No matter how you spin it, Brian Kelly has pulled a great recruiting class into South Bend this season.
The top goal from the get-go was to haul in a monster defensive class along with some playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, and Kelly has done just that.
There may be a few weeks to go before the almighty National Signing Day rolls into town; however, with the exception of one or two names, almost every single verbal given seems to be solid to this point. In addition to the solid group coming in this summer, Kelly was able to haul in five early enrollees as well.
Will this be the class that takes the Irish to the next level? That is a question that won't be answered for a few more seasons.
However, it isn't too early to label the biggest, most important, and crucial additions for the program in this recruiting haul. Let's take a look.
Possibly one of the most crucial additions in the past decade on defense, Williams will bring immediate speed and length to the outside of the Irish front seven.
A special talent who looks more like an elite power forward than an elite linebacker, Williams picked the Irish over favored Penn State and Syracuse after a 4:30 AM visit from Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.
Thanks to Diaco's pursuit of Williams, the Irish will get an impact player from day one that will change the face—and athleticism, speed, and length—of the defense right away. As an early enrollee, you can bet that Williams will see the field next year and make this Irish defense improve even more.
Another one of the biggest recruits of the decade—the Irish landed one of the best pass-rushers in the country in Lynch.
Originally committed to Notre Dame, Lynch decided to switch over to Florida State. After an impressive U.S. Army All-American Bowl performance, and meeting up with fellow Irish commitments, Lynch knew where his heart truly lied and enrolled early at Notre Dame.
A perfect complement to the others in this class and the other pass-rushers already on the roster, Lynch shows speed, size and strength coming off the edge that very few players have. He is another freshman that will undoubtedly see the field in 2011 while making an impact.
Overlooked by almost all recruiting services before his all-star performances, Councell has been Irish all the way for some time now.
Jumping from a 3-star on most sites to now a high 4-star prospect, Councell is the perfect complement to Williams on the other side of the football. Much like Williams, he possesses amazing size, strength and tackling ability, the perfect skill-set for a linebacker in this 3-4 defense.
You may not see him as high I do, but Councell is going to be a special player in South Bend for years to come.
One of the most physically impressive recruits in the country, Tuitt possesses a rare blend of monstrous size and pass-rushing ability. Ideally, he seems to be the perfect complement to Lynch, as he is everything Lynch is not.
There are two reasons Tuitt finds himself at No. 4. One, it remains to be seen if Georgia Tech is a player in his recruitment or not after an official there last weekend. And two, because of the amazing defensive recruits already brought in by Kelly.
Putting the decommitment issue aside, I fully don't expect Tuitt to flip his commitment to Georgia Tech. Knowing him on a personal level, he loves Notre Dame, loves South Bend, and loves his future teammates. It would take a miracle by the GT coaches to "wow" Tuitt.
However, that isn't to say it can't be done, as Georgia is his home state.
Golson is the quarterback that Kelly has been waiting for ever since he arrived in South Bend.
Featuring a skill-set of quickness, passing ability and leadership, Golson truly may be the next great quarterback in Kelly's offense. His only flaw, his height (6'0"), won't be a terrible issue either.
He may not see the field from day one, as there is plenty of talent ahead of him on the depth chart, but Golson brings skills to the table that none of the other five quarterbacks on scholarship possess. And because of that, Golson is one of the most crucial signees in this class.
Everyone knows the "biggest" recruit to commit this year for the offense was actually Michael Floyd coming back for his senior season. However, there are some excellent freshman additions coming in as well. You can never have enough playmakers.
Atkinson, a stud athlete out of California, is a player in the mold of Golden Tate and Theo Riddick: speed, quickness and game-changing ability.
It is yet to be seen what role Atkinson will exactly play once he steps on campus, but expect him to see playing time immediately. The best playmakers must play and get the football, according to Kelly, and because of that, Atkinson is a huge addition for this offensive class.
Another very, very underrated prospect in this class, Hardy is the perfect defensive back addition.
With a very thin depth chart on campus at the position, Hardy was a must-get for Kelly in order to provide some depth and talent in a position of need. Without this commitment and a few others, the Irish would have been in deep trouble come 2012.
But now in the fold is a great defensive back prospect that can play either corner or safety depending on the need. No matter which position he does end up at, expect Hardy to crack the two-deep by next season at the latest.
One of the most dominant OL recruits in the entire country, Hegarty is the best offensive linemen in this class.
A crucial get out of New Mexico, there is no question that Hegarty is one of the best OL recruits to come through South Bend in a long time. If he can push himself in the weight room and get the playbook down early enough, there is no reason he won't see playing time if he isn't red-shirted.
Although the Irish would love to snag another offensive linemen before February 2nd, Hegarty will play a large role in the future of the Notre Dame offensive line.
Usually, a special teams player doesn't make it onto a list like this. However, with the need for a great kicker and punter in this class, the Irish fulfilled both of those needs in Brindza.
One of the best recruits in both aspects around the nation, Brindza has enrolled early and will look to take over both positions if he can. Although it's unlikely that David Ruffer will give up his spot if given a scholarship, it isn't out of the question that Brindza could take over punting duties for inconsistent Ben Turk as soon as 2011.
No matter when he sees the field, and how, Brindza was a huge signee for this class. After all, you can't win football games without a reliable kicker.
The purest of the receivers in this class, Daniels is the prototypical slot receiver in Kelly's offense.
A physically impressive specimen standing at 6'3", Daniels is without a doubt the perfect player to spare Floyd some minutes. Although he may never be the player Floyd is now, he is still going to be a very good receiver in the future.
Daniels will benefit from Floyd coming back for his final year, as not only will he have time to adjust to the college game, but he will be learning from one of the best receivers in the country. A huge addition for the future, Daniels is an impressive 4-star talent that is a welcome addition to this already impressive class.