The Notre Dame football program saw March go out like a lion with a pair of transfers, that on the heels of another prior to spring ball. Our third Big Board of 2014 reflects those changes in both overall scholarship number and position-specific recruitment.
The March 23 pledge of DeMarest (N.J.) defensive end Andrew Trumbetti
, coupled with the transfers of sophomores Gunner Kiel
, Davonte' Neal
, and Justin Ferguson
, as well as the medical scholarship alleviation provided by senior Tate Nichols' retirement elicited major change to our third "Big Board" for 2014.
There are a combined 23 seniors and 5th-year competitors on Notre Dame's 2013 roster. Subtract that total from the 83 present scholarships (including incoming freshmen for '13) and Brian Kelly's program has 60 scholarships taken for the 2014 season.
Beginning with that number (60), Irisheyes.com expects five of the seniors -- RT Christian Lombard, QB Andrew Hendrix, TE Alex Welch, CB Lo Wood, and S Austin Collinsworth -- to apply for and be granted a fifth season of eligibility. That would make the number of scholarships taken for the 2014 season, 65.
A fifth season of eligibility (and 66th scholarship) could be granted to senior ILB Kendall Moore. Moore has yet to earn a start or play meaningful snaps from scrimmage, but without him, the Irish defense will have but three returning inside linebackers next year (not including 2014 pledge Greer Martini).
Rather than presuming 66 scholarships, which makes for 19 open spots in the 2014 class, it makes more sense at an early stage to increase our original projection of 20 (as of first publication of the Big Board following National Signing Day), to 22, as additional attrition is likely.
Five of those 22 scholarships are already accounted for with the pledges of high school juniors Greer Martini, Justin Brent, Jay Hayes, Jimmy Byrne, and Andrew Trumbetti.
Irisheyes.com recruiting reporter and new staff writer Anna Hickey updates the team's top targets at each position below:
2014 By the Numbers
The scholarship distribution is broken down below, with the number in parenthesis denoting need, more so that projected pledges at each position.
Offensive Line (4): Four-star Cleveland (St. Ignatius) OT Jimmy Byrne pledged to Notre Dame on December 8, 2012.
O'Malley Expects: Three more to round out the need prior to kickoff 2013...
Hickey's Top Targets: K.C. McDermott, Alex Bars, Jovan Pruitt, Natrell Curtis, Jamarco Jones, Corey Martinez, Braden Smith, Sam Mustipher, Damien Mama
Defensive Line (4): Four-star Brooklyn (Poly Prep) OT/DE Jay Hayes announced his pledge to Notre Dame on November 7, 2012. Fellow four-star Andrew Trumbetti (Northern Valley Regional, DeMarest, N.J.) did the same on March 23, 2013.
O'Malley Expects: Two more, because 2013 junior Chase Hounshell faces a career crossroads after a third shoulder surgery in late March. Though the defensive line is a position unit in which the staff has enjoyed great success in terms of quality over last three cycles, bodies are -- and always will be -- needed up front.
Hickey's Top Targets: Josh Frazier, Anthony Moten, Enoch Smith Jr., Jayln Holmes, Thomas Holley, Malik McDowell
Inside linebacker (2/3): Three-star Woodberry Forest School (Woodberry, Va) star LB Greer Martini became the staff's first pledge back in July, 2012.
O'Malley Expects: One in addition to Martini prior to September. The third projected here will likely be pursued after the staff vets its roster for players that can successfully move inside, or pending a potential 5th-year for Kendall Moore in 2014.
Hickey's Top Targets: Nyles Morgan
Big Skill/Athletes (3): Possibilities include a Dog/Cat prospect, a second cornerback, a second tight end that could play LB, a second running back that could project to the defensive backfield, or a high school quarterback that projects elsewhere in college.
O'Malley Expects: At least three, because its a catch-all grouping as described above. Expect the bulk of those eventually slotted here to be evaluated at multiple positions. The 2013 position slotting of current outside backer prospects Romeo Okwara and incoming freshman Doug Randolph will also effect recruitment of Dog/Cat prospects.
