Is it too early to be excited about the recruits Notre Dame has already garnered verbal commitments from? Considering how superficial college recruiting can be, that question can be answered in one word—yes.
But there are also some important recruiting trends that are hard to simply dismiss as a coincidence.
Even after losing two offensive coaches—Tim Hinton and Ed Warinner (running backs and offensive line coaches, respectively)—to Ohio State and after making major changes to the staff—including shuffling coaches around like chess pieces and bringing in three new coaches—Notre Dame is well on its way to a very solid and possibly great 2013 recruiting class.
With the help of experienced offensive line coach Harry Hiestand (first year at Notre Dame) and a young, energetic recruiter in Scott Booker (first year with the team) who is coaching tight ends, high school players aren't hesitant to commit early.
In fact, four of the five most highly rated recruits so far play either along the offensive line or at tight end (and seven out of 12 overall). Offensive linemen and tight ends always flock to Notre Dame, and this year is no different.
So, who are the top commits from the Irish's 2013 recruiting class so far?
Steve Elmer is Notre Dame's top commitment to date, according to Rivals.com; the site ranks the 4-star recruit as the fifth-best offensive tackle in the nation.
Elmer is very athletic for his size, and he has quick feet, which helps him excel when pass-blocking.
The Michigan product is highly intelligent with sky-high test scores, and he runs a 5.02 40-yard dash. He is excellent at using his overt strength to open running lanes and gets down the field in a hurry. Elmer also locks on to his assignment and engages his blocks until the whistle blows.
Because of his tremendous pass-blocking skills, the 6'6", 305-pound giant is most likely the heir apparent to Zack Martin at left tackle.
Hunter Bivin is better at run-blocking than pass-blocking from the offensive tackle position (he is a dominant when run-blocking), but the 34th-best offensive tackle—according to Rivals.com—will still be in the running for a tackle spot at Notre Dame.
Bivin has the skills to be successful anywhere he is placed; he ran a 4.8 in the shuttle drill and is very powerful. He could have trouble with some of the quicker players off the edge, though, so he may be better off switching to guard or playing center, where he has occasionally played in high school.
Bivin looks impressive pass-blocking from the center position. He shows off his strength and instinctive, yet cerebral blocking style; he knows just when to give help to other linemen. Bivin runs a 5.1 40-yard dash and has the speed to pull if moved to guard.
However, if he develops under Harry Hiestand, Bivin could become a very solid right tackle for the Fighting Irish.
Talk about potential.
Bivin, at 6'7" and 288 pounds, was a great pickup for Notre Dame.
Mike Heuerman was the second tight end to commit to the 2013 class, but when you have his talent, it doesn't matter who is ahead of you on the depth chart.
And Heuerman will have some work to do.
Not only is All-Everything tight end Tyler Efiert eligible for another season next year (but don't count on it Irish fans—sorry) but Ben Koyak, Alex Welch, Troy Niklas and 2013 commit Jacob Matuska will all be fighting for time over the course of the next few years as well.
But Heuerman, who is ranked the 10th-best tight end by Rivals.com, wasn't deterred enough to look elsewhere.
He catches everything that comes his way, which should eventually earn him a shot to see the field, but his blocking ability is the reason why he could play sooner than expected.
At 6'4" and 220 pounds, Heuerman isn't scared to get his hands dirty (although he will need to bulk up). He is one of those nasty blockers who never gives up, and he has a bright future ahead of him getting under the skin of USC defensive ends and linebackers both by running around and through them.
Heuerman has game speed, great hands, is a solid route-runner and, best of all, he can block like no other.
What else could you want in a tight end?
Like Mike Heuerman, Malik Zaire has a lot to overcome if he wants to be a starter at Notre Dame.
The biggest hurdle for him will be the depth chart. With four players ahead of him, Zaire might have to learn to wait his turn, but don't count the Ohio product out at quarterback, either.
Zaire, the seventh-best dual-threat quarterback according to Rivals.com, keeps his eyes downfield and goes through his progressions very quickly. Zaire is already a solid passer, but he has a lot of potential for growth, too. He has a strong arm and makes sound decisions—although he loves to throw the deep ball.
To top off his passing skills, Zaire is a fantastic athlete and runner. He never hesitates to tuck the ball and dash down the field. He is extremely fast, but he also sprints with an incredible amount of force and power behind him.
Zaire will instantly be the most dangerous dual-threat quarterback on the Fighting Irish roster, and Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix are no slouches.
While he's not the highest rated offensive lineman on this list according to Rivals.com—he's rated the 26th-best offensive tackle—John Montelus will be a great offensive lineman for the Fighting Irish and a name that fans remember.
There isn't much to gripe about in the 4-star recruit's game, and at 6'5" and 295 pounds, he has the size to match his talent.
Montelus is very fast out of the snap and is a solid edge defender when playing tackle. He uses his hands well in pass protection and gets out to the side of the field quickly when called on to block during screen plays. He is a solid downfield blocker in general and a physical, aggressive run-blocker.
Montelus' versatility will certainly help the team. He could play either guard or tackle,—he's rated the second-best guard by Scout.com—and he could literally end up playing at any guard or tackle spot for the Fighting Irish.