Notre Dame Football Recruiting: 2013 Targets for the Fighting Irish

James ToljCorrespondent IIMarch 20, 2012

Notre Dame Football Recruiting: 2013 Targets for the Fighting Irish

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    With some key additions in 2013, Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame football team can make fans forget about the up-and-down recruiting cycle in 2012.

    And Coach Kelly isn't waiting around for things to happen.

    After looking at the Rivals100 rankings for the 2013 recruiting cycle, which is the top 100 soon-to-be senior high school prospects rated by Rivals.com, it is easier to say who Notre Dame hasn't offered rather than account for every player who has already received a scholarship proposal.

    However, some of those top 100 players have already been assigned a Fighting Irish recruiter.

    So, who are the players who are getting the most attention from Notre Dame early in the recruiting process? 

Su'a Cravens, S; Vista Murrieta High School (Murrieta, Calif.)

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    Su'a Cravens is rated the fifth-best prospect in the country and the nation's top safety by Rivals.com.

    The 5-star defensive back stands at 6'1", 201 pounds and has a large frame that allowed him to play outside linebacker in high school as well.

    Cravens can cover receivers in man-to-man, but he is just as effective playing in a zone defensive scheme (evident as he bursts to the outside to cover the running back after rushing the quarterback). He uses his speed and long arms to his advantage when rushing the passer, and when he can't get to the quarterback, he makes sure to use his vertical jumping ability and gets his hands up to knock down the football.

    Cravens is also a sure tackler when playing against the run and doesn't give up on plays early.

    According to Rivals, Mike Denbrock has been assigned the job of going after Cravens. After coaching the tight ends under Brian Kelly at Notre Dame (he was the offensive line and tight ends coach for the Irish from 2002-2004, too), Denbrock is now the passing game coordinator and the outside wide receivers coach. 

Max Browne, QB; Skyline High School (Sammamish, Wash.)

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    Also being recruited by Mike Denbrock is Max Browne, a 5-star quarterback out of Washington. He is rated the eighth player in the nation by Rivals.com and the nation's top quarterback.

    At 6'5" and 202 pounds, Browne has NFL size and a strong arm. He is deadly accurate, and he has outstanding fundamentals, which means he needs little polish once entering the college arena (he always keeps his body squared even when throwing on the move). Browne rarely makes a poor decision, either.

    While he isn't as athletic as some of the quarterbacks currently on Notre Dame's roster, Browne is underrated in that category. He isn't a burner, but Brown is mobile in the pocket and breaks out of it to run for a first down when needed. 

    Browne is the only player in the Rivals100 who has been assigned a recruiter by Notre Dame, but has yet to receive a scholarship offer. He is considered a pro-style quarterback, and the coaching staff is likely waiting to make sure he is a good fit in Brian Kelly's spread system before extending an offer.

    The Irish better not wait too long, though.

    After watching his game tape, it isn't hard to see that Browne would fit in well at Notre Dame, and he has already been offered a scholarship by big-name schools such as Alabama, Oklahoma, Auburn and, Notre Dame's arch-rival, USC.

Ty Isaac, RB; Joliet Catholic High School (Joliet, Ill.)

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    Ty Isaac is rated the 18th-best player in the country by Rivals.com and the second-best running back behind already committed Thomas Tyner (Oregon).

    The 5-star running back out of Illinois is taller than most who play the position (which means he could easily switch to wideout if needed). Isaac is 6'3", 215 pounds and is extremely unique at his position.

    His tall, 215-pound frame would allow Isaac to put on even more weight and become a true power back. However, Isaac is also extremely fast (he runs a 4.45 40-yard dash, according to 247sports.com), and he could just as easily fit in as an outside runner or a speedy wide receiver.

    Isaac has great quickness and field vision. He can find a hole and break a long run between the tackles, or he can bounce a handoff to the outside for a big gain. The Illinois product plants his feet well and makes firm cuts to make defenders often miss.

    Once Isaac gets into the open field, he uses his long strides to pull away from the pack. He isn't necessarily a one-cut runner, but he is very effective when he does make just a single cut. Isaac is a solid route-runner as well. He can catch passes out of the backfield or line up as a wideout.

