Defense should be loaded for the future

<P>The defense appears to be in good shape for the next few years. As I stated yesterday, one should look at two classes together to really get an understanding of how successful this Notre Dame class could be. We took a look at the offense yesterday and we will take a look at the defense today. </P>

The only real hole the Irish have is probably at linebacker but I do think Notre Dame signed some quality linebackers in this class with enough athleticism to make up for the lack of pure numbers. Let's take a look at the defense.

Defensive Line

2002 Derek Landri, Travis Leitko, Chris Frome, Dan Santucci
2003 Trevor Laws and Victor Abiamiri

The Irish should be very strong up front for the future. Landri was a five star prospect last year. Leitko was a four star player and highly recruited. After watching the class of 2002, I think Notre Dame has at least three guys that can play and possibly four. Dan Santucci might be the surprise of the whole class. 2002 gave the Irish pure numbers to add depth. The 2003 class adds talent. Laws should be one of the best players to play at Notre Dame in a long time. On film, he looks just as good as any player they have signed that I can remember. Abiamiri will add that pure pass rusher the Irish have been lacking. Signing Victor was a huge coup for the Irish. Notre Dame needs to land one player like Victor every year to be a top defense. Abiamiri is a great start.

Linebackers

2002 None
2003 Mitchell Thomas, Dwight Stephenson, Nick Borseti and Joe Brockington

The Irish don't have a lot of numbers but I do believe they have some talent. Watching Mitchell Thomas on film is impressive. Mitchell has excellent quickness and speed. He hits very hard and plays with that type of intensity that Willingham talks about. I had no idea Thomas was as good as he appears to be. I have no idea how he could be ranked as a three star player because he looks as athletic (if not more) than any linebacker they have signed in quite some time. Dwight Stephenson brings good size and speed (4.4) to the position. Stephenson had 27 sacks this year playing defensive end so he can get to the quarterback. He might be a guy that lines up on the end in dime coverage to get to the quarterback. He obviously has the pedigree to be a champion. Borseti and Brockington suffer from lack of hype. People need to understand that Willingham was not offering players early and only went after players he really wanted. Brockington and Borseti were two players they were very high on. When people look for sleepers, I bet one comes from one of these two players.

Defensive Back

2002 Mike Richardson and Jake Carney
2003 Freddie Parish, Tommy Zbikowski and LaBrose Hedgemon

I don't think this list is the complete list. I expect one of Chase Anastasio or Ambrose Wooden to move here when all is said and done. Mike Richardson really surprised me in fall camp. He is at least 6-0 and he can cover just about as well as Walton or Duff. He was raw and made freshman mistakes but you could see that he had all the tools needed to be a good corner prospect. Jake Carney also surprised me with his speed and his physical play. He could play push for time sometime in the future. The 2003 class adds a lot of talent and numbers. Freddie Parish is going to push for time right away. I expect Freddie to play strong safety right out of the gate but could play any of the 4 positions. He has that nasty attitude and plays with arrogance on the field that all the great players have. Zbikowski showed he could play corner in the Army All-Star game. He has good speed and should have the hips to play the position but has never played corner so it will take some time. How can you not like a Spiderman? Hedgemon has gone against one of the best wide receivers in the country (Chad Jackson) for the last 4 years. That type of competition has to be beneficial. I don't think we are done here and one of Anastasio or Wooden will end up here. Wooden would add serious speed to the position. Anastasio would add some speed and athleticism to the safety position.

The defense looks well stocked for the future. Defensive line looks to be in the best shape and I can't remember the last time I could say that. The secondary also has numbers, which is another thing we haven't been able to say in a while. If nothing else, Willingham and his staff appear to be solving the numbers problem. He is bringing in numbers at each position every year and that will add quality depth for the future. Irish fans have to be excited about how the future is shaping up.


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