• Name: Nathan Meadors
• Height/Weight: 6-0, 180
• Position: Free safety
• Hometown: San Bernadino, Calif.
• High School: San Gorgonio
• Assets: A versatile athlete whose offensive skills at the quarterback/wide receiver positions – where he played during his prep career at San Gorgonio – should translate well on the back end of the defense on the next level.
A shifty, change-of-direction athlete who is considered more of a back-end-of-the-defense safety, but will come up and strike people. Shows effortless straight-ahead speed. Nice change of direction on both sides of the football. Solid backpedal-and-turn athleticism. A nifty-footed athlete who breaks into a longer stride in the open field.
Solid ball skills and anticipation defending the pass from the safety position. Shows the consistent ability to get into the lower body of ball carriers. Athleticism allows for good closing skills on the football, which translates from the quarterback position where he showed nice elusiveness moving forward.
• Room for improvement: Less than ideal safety size, very good but not great speed and needs reps in his backpedal with his prep time spent among wide receiver, quarterback and safety. Appropriately listed as a three-star prospect at the present time.
• Schools of interest: Notre Dame; Pac 12: Cal, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington, Washington State; Other: Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada.
• The latest line: It’s down to a three-horse race with UCLA as the leader heading into last weekend with Notre Dame “about even” after Meadors’ visit to South Bend. Oregon remains a possibility, but the Ducks are running out of available visits due to previous sanctions. Meadors previously visited Cal and Boise State.
Meadors is scheduled to visit UCLA the weekend of Jan. 30. He could slip in a trip to Eugene earlier in the week. Notre Dame outside linebacker coach Bob Elliott is slated for a visit of Meadors in San Bernadino on Wednesday, Jan. 21. Brian Kelly appears set for a Monday, Jan. 26 in-home visit.
As for Meadors’ visit to Notre Dame this past weekend, the Irish can consider it a successful venture, but must now survive that final trip to Westwood. Notre Dame pounded home the notion that the depth chart on the back end is skimpy.
“They highlighted every time I met with the defensive staff that they only have like two healthy safeties on scholarship coming back,” said Meadors to Irish Illustrated recruiting analyst Jake Brown.
“That leaves much competition for the recruits coming in, and if I were to be able to go there, I feel like I’d be able to play a lot my freshman year due to that need at safety.”
Again, the key for the Irish is surviving Meadors’ last trip to UCLA, which gets the crucial final at-bat.
“I think it’s probably about even now,” Meadors told Brown. “But once I go on my UCLA trip, I’ll know for sure what I want.”
Meadors has spoken highly of his relationship with UCLA defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin.
• ND’s 2015 safety target number: Four
• ND’s 2015 safety recruiting: There likely remain many layers to this process at safety, particularly with the uncertainty of long-committed Prentice McKinney (Dallas, Texas), who appears to be very uncertain due to academic qualifications, which prompted his visit to North Carolina this past weekend.
Solidly in the fold are Mykelti Williams (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Nicco Fertitta (Las Vegas, Nevada), although Williams is a bit undersized and Fertitta is, to be realistic, more of a special teams performer. Ashton White (Forestville, Md.) is a cornerback with safety skills, but also is under 6-foot-0.
Other possibilities include: Meadors, Frank Buncom IV, who visited Notre Dame in October, Gary Jennings (Stafford, Va.), who now looks like a lock for the home-state Cavaliers with a promise of a shot at wide receiver, Arrington Farrar (College Park, Md.), whom Stanford denied admission, and Justin Reid (Geismar, La.), who is looking at Oklahoma and LSU, the latter of which is the alma mater of brother Eric (San Francisco 49ers).
• ND’s 2015 safety depth chart: There’s simply no denying that was once a well-stocked position not long ago has become pretty threadbare. Starters Max Redfield (two years of eligibility) and Elijah Shumate (one) return, which is comforting since Austin Collinsworth is out of eligibility, Nicky Baratti is physically unable to perform, and Drue Tranquill (three years) is coming off a torn ACL and is a somewhat precarious fit at safety anyway.
Fifth-year senior Matthias Farley remains a possibility, although defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder prefers him at the nickel. Another option is junior-to-be Devin Butler, who could shift to safety from cornerback if sophomore-to-be Nick Watkins and freshman Shaun Crawford emerge as solid backups behind expected starters Cole Luke and KeiVarae Russell, who is slated to return from exile this summer.
• Summary: There is much to like about this versatile athlete whose intelligence comes through in his interviews. Meadors certainly appears to be a good fit for Notre Dame off-the-field as well as on. An interview with Meadors takes on the sound of many student-athletes who have matriculated through the Notre Dame football program.
There are better prospects out there in the 6-foot-1, 6-foot-2 range with equally-good athleticism and range. When you add it all up, however, this is a very solid prospect, particularly in these times of need for the Irish at safety.
If you’re looking for someone to replace Prentice McKinney -- the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder out of Dallas as it looks more and more like he might not qualify for Notre Dame -- someone like 6-foot-2, 190-pound Gary Jennings, 6-foot-1, 190-pound Arrington Farrar or 6-foot-0, 193-pound Justin Reid would fit the bill. Those are players more suited for aligning in the box than Meadors.
But again, Notre Dame may not be in a position at this stage of the recruiting process to dictate the particulars at safety. Jennings appears headed for Virginia, and Farrar and Reid (Jan. 23) have yet to set foot on the Notre Dame campus. The Irish need quality bodies, regardless of size or style of play on the back end.
With all that being said, there’s no denying that the UCLA Bruins are in the “catbird seat” with Meadors’ last recruiting visit scheduled for the final weekend of January, just days before signing day on Feb. 4. Meadors is a fit for the Bruins, too, and with his southern California roots, that may be enough to tip the scales when it comes to decision time during the final week of recruiting.
Good ball player, good fit for Notre Dame, but add it all up and the Irish likely will still be searching for bodies at the safety position if left up to Meadors’ final decision.
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