As Brian Kelly and staff started forming the recruiting parameters for 2015, there were obvious needs that had to be addressed, followed by what we would classify as great additions to the class, but not a necessity. There were a number of factors that played into specific target areas for the Notre Dame program, including suspensions, injuries, and transfers; but those are pretty typical factors for any program.
One of the bright spots that came from the injuries and suspensions during the 2014 season, was the ability to see young recruits in action. The Irish staff were forced to fill gaps, often, and it got no easier as the season went along. That early playing time, along with a sound game-plan, paid off with a victory over LSU, in the Music City Bowl. The Irish staff finally caught a break, a huge break, when both Ronnie Stanley and Sheldon Day decided to return for the 2015 seasons.
While it’s fun to look back on the bowl win, it is obvious the time to look forward is here. Now that signing day has come and gone, we want to take a look at how the Irish did in filling in some gaps for the 2015 season, and beyond. The best place to start, for us at least, is at the quarterback position. That conversation begins and ends with the commitment of four-star QB, Brandon Wimbush.
Brian Kelly was not shy about what Brandon brings to the table. “What we love about him is obviously he has great arm strength. He’s got escapability. He’s got a calm and that cool, collected presence about him,” said Kelly on Wednesday. With the addition of Wimbush, the Irish now have as deep and talented stable of quarterbacks as any program in the country. Conventional wisdom will have Zaire as starter, Golson will assume the role of back-up(assuming he doesn’t transfer), and Kizer and Wimbush will be waiting in the wings. We struggle to remember an era of Notre Dame football that was as solid from top to bottom, as we expect the 2015 group to be.
With the quarterback position seemingly in great shape, we focus on the running back position. The Irish currently have a duo of talented backs already in South Bend, in the likes of Tarean Folston, and Greg Bryant. But without a single running back commitment in 2014, the Irish coaching staff needed to put in some work for 2015, and that is exactly what they did. Securing the commitments of four-star Dexter Williams and Josh Adams, the Irish will have a deep group going into next season. Not only are these four backs very talented, combined they can an awful of different, but positive things on the field. Don’t be surprised to see the two newcomers, in Williams and Adams, see the field often in some capacity.
So the Irish have the quarterback and running back situation sewed up, but what about wide receiver? Well we happen to think the Irish did a solid job here also. Already a point of strength for 2015, the additions of Miles Boykin, C.J, Sanders, and Jalen Guyton will only further that notion. Less we forget the commitments from Aliz’e Jones and Equanimeous St. Brown, there will be plenty of talented targets available for the foreseeable future, in South Bend
In regards to the offensive line, it’s simply a matter of quality, and not quantity in 2015. It’s pretty typical for any given program to secure four to five offensive line commitments a year, but given how well the Irish have recruited this position the last few years, they had the luxury of narrowing that down. Tristen Hoge, a four-star center from Idaho, is considered the best of the two, but don’t sleep on three-star guard from Illinois, Trevor Ruhland. In fact, the Irish are so confident in the offensive line group that resides at Notre Dame right now, they have the luxury of moving Jerry Tillery,rated one of the best offensive tackles in the country, to the defensive side of the ball.
It’s common knowledge how strong the Irish program has recruited the offensive line recently, but we are just as impressed with the additions to the front seven over the last few years. The 2015 class will see the likes of four-stars Jerry Tillery and Elijah Taylor, and three-star Micah-Dew Treadway, and Brandon Tiassum. Some would have liked to see Kelly and his staff secure another high profile defensive line recruit for 2015, but given their success over the last few years, Notre Dame is in fine shape here.
The Irish also knocked it out of the park at the linebacker position, securing the commitments of the three extremely talented players, that when combined, give the Irish one of the best linebacker classes in the nation. The linebacker position should be back at full strength in 2015, but adding the likes of Tevon Coney, Josh Barajas, and Asmar Bilal should add some much needed depth to position that desperately needed it in 2014.
The one area in which Notre Dame didn’t hit on all needs was in the secondary where they failed to land the 3rd safety that they had been desparately trying to land all January long. Thankfully they were able to secure a commitment from Mykelti Williams in December. Without his addition to the class of 2015, Notre Dame would have landed just a single safety. As is, safety was one of the biggest needs coming into this class and Notre Dame came up short.
Depending on who you talk to, the Irish staff did a solid job recruiting for need, and hopefully addressed some glaring holes, in regards to depth. Here is a quick breakdown of what areas were addressed for the class of 2015
- QB – 1 (Winbush)
- RB – 2 (Adams, Williams)
- TE – 1 (Jones)
- OL – 2 (Hoge,Ruhland)
- DL – 5 (Wallace, Dew-Treadway, Tiassum, Tillery, Taylor)
- WR – 4 (St. Brown, Guyton, Sanders, Boykin)
- LB – 3 (Coney, Bilal, Barajas)
- DB – 5 (Crawford, Coleman, Willaims, White, Fertitta)
- K – 1 (Yoon)
Most people would consider Brian Kelly a pragmatic recruiter, and there is nothing wrong with that, and it has proved to be a solid approach during his tenure at Notre Dame. Of course there is always going to be a counter-narrative to Kelly’s style of recruiting, but other than the secondary, the Irish coaching staff has to put together a class that should be able to help immediately, and in the future.
It’s a fair assessment to say that the final collective recruiting class of 2015 is a bit lacking, but overall, a group that should be very productive during their time in South Bend. The biggest miss of 2015 is clearly the lack of secondary help, and while there were some key additions, this is an area that needed more attention. The Irish will finish outside the top ten with the recruiting class of 2015, but that doesn’t mean the group is void of talent. As always though, these young athletes still need to develop on the field, in the classroom, and in life. No matter what evaluation star each of these kids are branded with, there is a lot of work left to be done.