Fresh off Notre Dame's best season since early the 90s, Brian Kelly needs to strike it rich on the recruiting trail in order to prove that the Irish really have returned to the forefront of the college football landscape.
The good news for Kelly and the Irish faithful is that Notre Dame's magical 2012 season has already paid huge dividends on the recruiting trail. According to Rivals.com rankings, three of Notre Dame’s 22 commitments—five of which have already signed letters of intent—are 5-star recruits.
Among them are running back Greg Bryant—a 5’11” speedster from Delray Beach, Florida—Jaylon Smith—a linebacker from close by in Fort Wayne—and Max Redfield—a defensive back from Mission Viejo, CA.
Each of them possess the talent to play as true freshman next season. Bryant encounters a position in question with the early departure to the NFL of Cierre Wood and the graduation of Theo Riddick. In other words, playing time will be up for grabs in the Irish backfield next season.
The class also includes 13 four-star recruits.
Still, there remain two key targets in play for the Irish to add to the haul that would give Notre Dame one of the finest classes in the entire country.
Eddie Vanderdoes is a 6’3”, 302-pound defensive lineman from Placer, CA. With his size and strength, he would fit perfectly in Bob Diaco’s 3-4 base defense. The U.S. Army All-American Game participant already benches 305 pounds and squats 500 pounds.
In addition to three Pac-12 schools—UCLA, USC and Washington—Vanderdoes has Alabama among his top five choices, according to Rivals. Notre Dame is the final school on that list.
He has a visit to South Bend set for Jan. 25 and another for Tuscaloosa on Feb. 1. Common rationale would say that Alabama should have the edge due to its’ national championship thrashing of the Irish in addition to its propensity for sending defensive lineman to the NFL.
If Kelly can get Vanderdoes to commit to Notre Dame, the landscape of college football recruiting could be altered ever so slightly.
The 4-star defensive lineman is another perfect fit for Bob Diaco’s defense. At 6’4” and 260 pounds, Fitts is ready to compete for time at right defensive end. While Vanderdoes would learn from senior Louis Nix III at the nose tackle spot, Fitts would be certain to earn plenty of playing time in his first year.
The fact that he is being offered scholarships by Alabama and UCLA—two other 3-4 base defense teams—proves that he would fit in Notre Dame’s system.
Picking up either of these targets would help ensure Notre Dame’s defense remains the mostly dominant unit that it was in 2012. Picking up both would elevate the defense to the perch of tops in the land.
Rivals' No. 2-ranked recruiting class is one filled with tremendous depth and great talent. It promises to keep Notre Dame among the best teams in the land for years to come.
It is a testament to the incredible job Brian Kelly has done resurrecting the Notre Dame program, but it can take the next step with two more prized recruits.