Notre Dame is just beginning to reap the benefits of Brian Kelly’s excellent recruiting classes. But what is he doing to help close the gap between his Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the vastly talented Southeastern Conference?
This year, depending on what outlet you trust, the Irish have inked the best recruiting class in the nation.
There are still several top-tier recruits left to commit, but Kelly has the Golden Domers in a prime position to come away with some of the most coveted athletes in the nation.
After all, Notre Dame is definitely back, and the time to push for and exert recruiting dominance is now.
Let’s take a look at some highlights of this season’s recruiting class. These are big-time players that could help the Irish even the playing field with the big, fast and strong athletes in the SEC.
Jaylon Smith, OLB
One thing was glaringly apparently during Alabama’s mauling of Notre Dame in the championship game: strength.
Eddie Lacy lowered his shoulder, spun and ran right through the tackle attempts of the Irish defense all night long.
Smith, a 5-star linebacker committed to the Irish, is already being pegged as one of the best athletes of this recruiting class and is an efficient run stopper.
To make it even sweeter, Smith turned down offers from a few SEC schools including Texas A&M, Alabama and Florida.
Max Redfield, ATH
Redfield is listed as an athlete but is likely to play safety at the college level. He signed on to South Bend’s program during the All-Star weekend festivities leading up to the BCS Championship Game.
While he projects as a safety, the talented and athletic incoming freshman could contribute offensively as well.
His size and speed will make him a huge asset in the secondary if that’s where he ends up for the Irish. If their secondary can improve by adding more players like Redfield, they will be able to focus on run-stuffing without giving up big plays down the field.
Alabama was able to dominate the line of scrimmage against the Irish because they were comfortable playing man-to-man coverage with their defensive backs while leaving their linebackers home to prevent the run.
Greg Bryant, RB
4-star running back Greg Bryant committed to Notre Dame back in December, and they’re lucky he did. Alabama’s running backs put on a clinic in the championship game behind the team’s vaunted offensive line.
Alabama was also in the running for Bryant and made an offer to bring him to Tuscaloosa. Do you think their performance against the Irish could have swayed his mind?
Notre Dame will benefit from Bryant’s combination of size and speed. Plus, like Lacy, he has the ability to bowl his way through would-be tacklers and create plays. That trait is definitely something the Irish could use against the tough and physical SEC defenders.
Priest Willis, CB
Notre Dame hasn’t gotten a commitment from the 5-star cornerback yet, but it could in the coming weeks leading up to signing day.
Willis has Notre Dame listed in his top seven, according to 247 Sports.
The Irish need physical and athletic corners that are capable of being on an island against the physical and speedy receivers they will face in bowl games. Willis is 6’2” and has the ideal makeup of skills to help turn things around for Notre Dame’s secondary.