Head coach Brian Kelly and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish need to find a way to bring 5-star cornerback Priest Willis into their 2013 recruiting class.
Not getting a commitment from Willis would be a huge disappointment, as he could make all the difference for the Fighting Irish moving into the future.
It seems as if we talk about it ad nauseam, but it's worth repeating: Notre Dame needs to get an elite recruit for its secondary. Kelly is building a great class, featuring 5-star outside linebacker Jaylon Smith, but where he's really lacking is in the secondary. It's a weak spot on his team right now, and it's a place he needs to address for both immediate need and depth.
As it stands, Kelly only has one defensive back committed for 2013, and that's 3-star corner Devin Butler.
Willis is the recruit the Fighting Irish must have. According to 247Sports, Notre Dame is one of the teams he's interested in, along with LSU, Nebraska, UCLA and Texas, so it does have a shot at bringing him in.
Notre Dame's advantage?
Even without an elite cornerback, the Irish found a way to go 6-0, and they are currently ranked No. 5 in the BCS standings. This is the first time in a while that the Fighting Irish have had legitimate national championship aspirations, and that expectation will only get bigger with the talent that Kelly is bringing in via recruiting.
Willis would have a chance to be a key piece of Notre Dame's defense moving forward as the team tries for a national championship in the next few years, and that's a huge selling point.
That's what Notre Dame can offer Willis, but what exactly would he be bringing to the team?
247Sports has him listed at 6'2'', 200 pounds, which is elite size for a corner coming out of high school. His size will allow him to be a lockdown defender against taller receivers, and it will help him be physical against the run.
That may be the biggest intangible that Willis brings to the table. As a 5-star corner, he's obviously very quick, athletic and able to make plays on the ball, but where he separates himself is with his play against the run.
You can really see his physical ability against the run in this next set of pictures.
Notice how aggressive he appears to be getting downfield. Before this frame, he was lined up in a soft Cover 2, which had him at about seven yards off the line of scrimmage. When he notices the run, he immediately plants his foot and heads to the edge, where he has outside contain responsibility.
He's not shy to take on the block, and that's a trait that will make him stand out to coaches and scouts. Notice how he uses his arms to engage the blocker, but he's still keeping his outside contain responsibilities.
He didn't take an angle that would allow him to get hooked inside, which is important.
Willis then displays good strength by being able to close on the block and push it inside, which takes away the underneath running lane, which I displayed with the red line. Then he's able to shove off the block and start his pursuit of the ball-carrier, who has to bounce outside, as displayed by the green line.
Willis makes the tackle in the backfield. Considering he's coming from at least seven yards off the ball and had to take on a block, this is an extremely impressive feat.
I believe Willis has the ability to be a shutdown corner at the college level, and a lot of that belief stems from his ability to be physical. He should have no problem jamming receivers at the line, taking on blocks and keeping the edge against the run. And, of course, his natural ball-hawk skills as a corner need to be taken into account.
Willis would be a huge addition to Kelly's 2013 class, and he could be the one missing piece of the puzzle for Notre Dame.
Willis is undoubtedly the must-have recruit for the Fighting Irish's 2013 class.