Few programs in college football are as prestigious as Notre Dame, and that is a big reason why the Fighting Irish are able to pull in top recruiting classes year after year. This year is no exception as Brian Kelly's program figures to have one of the best classes of 2014.
The Irish surprised a lot of people when they reached the National Championship Game two seasons ago, but they were unable to build upon that in 2013. Notre Dame still enjoyed a solid campaign that featured a win over eventual Rose Bowl champion Michigan State, so there are high hopes entering 2014.
With that said, Notre Dame has lost a number of impact players to the NFL, especially defense. That makes the current recruiting class particularly important since a handful of players will likely be called upon to contribute in key roles immediately.
Notre Dame is still in the hunt for several elite recruits, although there is plenty of competition. The Irish have plenty to offer, and it will be interesting to see how many pieces they can add to an already solid 2014 class.
Here is a list of prospects that Notre Dame is expected to make a run at on national signing day, according to 247Sports:
|Notre Dame 2014 Recruiting Targets|
|Player||Position||Stars||National Rank||Positional Rank||Status|
|Adoree' Jackson||CB||5||7||1||Committed to USC|
|Lorenzo Carter||WDE||5||18||2||Committed to Georgia|
|John Smith||ATH||5||20||3||Committed to USC|
|Andrew Williams||WDE||4||231||12||Committed to Auburn|
|Richard Yeargin III||OLB||4||266||21||Committed to Clemson|
|Michael Sawyers||DT||3||368||28||Committed to Tennessee|
|Marcus Griffin||DT||3||589||42||Committed to Arizona|
|Terrence Alexander||CB||3||514||36||Committed to Stanford|
|Chris Nelson||DT||3||810||56||Committed to Texas|
|Andy Eddins||TE||2||NA||133||Scout Look|
Notre Dame has struggled in terms of attracting the cream of the crop thus far, but its 2014 class already features a ton of depth at a number of different positions. If even half of Notre Dame's commits pan out, then the program has an extremely bright future.
Along with some further analysis regarding Notre Dame's biggest acquisitions thus far, here is a full listing of commits ahead of national signing day, per 247Sports:
|Notre Dame 2014 Commits|
|Player||Position||Stars||National Rank||Positional Rank||Status|
|Nyles Morgan||ILB||4||53||3||Hard Commit|
|Quenton Nelson||OT||4||62||5||Hard Commit|
|Alex Bars||OT||4||107||10||Hard Commit|
|Nick Watkins||CB||4||177||17||Hard Commit|
|Corey Holmes||WR||4||179||27||Hard Commit|
|Sam Mustipher||OG||4||216||12||Hard Commit|
|DeShone Kizer||PRO QB||4||232||12||Hard Commit|
|Jay Hayes||DT||4||237||21||Hard Commit|
|Nic Weishar||TE||4||247||7||Hard Commit|
|Grant Blankenship||SDE||4||268||14||Hard Commit|
|Drue Tranquill||S||4||277||21||Hard Commit|
|Tyler Luatua||TE||4||284||9||Hard Commit|
|Jimmy Byrne||OG||4||299||17||Hard Commit|
|Greer Martini||ILB||3||365||14||Hard Commit|
|Nile Sykes||OLB||3||461||34||Hard Commit|
|Jonathan Bonner||SDE||3||598||25||Hard Commit|
|Kolin Hill||WDE||3||657||33||Hard Commit|
|Jhonathon Williams||SDE||3||983||45||Hard Commit|
|Pete Mokwuah||DT||3||NA||68||Hard Commit|
|Tyler Newsome||P||3||NA||6||Hard Commit|
Evans continued the trend of recruits passing on Notre Dame as he chose to go to Alabama (via ESPN College Football):
Mama also passed on the Fighting Irish, deciding that USC was the best fit for him (via Linsey Thiry of Fox Sports):
Smith passed on Notre Dame, opting to go to Auburn (via ESPN College Football):
Thomas-Williams passed on joining Notre Dame, opting to sign with West Virginia (via WVSports.com):
Dupre continues the streak of targets that went elsewhere, as the WR joined Travonte Valentine at LSU (via Rod Walker of the New Orleans Advocate:
McGraw turned the Fighting Irish down, joining Oregon on signing day (via Justin Hopkins of 247 Sports):
Valentine ended up as another miss for the Fighting Irish as he chose LSU and Les Miles (via Andre Fernandez of the Miami Herald):
Young disappointed Notre Dame fans on signing day as he chose to head to UCLA (via ESPN College Football):
McDowell was another target that escaped the grasp of the Irish, as documented by the Detroit Free Press:
Cage gave Irish fans reason to cheer the morning of national signing day, as CSNChicago.com's Staff reported he committed to Notre Dame:
Notre Dame's defensive line got a major boost Wednesday morning when three-star defensive tackle Daniel Cage (Cincinnati, Ohio) faxed in his national letter of intent to the Irish.
