Notre Dame 2007 Recruiting Class: Defense

Notre Dame added some outstanding players on defense in this recruiting class, but the numbers fell short of expectations. Irish Eyes takes a look at the prospects Notre Dame signed on the defenisve side of the ball in the 2007 recruiting class.

Andrew Nuss; Defensive tackle, 6-5, 285 pounds; Stone Bridge High School (Ashburn, Va.)'s No. 52 offensive tackle. Selected Notre Dame over Boston College, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia.

Nuss played on both sides of the ball in high school and he will likely get looks on both sides at Notre Dame, althgouh he was told that he would start out at defensive tackle. Trevor Laws is the only player with extensive experience at defensive tackle so it is possible that Nuss could find his way onto the field. He'll be battling Derrell Hand, Patrick Kuntz, Paddy Mullen and fellow recruit Ian Williams for playing time. He's a tough kid that gives 100 percent on every play.

Ian Williams; Defensive tackle, 6-2, 290 pounds Lyman High School (Longwood, Fla.)'s No. 36 ranked defensive tackle. Played mostly on the offensive line during his senior season, but did register over 40 tackles on defense. As a junior Williams had 83 tackles (23 of them for a loss), 12 quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles, two sacks, four passes broken up, and four fumbles recovered. He selected Notre Dame over Auburn, Florida, and Clemson.

Williams played on the offensive line his senior season due to depth problems, but he'll be a defensive tackle in college. There will be competition for playing time, but Williams certainly could be a guy Notre Dame will count on in 2007. He is quick off the ball and he plays low. He's disruptive. He moves very well for his size. The biggest issue he will face is strength and technique to deal with more experienced offensive linemen.

Kerry Neal; Defensive end/Linebacker, 6-3, 230 pounds, Bunn High School (N.C.)'s No.31 ranked defensive end. As a senior he registered 132 tackles and 16 sacks. Neal played in the Carolina Shrine Bowl. Kerry was Notre Dame first commitment of the 2007 recruiting class. He only had a handful of offers when he accepted Notre Dame's, but the big guys from the Southeast came calling soon after he picked the Irish.

Neal is a special player. He could play tight end and be an All-American, but he's going to be used on defense at Notre Dame. He could play either weak-side defensive end or outside linebacker. Notre Dame will likely make that determination once he arrives on campus. He explodes off the ball and he uses his hands extremely when dealing with blockers. He is physical and seeks contact. He's a playmaker and difference maker on defense.

"The kid's has a great motor and the kid loves to be coached. He's got unlimited potential. He's so long and he has great explosion off the ball. He can play tight end, outside linebacker, and a lot of people like him as a DE. He's got long arms, long legs." -- Bunn head coach David Howle

Steve Paskorz; Linebacker, 6-2, 220 pounds, Hampton High School (Allison Park, Pa.)'s No. 36 strong-side linebacker. Paskorz played primarily as a running back throughout his career. He was slowed by injuries during both his senior and junior campaigns. He rushed for over 4,000 yards during his career. As a junior, Paskorz rushed for 1,291 yards on 160 carries and scored 14 touchdowns, despite missing time due to an ankle injury. Paskorz was named to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Fab 22" team and named first team Class AAA Associated Press All-State after his junior campaign. He selected Notre Dame over Michigan, Pitt, Iowa, West Virginia.

Paskorz didn't play much linebacker in high school, but Notre Dame loved his speed and physical ability. Physically he is capable of hitting the field early, but there will be a transition period and learning curve for him. He was a physical running back, so contact shouldn't be an issue.

Aaron Nagel; Linebacker, 6-2, 220 pounds; LeMont, High school (Ill.)'s No. 14 weak-side linebacker. As a senior he rushed for 884 yards and 13 touchdowns. As a junior he rushed for 1,305 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was a two-time all-state selection and a U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant.

Aaron played linebacker for the first time in his career after playing safety in the past. Aaron made 42 tackles and five sacks. He was limited due to an ankle injury he suffered early in the season. Aaron plays downhill, locates the ball and makes solid tackles. He's a football play with terrific instincts. He'll get a chance to compete for playing time at one of the inside linebacker positions next fall.

