for Kelly and Co. and deserving of a grade of a solid A.

Linebackers

Nick Baratti / Spring (TX) Klein Oak HS - #17 Ranked MLB

If there is a question in the class it's at linebacker as the Irish might have dodged a bullet with Manti Te'o staying for another season. When Kelly announced the class Baratti was listed as a defensive back. However, he has the physical size to be a middle linebacker and excel.

Also keep in mind Okwara is listed as a linebacker and has the physical build the Irish have been looking for at the position. However, it will be interesting to see if the Irish strength staff will keep Okwara at his current weight or bulk him up. If he can stay at current weight, he's got the ability to excel in the dog position.

Make no mistake it looks as if the Irish took a chance here that could come back and haunt them during the 2013 season. The next recruiting cycle will see a heavy need for backers.

Because of the questions and possible future of both Baratti and Okwara playing other positions we have to give a grade of C- here. If neither play linebacker then the grade would be an F. Final Grade C-

hDefensive Backs

Tee Shepard / Fresno (CA) Central HS - #3 Ranked CB | C.J. Prosise / Woodberry Forest (VA) HS - #21 Ranked S | John Turner / Indianapolis (IN) Cathedral HS - #48 Ranked S | Elijah Shumate / Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco Prep - #4 Ranked S

With Shepard an early enrollee, Irish fans will be expecting a lot out of the California native. Is it asking too much for Shepard to be a starter when the Irish take on Navy in the season opener? Yes… because we are talking about a kid making a major transition from taking a year off from the game to elite college competition.

Make no mistake Shepard has all the tools to be a great player and we do expect him to play a role come fall. But to feel he'll be the starter out of the game might be a push.

Prosise is a player capable of playing on both sides of the ball. He great physical size and athletic ability will help him push for early reps and special teams may be where that time comes from.

Turner is a player much like Baratti who could see his future come at linebacker. In games watched we found a player who struggled in being a high level corner. He has the skills to be a safety but might be better suited for a move into the middle of the defense.

Shumate has star quality written all over him as a physically dominate safety willing to knock the snot out of receivers and tight ends.

If the Irish can get two guys from this group to become starters it will be a very solid group. However, if only one makes major contributions fans will be looking back at the players who signed elsewhere the Irish went after.

Our grade is going to be based on two from of the group having major impacts during their career. So we'll give this group a solid B.


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