Notre Dame Football Recruiting: 5 Instant Impact Commits in Irish's 2013 Class
Not only has Notre Dame's return to its winning ways of old earned it a berth in January's BCS National Championship Game, it has also given the Irish the luxury of reaping the rewards on the recruiting trail.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and his coaching staff have continued to fortify relationships with the nation's elite prospects, and those efforts have proven in a number of commitments from key players in the 2013 class during the current recruiting cycle.
The Irish's current 2013 haul currently boasts 22 commits, and ranks fifth nationally in 247sports.com's team recruiting rankings.
Because that group is filled to the brim with incredible talent, the question begging to be asked is, which committed prospects are the best of the bunch?
Let's find out.
5. Alex Anzalone, LB
Alex Anzalone, ranked 43rd nationally regardless of position by 247sports.com, has experienced a whirlwind recruitment in every sense of the phrase.
The 6'3", 232-pound linebacker prospect originally pledged to Ohio State, but rescinded that commitment following a visit to Notre Dame for the Irish's annual Blue-Gold spring scrimmage. Anzalone then committed to the Irish in early July, only to see Florida make a late push for his services.
Fear spread among Irish fans that Anzalone would de-commit, but the Wyomissing, Pa., native reaffirmed his commitment to Notre Dame via his Twitter account last month, effectively putting an end to his recruitment.
Notre Dame's win over Florida for Anzalone's services was significant, for he plays at linebacker, which is a position of need entering the 2013 season. Anzalone, though he is projected as an outside linebacker by 247sports.com, will likely fill Manti Te'o's vacant left inside linebacker spot when he arrives on campus in January.
4. John Montelus, OL
With the future of Notre Dame's offensive line in question—the possibility that four of five starters may not return next season is very real—John Montelus became a significant piece to the puzzle.
The 6'5", 305-pound offensive lineman has been tabbed as a 4-star prospect by 247sports.com, and is also considered the best prep player in the state of Massachusetts.
Montelus committed to the Irish following a visit to campus for the Blue-Gold spring scrimmage in April, turning down offers from LSU, Florida, Michigan and Ohio State, among others. He found a common bond with Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, as both hail from Everett, Mass.
Since pledging to Kelly and the Irish, Montelus' recruitment has been quiet, which is likely a good sign if you're a Notre Dame fan.
How he fits into the equation along the offensive line next season remains to be seen, though the situation will gain clarity once Notre Dame's administration decides whether it will offer fifth-year invitations to left tackle Zack Martin and left guard Chris Watt.
That announcement will come shortly after Notre Dame's date with Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.
3. Cole Luke, CB
Prior to the current season, questions about Notre Dame's thin, inexperienced secondary were many.
Well, the respective abilities of starting cornerbacks Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell have been proven, though depth is still an issue in need of a solution.
Because of that limited depth at cornerback, the Irish coaching staff was able to pitch immediate playing time to cornerback prospects, including Chandler, Ariz., native Cole Luke. Considered the 64th-best player nationally by 247sports.com, Luke will arrive at Notre Dame with the intention of challenging either Russell or Jackson for a starting spot.
It's not an impossibility that Luke could win a job, but not from Jackson. It seems more realistic that Luke could prove to be a more effective option at cornerback than Russell.
However, this situation won't materialize until fall camp.
2. Greg Bryant, RB
After his visit to campus for the Irish's postseason awards ceremony ended on a high note, Greg Bryant committed to Notre Dame immediately after returning to his hometown of Plantation, Fla.
Bryant's excellent visit, along with the fact that current Irish running backs Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood (Wood is a hard lean toward entering next spring's NFL draft), was enough for Bryant to pull the trigger on his commitment.
Bryant, a 5'11", 196-pound prospect, is considered the best running back commit the Irish have had in the past decade. He has incredible speed and burst for a player of his size, having been clocked at 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
The combination of his raw skill and ability combined with the losses of Riddick and Wood may provide an opportunity for Bryant to be the Irish's opening day starter at running back next season.
1. Jaylon Smith, LB
The gem of Notre Dame's 2013 class is, without question, 5-Star linebacker Jaylon Smith.
Regarded as the nation's best prep linebacker by 247sports.com, Smith was a must-get prospect for Brian Kelly and the Irish, especially with linebacker as a position of need.
Luckily for them, Smith is right in their backyard, as his hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind., is roughly 90 miles from Notre Dame's campus. Smith vowed that playing close to home was important to him, and was a selling point of his recruitment.
In Smith, the Irish are receiving a 6'3", 218-pound freak athlete who has been clocked at 4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash. That jaw-dropping athleticism allowed Smith to play a number of positions for his Bishop Luers High School team, including running back, receiver, safety, as well as linebacker.
Smith projects as an outside linebacker at Notre Dame, which presents an interesting scenario, as Prince Shembo, Ishaq Williams, Danny Spond and Ben Councell already occupy that position. Regardless, Brian Kelly will find a way to get Smith on the field next season.