The Big Board: D-Line and DBs

Our third update to "The Big Board" this week focuses on Notre Dame's targets along the defensive line and in the defensive backfield.

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) or 2013 and Brian Kelly's program has 60 scholarships taken for the 2014 season.

Beginning with that number (60), Irisheyes.com expects at least five current seniors -- S Austin Collinsworth,QB Andrew Hendrix, RT Christian Lombard, TE Alex Welch, and CB Lo Wood -- to apply for and be granted a fifth season of eligibility. That would make the number of scholarships taken for the 2014 season, 65.

Rather than presuming 65 scholarships, which makes for 20 open spots in the 2014 class, it makes more sense at an early stage to account for attrition over the next 10 months. Consider 22 pledges for the 2014 class as the working total.

Six of those 22 scholarships are already accounted for with Monday's pledge by OL Sam Mustipher and his fellow 2014 class members Greer Martini, Justin Brent, Jay Hayes, Jimmy Byrne, and Andrew Trumbetti.

In this, the third of of four Big Board updates this week, Irisheyes.com recruiting reporter Anna Hickey highlights Notre Dame's top targets while O'Malley handles the needs and numbers game for each position group:

Note: Click here for Part I of the Big Board and a look at the programs needs at offensive line and quarterback.

And click here for Part II and our review of the needs and targets at both wide receiver and running back.

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, in part 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 pledges over last three cycles, bodies are -- and always will be -- needed up front.

Though eligible for a fifth season in 2014, barring injury, senior nose guard Louis Nix will move onto the NFL at season's end. True junior Stephon Tuitt is talented enough to do the same. With senior backup Kona Schwenke exhausting his eligibility, that means three of the team's top six defensive linemen for 2013 could be gone by the time the 2014 class hits campus.

Hickey's Top D-Line Targets

-- DT Natrell Curtis (Phoenix, Arizona): Can play on the offensive line as well, but Notre Dame is recruiting him at nose guard
Decision timeline: Not set, but not expected to be soon
Schools to watch: UCLA (team to beat), California, Arizona, Arizona State, Nebraska

-- DT Josh Frazier (Springdale, Arizona): Was expected to release his top five this month but decided to hold off
Decision timeline: Not set, expect it to be before senior year or early in his season
Schools to watch: Alabama, Arkansas (team to beat), Texas A&M, USC

-- DE Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, New York): Staying open right now, but plans on taking numerous unofficial visits this summer
Decision timeline: Sometime during his senior year

-- DE Malik McDowell (Detroit, Michigan): Favoring Michigan
Decision timeline: Not set, but planning on taking more visits this summer
Schools to watch: Michigan (team to beat), Michigan State

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 following with two or 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 now available, adding a second cornerback wouldn't hurt (survival of the fittest). Defensive back depth is invaluable both to a program's practice machinations during the week and its special teams performance on Saturdays.

Hickey's Top Cornerback Targets

-- Adoree Jackson (Gardena, California): Originally from the Midwest
Decision timeline: Plans to take officials
Schools to watch: USC (team to beat, Florida, LSU, Michigan

-- Nick Watkins (Dallas, Texas): Teammate with Notre Dame target Jovan Pruitt
Decision timeline: None
Schools to watch: Texas, Alabama

-- Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C.): Florida is his leader, followed by Alabama and Notre Dame
Decision timeline: Plans to announce on NSD
Schools to watch: Florida (team to beat), Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma, Maryland

-- Jonathan Lockett (Santa Ana, California): Says UCLA, Oregon, and Washington are recruiting him the hardest right now
Decision timeline: Plans to take official visits
Schools to watch: Oregon, UCLA, USC, Washington

-- Arrion Springs (San Antonio, Texas): Said Irish offer was completely unexpected on Tuesday
Decision timeline: Plans to take decide before his senior season
Schools to watch: Oregon, Miami, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Baylor

Safety (0/1)

Each of the team's eight current safeties are eligible through 2014. 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 the Irish are likely to take a pass on the position unless said prospect is A.) a top tier player, or B.) can also move to outside linebacker or is versatile enough to play another skill position such as cornerback or wide receiver.

In other words, star or "Big Skill Athlete" a category to be discussed in Part IV tomorrow.

Hickey's Top Safety Targets

-- Juju Smith (Long Beach, California): Notre Dame is in his top five
Decision timeline: Plans to take official visits
Schools to watch: Michigan, Ohio State, USC, UCLA

-- Kyle Gibson (Seffner, Florida): Notre Dame in his top four
Decision timeline: Plans to take official visits
Schools to watch: Vanderbilt, UCF, Louisville

-- Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Florida): Still open with 30 offers
Decision timeline: Plans to take official visits
Schools to watch: LSU, Florida, Ohio State, South Carolina


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