Biggest Questions Notre Dame Needs to Answer Before 2014 National Signing Day

Connor Killoren@@Connor_KillorenSenior Analyst IDecember 15, 2013

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 02:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish walks off of the field after checking on an injured player during a game against the Navy Midshipmen at Notre Dame Stadium on November 2, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Navy 38-34.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Notre Dame will be spending bowl season in major city for the second consecutive year, though this time around the Irish won't be playing for a national championship.

While the New Era Pinstripe Bowl is hardly a consolation, Notre Dame's recruiting efforts haven't been subdued after a lackluster follow up of the storied 2012-13 season. Head coach Brian Kelly and his staff are well on their way to locking up a top 10 class for the second consecutive cycle. currently ranks the Irish's 2014 haul as the nation's ninth-best, behind Georgia, Miami (Fla.), Auburn, Florida State, Texas A&M, Ohio State, Tennessee and Alabama.

Despite such a short window of time existing between now and national signing day, the Irish remain in play for a handful of high-profile prospects whose potential pledges to Notre Dame cold lift the Irish into, perhaps, the top five of's rankings.

Among the prospects Notre Dame remains in play for, a handful would fulfill a dire area of need for the Irish. 


Shoring Up the Defensive Line

As it stands, Notre Dame has five commitments along the defensive line, though none of the quintet are capable of filling the massive shoes left behind by now former nose guard Louis Nix (last week, Nix signed with an agent, effectively exhausting his collegiate eligibility). 


Nov 30, 2013; Stanford, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly walks amongst players before the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Thus, the Irish are in scramble mode to lock up a commitment from a prospect capable of playing on the interior of Notre Dame's defensive line.

The three top candidates the Irish are after include Kammy Delp, Matt Elam and Thomas Holley.

Delp seems like an outside shot, as he doesn't currently hold a Notre Dame offer and hasn't visited campus. Delp also appears to favor staying on the West Coast, having taken official visits to Arizona State and Washington State, with another official upcoming to Oregon State Jan. 17. 

However, the potential exists for a last minute offer to sway the 6'3", 310-pound lineman, particularly given the Irish's dire need for a player who fits their need as Kelp does.

As for Holley, the Brooklyn, N.Y. native appears to be leaning toward Penn State, per his profile. Yet fellow Brooklyn native and current Notre Dame commit Jay Hayes continues to attempt to sway Holley to South Bend, Ind.

It's reasonable to suppose hope exists for a Holley commitment, though the Irish's ultimate prize would be Elam, a 6'6", 350-pound pure defensive tackle out of Elizabethtown, Ky.

Elam has pared his final three schools to Alabama, Kentucky and Notre Dame, though the Irish seem to be trailing the Tide and Wildcats for his services.

It should be concerning that Notre Dame seems to be on the outside looking in for all three of these prospects, and it wouldn't arrive as a surprise if none signed with the Irish. Should that transpire, it would be a massive blow to the interior of the Irish's defensive line for the foreseeable future.


Will Notre Dame Take a Running Back? 

With Notre Dame's running back depth chart not expected to change transitioning from 2013 to 2014, the question of whether Notre Dame will take a running back has been a common one.

The answer is likely no, as both of the Irish's top targets at the position—Bo Scarbrough and Nathan Starks—have seemingly dropped off the program's radar. The latter was expelled from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman High School for unspecified violations of team and school rules.


Bo Scarbrough

Meanwhile, Scarbrough has remained firm in his commitment to Alabama, meaning his commitment to any other program at this point would arrive as a surprise.

Adding to Notre Dame's likely decision not to take a running back is that freshman back Greg Bryant was forced to take a medical redshirt as the result of a knee injury sustained early in the season. Thus, Bryant will theoretically be a 5-star recruit entering the 2014-15 season.

With George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel slated to graduate in May 2015, expect Notre Dame to be hard at work recruiting running backs in the 2015 class.


Will the Loss of Both Chuck Martin and Bob Diaco Affect Notre Dame's Recruiting Efforts?

When Martin and Diaco jumped ship for head coaching gigs at Miami (Ohio) and Connecticut, respectively, within one week of one another, worries existed as to whether Notre Dame's recruiting would take a hit. 

So far, that doesn't appear to be the case.

Following Diaco's departure, Notre Dame received two commitments from linebackers Kolin Hill and Nile Sykes.

Even better news for the Irish is that they haven't experienced the sting of de-commitment from any prospects on either side of the ball. While that's always a possibility, particularly during the stretch between bowl season and national signing day, the Irish's class seems to be solid going forward.




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