Notre Dame Football: 5 Recruits Who Best Transition into Brian Kelly's Offense
The long road to National Signing Day finally comes to an end on Wednesday, when Brian Kelly will announce the members of Notre Dame’s 2013 class. The class of 22-to-25 signees, depending on final decisions on Wednesday, is expected to rank in the top five by most recruiting services.
Last year’s class was relatively low in quality and quantity, but the Irish did receive significant contributions from its members during its run to the BCS Championship Game. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell, defensive end Sheldon Day and wide receiver Chris Brown all were valuable parts of the 12-1 Irish.
Notre Dame’s 2013 class is much stronger than that of a year ago, and the Irish may receive even more immediate contributions from this group. Exactly how much will be based partially on need, but also on how each player fits into Notre Dame’s system.
Despite the Kelly offense at Cincinnati in 2009 looking far different than the one Notre Dame rode to a 12-0 regular season in 2012, Kelly still has certain skills that he look for in offensive prospects.
Let’s look at five Irish recruits who appear to be ideal fits for Kelly's offense.
1. OL John Montelus
Montelus may not see any game action until 2014, but the offensive lineman from Everett, Mass., provides position flexibility, something the coaching staff has emphasized. A high school tackle, Montelus projects as either a guard or center at the collegiate level.
With Chris Watt departing after 2013 and Matt Hegarty still a bit of a question mark after suffering a mild stroke (although Kelly spoke positively regarding Hegarty last week), Montelus could be an early contributor at a position that is the most difficult to grasp for a young player.
Montelus is one of five linemen in the class, four of whom (early enrollee Steve Elmer being the exception) will arrive in the summer.
2. RB Tarean Folston
This one won’t be a done deal until Wednesday, with Auburn still not backing down from the Cocoa, Fla., running back. All signs do appear that Folston will sign with the Irish, however, giving Notre Dame a second running back in this class in addition to fellow Floridian Greg Bryant.
Folston is more lightning to Bryant’s thunder, and has the potential to be an effective pass-catcher as well. Theo Riddick made his role look much easier than it actually was, and it’s unfair to expect Folston to replicate Riddick’s versatility.
However, the potential is there for Folston to become the valuable commodity that Riddick was.
3. TE Mike Heuerman
Notre Dame has become Tight End U. over the past decade, sending Anthony Fasano, John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph to the NFL. Tyler Eifert is a possible first-round selection in the 2013 NFL draft. Heuerman, a January enrollee, could be the next great tight end to leave his mark in South Bend.
Kelly appears to want to continue to use two tight-end sets even with Eifert gone. Heuerman is expected to be in the rotation along with juniors Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack and senior Alex Welch.
The Florida native isn’t the outside threat that Eifert was, but has a skill set and frame that should make him an effective all-around tight end.
4. WR James Onwualu
Onwualu, a product of the same high school that produced Irish all-time leading receiver Michael Floyd, was one of the program’s first commitments in this class. He’s not the biggest or fastest receiver, but is another player who will bring versatility to the Irish offense.
The Minnesota native spent much of his senior season at running back. He’s a mirror image of Folston, in that Folston will be a running back who can contribute in the passing game, while Onwualu is a receiver who can get involved in the running game.
An early enrollee, Onwualu could push for immediate playing time, with Kelly ideally having seven receivers in the rotation.
5. QB Malik Zaire
Let’s get this out of the way now. Zaire will redshirt in 2013. However, the lefty from Kettering, Ohio, is an ideal Kelly quarterback, slightly bigger than Everett Golson and more of a running threat than Gunner Kiel.
The quarterback depth chart in South Bend is loaded at the moment, with Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix both back in addition to Golson and Kiel.
Zaire won’t be an instant impact guy, but is on par with Golson in terms of athleticism and perhaps ahead of Kiel in terms of exactly what Kelly wants his quarterbacks to look like.