The Fighting Irish defense was a formidable unit in 2012, but a crushing loss to Alabama in the national championship exposed some areas of extreme need going forward.
Alabama rushed for 265 yards on 5.9 yards per carry in that game, and with the loss of a trio of Fighting Irish linebackers to graduation and a young interior defensive line that was pushed around by Alabama, shoring up its front seven should be a priority heading into the 2013 season.
The Fighting Irish are still in contention for two highly rated defensive prospects. Eddie Vanderdoes was a USC target who de-committed from the Trojans in December. Deon Hollins Jr. is a UCLA commit but has scheduled a visit for Notre Dame toward the end of January.
Landing Vanderdoes and Hollins, Jr. should be Notre Dame’s top priority if it is to build a new foundation for the future of its defense.
Eddie Vanderdoes: 5-star defensive tackle
Vanderdoes is the kind of big body Notre Dame needs on its interior defensive line. At 6’4”, 310 pounds, Vanderdoes has the size and strength to shore up a run defense that was exploited by Alabama’s massive offensive line.
According to Adam Gorney of Rivals.com and Yahoo Sports, Vanderdoes has scheduled a visit to USC this weekend, but he won’t make a decision on his final landing spot until National Signing Day. As is often the case with the recruiting process, though, anything can happen before Feb. 6.
Kelly must make a strong push to land Vanderdoes this month. According to Gerald Martinez of USCFootball.com, Vanderdoes will make his decision on National Signing Day, which gives Kelly just a couple of weeks to sway him.
Vanderdoes is a potential cornerstone on which to build a new-look defense capable of stopping high-powered rushing attacks. The Irish need to add some bulk at the defensive tackle position, and Vanderdoes fits the description.
Deon Hollins Jr.: 4-star linebacker
Hollins Jr. committed to UCLA, but he’s still visiting several schools this month, including Notre Dame, according to Jason Sapp of 247Sports.com.
The Fighting Irish must replenish their linebacking corps that will lose Manti Te’o, Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox to graduation this offseason. Kelly has already secured commitments from three new linebackers, and landing Hollins would all but ensure a bright future at the position for the Irish.
Hollins would be the team’s 15th four-star recruit this offseason and would add another dimension of athleticism to the position. At 6’2”, 225 pounds, Hollins has the frame to add some bulk but already possesses the speed and quickness to excel early in his collegiate career.
*Rankings and figures courtesy of 247Sports.com.