"Great hands, solid, physical runner and runs great routes. He's also very physical on defense. Aaron comes up with some big hits in every game. Four-year varsity starter for us. Outstanding young man that ranks 3rd in his class." – head coach Eric Michaelsen

Brian Smith; Linebacker, 6-3, 230 pounds, St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Overland Park, Kan.)'s No. 30 middle linebacker. As a senior he registered 126 tackles and nine sacks. He also blocked five punts. Kansas first-team all-state selection. Brian originally committed to Iowa, but Notre Dame came calling he had to listen. His father Chris played for Notre Dame (‘82-'85).

Brian appears to be a very versatile player. Notre Dame recruited him to play linebacker, and that is where he'll start his career. Nonetheless he could play several positions on defense. Like Nagel, he's a natural, instinctive football player that always finds the ball.

"We moved him around bit this year. We put his hand down quite a bit and played him off the edge and it was real hard for offensive tackles to block. He's real tough coming up field on the pass rush. If he puts on a lot more weight, which I think he can hold, he might not be a bad guy to have put his hand down at defensive end. He's probably an outside backer or defensive end. He knew in big games that we needed him to come of the edge and he did that for us." -- Head coach Kevin Kopecky

Gary Gray; Cornerback, 5-11, 170 pounds; Richland Northeast High School (Columbia, S.C.)'s No. 6 ranked cornerback and No. 73 prospect nationally. He played primarily at quarterback during his senior season. He totaled 1,800 total yards and 23 touchdowns. He had eight career interceptions. Gray appeared in the Carolina Shrine Bowl as well as the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Gary graduated early and enrolled at Notre Dame in January.

Gary might have the highest upside of any cornerback on the Notre Dame roster. He will push fifth-year senior Ambrose Wooden, seniors Terrail Lambert and Leo Ferrine, as well and sophomores Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil. Early reports from campus are that Gray looks fantastic. Despite being thin, he is physical. He is very flexible and loose. He transitions very well from his back-pedal to running forward.

Harrison Smith; Safety, 6-2, 205 pounds; Knoxville Catholic High School (Tenn.)'s No. 25 ranked safety. The Gatorade State Player of the Year in Tennessee. As a senior he had over 1,300 yards rushing on 155 attempts and 17 rushing touchdowns. He had 446 yards catching and 6 touchdowns. On defense he had 61 tackles and five interceptions, two returned for two touchdowns.

Smith is another player that could be used at several positions, but it looks like he'll start out challenging the safeties already on campus for the starting free safety spot. Harrison is physically ready to play now. The only question is if he can pick up the mental portion of the game. He certainly is a candidate to see playing time on special teams.

"He does it all for us. He could be a big safety or he could be a linebacker in college. He's very physical. I could see him playing a ‘Will' linebacker in a 4-3 scheme or playing the strong safety in the 4-2-5 look. He's just the type of kid you could plug in anywhere. Because he's so fast, big and physical I think he'll fit in a lot spots." – head coach Mark Pemberton

Brandon Walker; Kicker/Punter, 6-2, 190 pounds, Findlay High School (Ohio)'s No. 6 ranked punter. As a punter he averaged 41.0 yards per kick. On kick-offs, he had 80 percent touchbacks. On field goal attempts he was three for six. His junior year he was 11out of 14. His career long was 50 yards. Brandon selected Notre Dame over Louisville and Pittsburgh.

Walker will challenge sophomore Ryan Burkhart for the kicking duties. Notre Dame was inconsistent last season, so the coaching staff felt that this was an area that they had to improve. Walker will also serve as a back-up punter to fifth-year senior Geoff Price.

"As far as field goals we didn't give him many opportunities and those were form 40 –plus but he definitely has the leg to get it in from 45 to 55 yards. He's also worked at different camps at kicking off the ground. When he did use a tee in high school he used the thinnest tee as possible because he knew eventually that he wouldn't be able to use any." – Findlay head coach Mark Ritzler Top Stories