Notre Dame's annual roster attrition came to fruition ahead of schedule in 2012: one August transfer (Jordan Prestwood) and two medical scholarship alleviations (Brad Carrico and Cameron Roberson) opened the door for at least a 23-player recruiting class in 2013.
The addition of Arizona four-star cornerback Cole Luke last week officially brings the 2013 class total to 22 pledges. Considering two pressing needs and candidates elsewhere in play, what once seemed ludicrous now seems likely: Notre Dame could fill its allotment of 25 scholarships this cycle.
Another likely change to the current roster should come from an additional post-season transfer (there's been at least one every season for the last 30 years), allowing for a rare full recruiting haul.
But until then, the magic number of allowable remaining pledges is two, as at present, Irisheyes.com expects four returnees among nine potential fifth-year seniors for 2013.
(For a link to the team's scholarship chart and eligibility, Click here.)
Below is an updated look at the 2013 class's needs and likely additions:
Necessary Addition -- 1 True DLThe recent additions of Will Fuller and Torii Hunter, Jr., in congress with the apparent ascent of the 2012 freshmen trio of receivers Davonte' Neal, Chris Brown, and Justin Ferguson on the Irish roster effectively filled one of Notre Dame's four pressing needs entering the current cycle: WR.
Fuller is capable of switching sides of scrimmage and playing cornerback, but until noted otherwise, I've slotted him for a pass-catching role, despite the continuous need for talent at cornerback.
2013 Numbers: Including 4-star freshman Isaac Rochell, next year's defensive line unit will be comprised of eight scholarships, plus Cat 'backers Prince Shembo and Ishaq Williams. The former is capable as an every down defensive end; the latter more of situational end in passing situations. Also pending is the future position -- and frame -- of true freshman Dog linebacker Romeo Okwara, a player who could grow into a defensive end over the next three years.
Regardless, considering injury (Chase Hounshell) and uncertainty, more bodies are needed inside, and to be blunt, the next addition 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 but with eligibility remaining) will look to join the professional ranks.
One DL of quality is mandatory; two defensive linemen, however unlikely, would take this class from top tier to nearly perfect in terms of both need and future (2014-15) impact.
Another on the Perimeter?The Irish landed a gem last week in four-star Cole Luke, which means a potential final cornerback pledge ranks far behind a true defensive line commitment in terms of real world priority.
Current junior Bennett Jackson will graduate following the 2013 season while his classmate Lo Wood faces a difficult recovery from surgery on his Achilles in late August. Wood is now eligible through 2014 as a result.
Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco can find another viable prospect on the corner from their current and/or pending group of athlete/wide receivers. That type of gem is unlikely to be unearthed for the defensive front.
Adding a fourth cornerback to augment the pledges of Luke, Devin Butler and athlete Rashad Kinlaw is advisable considering the program's 2013-15 rosters, though the 2012 season's results have admittedly lessened the absolute need for that fourth cover man, as freshman Keivarae Russell has emerged as a promising starter.
Wood's injury, while painful for 2012, actually strengthened the 2014 secondary if he returns to form as a fifth-year player, two seasons removed from surgery.
Though a running back pledge remains on the radar, an important spot at the position was filled in late July when Texas bruiser Jamel James joined the fray.
Current ClassUsing the coaching staff's recruiting model, Notre Dame's current 22-player class breaks down as such:
Needs and Notes: The class has long been set along the offensive front, now it needs a true defensive line prospect to round out an impressive lot. It's highly unlikely Notre Dame will bring in two DL among its remaining pledges...but it wouldn't hurt. If not, 2014 will be defensive line-heavy in its focus.
Needs and Notes: QB recruiting is set while safety would be a luxury addition considering the eight scholarship players at the position on the 2013 roster. Another RB is not wholly necessary in 2013, but the absence of a second would make an influx of talent at the position critical for the following cycle.
If the Irish finish with a 24 or 25-man class, an elite cornerback prospect would be icing on the cake.
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 linebacker positions. (Smith could likely play all four.)
Likewise, another pure tight end need not be signed in 2013 with Heuerman in tow and Matuska capable of filling the in-line blocking role later in his career development.
O'Malley's Ideal Remaining Trio: Two true DL (even if one is a "project") and a top tier cornerback. More likely, however, is the addition of one DL, one CB, and one RB.
Notre Dame's 2012 success can be largely attributed to its defensive line. Continuing to stock talent at the position will be an annual focus -- that occasionally should include interior projects that can be developed into reliable backups in the latter stages of their careers.