Beginning with that number (59), Irisheyes.com expects at least five 2013 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, 64. Add to that number quarterback Everett Golson, expected to rejoin the program for the spring term after serving a semester expulsion, and 65 of the team's 85 spots for 2014 are accounted for.
Of note: Four other current seniors are eligible for a fifth season in 2014, with Louis Nix (an NFL lock in good health), and Kendall Moore (ILB), Bruce Heggie (OL), and Luke Massa (WR) involved in what will be a numbers/waiting game at and after National Signing Day, 2014.
Rather than presuming 65 scholarships, which makes for 20 open spots in the 2014 class, it makes sense to account for additional attrition in the ranks over the next seven-plus months, thus, the elevation to 23 for 2014, matching last year's official haul.
Requisite annual attrition has already occurred as the Notre Dame program lost three players to transfer (all sophomores), one to a medical hardship in senior Tate Nichols, one to expulsion, and one for failure to honor his letter of intent since our initial Big Board debuted on February 8.
Likewise, junior walk-on Joe Schmidt earned a scholarship since the team finished its school year.
At present, 11 of our projected 23 scholarships for the 2014 cycle are already accounted for, the most recent a pledge from four-star quarterback prospect DeShone Kizer.
Below is a look at the team's remaining offensive needs in this recruiting cycle. For a review of offensive players the Irish staff is, and will be targeting over the next eight months, check out Anna Hickey's Big Board rundown, here.
Offensive Line (4 Necessary)In addition to four-star Alex Bars' pledge last month, a trio of other four-stars, Jimmy Byrne, Sam Mustipher, and Quenton Nelson had already announced for the Irish.
O'Malley Expects: The projected need has been filled, but with seven months remaining in the recruiting cycle, a fifth offensive linemen is not out of the question, even on the heels of the program's incoming quintet for 2013.
Before scoffing at another five-spot in this cycle as a possibility, consider the following: five total OL pledges for 2014 would give Kelly just 12 over the last three seasons. If recent history is any indication, at least two of those 12 won't be part of the O-Line's equation two years from now.
Its unlikely the program will be caught shorthanded up front as it was in both 2011 and 2012.
2014 Offensive Linemen: Expected 5th-year senior Christian Lombard (T), seniors Nick Martin (C/G), Matt Hegarty ©, and Conor Hanratty (G), juniors Ronnie Stanley (T) and Mark Harrell (G/C), sophomores Hunter Bivin (G/C), Steven Elmer (T), Mike McGlinchey (T), Colin McGovern (G), and John Montelus (G/C), plus incoming freshmen Alex Bars, Jimmy Byrne, Sam Mustipher, and Quenton Nelson.
Tight End (1)Each of the team's five tight ends on scholarship are eligible through 2014 but only three from that group will be around in 2015. Notre Dame already landed its mandatory prospect in Marist High School (Chicago) product Nic Weishar, whose addition helps the Irish avoid a depth issue two years from now, Weishar's freshman season.
O'Malley Expects: Weishar's pledge fills the team's projected need but a second tight end could join if the staff is concerned with depth for 2015, when current juniors Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack as well as senior Alex Welch should all exhaust eligibility, leaving a three-veteran hit at the position.
Adding a Big Skill athlete, a player that could serve at multiple position (tight end being one), is advisable -- enter La Mirada High School (La Mirada, Calif.) four-star prospect Tyler Luatua.
Should the Irish stick with only Weishar for 2014, two tight ends would then be mandatory for 2015.
2014 Tight Ends: Expected 5th-year senior Alex Welch; seniors Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack; sophomores Mike Heuerman and Durham Smythe; incoming 2014 pledge Nic Weishar.
Running Back (1)No running back was necessary in terms of overall numbers, but the Irish added an elite player with the pledge of North Carolina four-star, Elijah Hood. Since all top-tier athletes will be welcomed by the staff, another 'back could join, forcing some serious competition -- not to mention decisions -- regarding and among the position's combatants for 2014.
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 to take carries from future prospects.
Hood brings immense talent as a true freshman. Should another 'back join, he'll need thick skin, talent, and a desire to compete on a daily basis. Any 'back targeted below the upper echelon would be signed as a player capable of playing multiple positions (CB, S, slot receiver, etc.).
2014 Running Backs: Seniors George Atkinson III, Cam McDaniel, and Amir Carlisle (Carlisle is eligible through 2015); junior Will Mahone (eligible through 2016); sophomores/redshirt-freshmen Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, incoming 2014 pledge Elijah Hood.
Wide Receiver (3)Three-star Speedway, Indiana native Justin Brent pledged on July 9, 2012. Since, the Irish have lost two varsity targets in sophomores Davonte' Neal and Justin Ferguson, and endured a major injury (broken femur) to 2013 incoming freshman Torii Hunter, Jr.
O'Malley Expects: One more top tier prospect, then at least one more pledge, regardless if the prospect started the cycle among prime Irish targets. As of today, and not including little-used former quarterback Luke Massa, who's eligible for a fifth season, the Irish would open 2014 with eight receivers (including Brent); two more are thus mandatory and a third would of course be welcomed.
O'Malley Expects: At least two more without fail. Notre Dame will doubtless land at least three wide receiver prospects in the 2014 cycle -- pedigree yet-to-be-determined. Four isn't out of the question.
My two cents: Three might be ideal on the heels of four joining already this fall, as more than seven signed receivers in a two-year span is a recipe for transfer.
Quarterback (1) and Special Teams (0)Three of the team's current quartet are likely to return in 2014: projected fifth-year senior Andrew Hendrix, a returning Everett Golson, and 2013 freshman Malik Zaire.
O'Malley Expects: One in every class from here to eternity. If the Irish take two in 2014 or 2015, expect one of the pair to project or be capable of another position in college. The addition of DeShone Kizer this month likely ends quarterback recruitment for 2014.
Punter (0): Notre Dame added preferred walk-on freshman punter Andrew Antognoli post-Signing Day 2013. Antognoli will likely receive a full season of evaluation before 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 in 2013 as well.
Kicker (0): Junior-to-be Kyle Brindza is eligible through 2014. Notre Dame added preferred walk-on freshman kicker John Chereson after Signing Day 2013.
Long-Snapper (0): Redshirt-freshman Scott Daly has four seasons of eligibility remaining
Note: Tomorrow -- a look at the program's needs on defense following Anna Hickey's Big Board breakdown of the staff's top targets.