Notre Dame football’s recruiting class of 2014 was predicated on linemen and linebackers.
“I think if you really boil it down, it's about the front seven and the offensive line,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in his opening remarks on national signing day.
Fifteen members, in fact, of the 23-player group are linebackers or linemen, and a 16th signee—Drue Tranquill—projects as either a safety or a linebacker.
Notre Dame’s class of 2015, meanwhile, has a decidedly different feel. Of the eight commitments, the Irish have landed a quarterback, two wide receivers and two safeties.
“Last year’s class was about adding a whole bunch of talent at the point of attack on both sides of the ball,” said Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports’ director of recruiting. “I think in this class Notre Dame would like to get more talented at the skill positions.”
The Irish have already done just that with the likes of quarterback Blake Barnett and wide receivers Jalen Guyton and C.J. Sanders, and Wiltfong says the skill spots are still where Notre Dame’s focus lies. After inking nine offensive linemen in the past two recruiting classes and already receiving commitments from three more in the class of 2015, Wiltfong says the Irish are done on the offensive line. And while they’ll certainly still target defensive linemen, Wiltfong pointed to a host of skill-position players atop Notre Dame’s board.
On the defensive side, Wiltfong highlighted 5-star outside linebacker Justin Hilliard, inside linebacker Asmar Bilal and cornerbacks Shaun Crawford and John Reid as some of Notre Dame’s top targets. Offensively, Wiltfong keyed on wide receivers Christian Kirk, Equanimeous St. Brown and Miles Boykin, tight end Chris Clark and running back Jacques Patrick.
And much of what Notre Dame still intends to do is derived from the work it has already done. Offensive lineman Jerry Tillery became the first Irish commitment when he pledged to Notre Dame in June. Barnett followed five months later.
“They went and got Blake Barnett. So they hit a huge home run there,” Wiltfong said. “Getting a blue-chip quarterback doesn’t hurt when you’re trying to build around him.”
Offensive lineman Tristen Hoge committed a few weeks after Barnett, and the Irish added their two receivers—Guyton and Sanders—this spring.
“They quickly built around [Barnett] with two playmakers,” Wiltfong said. “Talking to several sources on the next level, C.J. Sanders and Jalen Guyton are two fantastic kids for Notre Dame, two guys that can make a lot of plays in a variety of ways.”
Wiltfong thinks Notre Dame is still in search of another receiver, as well as a tight end, and he says the Irish would love to land a big-time running back.
Irish offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock visited 2015 running back Soso Jamabo on Thursday, per Wiltfong. But while Wiltfong said he thinks Notre Dame is “in the discussion right now” for the 6’3”, 210-pound running back from Plano, Texas, it’s difficult to gauge where the Irish stand before Jamabo visits campus.
Safeties Prentice McKinney and Nicco Fertitta are the only defensive commitments in Notre Dame’s class of 2015 thus far. Rounding out the secondary with cornerbacks figures to be a focus, as does nabbing linebackers, especially with what looks to be a more aggressive and attacking defense under new coordinator Brian VanGorder.
Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports Composite Rankings.
Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.