Notre Dame announced their 2014 recruiting class today, welcoming 23 new student-athletes to the Irish roster. Brian Kelly and company put together a top-10 class, with depth in the trenches being key.
"It's about the front seven and the offensive line," Kelly said in his press conference announcing the group. "Yeah, there's some great skill players that I'll talk about, but you're winning up front, and building that depth in the front seven and the offensive line really stands out in this class."
Let's walk through the 23 members of the 2014 Irish recruiting class.
*All stats provided by Notre Dame Sports Information. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Height/Weight:6'3", 190 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star WR, No. 94 overall
High School: Speedway, Indianapolis, Ind.
Senior Year Stats: Rushing: 157 carries, 1,315 yards, 18 TDs; Receiving: 28 catches, 387 yards, 5 TDs.
Other Finalists: None.
Commit Date: Early Enrollee.
Analysis: Brent was one of the first members of the 2014 recruiting class. A little known regional prospect, Brent hit the All-Star circuit the summer before his senior season and quickly became one of the nation's top wide receiver prospects.
A physically mature and electric athlete, Brent spent his senior season playing running back but will start spring practice as a wide receiver. As close to an elite receiver as Brian Kelly has signed, he's got a chance to play from the start, even at a crowded position.
Height/Weight: 6'5", 250 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star DE, No. 143 overall
High School:Northern Valley Regional, Demarest, N.J.
Senior Year Stats: Defense: 47 tackles, 4 sacks; Offense: 51 carries, 454 yards, 3 TDs
Other Finalists: Clemson, Florida, Miami, Stanford
Commit Date: March 23, 2013
Analysis: Trumbetti walks onto campus as one of Notre Dame's best pass-rushers. The early enrollee impressed on the national scene at the Under Armour All-America Game, and he could find a place in the defensive end rotation early, especially with Stephon Tuitt heading to the NFL.
Just how good Trumbetti is remains to be seen. Recruiting analyst Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports told me he thinks Trumbetti is the Irish's best recruit and could be an immediate contributor as a pass-rusher. Others wonder if he's ready to step in and play. Either way, with the front seven needing to reload, Trumbetti could be an early part of the Irish's plans.
Height/Weight: 6'6", 309 lbs.
Position/Ranking: OT, No. 106 overall
High School:Montgomery Bell Academy, Nashville, Tenn.
Senior Year Stats: N/A
Other Finalists: Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State
Commit Date: May 17, 2013
Analysis: Bars may not have had a great week at the Under Armour All-America Game, but he's an elite offensive tackle prospect who continues an impressive run for Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. With prototype size and athleticism, Bars compares favorably to rising sophomore Steve Elmer, who played immediately for the Irish.
Bars has two brothers playing college football (Brad at Penn State and Blake at Michigan), and neither received an offer from the Irish. Talented enough to play from the start, Bars projects to be a very good player for the Irish as a multi-year starter.
Height/Weight: 6'6", 252 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star DE, No. 268 overall
High School:The Colony, The Colony, Texas
Senior Year Stats: 53 total tackles, 34 solo, 12 TFL
Other Finalists: Arkansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma
Commit Date: July 5, 2013
Analysis: Blankenship was an early target for the Irish coaching staff, and it's easy to see why. He's got the size and length the Irish covet and is capable of growing into a 3-4 defensive line with the athleticism to potentially play outside linebacker as well.
Blankenship has flown beneath the national radar, but every team that's taken a close look at him has offered him a scholarship. Right now, his best attribute is his size, and he's likely a developmental prospect to start.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 250 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 3-star DE, No. 602 overall
High School:Parkway Central, Chesterfield, Mo.
Senior Year Stats: 70 tackles, 17 sacks
Other Finalists: Missouri, Michigan State, Indiana, Illinois
Commit Date: June 26, 2013
Analysis: Bonner came out of nowhere to garner an Irish offer, hitting the summer camp tour and getting a scholarship offer at every place he visited. While his national profile leaves something to be desired, Bonner terrorized the best linemen at Notre Dame's camp and was too good not to take.
