Notre Dame pulled in one of the best defensive classes in recent memory this year. Here’s a quick look at every who is expected to sign with the Irish today.
Josh Atkinson – CB (6-0, 180, 4.5; Granada HS – Livermore, CA) – Brother of fellow Notre Dame recruit George Atkinson, Josh is a speedy cornerback that fits the profile Brian Kelly and staff want to recruit for at corner – tall and quick. Still a little raw, Atkinson has a lot of room to develop under defensive backs coach Chuck Martin. Both Atkinson brothers will be playing in the USA vs. The World game.
Jalen Brown – CB (6-0, 175; Irving Macarthur – Irving, TX) – Like Atkinson, Brown fits the profile that Notre Dame is looking for at corner. Brown is a physical defender who is very similar prospect to Atkinson in that he needs to be developed, but possess all the tools necessary to be a very good college corner.
Brad Carrico – DE (6-6, 255, 4.8; Coffman HS – Dublin, Ohio) Carrico was the first commitment in this year’s class back in the spring and was one of the early enrollment recruits to begin his career last month. Carrico will start off as a defensive lineman, but is one of several candidates who could get a look at offensive line due to numbers. He will have a head start on some of the other defensive ends in this class because of his early enrollment so his first spring will be very important for him.
Ben Councell – OLB (6-5, 225, 4.4; A. C. Reynolds HS – Ashville, NC) – Councell was one of the fastest rising recruits this year after a strong showing at the Shrine Bowl. Listed by some recruiting services as a defensive end, Councell will play outside linebacker in Notre Dame’s 3-4 defense. Like a lot of the defensive recruits, Councell fits the exact profile Notre Dame is looking for at outside linebacker – tall, fast, and athletic. Councell ended up ranked in Rivals’ final Top 100.
Matthias Farley – S (6-1, 185, 4.5; Christian HS – Charlotte, NC) – Farely is one of the forgotten recruits in this class simply because he committed early and never wavered in his commitment. A versatile athlete, Farely could play corner or safety, but will most likely get a look at safety first. Bennett Okotcha’s last minute decommintment, however, could also open up an opportunity at corner. Farely has all the makings of a rangy free safety.
Jarrett Grace – ILB (6-4, 235, 4.7; Colerain HS – Cincinnati, OH) – Notre Dame has certainly gotten taller at linebacker with this class and Grace again fits the profile. Grace often gets overlooked by the talented outside linebackers in this class, but he is a well rounded inside linebacker prospect who is strong against the run and more than effective in coverage.
Eilar Hardy – s (6-0, 170, 4.5; Central HS – Pickerington, OH) – Hardy is a physical defensive back who is very good playing close to the line of scrimmage. He will need to bulk up considerably to play strong safety, but looks like he could be a very good compliment to Farley is Farley settles in at free safety.
Chase Hounshell – DE (6-5, 250; Lake Catholic HS – Mentor, OH) – Hounshell will start off his career at defensive end but was also recruited to play offensive tackle by major programs like Florida where he originally committed to. After the retirement of Urban Meyer, Hounshell opened up his recruiting and selected Notre Dame. He has the frame to add on more weight to grow into the defensive end position. Made some major strides between his junior and senior seasons and still has lots of room for growth.
Aaron Lynch – DE (6-6, 250, 4.65; Island Coast HS – Cape Coral, FL) – Lynch was one of the jewels of this year’s class as well as one of the craziest recruiting stories we’ve covered since starting UHND. After originally committed to Notre Dame over the summer, Lynch flipped to Florida State only to flip back to Notre Dame just days before enrolling early. Lynch was one of, if not the, most impressive defensive ends at the Army All American Bowl. Lynch should crack the two deep from day one and should provide a pass rush threat off the edge. Tony Alford deserves a lot of the credit for Notre Dame being able to pull Lynch back into the fold. Lynch is the exact type of player Notre Dame has struggled to land for years.
Anthony Rabasa – OLB (6-3, 220; Columbus HS – Miami, FL) – Rabasa is another forgotten man in this defensive class, but is an elite outside linebacker recruit Notre Dame was able to pull out of Miami under the nose of the Hurricanes. Miami did make a late run at Rabasa after Al Golden was hired, but he held firm in his commitment. Rabasa is listed as a defensive end on most recruiting sites, but he will start off as an outside linebacker for Notre Dame. He will need to work on his pass coverage skills, but brings plenty of pass rushing skills to the OLB position. Rabasa will play in the USA vs. The World All Star game as well.
Tony Springmann – DE (6-6, 257, 4.8; Bishop Dwenger HS – Fort Wayne, IN) – Like Carrico, Springmann was an early commitment for Notre Dame and could also get a look at offensive line due to the numbers crunch. Because of his height, Springmann most likely would project as an offensive tackle if he switched to offense. ESPN specifically really likes Springmann’s ability to play tackle at the college level.
Stephon Tuitt – DE (6-5, 260; Monroe Area HS – Monroe, GA) – Tuitt’s recruitment was almost as strange as Lynch’s in that he committed to Notre Dame fairly early only to decommit for Georgia Tech before flipping back to Notre Dame a day later. Tuitt is a prototypical defensive end in Notre Dame’s defense and is the perfect compliment to Lynch. The two should combine with Louis Nix to give Notre Dame an outstanding defensive front in future years. Like Lynch, Tuitt could be in the two deep from day one because he has the size needed to see the field very early. Tuitt will be playing in the USA vs. The World game as well.
Ishaq Williams – OLB (6-6, 230, 4.65; Abraham Lincoln HS – Brooklyn, NY) – The biggest surprise in this year’s class might have been Williams’ decision to commit to Notre Dame in the early morning hours on a day he was scheduled to make a trip to Penn State. Bob Diaco made a 4:30 AM in-home visit to seal the deal and the rest is history. Williams enrolled early with defensive classmates Lynch and Carrico. With an open outside linebacker spot thanks to the graduation of Kerry Neal, Williams will have a chance to stake his claim for early playing time this spring. Williams’s skill-set however, probably lines up more with Darius Fleming’s and he could be groomed as Fleming’s replacement in 2012 after Fleming graduates next spring.
UPDATE: Troy Niklas signed with Notre Dame this morning pushing the Irish class to 24 and giving Notre Dame an insane haul on the defensive line. We’ll have more on Niklas later today.