Notre Dame Football: Most Important Positions Irish Must Recruit in 2014
With the success of Notre Dame, the recruiting class is back to where you would expect it to be. Elite prospects have always considered the Irish, but recently playing in a national championship and with the future brighter than ever, more of those top players are willing to accept the offer. According to 247sports, Notre Dame now has the No. 5 2013 recruiting class in the country.
But this year’s class can be placed on the back burner for a second. The majority of the recruits out there already know which schools they have in mind, especially with national signing day less than a month away.
It is now time to look ahead to the 2014 class and get an idea of which positions the Irish should address the most.
This isn't to say that the 2013 class is over and done with, but Notre Dame has already made its pitch to the top recruits. So while everybody just sits around and waits for a decision to be made, the coaching staff can turn its attention to the younger generation and try to make an early impression.
Here are the five most important areas of need for Notre Dame during the 2014 recruiting process.
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How Notre Dame Stacks Up at the Position: I'm not sure there is another team in the country that is as loaded at the quarterback position as Notre Dame is at the moment. Everett Golson appears to be on the right track to becoming a star and with guys such as Gunner Kiel and 2013 recruit Malik Zaire, the overwhelming depth is there.
While most teams don't have a reliable quarterback past the starter, the Irish seem to be set for many years ahead.
Why This Position Is Needed: Quarterback is arguably the most important position and you can never have too many valuable ones on the roster. With the quiet emergence of Golson, Kiel, who was a 5-star recruit in the 2012 class, may consider a transfer at some point. When you add the possibility of an injury, that quarterback depth could take a hit in no time.
Every team that wants to be considered a national championship contender should do its best to pick up at least one signal-caller in every class.
4. A Dominant Tight End
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How Notre Dame Stacks Up at the Position: Tyler Eifert has taken his talents to the NFL and now the Irish are stuck with a bunch of question marks at the position.
Troy Niklas appears to be the starter heading into next season and he has upside with his 6'7" build, but there is not a lot of experience behind him. Alex Welch has had a hard time staying healthy and Ben Koyack has been a disappointment in his first couple of seasons.
The Irish did land a 4-star tight end in 2013 with Mike Heuerman, but this is a position that could certainly use more depth.
Why This Position Is Needed: While Penn State has been known for producing wonderful linebackers over the years, Notre Dame has recently had great success getting the most out of its tight ends. Guys such as Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson and Anthony Fasano all had great careers in South Bend and have been extremely productive in the NFL.
But with the concerns at the position, Notre Dame needs to add that dominant pass catcher that can be a security blanket for the young quarterbacks. Guys in the past have shown just how valuable a reliable tight end can be and it is time to find the next player who can step in and fill the void.
3. Elite Wide Receivers
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How Notre Dame Stacks Up at the Position: Notre Dame would be much better off once the 2013 class decides to step on campus, as the Irish have done of good job of reeling top guys such as Torii Hunter, Corey Robinson and Will Fuller. There is potential on the current roster with players like T.J. Jones and DaVaris Daniels, but neither is that elite guy that is capable of taking over a game when needed.
Notre Dame should be in better shape on the offensive side of the ball next season, but still need to bulk up at the skill positions.
Why This Position Is Needed: Even with the 2013 class coming in, Notre Dame still lacks that big-play receiver. Oh, don't get me wrong, there is potential at the position, but with the solid quarterback play, these guys need a premier weapon that would put fear into the opposing defense. They need somebody like a Michael Floyd or a guy who can stretch the field like a Stefon Diggs from the 2012 class, who ended up going to Maryland.
Notre Dame has enough to get by, but if fans really want to see this offense take off, adding an elite receiver would get the job done.
2. Shutdown Cornerbacks
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How Notre Dame Stacks Up at the Position: Depth in the secondary was a serious issue last season with a combination of youth and injuries. When cornerback Lo Wood went down before the season opener, everybody thought the defensive backfield was doomed. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell could become a stud next year, as he really stepped up as a freshman last season, holding his own for majority of the year.
But overall there isn't a lot to brag about in the secondary when looking at the depth chart. There is a lot of inexperience and not enough elite talent to where this Irish club can feel completely confident in taking that next step defensively.
Why This Position Is Needed: Notre Dame has picked up three cornerbacks in the 2013 class, but besides 4-star Cole Luke, the other guys aren't considered top recruits. The safety position got a serious boost with the recent commitment from Max Redfield. However, cornerback could use some work with an elite shutdown cover guy that could take away the opponent's top receiver.
Last season Notre Dame benefited from above-average linebacker play and a relentless pass rush. This can't always be the case on defense. The secondary needs to improve and a top cornerback could fit the bill.
1. Athletic Defensive Linemen
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How Notre Dame Stacks Up at the Position: With two future first-round picks in Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix returning, the Irish should have one of the better defensive lines in the entire country.
When you combine that with youngster Sheldon Day, it is no wonder why I think this will remain a Top 25 defense next season. Notre Dame has also recruited a pair of solid recruits on the defensive line in 2013 with defensive ends Isaac Rochell and Jacob Matuska.
This season the defensive line should be just fine.
Why This Position Is Needed: After the loss in the national championship, head coach Brian Kelly said that now the Irish know what they have to do to get back and win the title. One of those things is get bigger, stronger and faster on the defensive line. Physical and nasty play up front is the main reason the SEC has college football wrapped around its finger. Tuitt and Nix are likely gone after the 2013 season, which means the Irish must continue to recruit heavily in this department.
If there is a position you can never have enough of, it is quality defensive linemen. The Irish need to stockpile quality players up front and this will then become a team that is once again ready to make another national championship run.