It's a Wrap

Within the next seven months, most of Notre Dame's recently celebrated 23 additions to its 2014 football roster will embark on the annual, unavoidable rookie plummet, one that takes each from conquering hero to training camp grunt. But that inevitable dose of reality takes a (final) backseat as there's plenty to like -- and to talk about -- for Brian Kelly's fourth full recruiting class at ND.

A few observations made while *wondering how all 23 of Notre Dame's starting veterans will handle playing behind a true freshman next fall…

I'm sure I like…

The home runs hit along the offensive line and perimeter of the defensive front seven.

The Irish found a potential center (Sam Mustipher) that could also play guard, a true tackle prospect (Alex Bars) and two versatile maulers in Quenton Nelson (tackle or guard) and Jimmy Byrne (likely guard, capable at tackle). Four-star prospects across the board, that on the heels of five four-star pledges in the previous cycle.

Adding the quintet from 2013: Steven Elmer (T/G), Mike McGlinchey (G), Colin McGovern (G), Hunter Bivin (G/T/C), and John Montelus (G/C) and the front five should be blessed with depth through 2017 thanks to a two-class haul.

On the other side of scrimmage, 2013 building blocks Jaylon Smith and Isaac Rochell are joined by three true defensive linemen (Daniel Cage, Jay Hayes, and Peter Mokwuah), a potential DE in Grant Blankenship (could also play as a stand-up 'backer) and a trio of pass rushing prospects in Jhonathan Williams, Jonathan Bonner, and Kolin Hill.

There's strength in recruiting numbers, and the 2015-16 front seven will be one to reckon with as the Irish make a title push.


Jonathan Bonner

I think I like..

The relatively low number of skill position additions to the class.

Just five pledges for 2014 fit Kelly's Skill profile. (10 power, 7 Big Skill, 5 Skill, 1 specialist).

My starting wish list for any successful college program: a defensive line, an offensive line, a quarterback, and sound backups along the defensive front. The rest can be mixed and matched to fit.

With the addition of Justin Brent and Corey Holmes, Notre Dame has nine wide receivers eligible through 2015, seven of those through '16. Just one of the program's five running backs exhausts eligibility after the season and but one more does so following '15.

Assuming quarterback pledge Blake Barnett joins the 2015 fray as planned, the program is set under center for the upcoming cycle as well.

2015 needs include running back, cornerback, and safety, but none of the trio is of Red Alert status (no 2015 RB/CB/S pledges absolutely must impact the 2015 season).

The upcoming recruiting cycle will provide Notre Dame its distant future in offensive and defensive backfields. The near future is already in place, with runners Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, cover men Cole Luke, Devin Butler, and Nick Watkins, and safety Max Redfield in tow.

Kelly & Co. made good use of their 23 additions -- the Skill profile was not paramount and it was treated as such.

The need for speed is thus on tap for '15…


Justin Brent

Another thing I'm sure I like…

The prevailing nastiness of this class. (Apologies for borrowing from the former head coach, but "Nasty" always beats "Tough Gentlemen" as a catch-phrase even if the end results did not.)

Andrew Trumbetti, Jay Hayes, Jimmy Byrne, Quenton Nelson, Jhonny Williams, Nyles Morgan, and Daniel Cage -- each stands out as a player that will play to the echo of the whistle and beyond.

Justin Brent, Sam Mustipher, Drue Tranquill, Grant Blankenship, Jonathan Bonner, Kolin Hill, and Pete Mokwuah all appear to relish contact at their respective positions as well.

A team full of on field a-- kickers might be unrealistic, but every championship team needs a handful of players from the Chris Zorich, Jeff Faine, Wes Pritchett, Zack Martin, Glenn Earl, and Tom Zbkikowski ilk.

Kelly's 2014 class appears to have cornered that market.

Warning sign I've chosen to ignore… Four of my seven top-rated recruits are bona fide sleepers per the talented, dedicated recruiting services:

Quenton Nelson, Justin Brent, Andrew Trumbetti, and Nyles Morgan were celebrated by analysts that followed their careers closely for more than two seasons -- but Jhonathan Williams, Jonathan Bonner, and Kolin Hill, on the other hand, each merited a cause for pause that ultimately included three, rather than four or five recruiting stars.

Bonner, Williams, and Hill, however, can get after it. It's unlikely each will pan out as planned, but a prediction: one from that trio will develop into the best, second, or third-best player in the 2014 crop.

Most likely to start in September: Linebacker Nyles Morgan, though the player I guarantee sees extensive playing time from the season's opening kickoff is do-everything Drue Tranquill -- as a member of the Irish run teams (coverage and return).

Most likely to get in an August scuffle: Jimmy Byrne and someone. I'll go with Jay Hayes in the first Irish Eyes (rodeo) drill.

Most likely to start 30-plus games during his Irish career: Morgan, Nelson, Mustipher, Trumbetti...

Most likely to score a touchdown in 2014 Brent, Tranquill…

Most likely to start more than one game in 2015: Morgan, Trumbetti. Sleeper -- Nic Weishar

Most likely to start in 2016: Morgan, Trumbetti, Nelson, Mustipher...

Note: Tomorrow's column will follow suit -- focusing only on the team's redshirt-freshmen, sophomores, and true juniors...


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