One Step Ahead

A quartet of 2014 pledges has Brian Kelly's recruiting machine off to another quick start, with the real-world national championship (January 7 vs. Alabama) and the mythical 2013 recruiting crown (February 6) pending.

Notre Dame's 2012 recruiting haul climbed (back) to 22-strong Sunday with the verbal pledge of four-star running back and Delray Beach, FL prospect, Greg Bryant (American Heritage, HS). Included among those 22 are a quartet of wide receivers and linebackers and a quintet of offensive linemen.

Notable in that position breakdown are four additional pledges joining each:

- LB Greer Martini, 6'4" 215, Woodberry Forest, Va, (Woodberry Forest School)
- WR Justin Brent 6'3" 195, Speedway, IN (Speedway Senior HS)
- OL Jay Hayes 6'5" 272, Brooklyn, NY (Poly Prep CDS)
- OL Jimmy Byrne, 6'4" 285 Cleveland, (St. Ignatius, HS)

While it appears the Irish will sign a 24-25 player class for 2012, it remains likely 20-plus will join for the 2014 cycle, as consecutive hauls of both quality and quantity are necessary after last year's already impactful but sparse16-player group hit South Bend.

Below is a look at where Martini, Brent, Hayes, and Byrne will fit in the class pecking order when they hit campus in 2014, and a numbers breakdown at their positions.

2014 Offensive Linemen

Hayes and Byrne will hit campus after assumed 5th-year seniors Zack Martin and Chris Watt exhaust their eligibility next season.

- RT Christian Lombard, 6'5" 309 (eligible through 2014)
- C/G Bruce Heggie, 6'5" 285 (eligible through 2014)
- RT Tate Nichols, 6'8" 320 (eligible through 2014)

- G Connor Hanratty, 6'5" 305 (eligible through 2015)
- G/T Nick Martin, 6'4" 290 (eligible through 2015)
- C Matt Hegarty, 6'5" 296 (eligible through 2015)

- OT Ronnie Stanley, 6'6" 304 (eligible through 2015, pending 2016) - C Mark Harrell, 6'4" 287 (eligible through 2016)

Incoming 2013 freshmen: At least two, if not three incoming freshman will likely join the varsity for practice/travel in 2013; one might forced into action.

- Steve Elmer, 6'6" 297, Midland, MI, (Midland, HS)
- Colin McGovern, 6'7" 292, New Lenox, IL (Lincoln-Way West HS)
- Hunter Bivin, 6'7" 287, Owensboro, KY, (Apollo HS)
- Mike McGlinchey, 6'7" 265, Philadelphia, (William Penn Charter School)
- John Monteleus, 6'5" 295, Everett, MA, (Everett HS)

Notes: Nichols's career is in doubt (recurring knee injury) while Hegarty's undisclosed injury also clouds his future. A modicum of information on both is expected regarding their status before the Irish depart for Miami, though due to privacy laws, its likely Kelly will be unable to speak fully on their situations. Regardless, injuries and transfer continue to take a toll on scrimmage for the rebuilt Irish.

2011 freshmen Jordan Prestwood (transfer) and Brad Carrico (medical scholarship) were removed from the equation in-season. Verbal pledge Taylor Decker (Ohio State) was also expected to join the program as of one year ago today. It's thus clear that another five-pledge class for 2014 should be expected, with Hayes and Byrne already in tow. Combined with five incoming freshmen for '13, another quintet in the '14 cycle would likely give the program 14 scholarship linemen (non-freshmen) for the 2015 season.

2014 Wide Receivers

Current juniors T.J. Jones and Daniel Smith will graduate following the 2013 season, leaving the roster with either eight or nine receivers in addition to Brent.

- Redshirt-freshman DaVaris Daniels, 6'2" 190 (eligible through 2015)
- Freshman Chris Brown, 6'2: 172 (eligible through 2015)
- Freshman Justin Ferguson, 6'2" 196 (eligible through 2015)
- Freshman Davonte' Neal, 5'9" 171 pounds (eligible through 2015)

2013 incoming freshmen: Onwualu and Fuller are capable of playing on both sides of scrimmage/multiple positions. Robinson could grow into a detached tight end, but few would speculate to that end if his father wasn't 7'1" (Hall of Famer David Robinson).

- Torii Hunter, Jr., 6'0" 160, Prosper, TX(Prosper HS)
- Will Fuller, 6'1" 170, Philadelphia (Roman Catholic HS)
- Corey Robinson, 6'4" 195, San Antonio (San Antonio Christian Schools)
- James Onwualu, 6'1" 202, St. Paul, MN, (Cretin Derham Hall)

Notes: Current junior and converted quarterback Luke Massa (6'4" 220) is eligible to apply for a 5th-season in 2014. Massa tore his ACL in April 2012 but saw the field in the home finale this fall and dressed as the backup holder throughout the season.

None of the players above have caught a touchdown pass and just one has started a game (Daniels). In other words, the future of Notre Dame's perimeter will begin to take shape in 2013 and be in full swing by the time Brent hits campus in 2014.

One more receiver pledge will be necessary for the class of '14 with a third not unlikely. I'd prefer to see two in 2014 with three in 2015 to stagger the position's pecking order, but consider five the total target number between the 2014-15 classes.

2014 Linebackers

Current seniors Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox are both expected to return for a 5th-season in 2013 and current juniors Danny Spond and Prince Shembo will exhaust their eligibility along with that pair. Martini will hit campus with ample talent in place ahead of him, though five of the projected 9-10 listed will exhaust eligibility by the start of Martini's third season.

- Sophomore Ishaq Williams, 6'5" 255 (eligible through 2014)

- Redshirt-freshman Jarrett Grace, 6'3" 240 (eligible through 2015)
- Redshirt-freshman Ben Councell, 6'5" 240 (eligible through 2015)
- Redshirt-freshman Anthony Rabasa, 6'3" 240 (eligible through 2015)
- Freshman Romeo Okwara, 6'4" 239 (eligible through 2015)

2013 Incoming freshmen: With OLB/DE/TE prospect Danny Mattingly no longer part of the class, an opening exists for an additional "Big Skill" athlete/LB to join the fray among 2014 pledges.

- Alex Anzalone, 6'3" 220, Wyomissing, PA (Wyomissing Area JSHS)
- Jaylon Smith, 6'3" 225, Fort Wayne, IN (Bishop
- Michael Deeb, 6'2" 235, Plantation, FL (American Heritage School)
- Doug Randolph, 6'3" 214, Woodberry Forest, VA (Woodberry Forest School)

Notes: Current juniors Justin Utupo and Kendall Moore are eligible through the 2014 season. Both have been coverage and/or return unit mainstays over the last two years. As of December, Moore ranks behind current redshirt-freshman Jarrett Grace in competition to replace Manti Te'o next spring. ("Replace" might have been the wrong word choice.)

Martini will join a 2014 linebacking corps that is ideally tiered, both for the present and future, with just Williams concluding his eligibility, and eight non-freshmen competing for roles (not including the potential return of Moore as a 5th-year should he break through in 2013).

Because the 2012 class included just one linebacker, Romeo Okwara (and he could grow into a defensive end), its likely Martini will be joined by two more pledges at his position, giving the program seven in a two-year cycle (eight over three years including Okwara). A trio of 2014 'backers would allow the Irish to bring in either two or three again in 2015.


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