Tight End (1)Each of the team's five tight ends 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: Nic Weishar's pledge last week fills the team's projected need. A second tight end could join if A.) he's elite, or B.) the staff is concerned with depth in 2015, when current juniors Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack as well as senior Alex Welch could all exhaust eligibility, leaving a three-veteran hit at the position.
Adding a Big Skill athlete, a player with a penchant for the physical or the ability to fill multiple positions, wouldn't hurt. If the Irish stick with only Weishar for 2014, two tights should/would then be courted for 2015.
Hickey's Top TE Targets-- Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, California): Notre Dame will still pursue Luatua even with Weishar in the fold. Luatua is an elite talent that you find a way to make room for. He's one that will be courted through the summer in hopes of securing an official visit. Luatua's brother plays for Alabama, and he's also considering Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, and USC.
-- Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah): Schultz has visits planned to Stanford and Washington this spring. He has said all along that a Notre Dame visit wouldn't happen until it's time to take officials. The staff will continue to pursue Schultz because he's another big talent, but he's not a major need right now, and Luatua is the guy they would rather have. Utah, Oregon, and Oregon State are also in the mix for Schultz. He was a Stanford lean early on.
Running Back (1/0)No running back was necessary in terms of overall numbers, but the Irish added an elite player Sunday with the pledge of Elijah Hood. Since all elite athletes will be welcomed by the staff, another 'back could join, forcing some serious competition -- not to mention decisions -- at the position for 2014, as illustrated below.
O'Malley Expects: I'm not sure a second 'back will join the cycle. Such a pledge would make an eight-man running back corps for the 2014 squad and entering fall 2013, Notre Dame's top running back talent will be in its junior (George Atkinson, Amir Carlisle, Cam McDaniel) and freshmen (Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston) classes. In other words, they all return.
Hood brings immense talent to the true freshman class for 2014. Should another 'back join, he'll need thick skin and a desire to compete on a daily basis.
Any 'back below the upper echelon would be signed as a player capable of playing multiple positions (CB, S, slot receiver, etc.)
Hickey's Top RB Targets-- Christian McCaffrey (Littleton, Colorado) - McCaffrey is planning to visit Notre Dame this summer, along with Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin when he tours the Midwest. Notre Dame made his list of top 11 last week. McCaffrey is a different back than Hood, he's a scat back that gets moved around in the backfield, and the staff has told him he'd be used similar to Theo Riddick. He's been timed at 4.41 in the forty-yard dash. Decision could come before his senior season. His father is Ed McCaffrey, who played for Stanford and in the NFL, and his brother currently plays wide receiver for Duke.
-- Joe Mixon (Oakley, California) – He has a top 16, which includes Notre Dame. Right now, he says he's hearing the most from USC, UCLA, Georgia, and Wisconsin. Mixon doesn't plan to decide until next January and securing an official visit would be big.
-- Donte Williams (Durham, North Carolina) – He has Notre Dame in his top six, which also includes Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia, West Virginia, and Georgia Tech. Right now, he says he's hearing the most from Clemson, Georgia Tech, and West Virginia. Williams will be visiting June 22 with his teammates. He doesn't plan on deciding until signing day.
--Derrell Scott (Havelock, North Carolina) – His top five (in order) includes South Carolina, Ohio State, Florida State, Notre Dame, and Clemson. South Carolina is largely the team to beat right now. He plans to decide after next season. He's worth keeping an eye on down the road.
--Nathan Starks (Las Vegas, Nevada) – He visited Notre Dame in April and the Irish were considered the team to beat at that point. News came out recently that he was dismissed from Bishop Gorman High for disciplinary reasons. He'll have to transfer and most likely sit out. With Hood on board, Notre Dame would have loved to sign Starks as well for a dynamite running back class, but we're hearing Notre Dame (and others) will likely drop Starks at this point.
