Defensive line has been a position that the Irish have struggled recruiting in the recent past. The Irish would be listed high on the preference list of one or two of the top prospects in the country but always seemed to finish second to another school. That trend appears to be changing with the signing of Trevor Laws, Victor Abiamiri and Dwight Stephenson last year and Derek Landri, Travis Leitko, Dan Santucci and Chris Frome the previous year. The really good news is that the Irish are listed high on a number of top targets this year as well.
Playing great defense wins championships and quality defensive linemen can dominate a game. I can't remember the last time Notre Dame had this many quality defensive linemen interested in the Irish. The Irish do have a need for top-quality interior linemen and they certainly could use a few more guys who can rush the passer. The Irish have plenty of prospects to recruit this year that seem interested in Notre Dame.
Check out this list. The Irish have a legitimate shot at Franklin Okam, Demario Pressley, Nader Abdallah, Darryl Richard, David Brown, Dwayne Hendricks,Justin Britt, Jeff Schweiger, Thomas Herring, Zach Miller and Phillip Mbakagu. Every player lists Notre Dame in their top five and some higher. There are others they are recruiting and more names should pop up in the future but this list is impressive.
Franklin Okam has been said to be the top prospect in Texas. He is 6-5, 300 pounds and has over 25 offers from the top programs in the country. Notre Dame has been mentioned in his top five and has been offered a scholarship by Notre Dame. "Right now I am open. I like Stanford, Notre Dame, A&M, Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Florida and Colorado. I want to take all my visits and find a place where I feel comfortable. I am looking for a school with good tradition and I would like the opportunity to play early." Can the Irish get him to visit?
North Carolina prospect Demario Pressley wanted to attend Notre Dame football camp but couldn't make the trip. The 6-4, 290-pound prospect recorded 97 tackles and 14 sacks last year—impressive stats. He also has around 30 offers from most of the top schools in the country. He remains very interested in Notre Dame and says the Irish will be one of his official visits. "I like their tradition," said Pressley of Notre Dame. "They are real popular. I have heard a lot about their school and I like what I hear about them." We likely won't know how interested Pressley is in Notre Dame until he visits.
Nader Abdallah has already visited Notre Dame. The Metairie, LA prospect attended Notre Dame camp in June and enjoyed the experience. "The camp was great," said Abdallah. "It was very organized and it's a great place to be. The campus was beautiful and the coaches were very nice to me. I think I connected very well with Coach Mattison who would coach me if I went to Notre Dame and I connected well with Coach Preston who is recruiting me and Coach Willingham is just a great guy." The Irish haven't officially offered him yet but expect that to come soon. I also expect him to visit Notre Dame if they do offer.
Another Louisiana prospect interested in Notre Dame is Darryl Richard. The 6-4, 285-pound prospect is an outstanding student (4.63 g.p.a. 29 ACT) and player. Richard has expressed a lot of interest in Notre Dame. "That is one offer I'm really waiting for. I spoke to Buzz Preston and I really liked what he had to say. I sure hope they offer."
Richard says he is impressed with what a Notre Dame degree would mean for him. "I'm extremely interested in Notre Dame. The respect people have for a Notre Dame degree is what I like most about it. Also, I like the history of their program. They have great tradition there." Expect the Irish to recruit Richard heavily and the Irish should be in the race until the end.
Alabama prospect David Brown also recently visited Notre Dame. The 6-3, 265-pound prospect recorded 85 tackles and 8 sacks last year and sports a 3.9 g.p.a. and a 23 on ACT. He has 11 offers from top teams like Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU and South Carolina and the Irish could offer very soon. "It was very impressive," said Brown of his visit. "I really enjoyed talking with the coaches. We walked through campus, the weight room and I really enjoyed meeting with the Admissions director. It was a really great day. My Mom and Dad went with me and we had a great conversation with Coach Willingham. It was more about life than just football. We talked about his three number ones. Be the best in academics, the best in athletics and the best person you can be as far as religion and how you treat people. It was really and impressive conversation." Brown is another top prospect who could receive an offer very soon.