He could eventually grow into an inside defensive lineman, capable of playing end or tackle with his disruptive skills. His uncle, Dan Knott, played on the 1977 national championship team, and his grandfather is the godfather to former Irish safety Sergio Brown.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 290 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star OL, No. 299 overall
High School: St. Ignatius, Cleveland, Ohio
Senior Year Stats: N/A
Other Finalists: Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois
Commit Date: December 8, 2012
Analysis: An easy offer for the Irish staff, Byrne was a three-year starter for St. Ignatius, a Cleveland powerhouse. He was twice an All-State player in Ohio and someone who the Irish can be patient with.
Notre Dame sees him as a guard or center prospect. He plays with a nasty disposition and is a good enough athlete to play tackle if needed.
Height/Weight: 6'5", 260 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star DT, No. 237 overall
High School: Poly Prep Country Day, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Senior Year Stats: N/A
Other Finalists: Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Oregon
Commit Date: November 7, 2012
Analysis: Hayes might not be as big as listed, but he's the type of athlete who can play just about anywhere along the defensive line. A disruptive player, the jump in competition might make the transition to college more difficult, but Hayes is a perfect fit for Notre Dame on and off the field.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 295 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 3-star DT, No. 300 overall
High School: Winton Woods, Cincinnati, Ohio
Senior Year Stats: N/A
Other Finalists: Michigan State, Louisville, Missouri
Commit Date: February 5, 2014
Analysis: Notre Dame pulled a signing day upset early Wednesday morning when Daniel Cage sent his fax to South Bend. The defensive tackle had been committed to Charlie Strong at Louisville and looked poised to head to Michigan State before the Irish got involved the past few weeks.
Cage is a perfect fit for the Irish defense, capable of playing as a two-gap run-stopper at nose guard. He's impressed the coaching staff with his aggressive nature and, more importantly, provides another body to try to replace Louis Nix.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 220 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 3-star LB, No. 658 overall
High School: Samuel Clemens, Schertz, Texas
Senior Year Stats: 96 tackles, 13 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 10 pass knockdowns
Other Finalists: Texas, Colorado, Boise State, Oklahoma
Commit Date: December 15, 2013
Analysis: A speed player who'll be utilized off the edge, Hill was a late target by the Irish staff and put together an impressive senior season. Not the biggest player, Hill is out of profile for the Irish staff, but he should fit in well in Brian VanGorder's defense, a unit that'll play more 4-3 than in seasons past.
An early candidate to help on special teams, Hill could be a third-down specialist as he finds a home on the Irish roster.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 175 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star WR, No. 179 overall
High School: St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Senior Year Stats: 24 catches, 432 yards, 4 TDs
Other Finalists: Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, UCLA
Commit Date: July 17, 2013
Analysis: Just about everywhere you look, Holmes is compared to TJ Jones. That's not a bad thing for Irish fans. Holmes played against elite competition and looks to be the complete package.
Not the biggest player physically, Holmes has impressive speed, runs great routes, has good hands and plays with great consistency. After struggling with injuries during his senior season, Holmes showed himself to be a top prospect in Orlando at the Under Armour All-America Game.
Height/Weight: 6'5", 207 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star QB, No. 232 overall
High School: Central Catholic, Toledo, Ohio
Senior Year Stats: completed 150 of 245 passes for 2,847 yards, 30 TDs, 6 INTs
Other Finalists: Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Northwestern, Penn State
Commit Date: June 11, 2013
Analysis: After recruiting smaller dual-threat quarterbacks, Kizer is a big body that's only going to grow. He has all the intangibles coaches look for in a quarterback, and he's smart both on and off the field with confidence and leadership ability.
There's work to do on Kizer's fundamentals, but the staff hopes to redshirt him. He could end up being a 240-pound quarterback who has the ability to beat opponents both with his legs and arm.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 230 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star TE, No. 284 overall
High School: La Mirada, La Mirada, Cali.
