2014 Needs & Wants: Defense

Last week, we looked at the offensive recruiting plan for the 2014 class. This week, we will look at the defensive side of the ball.

Again this will be a slim class as most projections have the scholarship number at about fourteen about fourteen scholarships available. With this in mind, even though Notre Dame has offered nearly everyone in the top 50, we have only listed the “Top Targets” below as those believed to have the most interest in Notre Dame.

*Denotes available 5th year

Junior Jones* (could move to DE)
Sophmore Vanderdoes
Freshman Hayes

Commits: Jay Hayes

Need level- Medium to High

Top Targets-Enoch Smith Jr., Thomas Holley, Khairi Clark

Assessment- The linchpin of the 3-4 defense, this should always be an area of need. We have a lot of people that could be moved here, and one commit already. We should hit this every year, and have been able to get elite talent here the past few years.

I’m assuming the Louis Nix III will be going pro, even though he will have one year of eligibility left. He’ll have his degree, and his senior day, leaving him very little motivation to hang around for another year.

A strikeout on elite talent wouldn’t be terrible considering some of the current talent and current DEs that could shift to DT if need be. However, not land a DT in this class would make this a large area of need the following year.

Senior Tuitt (please!)
Junior Day  Hounshell*  Springmann*
Sophmore Matuska*  Rochell* (could move to DT)

Need level-Low to Medium

Top Targets- Deondre Clark, Malik McDowell, Andre Trumbetti, Andrew Williams

Assessment- Even if we lose Tuitt to the draft, we’re still pretty deep at DE. But, as football is won in the trenches, I expect the Irish to be after very elite talent here, and be OK with a miss if it happens.

There is some talent in the linebacking corps that could be mover here if they don’t find a home because of young talent, or if we strike out and need it. Justin Utopo comes to mind.

5th Year Moore*  Utopo*
Senior Grace*
Sophmore Deeb
Freshman Martini

Commits – Greer Martini

Need level- High

Top Targets- Nyles Morgan, Raekwon McMillan

Assessment-While Smith could slide inside to fill this gap, we’ll assume he stays at OLB until we know different. Being 2-deep at this spot isn’t ideal. The three that will be left all have a good deal of eligibility left, but I think this will be the biggest position of need on the defense. We wouldn’t be immediately hurting if we missed, but it would be a gap that would show up down the road if we missed in this cycle.

Senior Williams  Councell*  Rabasa*
Junior Okwara
Sophmore Smith  Randolph

Need level- High

Top Targets- Dillon Bates, Clifton Garret

Assessment-Very interesting looking ahead this far to think about what Williams, Councell, and Rabasa will turn into after four years in the program.  Same as ILB, there’s a good deal of eligibility here but you just don’t like to risk injury problems. Further, if one of these gentleman needs to be moved to OLB then it will strain the ILB corps more. We’ll hope to get elite talent, but we’d take a RKG with a lower rating I think.

5th Year  Wood*
Senior Atkinson  Brown
Junior Russel
Sophmore Kinlaw  Butler  Luke

Need level-  Medium

Top Targets- Parrker Westphal, Jalen Tabor

Assessment- There’s a chance Lo Wood might not take his 5th year(or even have it offered). Even if we lose him, the Irish are 2-deep at the CB spot. However, the staff has been known to move players to and from this position and you simply don’t pass up elite talent if you can get it. Further, great CBs allow for more blitzes, exotic coverages, and other high risk/high reward defenses. Although this position not necessarily a major area of need, the value of the raw talent at this position makes landing recruits here quite desirable.

5th Year Collinsworth*
Senior Hardy  Farley
Junior Shumate  Badger  Baratti  Prosise  Turner
Sophmore Redfield

Need level-low

Top Targets- Quincy Wilson, Jamal Adams

Assessment- Several of these young men were highly touted recruits and I expect one or two of them to step up and live up to their billing. Several of these young men have a lot of eligibility left.

This year the secondary finally evolved into no longer being a liability, but, with these kids, it may be able to make the leap to strength. Elite talent like Redfield might even struggle to press for time, although I’d be shocked to not see him on the field somewhere in the secondary. I think a few of these gentleman will live up to their billing, and Redfield is so physically talented, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone got moved over to CB.

We can miss here and be ok for a year, but if we can get another Redfield its a no-brainer.


Overall it is exciting to look at the names on this list. This is who’s left after next year.

Attrition to people going pro is a problem you get with having great talent on your team. The coaches have gotten some “6 Star” recruits before, so maybe we can hold on to some hope of these kids staying longer than expected.

That said, the defense is in a similar position to the offense. Outside of linebacker we don’t have any specific needs. We don’t have highly rated recruits everywhere, but we’re close. We lack a true “shut down” corner, but I thought we did pretty good with the secondary last year, and have some recruits coming.

Overall I say we’re loaded for at least two years right now, and have the opportunity to add to the spoils. With this comes the ability to practice harder, substitute more, and continue the tradition of excellent defenses. If anything keeps us a contender for the next few years, its the names on this defense.

I’m really excited to watch these kids in the next few years. I just wonder when the defense will start to score more… or is that greedy??


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