Four to Secure: Defense

Notre Dame's last four commitments have been on offense, but who is holding the Irish in high regards on defense? Here's a look at four recruits on defense that are Notre Dame's to lose as we head into summer...

The picture isn't as clear as on defense as on offense concerning who has the Irish out in front nearing the end of spring. But, it's possible these four guys could all have Notre Dame as the No. 1 school on their list.

1. Nick Watkins (Dallas, Texas) – Four-star and No. 8 ranked cornerback

The theme of late for Nick Watkins on Twitter has been "no favorites" and "wide open." Watkins visited Notre Dame in mid-April, and his visit went very well. He is all in for getting a degree that "sets him up for life," and he saw that from the Irish. He has a great relationship with defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks. From the beginning Watkins has said he wasn't planning on deciding until after taking official visits, but his Notre Dame visit could have been the closest Watkins has come to pulling the trigger. He's focusing on academics (business school in particular), depth chart, and relationship with coaches to make a decision. Since visiting Notre Dame, he's taken trips to Oklahoma and Baylor. Other schools in the mix right now are Alabama, Michigan, and Texas. Watkins has denied reports that Texas is his leader. He doesn't have a definite timetable, but he plans on visiting more schools this summer with his parents, and it's possible a decision could come after that. Notre Dame could very well get another visit this summer, and if his parents like it as much as Watkins, the Irish could emerge as the obvious team to beat.

2. Richard Yeargin (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) – Four-star and No. 17 ranked outside linebacker

Yeargin has four that are sticking out to him right now – Clemson, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame, and South Carolina. Yeargin plans on visiting Notre Dame for the first time this summer. Right now, he is set on taking official visits and not announcing until signing day. Yeargin was recruited by the Notre Dame staff for months until he was finally offered April 10. The Irish and the Gators were probably his most anticipated offers, and should he decide to leave the state, Notre Dame is in very good shape, especially if he enjoys his visit this summer and plans to return for an official. Academics, coaching staff, and overall fit are main priorities for Yeargin. The Irish probably like him to play inside linebacker, and how they sell to him fitting in with their scheme could have an impact.

3. Andrew Williams (McDonough, Georgia) – Four-star and No. 31 ranked defensive end

It's obvious that the staff has made Williams a priority since they first started recruiting the 2014 class. Coach Kelly has a great relationship with Williams, who plans to come out with a top 10 any day now. Notre Dame is recruiting Williams to play CAT linebacker, and he likes the specific plan they have for him. I talked with Williams' teammate and Irish signee, Isaac Rochell, who told me recently that he doesn't really talk with Williams about recruiting too much, but he wasn't sure how high Notre Dame was on his list. Key words: "wasn't sure," which I think is just a by-product of the two not discussing recruitment very much. Yeargin has already visited Notre Dame twice, and he's visiting again with his parents this summer. He visited in January and called his visit "different" and "natural." He also wants to see Clemson (return visit), Florida State (return visit), LSU, Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma. This spring, he visited Georgia, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and South Carolina. Georgia and Coach Richt have really ramped up their recruitment with Williams this spring, especially with Williams' mother. Andrews' older brother plays at Georgia Tech. He plans on making a decision before his senior season starts, and academics (business school), coaches and scheme, and comfortability will be big in his decision. Important to note that Williams has said "when he knows, he'll know." He is fine with committing on the spot. How the visit goes this summer will likely be make or break for the Irish.

4. Matt Nelson (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Nelson is staying open right now and not nearing a decision, in hopes of seeing who else will show interest. His biggest offers right now are from Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Stanford. Minnesota, Michigan, Oregon, and Wisconsin are also showing interest. He was offered by the Irish this spring during his visit to campus, and he was accompanied by his dad. Nelson was very drawn to the close-knit community of Notre Dame as well as the campus setting. He likes how defensive line coach Mike Elston and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco operate practice, and how the coaches interact with the players is something he's very focused on. Academics and viable early playing time are also going to impact his decision. I expect him to stay open for a while, but Notre Dame is certainly a leader or co-leader right now.

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