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.
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 UHND.com 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 UHND.com on Niklas later today.