Four remain, with wiggle room

Irisheyes.com updates its remaining numbers and targets for Notre Dame's 2013 recruiting class. Among the team's projected final four spots are two of great need and another that seems necessary when examining future rosters.

Click here for an in-depth explanation of how we arrived at 23 as a projected number for Notre Dame's 2013 recruiting class. (Note: The linked column was published when Notre Dame had 16 pledges. It now has 19, but the final tally of 23 remains unchanged.)

In summation, one of two predicted scenarios in the column linked above came to fruition to allow the Irish staff to bring in the projected 23 pledges. News broke Saturday that Notre Dame will receive scholarship relief in the form of a medical waiver to current redshirt freshman Brad Carrico, who can remain at the University on scholarship though his Irish career has ended. The likelihood of at least one medical scholarship allowance was included in our 23-pledge projection.

Another likely change to the current roster will come from transfer (there's been at least one every season for the last 30 years) or potentially another medical scholarship alleviation by season's end. Or both.

Expecting at least four 5th-year senior returnees (also reviewed in the link above), the magic number for remaining recruits, while fluid, is now four, equating to a 23-man class for the Irish in 2013.

Below is an updated look at the class's needs, expectations, and likely additions:

Necessary Additions -- 2 True DL and 1 CB

The addition of Will Fuller over the weekend fills one of the team's four remaining needs since we last published: wide receiver. Fuller is capable of switching sides of scrimmage and playing cornerback, but until noted otherwise, we've slotted him for a pass-catching role.

The 2012 Irish have nine defensive linemen; 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.

Regardless of the potential development of true juniors Bennett Jackson and Lo Wood this season, both will be gone after the 2013 season, as neither has a 5th-year option. Landing another cornerback is crucial as two of the team's current six scholarship cornerbacks are converted running backs (a sophomore and freshman) and its plausible one or both members of the pair will switch back to offense in the future.

Not completely necessary, 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 in anything other than a reliable backup role this year.

In fact, after the season-ending shoulder surgery for Austin Collinsworth, none of the remaining seven have accrued a tackle from scrimmage. Its not a deep position for the program (yet), its just one with numbers. 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 to the Irish secondary as early as 2014.

Kelly and his staff could likewise go for one more Big Skill athlete that could grow into a defensive end/edge rusher in the evolving Notre Dame defense. It wouldn't be surprising if one of Notre Dame's remaining pledges is a Big Skill recruit, one viewed as a project by fans but as an invaluable, versatile, and moveable piece by the coaching staff.

Luxury Part I: You Can't Coach Speed

At 5'7" 160, Khalfani Muhammed 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. Muhammed does. He'll be in Dublin to watch the Irish after his Sherman Oaks (Calif.) squad takes on Irish cornerback target Cole Luke, Hamilton High (Chandler, Ariz.) Friday night.

Luxury Part II: At a prospective 5th-year's Expense

Adding a fourth cornerback (they need a third, first) or fourth wide receiver after Fuller is advisable considering the program's 2013-15 rosters. A luxury running back spot was filled in late July when Texas bruiser Jamel James joined the fray.

Its possible the 2012 season's results will dictate if a fourth cornerback or fourth 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 Class

Using the coaching staff's recruiting model, Notre Dame's current 19-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, now it needs two true defensive line prospects with potential wiggle room for a third. One more hybrid OLB/DE pledge coupled with a true DL would also suffice at this stage. If Notre Dame fills 23 spots but just one more defensive lineman is included, look for a dose of roster maneuvering to make room for a second big man up front -- its one scenario in which a jump to a 24-man class exists.

It's highly unlikely Notre Dame will bring in three DL or potential DL among its remaining pledges...but it wouldn't hurt.

Skill (7): QB Malik Zaire, CB Rashad Kinlaw, CB Devin Butler, WR Corey Robinson, WR James Onwualu, , RB Jamel James, WR Will Fuller

Needs and Notes: With four-star wideout Fuller onboard, another CB becomes paramount, and Hamilton High (Chandler, Ariz.) prospect Cole Luke appears to be the top target at present.

QB recruiting is set while safety would be a luxury add considering the eight scholarship players at the position on the 2013 roster. Failing the addition of the aforementioned Muhammad, another RB is not necessary in 2013, not with the need for defensive line help essential. Muhammad's versatility in the team's RB/Slot role could prove invaluable if current freshman Keivarae Russell remains at cornerback.

Big Skill (6): TE/OLB/DE Jacob Matuska, TE Mike Heuerman, LB Jaylon Smith, LB Danny Mattingly, LB Michael Deeb, LB Alex Anzalone

Needs and Notes: Another true LB isn't needed in the class, but if a player of top quality becomes available, Notre Dame should 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 need not be signed in 2013 with Heuerman in tow and Matuska capable of filling the role later in his career development.

O'Malley's Ideal Remaining Four: Two true DL, one CB, one top tier Safety. In lieu of an elite safety, the final spot's profile expands to include not only a third DL prospect (even a project), but another perimeter athlete such as a second CB addition, a RB/Slot such as Muhammad, or a top tier perimeter receiver to round out the incoming trio of Onwualu, Robinson, and Fuller.

The target number of 23 remains until A.) a defensive line pledge joins the fray, allowing for further projections B.) a defection (medical, transfer, etc) occurs from the current roster, allowing for a bit more speculation, and C.) the season ends, and the likelihood for return by each 5th-year senior candidate, all described in the link at the top of this page, becomes clear.


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