Offensive Line (4)In addition to Sam Mustipher's pledge, fellow four-star Cleveland (St. Ignatius) OT Jimmy Byrne chose Notre Dame on December 8, 2012.
O'Malley Expects: Two more to round out an essential position of need. Look for the Irish to hit that quota prior to the start of fall camp. A fifth offensive linemen is not out of the question, even on the heels of the incoming quintet for 2012.
Before scoffing at another five-spot in this cycle as a possibility, consider the following: five total OL pledges would give head coach Brian Kelly 12 over the last three seasons. If recent history is any indication, at least two of those 12 won't be part of this conversation or the O-Line's equation two years from now. (Lost from the program since 2011 are transfer Jordan Prestwood and medical casualties Tate Nichols and Brad Carrico.)
Its unlikely the program will be caught shorthanded up front as it was in 2012 and to a lesser extent, entering 2013.
Hickey's Top OL Targets-- OT Quenton Nelson (Red Bank, New Jersey): Notre Dame is his leader. Boston College and Ohio State are making a push. We will see if he ends the process and chooses Notre Dame sooner than later, or if he takes more visits heading into the summer.
-- OT Alex Bars (Nashville, Tennessee): Looks like it's coming down to Michigan and Notre Dame. Florida, Tennessee, and Ohio State are all looking to get in better position with him. He's a Notre Dame legacy who has brothers who play for Penn State and Michigan. Bars plans to decide most likely before June.-- OT Braden Smith (Olathe, Kansas) – Placed Notre Dame into his top three (TCU, Texas A&M) after he visited in March. He's still very much interested in South Carolina, Georgia, Clemson, and Alabama. Irish look to be in good shape for an official visit.
-- OT/OG Damien Mama (Bellflower, California): Not naming favorites, but USC, UCLA, and Alabama are recruiting him the hardest right now. He plans on taking official visits, so Notre Dame will stay in touch until then.
--OT Casey Tucker(Chander, Arizona): Five-star tackle and recent USC decommit who has opened things back up and is considering Notre Dame as an option.
Quarterback (1)Notre Dame must land one quarterback in the 2014 cycle to avoid entering the '14 season with three signal-callers, one of which would be potential 5th-year senior Andrew Hendrix, the other Malik Zaire, a player who will likely have no game day experience entering 2014.
O'Malley Expects: One should be recruited, for every class, from now to eternity. Survival of the fittest...
I advocated the recruitment of a quarterback, or at least a high school quarterback capable of switching and competing at another position, even before the transfer of redshirt-freshman Gunner Kiel. Now its mandatory. Look for the Irish to ink both a top tier signal caller and a multi-talented athlete over the 2014/15 cycles -- it wouldn't hurt if the top tier prospect was part of the 2015 class, creating two seasons of separation between the pledge and 2013 freshman Malik Zaire.
Hickey's Top QB Targets--Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Arizona): The nation's No. 1 ranked quarterback was offered by Notre Dame Monday night after Chuck Martin and Scott Booker visited his high school. He's teammates with Notre Dame wide receiver target Mark Andrews. He's visited UCLA, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M this spring, and he's also considering Arizona and Arizona State. Allen seemed very excited to get the Irish offer, and we'll have more from him soon.
--Brandon Dawkins (Westlake Village, California): Holds offers from Notre Dame, Utah, and N.C. State right now. Inconsistent with his accuracy, but he has shown a lot of upside at 6'4". --Michael O'Connor (Bradenton, Florida): He doesn't have an offer, but he visited Notre Dame this spring. He's also considering Michigan State, Mississippi State, Rutgers, and Vanderbilt. -- Drew Barker (Hebron, Kentucky): He doesn't have an offer, but Notre Dame planned to look at him this spring. Kentucky is the favorite right now. --David Cornwell(Norman, Oklahoma): No. 6 ranked quarterback standing a 6'5", 215. He plans to decide by June 1, so it would be an uphill climb should the Irish choose to offer. He's favoring the SEC right now.