Notre Dame National Signing Day 2014: Position-by-Position Analysis
They did it once again.
For the second consecutive year, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame pieced together a top-10 recruiting class, per 247Sports.
By mid-afternoon on Wednesday, the Irish had received signed national letters of intent from each of the 23 commitments in their 2014 class. The day was highlighted by no surprise decommitments, as well as winning the recruiting battle for 4-star defensive tackle Daniel Cage.
While the class itself has been viewed as underwhelming for the lack of a "home run" commitment, it's still brimming with potential, and one that will put head coach Brian Kelly's mantra of player development to the test.
For a further look at this group, here's a position-by-position breakdown.
All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com
Signees: 4-star DeShone Kizer (Toledo Central Catholic, Toledo, Ohio)
Early in the recruiting cycle, Notre Dame had targeted 5-star quarterback Kyle Allen, but missed out on the Scottsdale, Ariz., product when he committed to Texas A&M. Thus, the Irish were forced to look elsewhere and landed on Kizer.
Kelly and Co. extended an offer to Kizer on June 5, which resulted in a commitment from the 6'5", 207-pound quarterback a week later.
For those wondering if Kizer is the type of player who could contribute right away, the answer is no.
Along with Kelly's penchant for redshirting first-year quarterbacks, Kizer also needs to vastly improve his mechanics and footwork. And with Everett Golson and Malik Zaire currently sitting ahead of Kizer on the depth chart, he'll likely spend a few years taking mental reps from the sideline.
Notre Dame thought it was set at running back when it received a commitment from Charlotte, N.C., product Elijah Hood early on last year, though the 4-star product ultimately spurned the Irish for his home state of North Carolina.
Having already missed out on Sony Michel, backing off of Nathan Starks and seeing Joe Mixon narrow his list of schools, Notre Dame was essentially forced to pass on taking a running back in its 2014 class.
While it's ideal to take at least one prospect at each skill position during each cycle, the Irish don't find themselves in hot water for not taking a running back, as Greg Bryant will join the fold after taking a medical redshirt in 2013 due to a knee injury that held him out of action following the Irish's 31-24 victory at Purdue.
Expect to see Kelly and Co. take two running backs in the 2015 class as a result.
Signees: 4-star Justin Brent (Speedway High School, Indianapolis) and 4-star Corey Holmes (St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Notre Dame targeted Brent very early on in the recruiting cycle, as the in-state product committed to the Irish in July 2012, more than one year preceding national signing day 2014.
Brent never wavered in his commitment, with his fervor for Notre Dame being displayed through his choice to enroll early along with fellow freshman and defensive end Andrew Trumbetti. Kelly didn't mince words regarding how highly he thinks of the 6'1", 196-pound receiver, via Justin Kenny of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.
I got a chance to watch him work out (Wednesday morning) and the first thing that stood out to me is he does not look like a freshman. He had his shirt off this morning and he was running around and he looks like a senior. We were looking for a physical player at this position, somebody that can impose their physicality. His ability to run after the catch was very impressive.
Also earning high praise from Kelly was Holmes, a 6'2", 174-pound product who played in the Under Armour All-American Bowl in January along with fellow Notre Dame signees Alex Bars, Tyler Luatua and Andrew Trumbetti.
It's a certainty the Irish secured the services of a potentially phenomenal receiver when Kelly makes the sort of comparisons he did during his national signing day press conference, via UHND.com.
He reminded me a lot—and I don't like to make the comparisons—but he has a lot of the same feelings in terms of where TJ Jones developed, but he's 6'2". This kid is longer. He's a bigger kid than TJ.
Signees: 4-star Tyler Luatua (La Mirada High School, La Mirada, Calif.) and 4-star Nic Weishar (Marist High School, Midlothian, Ill.)
Notre Dame continued its tradition of bringing in elite tight ends, maintaining its reputation as "Tight End U."
Most folks believe Luatua will be the name to remember at tight end in this class, though that may prove to be inaccurate. The 6'4", 230-pound product, despite his recruiting ranking, isn't nearly as accomplished of a pass-catcher as Weishar.
However, Luatua has already proven himself a valuable commodity as a blocker, though his route-running skills will need some major improvement once he steps on campus.
Because of that caveat, fans may not see Luatua as early as they would have liked. Yet Weishar could prove to be a pleasant surprise, particularly given what Kelly had to say about him on Wednesday, via UHND.com.
We could argue about this all day. He's the finest pass-catching tight end that we saw. You could argue about who it is, but we think he is. We love his ball skills, we love his ability to use his body to control defenders, has a knack of catching the football in the air and taking it away from people. He's a guy that will have a great career here at Notre Dame. He'll be that—he's got that model and size we've had here at Notre Dame. He's not where Luatua is in terms of size right now. He's going to have to get stronger.
As you can see, what one of these tight end signees lacks the other possesses. How that translates to early playing time remains to be seen.
