Notre Dame is going to be without some of its star players next spring. Manti Te'o, Tyler Eifert, Braxton Cave, Theo Riddick and others will move on to the NFL, leaving the Fighting Irish without players who played seminal roles in their 2012 undefeated season.
With that kind of talent leaving, Brian Kelly needs to have some serious players waiting in the wings to replace them.
So who do the Irish have on deck for 2013?
There is no doubt most of these kids will redshirt, but let's take a look at the 2013 commits the Fighting Irish have on deck for the future. Keep in mind that nothing is set in stone until National Signing Day, February 6, 2013, but with solid verbal commits from two 5-star, 13 4-star, and six 3-star recruits (via rivals.com), the Irish poised to continue the success of 2012.
Let's meet the top five.
John Montelus, Offensive Guard
At 6'5" and 295 pounds, Montelus is going to be formidable on the field. Recruited by Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, Montelus received a 4-star rating from rivals.com. His size alone will give him an advantage over most defensive players.
Montelus appears to be deeply committed to the Irish, telling Steve Hare of irishillustrated.com of his official visit to the school, “It was amazing. I loved the atmosphere. The fans were great and (the Irish) played well.”
Montelus and fellow Irish 4-star recruit Steve Elmer ensure that Notre Dame will have a rock-solid offensive line. These guys definitely play big boy football!
Steven Elmer, Offensive Tackle
This kid is a bulldozer! His highlight reel is almost funny to watch because he plows through his opponents like he's toying with a child.
The 6'6", 305-pound senior from Midland, Michigan has always been sweet on the Irish. In an interview with rivals.com, Elmer stated that getting into Notre Dame has been his goal "forever," so it is safe to say his commitment is solid.
With star Braxton Cave moving on to the NFL, the offensive line will need some serious muscle, and Elmer is definitely the man for the job.
Alex Anzalone, Linebacker
This was my favorite highlight reel. Anzalone has incredible speed, great play-reading abilities, and is just plain fun to watch. When I say he has incredible speed, that's not just lip service; he runs 40 yards in a blistering 4.73 seconds.
One of the premier recruits in his class, Anzalone reconfirmed his commitment to Notre Dame in early November while visiting the campus with his family. He reflected on the experience to Steve Hare of IrishIllustrated.com.
I hung out with some of the other commits and talked to the coaches. We did part of the players’ walk (from the Basilica to Notre Dame Stadium) and then watched the game. It was an awesome atmosphere. The student section was loud and the marshmallow throwing was crazy.
Anzalone will be a dynamic addition to the Irish defense.
Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
Watching his highlight reel, you can't help but be reminded of Manti Te'o. He is incredibly adept at reading plays, and he has great speed. Also like Te'o, he won the Butkus Award, given to the best high school linebacker in the country. Upon winning the award, he told Brian Gillett and Eric Dutkiewicz of INC Now News that he was "proud to carry on the Irish tradition of winning the high school award."
One of only two 5-star rivals.com recruits to commit to the Fighting Irish, Smith has already caught the eye of Sports Illustrated, who named him Player of the Week on December 13. He has also achieved a less official, yet highly viable hallmark of success in earning his own Wikipedia page.
His skill set will be highly valued to the Irish, who will need someone to fill the shoes of star linebacker Te'o when he departs to the NFL this spring. The void left by the outgoing class of 2012 will not be an easy one to fill. Smith will have his work cut out for him, but he seems more than up to the task.
Greg Bryant, Running Back
The No. 2 running back in the Class of 2013, Bryant will be a powerful addition to the Fighting Irish offense. He runs 40 yards in a brisk 4.48 seconds, ran for 1,500 yards and scored 17 touchdowns in his senior year at American Heritage High School, where his father is a coach.
His skills will be much needed to fill the void left by Theo Riddick.
Bryant is resourceful when caught in defensive traffic and has explosive speed once he breaks coverage. He appears to be quite adept at reading defensive plays and is incredibly quick on his feet, changing direction on a dime. His highlight reel is full of runs through impossible coverage.
Notre Dame has relied heavily on the running game this season, particularly in the red zone where they have struggled. With Riddick and Wood departing for the NFL, Bryant will make a worthy replacement alongside George Atkinson III.