    He is currently being recruited by Notre Dame's new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach (and former secondary coach), Chuck Martin.

Ethan Pocic, OT; Lemont High School (Lemont, Ill.)

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    Offensive tackle Ethan Pocic is rated the 27th-best player in the country and the third-best offensive lineman, according to Rivals.com

    Pocic stands at 6'7", 285 pounds, and has room to grow. He displays the quickness needed of a tackle to ward off edge-rushers, and he has the power to battle defensive tackles in the trenches as a guard.

    He moves his feet and uses his hands well, and he would add to the versatility the Irish already have along the offensive line.

    Pocic finishes his blocks, but when the defender ends up on the ground, Pocic quickly goes on to his next target (if he doesn't have the first defender locked up on the ground already).

    The 4-star offensive tackle is being recruited by Chuck Martin.

Jaylon Smith, OLB; Bishop Luers High School (Fort Wayne, Ind.)

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    Jaylon Smith is rated the 34th-best player in the nation and the fifth-best linebacker by Rivals.com.

    Smith, a 4-star recruit at outside linebacker, is extremely physical and more than competent when asked to stay in coverage. 

    The Indiana native currently stands at 6'2", 202 pounds, and he has stellar speed for his size. He is fantastic when in pursuit of the football and is a great tackler.

    Smith is also a patient yet persistent pass-rusher. He waits for a hole in the line to open up before attacking the quarterback (maybe coming from from his time playing running back), but he has a high motor and doesn't stop until the play is finished. He also uses his long arms to ward off blockers.

    Smith came up in my previous article of top in-state recruits, and he is the top get out of the 2013 recruiting class in Indiana. He is being recruited by Notre Dame's defensive line coach, Mike Elston.

Chans Cox, OLB; Blue Ridge High School (Lakeside, Ariz.)

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    Chans Cox is rated the 40th-best player, seventh-best linebacker and the eighth-best outside linebacker in the nation by Rivals.com. Cox already has great size at 6'2", 220 pounds, and shows above-average speed with a 4.53 40-yard dash time.

    Whether he is running the football or tackling players with it, two words describes how Cox plays: mean and tough.

    A 4-star recruit, Cox really has no regard for his own safety. He flies into opponents at full speed and lays them out. He covers a lot of ground when attacking the opponents' ground game, too.

    He doesn't get fooled easily either. Cox won't bite on juke moves and is disciplined against the option. He played inside linebacker and running back his junior year, so he is certainly talented and athletic enough to play at either inside or outside linebacker. 

    Cox is being recruited by cornerbacks coach and co-defensive coordinator Kerry Cooks.

Steven Mitchell, WR; Bishop Alemany High School (Mission Hills, Calif.)

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    Steven Mitchell, the 52nd-rated player nationally and seventh-best wide receiver, according to Rivals.com, has the potential to play on either side of the ball for the Fighting Irish in 2013.

    While the 5'11", 170-pound Mitchell did a lot of his damage at wideout, he also plays cornerback.

    Mitchell runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, but the 4-star wide receiver is deceptively fast. His game speed is hard to duplicate.

    The Californian has great hands as a wide receiver and stretches the field with his quickness, but even at 170 pounds, Mitchell doesn't shy away from contact. He makes sure to wrap up when tackling and doesn't let receivers get behind him as a corner. As an added bonus, his 3.6 GPA speaks to his high intelligence.

    He is currently being recruited by Mike Denbrock.

Isaac Rochell, DE; Eagle's Landing Christian High School (McDonough, Ga.)

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    Isaac Rochell is the 73rd-best player nationally and the fifth-best strong-side defensive end, according to Rivals.com.

    Like many high school stars, Rochell played both ways. He saw time along the defensive line, and he also played at right tackle. And, at 6'5" and 260 pounds, he has the size to play wherever he wants on either side of the line for Notre Dame. 

    Rochell has a quick first step, and while he may not seem as explosive when he plays as a defensive end, he is as fast as any defensive tackle in the nation.

    Rochell uses a superb bull-rush to push linemen back, and then he bursts to one side and attacks the ball. His talent for pushing players back is exhibited as an offensive lineman as well. Rochell uses his power to open up giant holes.

