Last week we took a look at Notre Dame’s needs on the offensive side of the ball for the class of 2016. Today we shift our focus to the defensive side of the ball where Notre Dame will be looking to land some impact players on each level to compliment the depth it built with the class of 2015.
On the defensive side of the ball, things get a bit trickier than they were on offense. Let’s be honest, the Irish got lucky with Sheldon Day’s decision to return this upcoming year. It also sounds like KeiVarae Russell will make his return in 2015, but even with that bit of Irish luck, there is no question they need to add some frontline talent to a defensive squad that was plagued with injuries and lack of depth in 2014. There is without a doubt, that Notre Dame coaching staff has put a heavy emphasis of recruiting defensive talent, specifically the secondary, for 2016.
Right now the Notre Dame program has multiple offers out there, and there is some mutual interest from multiple recruits. The two that stand out at this point would be four-star defensive end, Auston Robertson, from Ft. Wayne, IN. The Irish have done very well recruiting their home state, and that could continue with Robertson. A second recruit to keep a eye on would be four-star defensive end, Josh King. King hales from Illinois, and while there is very real interest from both sides, but Michigan and Michigan St. are real players here. Brian Kelly and staff have a good track record when it comes to recent defensive line recruiting, but the Irish program needs to see that trend continue this upcoming year.
Notre Dame added a lot of depth with the class of 2015 in Elijah Taylor, Micah Dew-Treadway, Brandon Tiassum, and edge rusher Bo Wallace, but the Irish need to land an impact lineman – specifically one that can rush the passer – in the class of 2016.
The lack of depth and experience for the Irish secondary was a real concern, and the 2015 class did very little to alleviate that. That’s not to say that that secondary is void of talent, they are just unproven, or haven’t reached their reached full potential yet. Numbers are also a concern after Notre Dame failed to land another safety late following the loss of Prentice McKinney.
Four-star cornerback, Damar Hamlin could really help out here. Right now Hamlin has some real interest in Notre Dame, but Penn St. seems to lead the pack – for now. The safety position is another real concern for the Irish staff, and there seems to be three names consistently floating out there for 2016 class. Five-star safety, Eric Monroe, four-star safety, Craig Watts, and three-star safety, Devin Studstill. At this juncture, the Irish lead for none of them, but have strong interest from all three of them. There is some real work that needs to be down here, and as soon as the Irish coaching staff situation has settled down, we are sure that the work will be put in.
With the situation at safety for Notre Dame in terms of returning depth following the 2015 season, there is no reason the Irish staff shouldn’t be able to land an impact safety next February.
Although the coaching staff landed one of the best linebacking recruiting groups in the nation this year, that doesn’t mean the effort slows down. With the additions of Tevon Coney, Josh Barajas, and Asmar Bilal the linebacker position should be considered an area of strength for the foreseeable future, but Irish coaching staff is already hard at work trying to add to that. As of now, Notre Dame has a total of seven offers out for the class of for the upcoming year. Out of those seven, there seems to be strong mutual interest from at least three of them, early on. Four-star Lokeni Toailoa(CA), Four-star Jaquan Yulee(VA), and four-star Curtis Robinson(CA). To add another group of talented linebacker such as these three would a dream, but as always, still a long ways to go.
These are just a few of the names that Irish are looking at early on for the class of 2016, and while we touched only a few right now, they are the ones who seem like legitimate options for next year. It’s a long haul until signing day 2016 though, and so much will change. but for now, these are some impacts recruits that could have Irish fans smiling in February of next year.