Senior Year Stats: 33 catches, 412 yards, 4 TDs
Other Finalists: Alabama, USC, UCLA, Ole Miss
Commit Date: December 16, 2013
Analysis: More of a traditional tight end, Luatua will help out at the point of attack while still possessing the ability to go down the field and catch the football. A Notre Dame staffer told me that Luatua has already gained 15 pounds since his senior season ended, adding more bulk to his physical style of play.
Luatua might not be the highest ranked recruit, but he had elite offers, eventually choosing Notre Dame over Alabama, where his brother plays. With Troy Niklas gone, Luatua could be an option to play as a blocking tight end.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 232 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 3-star ILB, No. 365 overall
High School: Woodberry Forest, Woodberry Forest, Va.
Senior Year Stats: 92 tackles
Other Finalists: Maryland, North Carolina State, Virginia
Commit Date: July 3, 2012
Analysis: Martini is a big and physical player at a school that's already provided the Irish with C.J. Prosise and Doug Randolph. Similar in size and stature to Jarrett Grace, Martini's played against a lower level of competition, but he was an early target for the Irish staff.
A prototype inside linebacker, Martini fills a position of need for the Irish.
Height/Weight: 6'5", 305 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 3-star DT, No. 1049 overall
High School: St. Joseph by-the-Sea, Staten Island, N.Y.
Senior Year Stats: N/A
Other Finalists: Rutgers, Florida, UConn, Pittsburgh
Commit Date: January 24, 2014
Analysis: Notre Dame came out of the blue to grab Mokwuah, a defensive tackle who could qualify as the sleeper of the group. A massive athlete with a thick lower body, Mokwuah will have an opportunity to help out immediately at nose guard.
Notre Dame recruited, offered and landed Mokwuah after Brian VanGorder took over the defense, with Brian Kelly accepting Mokwuah's pledge while the Staten Island native was a Rutgers commit.
Height/Weight: 6'1", 225 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star ILB, No. 53 overall
High School: Crete-Monee, Crete, Ill.
Senior Year Stats: 115 tackles, 12 TFL, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Other Finalists: Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Florida, Alabama
Commit Date: January 4, 2014
Analysis: The top defensive player on Notre Dame's board, Morgan has a chance to be a special player for the Irish. An instinctive player who also possesses some elite physical skills, Morgan has a chance to play at inside linebacker immediately.
Heaping too much on Morgan won't help him, but he's going to see the field immediately, even if the staff needs to be patient with him. A recruit who Notre Dame spent years on, the Irish staff fought from behind to land the U.S. Army All-American, getting another one of the top prospects in Chicago onto campus.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 285 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star OL, No. 216 overall
High School: Good Counsel, Olney, Md.
Senior Year Stats: N/A
Other Finalists: Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Maryland, Ohio State, Stanford
Commit Date: April 15, 2013
Analysis: Mustipher projects as an interior lineman for Harry Hiestand, bringing an impressive offer list and strong pedigree to South Bend. There's work to be done developmentally with Mustiper, but the Irish don't need him to contribute immediately.
Height/Weight: 6'5", 295 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star OL, No. 62 overall
High School: Red Bank Catholic, Red Bank, N.J.
Senior Year Stats: N/A
Other Finalists: Alabama, Miami, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford
Commit Date: May 1, 2013
Analysis: One of the top offensive linemen in the country, Nelson anchors this group and is a future cornerstone on the offensive line. Known for his nasty and physical play, Nelson was one of the standouts at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
Projected by the staff to play tackle, Nelson has the ability to play anywhere along the offensive line and could contribute immediately if needed. He compares favorably to Steve Elmer as a recruit and has elite talent.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 190 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 3-star P/K, No. 1743 overall
High School: Carrollton, Carrollton, Ga.
Senior Year Stats: 5/5 FGs, 78/78 PATs, 38.6 yards per punt
Other Finalists: N/A
Commit Date: June 21, 2013
Analysis: With Kyle Brindza entering his final year of eligibility, Notre Dame decided to bring in another multi-talented specialist in Tyler Newsome. The kicker, punter and placekicker from Georgia showed up and impressed at Notre Dame's football camp, earning his scholarship offer.
