The top recruiting class on this list comes from Brian Kelly's first year with total control (Charlie Weis and his staff recruited most of the 2010 players).
The 2011 recruiting cycle brought about an epic change in philosophy from bringing in the best skill players under Weis' watch to building the defense under Kelly. And building the defense is just what this class did.
Seven commits were listed as defensive ends by Rivals.com in 2011. However, only three of those seven ended up along the defensive line. Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt (Tuitt played defensive tackle and end in 2011, who both have helped turn the defensive line into a highly respected and feared unit, are going to cause havoc in 2012. And Tony Springmann is expected to get a ton of minutes backing up Louis Nix III at nose tackle.
Chase Hounshell, who was listed as an offensive lineman by Rivals, played as a backup on the defensive line and will continue to do so in 2012.
The other four players listed as defensive ends are all now playing linebacker expect Brad Carrico, who is on the offensive line. Five-star recruit Ishaq Williams and Ben Councell will be battling it out for a outside linebacker spot, and Anthony Rabasa is going to provide depth at inside linebacker.
The only player listed as a linebacker by Rivals was Jarrett Grace, who will provide depth at inside linebacker like Carrico and Rabasa.
Three defensive backs committed in 2011 as well.
Eilar Hardy, who suffered a knee injury last season, will provide depth at safety (although his versatility would allow him to play cornerback).
2011 recruits Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown will battle for starting cornerback spots in 2012.
Other than Hounshell, four offensive linemen inked in 2011.
Matt Hegary and Conor Hanratty will fight for a starting spot on the right side of the line, but they are likely to remain as valuable backups in 2012. '
Nick Martin has shown some of the same talent his brother has exhibited, and while he might stay as a backup in 2012, he will be starting soon enough for the Irish.
Troy Niklas never was pegged as an offensive lineman though. He played at linebacker last season (and a few snaps on the defensive line), but he now is going to use his 6'7", 252-pound frame as a weapon at tight end.
2011 commit Ben Koyack was a highly-recruited tight end and has stayed there. after playing some in 2011, he will share time with Niklas behind Tyler Eifert in 2012.
Matthias Farley and George Atkinson III were recruited as athletes but have taken different routes once entering Notre Dame.
Farley started out as a wideout but was moved to safety in the start spring practice in 2012.
Atkinson is beloved for the boost he gave to the return game last season, and he will be back returning kickoffs in 2012. Atkinson III also will get some repetitions at running back considering how explosive he has looked this spring, and he will probably play some slot receiver with the crossover that is now expected at the running back at slot receiver roles.
DaVaris Daniels was the only wide receiver to sign with Notre Dame in 2011, and by all accounts, he has NFL-type talent. He will challenge the more experienced receivers for a starting role this season.
Cam McDaniel, the only running back commit from 2011, is now playing cornerback to provide depth and has adjusted to his new role well.
The talented 2-star kicker Kyle Brinza signed in 2011, too.
And Everett Golson, the quarterback who many Irish fans are rooting for, has the chance to seize the starting job in 2012. While he has some stiff competition, expect Golson to get on the field in some capacity this season.
With its overwhelming defensive presence, potential and depth, the 2011 class may be the one known for getting Notre Dame over the BCS hump, which is why it tops the power rankings of Notre Dame recruiting classes from 2007-2011 .