Despite an impressive haul of 15 commitments to this point, Notre Dame is still searching for more in its 2013 class – not just in quantity, but in quality. With a small 2012 class, multiple defections and some possible medical hardships, this year’s class is expected to be somewhere around 22 or 23 by the time National Signing Day rolls around in February.
While eight of Notre Dame’s commitments are rated as at least 4-star prospects by Rivals.com, the Irish need that number to reach double digits in order to complete the type of class they need to compete at the highest level. Perhaps their top remaining target at this point is linebacker Alex Anzalone from Wyomissing, Pa.
One of the best players in the Keystone State, Anzalone could play either inside or outside. Due to the recent commitment of 5-star linebacker Jaylon Smith, an ideal outside linebacker, the Irish like Anzalone primarily at inside linebacker, a position of need. Manti Te’o departs after the season, and Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese are seniors in the classroom with fifth-year options for 10`2.
An exceptional student, Anzalone is a great fit both on and off of the field for Notre Dame. Geometry even has a place on the gridiron, in the form of angles of pursuit. Anzalone excels at closing gaps on running backs with great vision and field awareness. At 6’3”, he has a bigger frame than Te’o, and could turn into the next great Irish run-stuffer.
Anzalone was initially committed to Ohio State, but reversed course in early May following a report that a registered sex offender was using social media to contact potential Buckeyes recruits. A photo was leaked of Anzalone and current Notre Dame commit Mike Heuerman with the man at the team’s spring game in April.
He initially did not rule out a re-commitment to Ohio State, but they appeared to have fallen out of favor. The three contenders for Anzalone are Florida, Notre Dame and Penn State. Although he was planning to visit Penn State on Thursday, the Nittany Lions appear to be trailing slightly behind the Gators and Irish.
Anzalone’s father, Sal, is a Florida alumnus, and his grandparents currently reside in Florida. However, Anzalone was in South Bend two weeks ago with a number of current Irish commits including Heuerman, Smith, Malik Zaire and Rashad Kinlaw. The rapport he’s developed with the current group of commits (search #IrishMob13 on Twitter for evidence of the group’s camaraderie) bodes well for Notre Dame’s chances.
His visit to State College will likely be his final one before making a decision. A decision prior to the start of the season is expected, and could come as early as the next couple of weeks. After he de-committed from Ohio State, Florida appeared to be the favorite because of the family connections. Reading the tea leaves, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t end up at Notre Dame.
Due to geography, academics and its on-field struggles, Notre Dame can’t be a major player with every top recruit. When someone with Anzalone’s makeup seriously considers Notre Dame, it becomes almost a must-get for Brian Kelly. With Smith, there was a happy ending for the Irish. While it’s far from a certainty at this point, expect a similar outcome with Anzalone.
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