Newsome followed that up with a rock solid high school season and a nice performance at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. He'll spend next season on the sidelines, unless something goes wrong, and then take over after Brindza exits.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 223 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 3-star LB, No. 462 overall
High School: Montini Catholic, Lombard, Ill.
Senior Year Stats: 80 tackles, 22 TFL, 12 sacks
Other Finalists: Missouri, Illinois, South Florida
Commit Date: December 15, 2013
Analysis: The Irish hit Chicago hard this year, and Sykes is another athletic linebacker who Notre Dame thinks can play on the inside. Sykes put together an impressive senior season after transferring to Montini Catholic, leading his team to the 5A state title game.
Capable of rushing the passer after playing defensive end earlier in his career, Sykes is only scratching the surface as a linebacker, but he has the athleticism to make plays and the natural instincts that helped him learn quickly. Talking to some members of the staff, they feel like Sykes is underrated as a prospect.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 205 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 3-star S/LB, No. 277 overall
High School: Caroll, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Senior Year Stats: Defense: 75 tackles, 16 TFL, 4 sacks; Offense: 114 carries, 1,420 yards, 28 TDs
Other Finalists: Purdue, Indiana, Cincinnati
Commit Date: November 19, 2013
Analysis: Tranquill is a profile target for Notre Dame, both on and off the field. He's an "RKG" if there ever was one. He was a do-everything star at Carroll High School, playing linebacker and safety on defense while also carrying the load for his team at running back as well.
Originally, Notre Dame was pursuing Tranquill as an inside linebacker, hoping to pack some heft onto him. Right now, they see him as a big, physical safety, where his rare blend of size and speed could help him break through a crowded depth chart.
Height/Weight: 6'1", 185 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star CB, No. 177 overall
High School: Bishop Dunne Catholic, Dallas, Texas
Senior Year Stats: Defense: 3 INTs; Offense: 54 catches, 724 yards, 12 TDs
Other Finalists: Texas, Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, Ohio State
Commit Date: November 1, 2013
Analysis: Watkins walks onto campus as a pure cornerback and profiles similarly to Cole Luke, who saw the field immediately. He displayed great cover skills at Bishop Dunne Catholic, and his receiving numbers give you an idea of his ball skills as well.
A supremely confident athlete who expects to challenge for playing time immediately, Watkins' father spent time in the NFL with the Detroit Lions after being a second-round pick. He's a long and lanky athlete who should add some immediate cover skills to the Irish defense.
Height/Weight: 6'5", 233 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 4-star TE, No. 247 overall
High School: Marist, Chicago, Ill.
Senior Year Stats: 86 catches, 1,044 yards, 10 TDs
Other Finalists: Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio State
Commit Date: April 23, 2013
Analysis: A prolific pass-catcher at the high school level, Weishar is the all-time leading receiver in Illinois high school history with 237 catches. He still needs to grow into his body so he can play at the point of attack, but the Irish staff believes Weishar has elite ball skills that are second to none.
Weishar may not be the fastest or most athletic player, but he can stretch the field and is an immediate matchup threat. How quickly he sees the field will likely be determined by how quickly he can transform his body.
Height/Weight: 6'6", 237 lbs.
Position/Ranking: 3-star DE, No. 986 overall
High School: Berrien Springs, Berrien Springs, Mich.
Senior Year Stats: 68 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 8 TFL, 3 forced fumbles
Other Finalists: Missouri, Michigan
Commit Date: November 27, 2013
Analysis: A two-time all-league basketball player and all-state high jumper and shot put thrower, Jhonny Williams is the type of elite athlete who Notre Dame needs to bring in as an edge player. While Williams still has to grow into his frame and learn the nuances of football, it's not hard to see his athleticism and length that has this coaching staff fascinated.
Williams burst onto the scene this season and has the type of sleeper skills that remind some of Justin Tuck coming out of high school. Williams is still raw and might need a redshirt season to develop, but he's got elite skills.