Notre Dame signed one of its best classes since 2008 when Notre Dame landed the 2nd best class according to Rivals.com. This year, Notre Dame fell just short of that mark coming in at #3 on the same list. But, this class offers four 5-star recruits in Jaylon Smith, Greg Bryant, Max Redfield and Eddie Vanderdoes. It also off tremendous balance. Add a linebacker to the defense and the Freshman could have their own scrimmage. In many ways, this class is better. How does the 2013 class grade?
Notre Dame added to already significant depth when they brought in Malik Zaire, a Quarterback from Kettering, Ohio. One thing that recruiting rankings fail to encompass is the fit that a particular prospect will have in a program. Zaire is perfectly suited for what it appears Brian Kelly wants to do on Offense. If Zaire was headed to Penn State with Bill O’Brien, it would not have been as good of a fit. Zaire ranks as the 3rd best dual threat Quarterback, according to Rivals. Therefore, Zaire is extremely good on top of being a fit. The fact that he will have time to sit and learn only makes this commitment better.
Notre Dame landed two outstanding Running Backs at a position of need. With Theo Riddick graduating and Cierre Wood leaving for the NFL, Notre Dame was left with one real solidified contender at the Running Back position. All other players have either never seen the field or are not expected to truly compete. Therefore, landing prospects to add to the Running Back depth was critical. Notre Dame did not just add bodies to the depth. They added a fantastic one-two punch in Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston.
Greg Bryant, a 5-star recruit from Delray Beach, Florida, is a power down hill runner. He is a between the tackles runner. He does not have elite breakaway speed but enough to take to the house. A good comparison would be Robert Hughes. Greg Bryant has similar feet, uses blockers well and has good vision. But Bryant probably has another gear than Hughes. He will be able to get to the endzone when he breaks through the first line of defenders. But, he may get pulled down from behind occasionally by Cornerback or Safety.
Tarean Folston, a 4-star Running Back from Cocoa, Florida, is a an athletic speed back. Folston is a Running Back that can hit the home run. He runs a 4.4 40-yards dash. He definitely is shiftier than Bryant. Folston has been compared to Julius Jones. Jones was an excellent homerun hitter for the Fighting Irish in the early 2000s. If Folston is anything like Jones, he will be a tremendous Running Back from Day 1. Folston has more upside than Bryant. He will need time to grow into being a runner who works within the system. He is similar to George Atkinson III in that he was fast and athletic enough to run around until he got in the endzone. Learning to run between the tackles will be his first task in college.
Notre Dame landed four Wide Receivers in this recruiting class: James Onwualu, Corey Robinson, Will Fuller and Torii Hunter Jr. Each play has a unique skill set that makes them unique. Landing several players to add to depth was critical for the Fighting Irish. However, they did not land enough an elite player, a Michael Floyd type.
James Onwualu is a graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall, which has been a pipeline for many Notre Dame recruits. He played both Running Back and Wide Receiver. Onwaulu is simply a playmaker.
Corey Robinson has the highest ceiling of any Notre Dame recruit in the 2013 class. He only has three years of football experience and has never really performed any speed training. With his size and bloodlines, he can eventually become an All-American.
Will Fuller has excellent ball skills. Adding weight is the most important thing for Fuller right now because he is extremely talented as a Wide Receiver as far as speed, hands and ball skills are concerned.
Torii Hunter Jr. is elite at going up to get the ball. Despite his injury, Hunter Jr. should be able to participate when he arrives in June. However, he will probably be very weak as he just started walking with crutches a few days ago. It will take him another year to be strong enough to play.
Notre Dame landed two Tight Ends that fit well into Notre Dame’s Offense, Mike Heuerman and Durham Smythe. They both can be utilized in the running game as well as the passing game. None of them are probably are Tyler Eifert but they can make a great contribution to the team as early as 2013.
Mike Heuerman, an early enrollee, is an extremely athletic Tight End that can be utilized in the slot or inline. As a receiver, he shows great hands and good speed. As a blocker, he demonstrates great tenacity but needs to develop better technique. He should be able develop physically so that he will be able to play next season.
Durham Smythe is definitely a project for the Fighting Irish. He has great size and that is something a coach cannot teach. Smythe has okay to good hands. He needs to learn to catch the ball away from his chest more. In addition, he will need to work on becoming a better blocker.
Notre Dame landed five talented Offensive Linemen at a position of great need. They had commitments from all five by the Spring Game. Landing a sixth Offensive Linemen might have been nice for the Fighting Irish but they probably were not anticipating some of the strange injuries that they were going to have across the line (i.e. Matt Hegarty’s stroke). But, overall, Notre Dame landed a complete set of Offensive Linemen that are extremely talented.
Each player provides their own unique talent. Elmer is probably the most physically ready linemen in the group. He has the most accolades and is an early enrollee. McGlinchey is the biggest at 6’8″ or 6’9″. His size is something to be reckoned with. Bivin is the most versatile linemen. He can play inside or outside. He also has a great nasty streak. McGovern gets off the ball quickly and is extremely athletic. He is perfectly suited to play Guard. Finally, Montelus might be the most physical player that Notre Dame has in this class. He definitely is a Guard or Center.