Signees: 4-star Quenton Nelson (Red Bank Catholic, Red Bank, N.J.), 4-star Alex Bars (Montgomery Bell Academy, Nashville, Tenn.), 4-star Sam Mustipher (Good Counsel, Olney, Md.) and 4-star Jimmy Byrne (St. Ignatius, Cleveland)
Notre Dame during the Kelly era has made it no secret that it wishes to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Nowhere has that desire been more apparent than on the offensive line, where the Irish signed five linemen of the 4-star variety last year and four this year. That's a direct testament to the depth the Irish have been accumulating all throughout the roster, as well.
Because of that depth, it will be nearly impossible for these freshmen linemen to crack the two-deep in 2014, though one may due to his college-ready body and rave reviews from Kelly, via UHND.com.
Again, one of the best players in the country at his position, but physically strong, and at 6'5", 300-pounds as a senior in high school, I mean, this kid can still move his feet and he'll continue to work on that, and he's a guy that is so focused on what he needs to work on, that's what we loved about him. He wasn't looking at his star rating. He was looking at the things he needed to work on, and that's all we needed to see from Quenton.
With Nelson likely to be the only freshman linemen to see the field this season, expect to see Bars, Mustipher and Byrne redshirt, especially with sophomores Mike McGlinchey, Colin McGovern and Hunter Bivin each awaiting their opportunities.
Signees: 4-star DE Andrew Trumbetti (Demarest High School, Demarest, N.J.), 4-star DT Jay Hayes (Poly Prep, Brooklyn, N.Y.), 4-star DT Daniel Cage (Winton Woods High School, Cincinnati), 3-star DT Pete Mokwuah (St. Joseph by the Sea, Staten Island, N.Y.) and 3-star DE Grant Blankenship
While the defensive line was originally a major concern following Matt Dickerson's decommitment, the Irish quickly addressed the issue through persistence late in the recruiting cycle.
Mokwuah was pursued by the Irish early last month and broke a longstanding commitment to Rutgers to sign with Notre Dame. Sure, Mokwuah isn't the next Louis Nix, but he's a big body to fill in along the interior of the defensive line.
His sideline-to-sideline quickness is sub-par, but his specialty will be in short-yardage situations.
Cage was also a late addition, as he officially visited campus on Jan. 29, and didn't make his decision until national signing day, spurning Michigan State to sign with the Irish. He's a better prospect than Mokwuah and figures to have a better shot at cracking the two-deep along with Hayes.
However, the name to remember in this position group is Trumbetti, an early enrollee who played in the Under Armour All-American Bowl last month.
The thing that really put him over the top for us is when we were watching his film and he was returning kickoffs in high school. Not many times do you see a defensive lineman returning kickoffs, so we knew about his athletic ability right away.
Signees: 4-star Nyles Morgan (Crete-Monee, Crete, Ill.), 3-star Greer Martini (Woodberry Forest School, Woodberry Forest, Va.), 3-star Nile Sykes (Montini Catholic, Lombard, Ill.), 3-star Kolin Hill (Samuel Clemens High School, Schertz, Texas), 3-star Jhonathon Williams (Berrien Springs High School, Berrien Springs, Mich.) and 3-star Jonathan Bonner (Parkway Central High School, Chesterfield, Mo.)
One word that can be used to accurately describe this group is "potential."
With Morgan being the lone bona fide prospect among these linebackers, the class is more of a project for the Irish coaching staff. Yes, fans will not be happy with the number of 3-star players, but that's where player development comes into play.
Was a young man we offered when he didn't have a lot of action, but we saw a young man we thought we could develop into just an outstanding football player. Loved him as a person, high energy...all those things we really liked. After we offered him of course he got a million offers after that. He will continue to develop. He has not even seen his ceiling yet.
That's going to be the scenario at Notre Dame more often than not, as landing home run prospects at each position time and again isn't a reality, and that's all right, so long as Kelly delivers on his statements regarding Hill and his fellow linebackers.
Signees: 4-star Nick Watkins (Bishop Dunne, Dallas) and 4-star Drue Tranquill (Carroll High School, Fort Wayne, Ind.)
Notre Dame was able to accomplish a rare recruiting feat: It went into the heart of Texas and plucked one of the state's best prospects in Nick Watkins.
The cornerback is considered one of the best in the 2014 class throughout the country, and the Irish were able to land him. Watkins fits the original mold of former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's system, though he'll fit just fine in Brian VanGorder's scheme.
Kelly voiced his reassurance regarding Watkins, via Justin Kenny of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.
This is a long cornerback. This kid is an exceptional football player. We feel like we got one of the best corners around. Long, athletic, can really do a lot of things for us. Can play man, can play zone. I just think he is an outstanding player that is going to develop here.
Where Watkins is a certainty, Tranquill is not in terms of position.
The in-state product will be a project and could play either safety or linebacker. Given the Irish's loaded linebacking corps, Tranquill could end up at safety, though a decision likely won't arrive until fall camp.
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