The lack of recent punch at the position necessitated not only numbers, but the addition of potential impact players at the position for 2013. To date, it's mission accomplished, thanks to the pledge of potential star Jaylon Smith, a versatile, heavily pursued athlete in Danny Mattingly, and most recent, true middle linebacker prospect Michael Deeb.
Add to that the continued courtship of 4-star Ohio State de-commit Alex Analzone and the reopened recruitment of 5-star Isaac Savaiinaea (a former Stanford pledge), and Notre Dame is swinging for the fences in its linebacker pursuit for 2013.
The Final PushOne more linebacker, whether it be Anzalone, Savaiinaea, or another, would round out the class nicely. The aforementioned pair would be ideal. With that, we take an updated look at Notre Dame's seven likely remaining spots for 2013.
Absolute Musts -- 2 True DL, 1 CB, 1 WR: The 2012 Irish have nine defensive linemen and next year's squad, at present, shows eight, including incoming 4-star freshman Isaac Rochell. More bodies are needed, and to be blunt, each should be able to push for a starting role by 2014 when there's a solid chance the likes of Stephon Tuitt (a year ahead of schedule) and Louis Nix (at graduation) will look to join the professional ranks. Two defensive linemen of quality would take this class from very good to nearly perfect in terms of need and future (2014-15) impact.
As for the CB and WR necessities? Name the best player at each position on the current roster, then list his collegiate accomplishments…and now you see the needs.
Seems Fitting -- 2 more LB: Nothing would make the staff or fans happier than landing two of quality (Anzalone, Savaiinaea) or one of the pair plus a Big Skill athlete that could grow into a defensive end/edge rusher in the evolving Notre Dame scheme.
Not needed in terms of numbers, but… Notre Dame might have eight scholarship safeties on its roster for 2013, but none of that group has started a college contest. In fact, none have accrued five total tackles from scrimmage. Its not a deep position for the program (yet), its just one of number. Depth will be proven over the next two seasons, but in the interim, a top tier safety prospect would be of huge value to the class and Irish secondary as early as 2014.
You Can't Coach Speed: At 5'7" 160, Khalfani Muhammad could be the program's next Joe Howard…or Mike Miller…or Emmett Mosley, or Rusty Setzer, or Clint Johnson, or Cikai Champion. You get the point: there's a reason sub-5'9" or sub 180-pound, perimeter-focused high school scat backs have offered the Irish program a mixed bag of results in recent decades. But the modern game and spread offenses have reaffirmed the old adage: "Speed Kills" and at an elite, national level, Notre Dame probably doesn't have enough of it. Muhammad does.
Luxury Items: Adding a fourth cornerback or fourth wide receiver, or even a true running back (by that I mean one not likely to play another position) is advisable considering the program's 2013-15 rosters. Still, the staff has the luxury of at least four, if not five running backs in tow through 2014. Its thus possible the 2012 season's results dictate if a fourth cornerback or wide receiver is added to the final tally, as untested players are sure to emerge and conversely disappoint when the bullets go live next fall.
Current CropUsing the coaching staff's recruiting model, Notre Dame's current 16-player class breaks down as such:
Power (6): OL Steven Elmer, OL Hunter Bivin, OL Mike McGlinchey, OL Colin McGovern, OL John Montelus, DL Isaac Rochell ?
Needs and Notes: The class has long been set along the offensive front with two true defensive line prospects necessary and room for a third, though two more LB pledges could make two the magic number for remaining DL.
Skill (5): QB Malik Zaire, CB Rashad Kinlaw, CB Devin Butler, WR Corey Robinson, WR James Onwualu
Needs and Notes:Another CB takes precedent over another WR, though landing both would be ideal. Two cornerbacks, especially those that fit the staff's profile of taller, rangy athletes, would be a major coup. QB recruiting is set while safety would be a luxury add with eight scholarship players at the position on the 2013 roster. Ditto for RB: either a top tier prospect that can push for major playing time as a sophomore. Failing that, RB is not necessary in 2013 but then becomes mandatory in 2014.
Big Skill (5): TE/OLB/DE Jacob Matuska, TE Mike Heuerman, LB Jaylon Smith, LB Danny Mattingly, LB Michael Deeb
Needs and Notes: One more linebacker is crucial with two a luxury. Former Ohio State commit Alex Analzone will make his intentions known Saturday, July 7 with the Irish in good position to land the 4-star LB prospect despite a recent visit to Penn State. Another true tight end need not be signed in 2013 as Matuska can fill the role later in his career development if necessary.
Irisheyes.com's Ideal Remaining Seven: Two true DL, two LB, one CB, one WR, one top tier Safety. In lieu of an elite safety, a final spot's profile expands to include not only a third DL prospect (even a project), but another perimeter athlete (CB, slot/RB, perimeter receiver). With Stanford pledge Isaac Savaiinaea back on the market, two linebackers would be a major coup to finish the class's allotment.