Just as one spring weekend in 2012 helped secure Notre Dame's future up front, summer 2012 helped build the next generation of the Irish defense. What remains hereafter are an estimated six spots with a few musts and one or two luxury recruits that could cement the program's 2013 recruiting class among the nation's best.
Absolute Musts -- 2 True DL, 1 CB, 1 WRThe 2012 Irish have nine defensive linemen while next year's squad shows just eight, including incoming 4-star freshman Isaac Rochell. More bodies are needed, and to be blunt, each should be able to push for a regular role in the rotation 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. Both the staff and fan base would likely settle for top target Jordan Sherit and a player to be named later.
As for the CB and WR needs? Name Notre Dame's best player at each position on the current roster, then list his collegiate accomplishments…and now you see the necessity of more talent and playmaking skill on both scrimmage perimeters.
Seems Fitting -- 1 more LB/Big SkillKelly and his staff likely hope for one more Big Skill athlete that could grow into a defensive end/edge rusher in the evolving Notre Dame defense. As well, if Stanford pledge Isaac Savaiinaea remains open, he'd be the cherry on top of a fantastic linebacker haul. (Savaiinaea isn't in the hybrid mold, but is a top level talent.)
It wouldn't be surprising if one of Notre Dame's remaining pledges is a Big Skill recruit viewed as a project by fans but as an invaluable, versatile, and moveable piece by the coaching staff.
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 and none is likely to distinguish himself other than a reliable backup role this year.
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.
Luxury Part I: You Can't Coach SpeedAt 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: At a prospective 5th-year's ExpenseAdding 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 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 next January/National Signing Day, as untested players are sure to emerge and conversely disappoint when the bullets go live next fall.
Current ClassUsing the coaching staff's recruiting model, Notre Dame's current 17-player class breaks down as such:
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. One more hybrid OLB/DE pledge coupled with a true DL would suffice at this stage.
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: a top tier prospect that can push for major playing time as a sophomore would complete the class. Failing that, RB is not necessary in 2013 but then becomes mandatory in 2014.
Needs and Notes: Another true LB isn't needed in the class, but if a player of top quality is available, Notre Dame could welcome him aboard, as Mattingly has the frame to move to defensive end and both Smith and Anzalone could play at least two (if not three or four, in Smith's case) linebacker positions. Likewise, another pure tight end (in the Heuerman mold) need not be signed in 2013 with one on board and Matuska capable of filling the role later in his career development.
Irisheyes.com's Ideal Remaining Six: Two true DL, one CB, one WR, one top tier Safety, one versatile LB/DE prospect (or Savaiinaea). 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, RB/Slot, perimeter receiver).