    Scott Booker, the new tight ends coach and special teams coordinator, has been assigned the task of getting the 4-star prospect to give his commitment to the team.

Kylie Fitts, DE; East Valley High School (Redlands, Calif.)

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    Kylie Fitts is rated the 81st-best player in the country nationally, the seventh-best strong-side defensive end and is a 4-star recruit by Rivals.com.

    At 6'5" and 260 pounds, Fitts is a high-energy player who would bring an enthusiasm for the game to the locker room that is infectious. He uses his length to wrap up players and is solid at fighting through or getting off blocks. Even if he misses a tackle initially, Fitts makes up ground and pursues the ball.

    He isn't the most explosive player off the edge, but Fitts has decent speed for his size and makes up for any quickness he lacks with his tenacity. Looking at his size and large frame, Fitts may end up being a defensive tackle in college.

    He is being recruited by Mike Denbrock.

Priest Willis, S; Marcos De Niza High School (Tempe, Ariz.)

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    Priest Willis—the 84th-ranked player nationally, ninth-best safety and 4-star recruit, according to Rivals.com—would be a perfect fit at Notre Dame.

    Willis may be tall and is projected as a safety by Rivals, but he is quick, athletic and plays cornerback for his high school in Arizona (which could fill a serious recruiting need for the Irish).

    So, how quick and althletic is Willis?

    Well, at 6'2" and 200 pounds, he ran a 4.42 40-yard dash and has a 33-inch vertical leap.

    Does that answer the question?

    Willis is a ball-hawk. Like a wide receiver, he attacks the football at the highest point possible, and if he can't get to it, he bats it down. If he does allow a reception, then he is always waiting to land a big hit on the receiver.

    Willis would be a great addition to the special teams unit as well, and he would quickly became a gunner for the Irish coverage team.

    He is being recruited by Notre Dame's new safeties coach, Bob Elliot.

Taquan Mizzell, RB; Bayside High School (Virginia Beach, Va.)

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    Taquan Mizzell is rated the 87th-best player in the country and the eight-best running back by Rivals.com.

    At just 5'8" and 180 pounds, Mizzell doesn't go down very easily. While he is going to try faking defenders out of their shoes, once he is going down, he falls forward.

    Mizzell is a compact, speedy runner who is a big play waiting to happen. He is fun to watch when he uses his quickness to veer outside, but the Virginian gets a lot of carries up the gut as well.

    Maybe his best asset, Mizzell knows how to follow his blockers and waits for plays to develop. He lets his lead blocker open up a lane before using his speed to burst for a long touchdown run.

    The 4-star rusher is being courted for a commitment by Scott Booker.

Ryan Green, RB; Catholic High School (St. Petersburg, Fla.)

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    Ryan Green is rated the 90th-best player nationally and the ninth-best running back by Rivals.com. The 4-star running back out of Florida would be a fantastic addition to Notre Dame's 2013 recruiting class.

    Green is big enough to be an every-down type of back at 5'10" and 195 pounds, and he has a wonderful set of skills. He is fast, agile, and powerful.

    Green doesn't go down upon first contact, so he draws a lot of attention from defenses. His runs seem effortless, but every now and then he lowers his shoulder to punish a defender. He has great hands and would be a receiving threat out of the backfield as well.

    If the running back spot gets too crowded, Green also plays cornerback and could end up playing at defensive back.

    Green is being recruited by Tony Alford, who switched from wide receivers coach back to running backs coach while still maintaining control of the slot receivers.

DeMarcus Robinson, WR; Peach County High School (Fort Valley, Ga.)

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    Rivals.com has rated DeMarcus Robinson the 97th-best prospect in the nation, the 10th-best player at wide receiver and a 4-star recruit.

    I have yet to acquire public video of the youngster, so I can't give an honest assessment of his talents. However, I do know that the Irish want him on the team badly and will fervently go after him in the coming months, according to Pete Sampson of IrishIllustrated.com.

    Robinson stands at 6'2", 200 pounds and runs a 4.6 40-yard dash, according to Scout.com.

    I do have a video link of him dunking here, so at least there is some footage of Robinson's athletic ability readily available.

    Scott Booker is currently recruiting Robinson.