Irish Emphasis: Part I

Irisheyes.com looks at the remaining needs of head coach Brian Kelly's third full recruiting class in this special three-part series that examines the team's Power, Skill, and Big Skill recruits, both for 2013 and beyond.

For the better part of two decades, Brian Kelly has categorized, recruited, and subsequently developed three profiles of recruits to the four college football programs under his purview:

Power, Skill, and Big Skill.

The first two categories are self-explanatory, the Power players are generally offensive and defensive linemen while the Skill players bring just that – a certain set of skills that identify each as a future college quarterback, wide receiver, running back, and defensive back (especially cornerbacks).

Big Skill, the category Kelly covets most, has been the hardest to secure, or perhaps nonessential to his first two seasons in re-stocking the program South Bend. That was scheduled to change for the 2013 cycle, but at first blush, a collection of Big Skill athletes might be put on hold for another recruiting season.

"That's what you'll start to see now, those Big Skill players that have the ability to play on either side of the ball," said Kelly at his 2012 signing day press conference. "We needed to take care of the needs within the program in this second recruiting class, and I think we all heard last year me talking about the ‘back end' and the Skill players, and we think we have done that.

"Next year's class will have that versatility element and it will be centered around that Big Skill."

Just two of Kelly's 12 current verbal pledges, tight end Mike Heuerman and 6'4" 220-pound DE/OLB/TE Jacob Matuska, fall under the Big Skill profile. Five others, each offensive linemen, are certain Power recruits, while the remainder: two wide receivers, two prospective defensive backs (in this case, both likely cornerbacks), and a quarterback are Skill profile players.

But in reality, of the two players noted above only Matuska is a Big Skill recruit – one that could play multiple positions over four or five seasons at the program. Heuerman, like 2011 freshman Ben Koyack before him, is a tight end through and through. A skill position player in a Big Skill body.

With nine, potentially *10 more scholarships available for the 2013 recruiting cycle, it's time to examine the program's needs at each of Kelly's three recruiting profiles.

We'll revisit the vexing Big Skill profile later in the series. Part One below examines the Power recruits. Who's on board, and what's needed to balance the classes – not just in 2013 but through the program as a whole.

Power Profile: OL

Both the 2012 and 2013 season will be largely unaffected by incoming offensive linemen, and the bulk of the Power recruiting profile at present resides along the offensive front. Each OL listed below was withheld from action as a true freshman:

2 OL Eligible through 2013: Zack Martin (OT) and Chris Watt (OG). Neither was recruited by Kelly, both are set to graduate in 2012. Both would, without question, be asked and welcomed back for a 5th season.

3 OL Eligible through 2014: Christian Lombard (OT), Tate Nichols (OT), and Bruce Heggie (OG/C).

5 OL Eligible through 2015: Jordan Prestwood (OT), Nick Martin (OG), Matt Hegarty (C), Brad Carrico (OG), Conor Hanratty (OG)

7 Incoming OL Eligible through 2016-17: Assuming red-shirt years for both incoming pledges Ronnie Stanley (OT) and Mark Harrell (C), plus the 2013 quintet of offensive line pledges: Steve Elmer (OT), Hunter Bivin (OT), Mike McGlinchey (OT), Colin McGovern (OT/OG), and John Montelus (OG).
Note: Positions are assumed: Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand rarely set official positions prior to pledge's arrival on campus.

In summation the Irish have 15 scholarship offensive linemen with eligibility through 2014 (in other words, Kelly's fifth year at the program). The 2013 recruiting cycle has completed half of its Power Profile needs as the offensive side of scrimmage is set. The defensive line, on the other hand…

Power Profile: DL

Still a potential strength in 2012, the program must continue to replenish its ranks along the defensive front or face a numbers crisis in 2013-14:

2 DL Eligible through 2013: Kona Schwenke and Tyler Stockton. Schwenke will be a true senior; Stockton hasn't played since mid-season 2010, was recruited by the prior regime, and is a highly unlikely 5th-year option thus not counted in our final tally below.

3 DL Eligible through 2014: Stephon Tuitt, Chase Hounshell, and Louis Nix. Nix will be a 5th-year option in 2014 who would be welcomed back as a multi-year starter/contributor.

1 DL Eligible through 2015: Tony Springmann would be a 5th-year player in 2015 after sitting out 2011 as a true freshman.

2 incoming DL eligible through 2016-17: Two 2012 freshmen in early enrollee Sheldon Day and yet-to-arrive Jarron Jones. One (likely Day) has to play this season after the transfer of sophomore starter Aaron Lynch. Jones might be able to red-shirt should the Irish remain in relative good health up front.

Not including Stockton, Notre Dame has just seven true defensive linemen on board for 2013. The aforementioned Matuska could project to the DL but certainly not in a varsity capacity for 2013 (and I question 2014 as well).

Power Profile Summation

Not including transfers (the absence of any transfers would be a first), but including potential fifth-year seniors and those likely to move on to the NFL (Tyler Eifert the prime example) *Notre Dame has nine, potentially 10 scholarship spots available at season's end. I'll break that down at the conclusion of this series, but for our purposes, its not more than 10 and not likely fewer than nine.

It is essential that the 2013 recruiting cycle concludes with a trio of defensive linemen in the class.

2013 OL Pledges: Five – Program needs have been completely met with buffer space available should the Irish fall short on their desired number of OL recruits in 2014.

2013 DL Pledges: Potentially Matuska – Program's needs not yet adequately addressed. Adding quality bodies up front remains critical to realize the depth coveted by Kelly along his defensive front.

If the incoming cycle does not include at least two more true defensive linemen, the 2014 cycle would therefore have to include 4-5 true defensive line recruits or the program would revert back to a recent, painful era when too few able bodies manned the most important position group on the field.

Note: Part II to be published later today will examine the Skill position recruiting profile for 2013 and beyond.


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