Front Seven Dominates Class of 2011

Baring any last minute surprises, Notre Dame is set to sign a class of 22 recruits today with the possible addition of Troy Niklas later this afternoon.  Here’s a look at which positions the Irish had the most success at.

stephon tuitt notre dame
Stephon Tuitt is one component of the best Notre Dame defensive line class in year. (Photo - Icons SMI)

9. Running Backs – The main missing ingredient in this class is an every-down, top flight running back. Notre Dame was able to add Cam McDaniel late, but losing Justice Hayes hurt and missing out on Savon Huggins and Amir Carlisle hurt even more. With McDaniel joining Cierre Wood, Jonas Gray, and Cameron Roberson as the only running backs on the roster for next season, it’s easy to see why Brian Kelly has contemplated moving Theo Riddick back to running back. Running back will be one of the top priorities in 2012.

8. Special Teams – Notre Dame only added one special teams player this year, but it was a good one in Kyle Brindza. It’s never ideal to have three place kickers on scholarship at the same time, but if scouting reports of Brindza are accurate, he should immediately give Notre Dame a boost on kick-offs. He could also challenge Ben Turk for playing time at punter. Turk has been great at pinning opponents inside the 20, but he hasn’t been able to get off too many field position-changing, booming punts.  Brindza will get a chance to push Turk in spring camp as an early enrollee.

7. Offensive Line – This is by far the toughest position to grade in this class because there could be a couple defensive linemen moved across the line of scrimmage. As is, Notre Dame has just three offensive linemen in this class with Matt Hegarty, Connor Hanratty, and Nick Martin. A solid group no doubt, but without a couple defensive linemen moving over to the offensive line, the numbers are short here this year. Look for Notre Dame to focus on the interior offensive line next season.

6. Defensive Backs – The loss of Bennett Okotcha to Oklahoma on Monday hurts depth in a pretty solid group. Notre Dame could have really used another corner in this class with a major lack of experienced depth at the position. Jalen Brown and Josh Atkinson are both very good corners for this defensive system and at least one, if not both, will need to be ready to play from day one. At safety, Mathias Farely is a tremendous athlete, but is still very raw. Eilar Hardy is a big hitting safety who will need to put in some time in the weight room before being ready to step in at strong safety.

5. Tight End – Notre Dame signed only tight end this year, but they got the one they wanted in Ben Koyack. Koyack is an elite tight end recruit who should continue the line of recent standout tight ends such as Anthony Fasano, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, and now Tyler Eifert. Koyack often gets forgotten about in this class because he committed so early, but he is only of the truly elite recruits in this year’s class.

4. Wide Receiver – Notre Dame only signed two wide receivers this year, but I really like both for the Irish offense. Davaris Daniels and George Atkinson are big play receivers that will push for playing time early. Neither will be forced into playing time because of the depth at the position, but both are capable of earning it when they arrive on campus this summer.

3. Quarterback – Some times things just work out for the best. Such is the case with quarterback recruiting for Notre Dame this year. The Irish missed out on some of their top prospects early on, but ended up with a quarterback tailor-made for Brian Kelly’s offense with early enrollee Everett Golson. Golson isn’t a running quarterback, he is a passing quarterback that can run if need be and that is exactly the type of quarterback that works best in Kelly’s offense.

2. Linebackers – It has been a long time since Notre Dame has landed a linebacker class like the one coming in. Ishaq Williams, Anthony Rabasa, and Ben Councell are elite outside linebackers and Jarrett Grace is one of the more underrated recruits in this class. Williams was one of the biggest surprises in this class since it looked like the Brooklyn native would end up at Penn State before Bob Diaco’s now famous 4:30 am in-home visit. Councell was a late riser and used a strong showing at the Shrine Bowl to jump into the final Rivals Top 100.

1. Defensive Line – With or without Troy Niklas, the defensive line haul this year is by far the best at the position since has been around. Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt are the types of elite defensive ends Notre Dame always has trouble pulling out of the South. In years past Notre Dame lost the likes of Omar Hunter and Justin Trattou to SEC teams like Florida. That almost happened this year as well, but Kelly and staff pulled out all the stops and were able to flip both Tuitt and Lynch back to Notre Dame after previously decommitting.

Lycnh and Tuitt are the headliners, but Chase Hounshell, Tony Springmann, and Brad Carico are all solid defensive linemen in their own right. At least one will probably eventually move to offensive line because of numbers (two if Niklas is added to the fold later today), but don’t count any of them out just yet. Bottom line here though, is Notre Dame hasn’t brought in a class like this along the defensive line in sometime.

UPDATE: Troy Niklas has signed with Notre Dame per Brian Kelly at his press conference.  This only further solidifies the defensive line as the top position group in this class.  More on on Niklas later today.