Another Alabama prospect the Irish appear interested in is Justin Britt. Britt has an impressive list of offers including, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Florida and Georgia. The Irish haven't offered yet but Britt remains interested in Notre Dame. "I missed a bunch of calls and the call from Notre Dame. I would say my interest in them right now would be medium. I grew up liking Notre Dame but I want to meet the coaches and get to know them first and they haven't offered me yet. I plan to go to a game there this year and might take an official visit there." Britt seems to be interested in Notre Dame. The only question is how interested are the Irish in him?
At defensive end, the Irish also have some top prospects interested. One of the top targets is Jeff Schweiger. The San Jose, CA prospect is 6-4, 245 pounds and recently ran a 4.56 at Nike Camp. Schweiger recorded 138 tackles and 13 sacks last year playing outside linebacker but will play defensive end in college. He has offers from most of the top programs in the country including one from the Irish. Notre Dame has consistently been in his top five and he has said he will visit Notre Dame. . "I like their history," said Schweiger of Notre Dame. "I've watched Rudy so many times. I wanted to go there after watching that movie. The name Notre Dame sticks out. They are on TV all the time and they have history." Many feel that USC will be the team to beat for Schweiger.
New Jersey prospect Dwayne Hendricks has already visited Notre Dame. He attended camp in June and has over 25 offers so far including one from Notre Dame. The 6-4, 250-pound prospect recently ran a 4.8 at Nike camp and recorded 10 sacks for Millville high school in Millville, NJ. Hendricks liked his visit to Notre Dame and the Irish should receive an official visit from him this year. "It was just like you see it on TV," said Hendricks of Notre Dame campus. "It's a beautiful place. They have a very good staff there. They are very smart guys and I liked talking to them. I plan to take all my visits before I decide. I haven't begun to narrow down my list yet. I have 27 offers to look at but if I did, Notre Dame would be one of my top schools." Hendricks won't decide any time soon so the Irish have ample time to impress him.
Phillip Mbakagu is a top prospect from Hayward, CA. The 6-4, 250-pound prospect registered 17 sacks last year and he seems very interested in Notre Dame. "I have a lot of interest," said Mbakagu. "They are a very good program. Their coaching staff is impressive. I hope to be able to get out there and meet some of the players and see how I fit in there. I talked to Coach Willingham. We talked about the academics and what a degree from Notre Dame would mean to me. We talked about football and their program and what he hopes to accomplish at Notre Dame. He seemed like a real good guy and he knows what he is talking about." Mbakagu is widely considered one of the top defensive end prospects on the west coast. Can the Irish get him to visit?
Another top defensive end target is Thomas Herring. The 6-6, 290-pound prospect wants to play defensive end in college but has the size to play inside or along the offensive line. Herring has over 15 offers including most of the Pac 10 and one from Notre Dame. The Los Angeles, CA prospect lists the Irish as one of his top schools and has said he wants to visit Notre Dame. "Oh yes, they are one of my top schools," said Herring of the Irish. I've always liked them. I have been to Indiana and it was nice. It's cold but I liked it. I grew up watching Notre Dame. Mark Bradford was recruited by them last year and my coach said that their coach is a great guy. He said the he was the sharpest guy he has ever met." Herring has some impressive offers and has no problem leaving the state. The Irish aren't considered his leader but he won't be deciding any time soon so they have a chance to impress him.
Another top prosect is Zach Miller. Miller is 6-5, 240 pounds and plays both tight end and defensive end for Desert Vista high school in Phoenix, AZ. Miller has been offered by Notre Dame and has shown interest in Notre Dame. Miller is said to want to play tight end in college and the Irish already have more than enough tight ends on scholarship. The Irish are recruiting him as a defensive prospect. This could take the Irish out of the mix.
Defensive line recruiting appears to be in great shape early in the season. If the Irish can land 3 of these top players, they will be in excellent shape at defensive line in the future. More names could surface but these targets appear to be at the top of their list.