Hickey's Top Targets: Dallis Todd, Tyler Luatua
Wide Receiver (3): Three-star Speedway, Indiana native (Speedway HS) Justin Brent pledged on July 9, 2012.
O'Malley Expects: One more top tier prospect, then two more pledges regardless if they started the cycle as prime Irish targets. (The latter is a direct result of the March 2013 transfers of Davonte' Neal and Justin Ferguson.) As of today, the Irish would open 2014 with seven receivers (including Brent); two more are mandatory.
Hickey's Top Targets: Michiah Quick, Malachi Dupre, Artavis Scott, Mark Andrews, Corey Holmes, Trevion Thompson
Outside Linebacker (1/2): Including freshman, five current Irish are eligible through 2014; four of those through 2015 or beyond. Pending the growth of Romeo Okwara (to defensive end), another outside 'backer prospect could become necessary.
O'Malley Expects: One Cat prospect early, then the waiting game.
Hickey's Top Targets: Andrew Williams, Melvin Keihn, Dillon Bates, Dante Booker
Cornerback (1): Notre Dame will likely return seven cornerbacks to its 2014 roster, with five from that group eligible through 2015 or beyond. Adding one in 2014, then two, potentially three more in 2015, would keep the position group healthy.
O'Malley Expects: One that can compete for a starting spot early (by 2015). With a projected 22 scholarships available though, adding a second cornerback wouldn't hurt.
Hickey's Top Targets: Jabrill Peppers, Adoree Jackson, Nick Watkins, Jalen Tabor
Tight End (1): Each of the five on scholarship are eligible through 2014; only three from that group will be around in 2015. One quality prospect is nearly mandatory to avoid a depth issue two years from now.
O'Malley Expects: One tight end with a penchant for the physical rather than (primarily) a downfield threat. Two should then be courted for 2015.
Hickey's Top Targets: Tyler Luatua, Jeb Blazevich, Dalton Schultz, Ian Bunting, Nic Weishar
Quarterback (1): As a direct result of Gunner Kiel's transfer, three of the team's current quartet are likely to return in 2014 (5th-year Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson, and Malik Zaire).
O'Malley Expects: One in every class from here to eternity. If the Irish take two in 2014, one projects to play elsewhere in college.
Hickey's Top Targets: Brandon Dawkins, Michael O'Connor (not offered)
Running Back (1/0): None are necessary in terms of overall numbers, but an elite player would obviously be welcomed by the staff, an opinion evident in their early approach to recruitment of the position. With six 'backs on the 2013 roster, none of which exhaust eligibility at season's end, relative depth is not an issue.
O'Malley Expects: One top tier pledge.
Hickey's Top Targets: Elijah Hood, Nathan Starks, Sony Michel, Joe Mixon, Donte Thomas-Williams
Safety (0/1): Each of the team's eight current safeties are eligible through 2014, with wide receiver C.J. Prosise capable of a move back if calamity strikes. Any safety pegged to join the Irish program will be of great potential or ultra-competitive in nature.
O'Malley Expects: Top talent will always be welcomed, but expect the Irish to take a pass on the position unless said prospect can move to outside 'backer or is versatile enough to play CB/WR.
Hickey's Top Targets: Kyle Gibson, Juju Smith, Quincy Wilson, Johnathan Lloyd
Punter (0): Notre Dame added preferred walk-on punter Andrew Antognoli post-Signing Day. Antognoli will likely receive a full season of evaluation prior to the staff pursues a potential punter prospect. Wake Forest transfer Alex Wulfeck will play his fifth and final season of college ball at Notre Dame as a preferred walk-on.
Kicker (0): Kyle Brindza is eligible through 2014. Notre Dame added preferred walk-on kicker John Chereson after Signing Day.
Long-Snapper (0): Scott Daly has four seasons of eligibility remaining
Click here to link to the 2013 Irish roster and eligibility chart, broken down by scholarships allotted to both sides of scrimmage and special teams.
Click here for a look at current scholarship offers and targets for 2014 per FOX Sports NEXT.