McKenzie snubbed Notre Dame on Feb. 5 and announced his decision to attend a major SEC school, as documented by his current school, American Heritage:
Thomas announced his decision not to attend Notre Dame, but at least did so in entertaining fashion, per Josh Ward of The Sports Animal WNML in Knoxville, TN::
Nnadi snubbed the Buckeyes for the most dominant team in the ACC, the recruit announced on Feb. 5:
Although there is still plenty of recruiting work left to be done for Kelly co., linebacker Nyles Morgan is currently Notre Dame's top prospect heading into the 2014 season. Although there are some question marks regarding Morgan's size and speed, he was a big-time producer at Crete-Monee High School with over 100 tackles in each of the past four seasons.
I may not be fair to bestow such lofty expectations on Morgan already, but Manti Te'o wasn't exactly known for his measurables with at Notre Dame either. Despite that, Te'o went on to become one of the most dominant defensive players in Fighting Irish history. In addition to Morgan's excellence on the field, he is also a high-character person, according to Pat Disabato of The SouthtownStar.
Character always seems to come under consideration at Notre Dame, and it is certainly nice to have a player who comes through in all areas. With so much turnover on the Irish defense, it wouldn't be particularly surprising to see Morgan play a lot of snaps in 2014. Trial by fire isn't always the best way to go about developing young players, but Morgan's makeup suggests that he can handle it.
With Everett Golson potentially reclaiming the starting quarterback job in 2014, there will be plenty of emphasis on Notre Dame's offensive line. In some ways, Golson's escapability will make life easier on the Irish blockers, but accounting for a mobile quarterback can be a tricky endeavor as well. That makes offensive linemen who are both strong and athletic paramount, and Quenton Nelson definitely fits the bill.
Nelson rates as the No. 5 offensive tackle recruit in the nation, and he projects as a stud left tackle in the near future. Not only does Nelson have ideal size at 6'5" and 295 pounds, but he is also quite capable of moving around when need be. Above all else, Nelson should excel in South Bend, Ind. because he truly wants to be there, as evidenced by an interview with Bleacher Report's Andrew Kulha.
"After weighing everything, all the pros and cons about each school, Notre Dame really didn't have any cons to it," Nelson said. "It was pretty easy to see that Notre Dame was the best choice and fit for me."
One major "pro" is the possibility of playing time right off the bat. The Irish are losing some offensive line depth from 2013 heading into 2014, which means Nelson is a potential starter. He was a dominant player in high school, and while the transition to college can be a difficult one, he already has the body and fundamentals necessary to thrive.
Only two Notre Dame commits have officially enrolled at the school thus far, and one of them is 4-star wide receiver Justin Brent. The speedy pass-catcher from Speedway High School in Indianapolis is an ideal fit for a Notre Dame program that has produced some NFL-caliber receivers in recent years. It is too early to tell if Brent will join the likes of Golden Tate and Michael Floyd in that regard, but his potential is absolutely immense.
Not only is Brent fast, but at 6'3" and 200 pounds, he is also able to out-leap and overpower defensive backs when fighting for the ball. Brent also happens to have versatility that Kelly will find quite useful within his offense. In fact, Brent played primarily as a running back this past season in high school, and he put up some insane statistics, according to Kyle Neddenriep of the Indianapolis Star.
Brent projects primarily as a receiver at the collegiate level, but that doesn't mean that he can't be an asset on end arounds, reverses and various other gadget plays. He has the ability to add some extra wrinkles to Notre Dame's offense, which is a scary thought for the opposition considering the fact that Kelly is at the controls. Notre Dame has lost plenty of offensive weapons to the NFL over the past couple years, so Brent's arrival comes at the perfect time.
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