Notre Dame Football: 3 Recruits Most Likely to Start as Freshmen
Notre Dame's improbable run to last Monday's BCS National Championship Game—the school's first appearance in college football's championship game in 24 years—did wonders for the Irish along the recruiting trail.
Even after the announcement of Rivals.com top 100 linebacker Alex Anzalone had decommitted from Notre Dame and pledged to Florida, the Irish still remain ranked No. 2 in the site's team recruiting rankings.
In fact, the Irish still have three commits locked up whom I believe possess the potential to be starters as freshmen next season.
Let's take a closer look at these three candidates.
John Montelus, OG
Entering the 2013 season, the Irish will be searching for a new starting right guard with the departure of incumbent starter Mike Golic, Jr.
They may have Golic Jr.'s replacement in Everett, Mass., native John Montelus.
Montelus, pegged as the nation's best prep offensive guard per Rivals.com, already possesses a college-ready body at 6'5" and 295 pounds. He need not spend much time in the weight room, which the majority of incoming linemen do.
Prior to Montelus' commitment, Nick Martin, the younger brother of Irish starting left tackle Zack Martin, was thought to be Golic Jr.'s replacement, but a battle for the starting gig may be brewing.
That potential battle won't begin until fall camp—Montelus is not enrolling early.
Max Redfield, S
Unlike last preseason, the Irish will enter the 2013 preseason with significant depth in the defensive secondary.
However, the starting free safety position is now vacant with incumbent starter Zeke Motta set to graduate in May. Fortunately for the Irish, Motta's replacement is waiting in wings, in the form of Mission Viejo, Calif., native Max Redfield.
Tabbed as a 5-star prospect and the nation's third-best prep safety by Rivals.com, Redfield should be considered the Irish's starting free safety for 2013, pending his signing of a national letter of intent to Notre Dame.
The 6'2", 195-pound safety will automatically become the most athletically gifted athlete in the Irish's secondary and will only face an uphill battle with the mental aspect of the game.
Torii Hunter Jr., WR
With the Irish's incumbent starting slot receiver, Robby Toma, set to graduate in May, the starting gig is up for grabs.
Davonte' Neal, the Irish's starting punt returner during the 2012 season, would figure to be next in line at slot receiver, though Hunter Jr. will give Neal all he can handle during fall camp.
Hunter Jr.'s most significant asset is his speed, as he was clocked at a verified 4.57 seconds in the 40-yard dash as a prep phenomenon in Prosper, Tex.
That speed combined with his size—6'0", 172 pounds—makes Hunter Jr. a prototypical slot receiver at the collegiate level, and will give him every chance at winning the starting gig during fall camp.
Current Commit List
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Notre Dame currently possesses 22 commits in its 2013 class, and that number could grow before National Signing Day, as former USC commit and wide receiver Sebastian Larue is scheduled to visit on Jan. 25.
Those 22 commits—a full list of which can be found here—is currently ranked in the nation's top five by nearly every major recruiting service.
The class is ranked as follows by those services.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
It has been a strange few days for Notre Dame.
First, the Irish were trounced in the BCS National Championship Game by a score of 42-14. The following day, head coach Brian Kelly interviewed with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles about their vacant head coach position.
To top it all off, the Irish lost the commitment of 4-Star linebacker Alex Anzalone due to Kelly's flirting with the Eagles.
Irish fans needn't panic, though.
All is well on the recruiting front aside from the Anzalone departure, as the small group of commits planning to enroll at Notre Dame on Sunday have affirmed its collective intention to do so.
And Kelly's interview with the Eagles is simply what happens when collegiate coaches achieve success. It happened with Oregon's Chip Kelly just a few short weeks ago, and rumors will always circulate about Alabama's Nick Saban jumping ship for a return to the NFL.
This could all turn out to be a contract leveraging ploy by Kelly, or, it could indeed be a legitimate attempt for the third-year coach of the Irish to pursue his NFL dreams.
In the end, Notre Dame's ability to draw top-flight talent will never dwindle. If anything, it's as strong as it has ever been at the moment.