Recruiting: Big Picture (Defense)

Inside is a position-by-position breakdown of Notre Dame's 2014 class on defense. Also included is a look in the rearview at the numbers from the 2013 class, as well as a glance ahead to needs that should be addressed in 2015. How did this class grade in terms of filling its needs for the longer run?

Notre Dame inked 13 playmakers on defense in the 2014 class. Here is a position-by-position breakdown of those playmakers, and also included is a look in the rearview at the numbers signed in the 2013 class, as well as a glance ahead to needs that should be addressed in 2015.

Interior Defensive Linemen

2013: None

2014: Jay Hayes (4-star), Pete Mokwuah (3-star), Daniel Cage (3-star)

Biggest impact: Pushing for early playing time will be Jay Hayes, who at 6-foot-5, 270-pounds, is physically imposing to hold his own against more experienced players. Hayes possesses the frame, athleticism, and feel for the game to be a solid contributor during his tenure at Notre Dame.

Position grade (talent and needs filled): B

2015: A continued priority despite a late surge at the position that included three in the 2014 cycle. Reasonable minds could argue that the Irish have 10 viable defensive tackle/nose tackle prospects on the roster, nine of whom won't exhaust eligibility until at least the 2015 season (seven post-2016).

Reasonable minds could likewise counter none from the group is a (healthy) proven, top-tier college player.

Two should be targeted and acquired in the upcoming cycle -- and that's the minimum number heretofore for the program to reclaim an annual spot among the nation's best.

Edge Defensive Linemen/Outside Linebackers

2013: Isaac Rochell, Jaylon Smith, Jacob Matuska

2014: Andrew Trumbetti, Jhonathon Williams, Grant Blankenship, Jonathan Bonner, Kolin Hill, Drue Tranquill

Biggest impact: Andrew Trumbetti will surely push for early playing time, and with his ability to fight blocks with his hands as well has his pure athleticism and competitiveness, he'll be a leader of this defense in three years.

Position grade (talent and needs filled): A

2015: Well-stocked through 2016 with four 2014 pledges, sophomore Jaylon Smith and potentially Doug Randolph, a natural pass-rusher who was evaluated inside due to need before shoulder surgery last August.

If sophomore Isaac Rochell and true freshmen Andrew Trumbetti are considered true defensive ends in the new scheme, the immediate need is lessened further.

Look for the Irish to target 1-2 defensive ends and an outside linebacker in this class. More is superfluous (barring the unlikely event an assembly line of top talent asks to join).

Inside Linebackers

2013: Michael Deeb (4-star), Doug Randolph (4-star)

2014: Nyles Morgan (5-star), Nile Sykes (3-star), Greer Martini (4-star)

Biggest impact: Nyles Morgan is going to see early playing time and lots of it. A playmaker with a great motor and knowledge for the game, Morgan will bring both a dynamic run-stopping capability and A-gap to A-gap coverage ability.

Position grade (talent and needs filled): A

2015: A continued area of need, though the addition of Nyles Morgan and Nile Sikes in this cycle helps. Two more is the minimum number for 2015 lest the Irish staff find itself scrambling again in 2016.

Six current Irish inside 'backers are eligible through 2015. Bringing two aboard in 2015, then following two this year and 1-2 in 2013 (Michael Deeb plus possibly the aforementioned Randolph) re-stocks the cupboard.


2013: Max Redfield

2014: Drue Tranquill could potentially fill this role, though outside linebacker seems more likely

Position grade (talent and needs filled): C

2015: The 2014 roster includes seven safeties, one that exhausts eligibility at season's end. But with no safeties added in this cycle and just one, Max Redfield, in 2013, two would be recommended for 2015.

Three isn't out of the question if the staff plans to allow potential fifth-year players Eilar Hardy (2015) or John Turner (2016) to move on following graduation. Hardy broke into the starting lineup as a junior (redshirt-sophomore) last season, but two in-season suspensions likely don't sit will with the head man.


2013: Cole Luke, Devin Butler, Rashad Kinlaw

2014: Nick Watkins (4-star)

Position grade (talent and needs filled): B+

Watkins is a long, elusive corner who possesses great ball skills and speed. He'll have to improve on his physicality and size to compete as one of the best at Notre Dame.

2015: Four have been inked over the last two cycles but help is still necessary. The 2014 roster includes seven:

  • Two seniors yet to make an impact in Josh Atkinson (2014 eligibility) and *Jalen Brown (2015)
  • A true junior, Keivarae Russell (2015)
  • Three sophomores, Cole Luke (2016), Devin Butler (2016), and redshirt-freshman Rashad Kinlaw (2017).
  • True freshman Nick Watkins

Two would be ideal for 2015, followed by two more in 2016 as well.

In Summation

Defensive Recap -- Ideal #/Survival # (2015) Interior DL: (2/2); Edge DE/OLB: (3/2); ILB: (2/2); S: (2/2); CB: (2/2)

Total in 2015: 11/10

Offensive Recap -- Ideal #/Survival # (2015): QB (1/1), RB (2/1), WR (2/1), TE (2/1), OL (3/2)

Total in 2015: 10/6

Assuming standard attrition (transfer, medicals, suspension, etc.) prior to National Signing Day 2015, Notre Dame can begin its recruiting cycle expecting to sign in the range of 16-18 prospects, more if highly qualified fifth-year players are not asked to return. The latter is not likely under head coach Brian Kelly who's shown a propensity for bringing back his seniors.

Technically, Notre Dame will graduate 25 players after the 2014 season but 15 can apply for a fifth season of eligibility and 13 of those have started or are expected to start next fall.

Roster management will be an essential aspect of the 2015 recruiting cycle. Top Stories