Notre Dame Recruiting Update
Despite an unsavory final result, there's no doubt that Notre Dame's appearance in last season's BCS National Championship Game paid dividends on the recruiting trail.
While the Notre Dame brand always possesses the power to attract top-flight recruits, the Irish are able to attract droves of those prospects when they are winning consistently, as they have under fourth-year head coach Brian Kelly—his program is 19-3 in its past 22 games.
Whether Notre Dame assembles as highly esteemed of a class it did last season remains to be seen, but it's in good standing with a bevy of the nation's most coveted prospects, making a repeat recruiting performance a legitimate possibility.
Aside from the current 17 members of Notre Dame's class, which other elite prospects could end up signing with the Irish on national signing day?
Let's find out.
*All recruiting rankings and photos courtesy of 247sports.com.
Matt Elam, DT
Should incumbent starting nose guard Louis Nix III forgo his fifth season of eligibility and enter the 2014 NFL Draft—it'd be a shock if he didn't choose that route—Notre Dame will have a gaping hole in the middle of its defense.
One possible solution to fill Nix's potential absence is Matt Elam, a 5-star defensive tackle out of John Hardin High School in Elizabethtown, Ky.
The 6-foot-6, 350-pound defensive lineman recently trimmed his list to three schools, with Notre Dame having made the cut along with Alabama and Kentucky. Elam officially visited Notre Dame's campus during the weekend of the Irish's win against USC on Oct. 19, a trip that Elam's high school head coach, Chad Lewis, made with him.
"Matt will have to make his own decision in the end, but if he decided that Notre Dame was the place, I think it would be a good fit for him," Lewis told Brian Town of Irish Sports Daily.
Aside from Notre Dame, Elam also has official visits to Kentucky (Dec. 13) and Alabama (Dec. 20).
For now, Elam's suitors will need to remain patient, as a commitment won't be made until January, also via Town.
"He's going to make a decision on January 4th at the Army All-American Game in San Antonio," Lewis said.
Tyler Luatua, TE
Notre Dame has developed a reputation as "Tight End U" during the past decade and for good reason, as the school has produced four NFL tight ends in that span: Anthony Fasano, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Eifert.
Due to the Irish's success in developing players at that position, tight end prospects have kept a keen eye on the program.
One of those prospects is Tyler Luatua, a 4-star prospect currently playing at La Mirada (Ca.) High School. The 6'4", 230-pound tight end has narrowed his list to Notre Dame and Alabama and visited the Irish's South Bend, Ind., campus during the weekend of the USC game.
Mike Frank of Irish Sports Daily told Mike Monaco of The Observer, Notre Dame's student newspaper, that Luatua is the closest among all of Notre Dame's targets to pledging to the Irish along with linebacker/safety Drue Tranquill.
Making things interesting is that Luatua's brother, Isaac, is a sophomore offensive lineman at Alabama, where the younger Luatua will take an official visit Saturday for the Tide's showdown with LSU.
John "JuJu" Smith, ATH
One trait often associated with the nation's elite high school prospects is versatility.
And that's exactly what you'll find in John "JuJu" Smith, a 6'1", 200-pound athlete capable of playing numerous positions across the field, particularly wide receiver and safety.
A 4-star prospect, the Long Beach, Ca., native was yet another official visitor during Notre Dame's monster recruiting weekend when the Irish defeated USC. The Irish hope to have made a good impression on Smith, who officially visited Oregon the following week.
Working in the Irish's favor is that they're listed among Smith's top three schools, per 247sports.com, along with USC and Alabama with the Tide hosting Smith on an official visit this weekend.
Two days prior to his trip to Notre Dame, Smith was awarded with an honorary Under Armour All-American game jersey, a recognition of his inclusion in the all-star game.
Damien Mama, OL
While Notre Dame brought in a one of the best offensive line classes in the nation during the previous recruiting cycle, the Irish are always seeking to add depth up front.
A quality addition to Notre Dame's front line would be 4-star offensive guard and Bellflower, Ca., native Damien Mama.
The 6'4", 370-pound behemoth joined fellow Californian and Irish target Tyler Luatua on an official visit to the Irish's campus during their 14-10 victory against USC last month. The Trojans remain a leader for Mama's services, though UCLA has recently made a push, as 247sports' national recruiting analyst Barton Simmons predicted the Bruins to secure Mama's services.
Along with Notre Dame, Mama has also officially visited Wisconsin, with an official visit to Alabama scheduled for this upcoming weekend.
Nyles Morgan, ILB
With inside linebacker being a position of need for Notre Dame entering the 2014 season, the Irish would love to receive a commitment from a prospect such as Nyles Morgan.
The 6'3", 230-pound linebacker is the type of physical, downhill presence Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco covets for his 3-4 scheme. Morgan, who has earned a 4-star billing, officially visited Notre Dame during the same weekend as the previously listed prospects.
The Crete, Ill., native took an official visit to Ole Miss the week prior to his trip to Notre Dame and has the Rebels listed along with Vanderbilt as his favorites.
The most recent crystal ball prediction on Morgan's 247sports.com profile comes from the Clarion Ledger's John Talty, who predicted Morgan to ultimately choose Ole Miss.