Notre Dame Football Recruiting: 4 Biggest Position Needs for Class of 2015
We’re quickly nearing the summer, and recruiting is picking up around the nation. Notre Dame’s class of 2015 consists of eight commitments.
The Fighting Irish have already landed a quarterback (Blake Barnett), two wide receivers (Jalen Guyton and C.J. Sanders), three offensive linemen (Tristen Hoge, Trevor Ruhland and Jerry Tillery) and two safeties (Nicco Fertitta and Prentice McKinney).
Notre Dame has addressed needs thus far, especially at wide receiver and safety. But what other positions do the Irish need to target when rounding out the class of 2015?
In determining these position needs, we’ll consider the current depth on the roster, remaining eligibility and recent recruiting classes.
Let’s get to it.
No. 4: Cornerback
Notre Dame is well-stocked at cornerback heading into 2014. KeiVarae Russell and Cole Luke have been slotted as the starters, and Matthias Farley, Cody Riggs and Devin Butler should also contribute.
But after sophomore Rashad Kinlaw’s dismissal from the team in early April, Butler and Luke are the only current underclassmen at the position. They’ll soon be joined by incoming freshman Nick Watkins, though the soon-to-be rookie is the only cornerback in Notre Dame’s class of 2014.
According to 247Sports, the Irish have offers out to 22 cornerbacks in the class of 2015, second-most of any position.
No. 3: Defensive Line
Irish head coach Brian Kelly was pleased with the way his team loaded up the front seven in the class of 2014.
In particular, Notre Dame added eight defensive linemen, per 247Sports. Still, the Irish will likely be targeting more defensive linemen in the class of 2015, in part because of Kelly’s emphasis on the trenches.
“You’re winning up front, and building that depth in the front seven and the offensive line really stands out in this class,” Kelly said on national signing day.
Moreover, upperclassmen like Tony Springmann, Justin Utupo, Jarron Jones, Chase Hounshell and Sheldon Day will be moving on in the next few years. The Irish have been stocking the cupboard recently, something they’ll likely continue to focus on in future recruiting classes.
Notre Dame has offered scholarships to 33 defensive linemen, according to 247Sports.
No. 2: Running Back
It may seem odd to list running back as Notre Dame’s second-biggest need, considering we’ve touted the position group as one of the strongest on the roster.
But those three capable backs—Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel—are the only three scholarship running backs on the roster, excluding Amir Carlisle and Will Mahone, who have been working as slot receivers.
Notre Dame didn’t net a running back in the last recruiting cycle after Elijah Hood decommitted, so expect to see the Irish focus their efforts on a back in this year’s class.
There are already 20 offers out to 2015 running backs, per 247Sports.
No. 1: Inside Linebacker
Notre Dame’s biggest position need in the class of 2015 is inside linebacker, even though the position has more depth than, say, running back.
Seniors Jarrett Grace and Joe Schmidt and graduate student Kendall Moore are the veterans of the group, with sophomores Michael Deeb and Doug Randolph still holding four years of eligibility. The Irish will welcome incoming freshmen Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini this summer, but the position could still use a lift.
Grace’s health continues to be up in the air, as JJ Stankevitz writes on CSNChicago.com, and the underclassmen are unproven. That lack of proven ability is what separates the inside linebackers from the running backs for our No. 1 need. Bryant and Folston have displayed their ability to contribute; the inside linebackers, especially the younger ones, are unproven commodities, for the most part.
It’s worth noting, however, that increased flexibility between outside and inside linebackers could internally alleviate some of this positional need.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco on Twitter.