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  1. Delta-ST begins on 23 March.
    The USC issue is simple-these punks have cajones the size of Alaska and lawyers to run the scam. They make the NCAAA look like the true rubes that they are-dolts for sure.
    May be too early to predict but the Irish are going to be spelling BIG TROUBLE for upcoming foes.m Something very special is unfolding. “The end is near”!

  2. Anybody know when spring training starts? When the season ends diehards have to appease themselves with the recruiting soap operas. Now, i’m stuck daydreaming about September.

  3. I just watched the circus for the Clowney signing. This is getting a bit out of hand. These are high school kids picking a college!!! Why is this given so much media attention. The only thing I could think of was when I watched that asshole LeBron James announce he was going to Miami.

  4. Bill,

    Your points are great, but I am sick and tired of the NCAA coming down with sanctions that don’t mean shit. The still feel guilty about killing SMU’s football program and can’t really slap a cash cow like USC. It doesn’t matter ND will win the right way.

  5. I love it USC is on probation but are able to sign 30 recruits. This is a bunch of bullshit and the NCAA is a joke. I wonder who got a new house this year from a booster?

    1. I read an article on about this issue. This was my take on it. U$C is appealing the ruling therefore, delaying there penalty. If the NCAA says “all sanctions will be enforced” then USC will only be able to take in nine recruits each year for the next two years. I hope that makes sense. They are dooping the system. I say BS also but they found a “loophole”.

      1. If the appeal fails, the scholarship reductions slide a year. USC is still out 10 scholarships per year for three years, it is just 2012, 2013, and 2014. Further, USC has a few that they can roll back to last year. They were short of players to start with and are trying to front load as much as they possibly can.

      2. i read a couple articles on this as well. what i don’t get is how the appeal suspends the scholarship ban but not on the post-season prohibition. the only way i could make sense of it is that usc did not appeal the post-season ban, and is hoping that the scholarship ban will be lessened upon further review.

        one way i made sense of their current recruiting class is that these kids won’t have as much competition. assuming the ban is upheld, by the time they are seniors, there will be a maximum 45 underclassmen, and 15 of those will be true freshman. i wonder if kiffin uses that in recruiting, instead of playing early, hey kid, you’ll play as a senior

      3. With Kiffin as their coach…Ultimate Scam College will continue to suck and be the next SMU!


      4. I think there’s a few factors with USC to consider.

        1. They would like to get a post-season ban out of the way as early as possible.

        2. It’s one thing to say Yeah, we’re reducing your post-season ban from 2 years to one when you’ve missed out on one bowl already. It’s an entirely different monster for the NCAA to say “ok, we’re reducing the lost scholarships to 5 per year” after USC would have had one class based on 10 less. It’s just a mess not worth dealing with.

        3. Don’t forget the attrition USC suffered as a result of last year. 10 less scholarships doesn’t mean you can only take on 15 kids per year. It means you only have 75 scholarships.

        4. Even if USC were up against the 75/85 already, USC could still recruit as many kids as they normally would, they’d just have to fight for fewer spots.

        5. F$#@ it. USC’s going to have enough to deal with, how they operate within the rules doesn’t matter to ND, so long as they operate within the rules. Let’s hope they manage to put together an awesome squad. It’ll just make me feel better when the Irish beat them again next year.

  6. Any know if ND is making a push for any other players today or was Niklas the last non verbal guy they were working today?

    1. Not aware of any others on the line. The funny thing is is that Savon Huggins (at least until recently) hadn’t signed to Rutgers, and i’m holding false hopes that he may reconsider.

      1. I heard an interview with Schiano and he has been actively recruiting this kid since he was a freshman.

  7. Good summary – worth noting here the longer term view Kelly takes vs the Weis era. Kelli’s classes are more balanced but lean toward defense. Charlie’s teams struggled on defense, but his last three recruiting classes were still weighed heavily toward offensive players: 2007 – 65% offense 2008 50% Offense 2009 67% Offense. Depending on how you classify “athletes” Kelly’s first two classes are: 2010 50% Defense, 2011 60% Defense.

    Also worth a thought is that one of ND’s “need areas” is O-Line – where Kelly has only three true O-lineman, but he already has two big, quick D-Lineman among the new seven up front that have big frames and already said they’ll play O-line if needed. Two years from now your gonna have some big tough fast O-lineman.

    Moving Riddick back to RB takes the sting out of the RB misses this year, but a good 2011 and less RB competition next year (i.e. more playing time)for a 2012 recruit could attract a big time stud to tote the rock.

    Get these guys signed and thank Kelly and the boys for a job well done.

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