The following is part six in an ongoing series looking at the 2012 recruiting cycle. Today, we are talking about the defensive line. Some of these athletes are on the master list; others are on the radar.
After the recruiting bonanza that the Irish reaped on the defensive side of the ball in 2011, some may think that Notre Dame will focus solely on offensive play makers. Don't count on it. With the excitement generated by the play of the Irish defense in the latter part of 2010, coupled with the incredible recruiting class of 2011, look for Bob Diaco to keep producing top notch defensive players.
While the interior should be in fine shape with Louis Nix making his Irish debut this season, it is never too early to prepare for the future.
Rankings: Rivals 5-Star
Offers: Notre Dame, Auburn, Florida State, Texas A&M, Texas and others.
Preview: Although Mario Edwards Jr. gave a verbal commitment to FSU earlier this week, that by no means takes him off the radar of the Irish, although it might be tough to pull him away from his father's alma mater. His father is former Dallas Cowboy defensive back Mario Edwards Sr.
A weakside defensive end out of Denton, Texas, Edwards flat out bulls past people. As a junior, he recorded 127 tackles, including 50 for loss and 18 sacks. His 340 pound bench press is evident. Edwards generally manhandles anyone in his path.
Super Mario, as he is called by teammates, is listed as having 4.8 speed, but his fast footwork and incredible use of his hands gets him on top of quarterbacks in a hurry, and his brute strength allows him to make arm tackles from a distance. Mario Edwards Jr. will be creating havoc in backfields for a long time to come.
Offers: Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, Stanford and others.
Preview: Sheldon Day is a people mover. This defensive tackle out of Warren Central in Indianapolis takes on double teams with ease. To send double and triple teams at one player on a squad that features nine athletes with Division I scholarship offers says a lot about this young man.
Day is explosive; he uses his leg strength to flat out power his way through people. His initial step drives him through potential blockers as he motors into the backfield.
While it appears that Michigan and Michigan State might be front runners for Day's services at this point, Day has a strong affinity for academics, a trait that could eventually lead him to South Bend.
Offers: Notre Dame, Stanford, UCLA, Nebraska, Iowa, LSU, Auburn and many others.
Preview: Eddie Goldman has 39 offers right now, possibly one of the longest lists in recent memory. One of the best nose guards in the country, Goldman registered 16 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in 2010; he dominates the middle completely.
Goldman shoots the gaps quickly, allowing him to record some quick "inside" sacks. He stays low against the run and uses his 6'4" frame as leverage.
Eddie Goldman is extremely quick and uses his hands well. His footwork is great and drives through the play.
With all the offers on Goldman's plate, it's hard to tell where he will end up, but Notre Dame would be a good fit.
Offers: Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Boston College and others.
Preview: Jarron Jones is a mammoth defensive end with great athletic ability. As a junior, he recorded 68 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
On film, Jones is literally head and shoulders above the competition. He is extremely athletic and makes causing a disturbance look almost too easy. Jones uses his huge frame to plug holes and smother the ball carrier.
Jones has great field vision and uses the best possible angles of pursuit to get to the quarterback. He also uses his height and arm length to break up a lot of passes both at the line of scrimmage and into the second level.
While his GPA may be a concern to some, judging by his offer sheet it appears to be a workable situation.
Jarron Jones would be a good fit on the field for the Irish in the 2012 recruiting cycle.
Offers: Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan State, Purdue and Cincinnati
Preview: What a difference a day makes. Before visiting South Bend for Notre Dame's junior day, Greg McMullen seemed to be leaning towards Ohio State. All that changed when Coach Kelly offered McMullen a scholarship.
This powerful defensive end out of Akron makes the most out of the spin technique; he is a pile mover. Even when he doesn't make it to the quarterback, he creates enough disruption by getting would be blockers out of place that he alters plays.
With some coaching, McMullen, who seems to take short choppy steps, could fill more space and get into the backfield a little quicker. He tends to over run plays but has the field presence to still double back and make the play.
A defensive end that at one time seemed destined to stay in state, McMullen has opened up a bit after visiting South Bend.
Offers: Notre Dame, Northwestern, Stanford, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and others.
Preview: Tom Strobel is one of Ohio's best defensive ends, and with his 3.9 GPA, he will have no trouble learning any new system that comes his way. Blue Chip defensive ends from Ohio seem to be the trend in this recruiting cycle, but Strobel separates himself from the rest of the pack.
Strobel is a pure hustler, from whistle to whistle and sideline to sideline, he doesn't stop until the play is finished. The first thing that stands out is his body frame. It would be easy to picture him having the same success with 35 to 40 more pounds on his frame.
With great vision and a work ethic that makes him a permanent distraction to opposition, Strobel gets into the backfield quick enough to disrupt running plays before they develop.
Wherever Tom Strobel chooses to play, in my opinion, it will be one of the higher standard of learning institutions.
Offers: Notre Dame, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn and others.
Preview: One word: athletic. In 2010, Channing Ward had 132 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and two interceptions. He also had 396 yards receiving and rushed for a touchdown.
Ward is lightning quick as a pass rusher but also gives inside help. He uses the swim move to ward off potential blockers, and he uses it well.
With limited film to work with, I can only tell you that Channing Ward is comfortable on either side of the football and may get some offers to play tight end as well.
Offers: Notre Dame, Ohio State, Miami (FL), LSU, Florida, Florida State and many others.
Preview: With over 30 offers to date, it is easy to see Jordan Watkins performing in either a 3-4 system as a defensive end or in a 4-3 as a defensive tackle. He has the body type to fill either role.
It is not only the pure athleticism, but the high academic standards that make Watkins such a draw, and his college preparatory classes should make him an early enrollee candidate.
Watkins also plays basketball at Woodward Academy, showing a great balance between the classroom and athletics.
On film, Watkins is cat-like, quick getting into the backfield in a hurry and quick enough to disrupt running plays before they have a chance to develop. He move extremely well from side to side and has good vision. He fills gaps well and offers ball carriers no chance of yards after initial contact.
While it might be hard to get Jordan Watkins out of the south, with Notre Dame's academic standards what they are, anything is possible.