Big Board Necessities: Defense

O'Malley's fluid target number for the 2014 recruiting cycle remains at 22 pledges, 10 of which have already announced their intentions to join the Irish next February, just three of which have been primarily evaluated as defensive prospects for Brian Kelly's Irish.

There are a combined 23 seniors and 5th-year competitors on Notre Dame's 2013 roster. Subtract that total from 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), expects at least five 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.

Four others are eligible, with Louis Nix (an NFL lock in good health), and backups Kendall Moore (ILB), Bruce Heggie (OL), and Luke Massa (WR) also potential fifth-year options following 2013.

Rather than presuming 65 scholarships, which makes for 20 open spots in the 2014 class, it makes more sense at an early stage to increase our original projection of 20 to 22, as attrition is likely -- and the first example is suddenly apparent in the form of 2013 defensive end signee Eddie Vanderdoes.

Should he refuse to sign his letter of intent, Vanderdoes would be the fourth player the Notre Dame program has lost since our Big Board debuted on February 8.

At present, 10 of our projected 22 scholarships for the 2014 cycle are already accounted for, with just three, DE Andrew Trumbetti, DT Jay Hayes, and LB Greer Martini, on the defensive side of scrimmage. And pending the future of Vanderdoes, just 10 of the team's 24 committed players in the 2013 class are primarily defensive prospects.

Today's Big Board update examines the team's remaining needs for defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's unit entering 2014.

For a look at defensive players the Irish staff is, and will be targeting over the next eight months, check out our Big Board reviews at the links below:

Anna's Defensive Targets

Offensive Targets

Program Needs: Offense

Defensive Line (4)

Four-star Brooklyn (Poly Prep) OT/DE Jay Hayes announced his pledge to Notre Dame in November 2012. Fellow four-star Andrew Trumbetti (Northern Valley Regional, DeMarest, N.J.) did the same in March 2013.

O'Malley Expects: I felt the Irish needed two more before news of Vanderdoes' likely defection and that number -- the necessary 4 -- hasn't changed. 2013 junior Chase Hounshell faces a career crossroads after a third shoulder surgery in late March and 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.

If Vanderdoes does jump ship, Notre Dame will need another four DL prospects in 2015 (they needed three, anyway). And a stout, interior prospect absolutely must be part of the 2014 class (if not two). Such prospects need not be ready to compete right away, but would be part of the process for building future lines at the program.

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, with Richard Yeargin III and Dante Booker the chief targets. Failing the dream scenario of landing that pair, additional inside 'backers should 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. Undersized preferred walk-on Joe Schmidt, a two-season special teams contributor, will be a Notre Dame senior in 2014. He could earn a scholarship (likely) and be part of the two-deep competition -- a trustworthy spot player that could help in a pinch.

Outside Linebacker (1)

Including freshmen, five current outside 'backers are eligible through 2014; four of those through 2015 or beyond. Pending the growth of Romeo Okwara (perhaps to defensive end), two outside 'backer prospects could be desired, if not necessary. One keeps the position healthy heading into the next cycle, though two would then be necessary for '15.

O'Malley Expects: One Cat prospect early, then the waiting game. Incoming freshman Jaylon Smith is the position's future with promising redshirt-sophomore Ben Councell also eligible through 2015.

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 well-stocked. Talent, especially players capable of multiple positions (S, CB, RB, WR) will not be turned down; marginal 2014 prospects should be.

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 to the total wouldn't hurt as the position's performance varies greatly, historically, from recruit to recruit.

The list of underperforming, highly touted cornerbacks at Notre Dame (and likely elsewhere) is long and distinguished.

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, an athlete capable of multiple positions, or ultra-competitive in nature.

O'Malley Expects: Top talent will always be welcomed, but if its not Juju Smith or another of his ilk, expect the Irish to take a pass on the position unless said prospect can move to outside 'backer or, preferably, is versatile enough to play CB.

Big Skill/Athletes (3+)

Kelly's preferred recruiting profile offers possibilities that include a second outside linebacker prospect, a second cornerback, a second tight end, or a tight end that could play linebacker, a second running back, especially one that could project to the defensive backfield, or a high school quarterback that projects elsewhere in college.

O'Malley Expects: At least three as noted, 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. (If Randolph's future is at the Cat, and Okwara's is at Cat/DE, Notre Dame need not take in more than one OLB in this cycle.) Top Stories