Roster Round-up: CB and ILB

We continue our look at the 2013 roster with a review of Notre Dame's cornerbacks and inside linebackers, positions that flipped in terms of ecruiting importance over the last calendar year.

Click the links below for the first three articles in our 2013 roster series:

Part I: 2013 Offense and 2014 Needs

Part II: 2013 D-Line and Cats plus potential additions

Part III: 2013 Dog linebackers, safeties, and future needs at both spots

2013 Cornerbacks (9)

Seniors Bennett Jackson (1) and Lo Wood (2), juniors Josh Atkinson (2) and Jalen Brown (3), sophomores Keivarae Russell and Elijah Shumate (3), incoming freshmen Cole Luke, Devin Butler, and Rashad Kinlaw (4/5).

Chance of Defection: With seven of the eight above eligible to return for 2014 and six of those for 2015, its safe to assume one from above won't be on the roster to begin the 2014 season.

Irisheyes.com believes Shumate will move to safety, his natural position, but that's speculative.

Strength at Present: Depth has been restored and the unit enjoyed exceptional results during the 2013 regular season, due in part to its own improvement, in part to the pass rush provided by the team's front four, and, to be blunt, by a scheme that protected them with constant safety help along the back line.

The the corners were torched in the BCS Championship game loss -- and tackled poorly to boot -- they were hardly the chief culprits in the defense's collapse. Consider the unit solid with ample room for improvement in 2013 and by no means a team weakness as it was perceived at this point last January.

Need for addition to 2013 class: None with a trio already on board and wide receiver Will Fuller capable of filling the role, as could RB prospect Tarean Folston. Junior running back Cam McDaniel can flip sides of scrimmage in a pinch as well.

Need for addition in 2014 class: Notre Dame had just four scholarship cornerbacks last July. With the successful conversion of Russell from running back and influx of new talent, the position is well-stocked through 2014. Reinforcements, two per class, should be brought in with each cycle as the position has a history of attrition, with recent examples E.J. Banks (2009), Spencer Boyd (2010), and Tee Shepard (2012) contributing to last summer's dearth of viable bodies.

Observations

If senior Lo Wood returns from a torn Achillles suffered last August, and Shumate remains with the unit, the 2013 Irish cornerbacks will have an experienced two-deep at both the field and boundary positions for the first time in the Kelly era.

Spring 2013 sets up as a major proving ground for both Atkinson and Brown -- both already passed by the younger Russell with the athletic, powerful Shumate also threatening their spots. Incoming freshman Cole Luke could challenge for a backup role early in 2013 while Kinlaw and Butler appear to be ideal projects for 2014.

Mike and Will 'Backers (5)

5th-year seniors Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese, senior Kendall Moore (2), junior Jarrett Grace (3), incoming freshman Michael Deeb (4/5).

Chance of Defection: it is to be hoped none. Showing up results with a spot on the team's two-deep roster.

Strength at Present: To be determined, but I can promise this: the position won't be as productive -- on the field or on the post-season awards circuit -- as it was in 2012. The loss of Manti Te'o cannot be measured in the off-season. His expected replacement Grace is highly thought of throughout the organization, with Te'o noting last fall: "I try every day to compete as much as Jarrett Grace."

Its all rhetoric until the bullets go live on a college football Saturday.

Fox and Calabrese will return for a third season as a starting tandem; Calabrese started for eight games in 2010 as well.

Moore was beaten out by Grace last fall but was formerly a player of intrigue on Irish message boards.

Need for addition to 2013 class: Not paramount, necessarily, but the loss of one-time pledge Alex Anzalone to Florida clouds the position's future. Bringing in a talented inside 'backer prospect -- assuming its in tow with an interior defensive linemen -- would be a good way to finish the class.

Incoming 5-star Jaylon Smith could be evaluated inside in the wake of Anzalone's defection south.

Need for addition in 2014 class: One already on board in Greer Martini. Another should be added if the 2013 class closes as is. Notre Dame will lose Calabrese, Fox, and potentially Moore after 2013, with another senior 'backer, Danny Spond, also exhausting his eligibility. Three inside 'backer prospects wouldn't hurt in 2014; two are a necessity, with another pair likely needed for the 2015 cycle.

Observations

A dearth of scholarship bodies suddenly exists at inside linebacker. Veteran players capable of moving inside on the current roster include Spond, pass-rusher/ST player Justin Utupo, a former inside 'backer whose 2012 backup scrimmage reps often occurred as a situational pass-rusher. He could again practice with the inside 'backers for the sake of practice reps. Tight end Troy Niklas would be an interesting project though he's likely settled in at tight end.

Both Smith and fellow freshman Doug Randolph could be asked to fill roles inside, though Randolph appears better suited for a Cat role. (Smith could play anywhere).

The team technically only needs a two-deep with a fifth available in case of injury. Anzalone's defection is one of note for the position's future as bodies -- and talented ones, at that -- are necessary for the next two recruiting cycles.

Note: Later today -- Notre Dame's 2013 roster by the numbers -- recruiting targets included.


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