With the 21-man Class of 2017 signed – five of which are early-enrollees and will begin their Notre Dame football careers this spring -- Irish Illustrated takes a look ahead to the Class of 2018.
Six jumped on board from May through August of 2016. The challenge is to hold on to all six, and then add cornerback and pass-rushing defensive ends in particular by the first Wednesday of February 2018.
• Film Evaluation: Nice combination of size, running ability, instincts and deep-ball capabilities, which legitimately make him one of the top quarterback prospects in the country.
High-and-tight release with a shoulder-driven throwing motion on passes over the middle. Looks like he really has to muscle up to throw a fastball, which is a sign of much-needed upper body strength. Throwing motion gets a bit looser and away from his body as he extends the distance of his throws and/or makes sideline passes.
Has good-not-great arm strength, although distance seems less of an issue. Still finding comfort zone throwing against his body when rolling to his left. Still, a light-on-his-feet athlete, which should only be enhanced as he gets stronger and grows into his frame.
Legitimate dual threat with polished read-option decision-making and the athleticism to hurt defenses with his feet. Comfortably slides in pocket to buy time. Has the frame to be at least a 225-pounder without losing mobility.
• Film Evaluation: Menacing Mike linebacker that brings the lumber upon contact. Has wrecking-ball mentality leading up to and through contact. Physically mature. Shows good quickness, explosiveness to the hole and a consistent knack for finding creases.
Uses swim move, elusiveness to avoid contact by blockers on second level. Quality feet for a true Mike linebacker. Sometimes aligned off the edge in high school to take advantage of his physical maturity. As he does playing between the tackles, shows extricating moves off the edge to avoid blockers. Times up-the-middle blitzes well and swallows ground quickly.
More width-to-width mobility than most Mike linebackers. A hitter’s mentality. A power source. A grinding, try-hard defender who brings all of his mobility, strength snap after snap.
• Film Evaluation: Runs from a multitude of formations, including deep-set I- and offset I-formations, single-back and Pistol. A short-stepper with explosive power to the hole. A loose-hip runner, which makes first wave of tacklers miss. Will employ a stiff-arm.
Skip-step in space allows for missed tackles, the ability to create big plays. Upfield vision allows for cutbacks. A north-south inclination, but will also kick it wide. Flashes power-back characteristics. Shows escapability in traffic, but will also lower the pads and take on defenders. Good pad level through the hole, but straightens up on breakaways.
A capable pass-receiving option who makes himself available when quarterback is under duress. Shows balance in the open field. Slides off, powers way through arm tackles. Alert player who will lead downfield blocking for others. Will lower his blocking base and take out pass rushers. Very good if not great open-field speed on the next level.
• Film Evaluation: A powerful, fairly mobile big man who plays wide in four- and three-man fronts in high school, but projects to the interior. The closer to the football the better. A real load with short-space quickness and athleticism for a built-low-to-the-ground lineman.
Locked-and-loaded three-point stance. Strong, forward-leaning push off the snap. Must continue to work on get-off. More powerful than quick, although pre-snap set-up allows for gap-creasing ability. Lacks the quickness and width-to-width range for three-technique; made for nose tackle.
Wide tackling base an asset against the run. Change of direction can be a bit stiff. Uses hands well to get off blocks in traffic. Limited pass rush moves.
• Film Evaluation: Long-armed, rangy, standup end-of-the-line defender. High-level width-to-width range. Shows major college length off the edge with the athleticism in coverage and recovery skills against the pass. Plays longer than his 6-foot-2 listing. Raw, athletic talent. Three-star development/strength with four-star potential.
Shows solid fundamental technique sliding wide to defend the run, using his hands, arm length to fend off blockers, and then the ability to get into the lower body of ball carrier. Length allows him to extend into the body of ball carrier. Shows a rip move to get underneath pass blocks. Further displays his athleticism as a prep receiver, where he’s a willing blocker as well.
Needs more strength. More of a wrapper than big hitter at present time. Needs to be quicker from base-tackling-position-to-tackle-attempt, which should come with lower-body strength. Long-term upside as he develops on the next level as a stand-up outside defender.
• Film Evaluation: A longer, more elongated version of his twin brother who projects to the strongside defensive end spot, or perhaps further inside. Good pad level, knee bend. More of a power rusher -- who can plod a bit -- than speed rusher. Has a tendency to skate off the edge, which plays to the power rusher mold.
Plays physically with a still-to-be-developed change of direction. Like his brother, fights hard to prevent offensive linemen from crossing his face. Holds point of attack with well-developed lower body strength – minus some suddenness.
Starts from a low three-point stance, but doesn’t show great burst. Good forward lean and power surge help compensate, and also allow him to make plays while taking on blocks. Change of direction, stop-start quickness is a challenge. Needs to work on his agility.