The Big Board: Defense

In Hickey's latest edition of the Big Board, IrishEyes.com breaks down the top prospects remaining on defense, including official visits, decision timelines, and the numbers' game at each position.

The Big Board focuses on Notre Dame's targets at each position, including those that have reciprocated Irish interest. Today's review is of the program's top targets on defense:

Hickey's Top Safety Targets

-- 4-star Budda Baker (Belleuve, Washington): Has a top three of Oregon, UCLA and Washington, with Arizona State and Notre Dame rounding out his top five. Baker plans on taking officials, and the Irish could gain some momentum with his recruitment during and after the fall season.

-- 4-star Kyle Gibson (Seffner, Florida): Has a top five of Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame, South Florida and Vanderbilt. He is being recruited hard by the Irish, and he will give Notre Dame an official. Vanderbilt could hold the edge at this point. A decision could come during or after the season.

-- 3-star Payton Hendrix (Dallas, Texas): Should be releasing his top five shortly into the start of the season, and the Irish should be on that list. Jumping into the picture relatively late, the Irish still may have some work to do to beat out Arkansas and Texas Tech. Look for him to schedule an official visit to Notre Dame.

-- 5-star Juju Smith (Long Beach, California): Has a top five of Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA, and USC. He's taking official visits to Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame (Oct. 18), Ohio State and Ole Miss. Smith is more open to leaving than West Coast now than in recent months. He'll be one to see how teams on the west perform in the fall and use that as criteria for decision. Michigan is a team to watch.

Hickey's Top Cornerback Targets

-- 4-star Nick Watkins (Dallas, Texas): Told IrishEyes.com he is taking official visits to Alabama, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Oregon and UCLA. Other schools in the mix are Baylor, Oklahoma and SMU. He has pushed back his decision date to next January and plans on taking all five officials. UCLA could end up providing the stiffest competition.

--4-star Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Florida): Released a top five of Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, South Carolina and USC. The Irish improved their chances with Wilson during his June visit, but he is still going to be a tough one to land, especially considering he seems set on playing with wide receiver Ermon Lane, who is not considering Notre Dame. Could end up being an Ohio State/Florida battle.

-- 5-star Michiah Quick (Fresno, California): His top schools are Alabama, California Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCLA, USC and Washington. Oklahoma and USC seem to be biggest competition right now, and he plans on taking all of his officials and announcing on National Signing Day (if he doesn't decide to graduate early). Quick hasn't let on publicly if he's favoring a particular school out of his handful of favorites, but the feeling is the Irish are at least among his top three.

Hickey's Top Outside Linebacker Targets

-- 4-star Andrew Williams (McDonough, Georgia): Once set on deciding on a school before his senior year started, that doesn't appear to be the case. He told FOX Sports NEXT recently he has no timetable for decision and plans on taking at least a few official visits. He set the record straight earlier this month that he has not come out with a list of favorites after another site reported such. Williams will be one to see how teams compete this fall, and much of his decision will be based on the win and loss column for each team. Schools certainly on his radar include Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Tennessee. Whether the Irish will get an official visit or not is yet to be determined.

-- 4-star Richard Yeargin (Fort Lauderdale, Florida): Released a top five of Clemson, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame and USC. He doesn't plan on deciding until Signing Day. Notre Dame and Florida are the teams to beat at this point. Like many prospects Notre Dame is recruiting right now on defense, he's being ‘recruited' to play CAT linebacker, but could very well end up inside.

-- 4-star DE/LB Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Georgia): Being recruited for CAT linebacker, Carter enjoyed his visit to Notre Dame earlier his summer, and he told IrishEyes.com recently he will "probably" give Notre Dame an official visit. Alabama and Georgia are the primary competitors.

-- 4-star DE/LB Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas): Being recruited for CAT, but will likely end up at defensive end if he plays at Notre Dame. He will be a tough steal from the South, and is also considering Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Stanford, Texas and Texas A&M, but he's saying he's open right now, and Irish could continue to make moves with him.

Hickey's Top Defensive Line Targets

-- 4-star NG Natrell Curtis (Phoenix, Arizona): Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, USC are in better position to land him than Notre Dame right now, but the Irish feel like they have a good shot at landing a visit. He has no timetable for decision, but look for him to take at least a couple of official visits.

-- 4-star DT/DE Matt Dickerson (San Mateo, California): He could commit before the start of his season, and he'll visit Notre Dame next week. He's very high on UCLA and Washington, but the Irish have legit potential to land him.

-- 4-star NG Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Kentucky): Has a top three of Alabama, Kentucky, and Notre Dame, with Louisville and Ohio State rounding out his top five. He will give the Irish an official visit. Notre Dame has a great shot here; he was really impressed after his late-June visit.

-- 4-star DT Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, New York): Has a top five of Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers. Irish are likely to get an official visit, which could go a long ways in winning him over Ohio State and Penn State.

Top Irish Interests (as of July 31)

Total Commitments: 15

Commitments on defense: 5 (2 DE, 1 DT, 1 CAT LB, 1 ILB)

Need: 1 NG, 1 DT/DE, 1 S, 1 CB, 1 ILB

Luxury: an additional CB, OLB

*Projecting a total of 5 more additions on defense and 3 more on offense.

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