2014 Necessities: Defense

Part II of this week's Big Board update turns to the defensive side of scrimmage and a position of critical need for the 2014 recruiting cycle. O'Malley breaks down the program's needs at each defensive position inside...

Of Notre Dame's 11 pledges to date, only three reside on the defensive side of scrimmage: a pair of four-star defensive linemen prospects Jay Hayes and Andrew Trumbetti, and their fellow four-star, linebacker Greer Martini. Each player fills a position of need and at positions that require more aid in the coming months.

Below is a look at the program's needs by position, denoted by the number in parenthesis. For a look at the program's offensive needs and an explanation of why we've set 23 as the tentative target number of pledges for 2014, click here.

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's Analysis: I felt Notre Dame needed four defensive line prospects to join this class prior to the defection of 2013 five-star Eddie Vanderdoes. While that number hasn't changed since, its now true a potential fourth DL is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

In fact, considering the state of the roster and its guaranteed losses over the next two seasons including Kona Schwenke, Louis Nix, and Stephon Tuitt, plus uncertainty regarding the thrice-injured shoulder of junior Chase Hounshell), Notre Dame will need another four defensive line prospects in 2015 as well.

A stout, interior prospect absolutely must be added to the 2014 class (if not two). Its essential to the process of building future lines at the program reminiscent of the 2012 group that led the Irish to a BCS Championship berth.

The staff has enjoyed great success in terms of defensive line quality over last three recruiting cycles, but attrition at the position is inevitable. Bodies will always be needed up front.

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's Analysis: Preferred walk-on Joe Schmidt has earned a scholarship since our last update, but that doesn't change my projected need of two, ideally three inside linebackers or inside prospects for the 2014 class. (Schmidt wasn't going anywhere, he was always part of the equation, scholarship or not.)

With long-time starters Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox gone after 2013, Notre Dame could enter the 2014 season with only Martini, Schmidt, Moore, and the highly touted Jarrett Grace as true inside linebackers on the roster (Grace's classmate Anthony Rabasa has moved back inside as well after bouncing outside in 2012).

Incoming 2013 freshman Doug Randolph will likely receive his initial evaluation inside, but moving a pass-rushing athlete inside doesn't' solve a program need for the future, it merely gives him valuable practice time in the present and a more uniform depth chart for game weeks.

Notre Dame cannot conclude its 2014 class with Martini as its only inside linebacker prospect.

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 pledge sooner rather than later, followed by a waiting game as the season unfolds. Incoming freshman Jaylon Smith is the position's future with promising redshirt-sophomore Ben Councell also eligible through 2015. As noted above, Randolph projects better in my opinion to the perimeter than mixing it up with uncovered guards and centers in the trenches. The program is well-stocked outside -- maintaining momentum is all that's necessary for 2014.

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.

O'Malley's Analysis: With a projected 22-23 scholarships available for 2014, adding a second cornerback to the total wouldn't hurt as the position's performance historically varies greatly. The list of underperforming, previously highly-touted cornerbacks at Notre Dame (and likely elsewhere) is long and distinguished.

While top talents, especially players capable of multiple positions (S, CB, RB, WR) will not be turned down, marginal 2014 prospects should be.

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. The future of the safety position is already on campus in South Bend in the form of Max Redfield, Elijah Shumate, Nicky Baratti, and returning starter Matthias Farley -- all eligible through 2015; Redfield 2016.

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 such athletes will likely pledge, because Big Skill includes several positions as described above. Expect the 2014 class to have at least three of its pledges evaluated at multiple positions over their first two seasons with the program, thus, the inclusion of "Big Skill" in our updates.

According to Kelly, 2013 Big Skill athletes include Mike Heuerman, Durham Smythe, Jaylon Smith, Doug Randolph, Michael Deeb, Greg Bryant, and Tarean Folston.


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