With the 2014 National Signing Day in the books, fans of the University of Notre Dame football program can collectively exhale. This recruiting cycle saw Brian Kelly and his staff land another top ten recruiting class that was devoid of any last minute defections or drama.
The 2014 class the Irish filled many needs, especially at the linebacker positions and seemed to have found kids who see Notre Dame as more than just a launching point for an NFL career. They have added depth to both lines, and have also added some other players who are very talented, but did not fill an immediate need.
While the class of 2014 is very good, what is missing from this class is that one athlete who has game changing potential. This type of athlete seems to elude the Irish every recruiting season. Many thought Isaiah McKenzie or Machiah Quick could be that recruit in 2014, but McKenzie was lured away by the University of Georgia and Quick landed in Stillwater where he will be a Sooner next season.
The top teams all seem to have that one, game changing player. The last time Notre Dame won a national championship that team boasted several such players like Tony Rice and Rocket Ishmael. Since that time, the Irish football program has failed to develop such a player, with the possible exception of Golden Tate.
Going into the 2014 season, as one looks closely at the roster, it is difficult to see any player who may have that kind of potential. The roster is filled with many very good players who may one day be playing on Sundays, but the roster seems to be void of that one player, the one who makes the ESPN highlight reels. They seem to be lacking that one player that everyone in the country will be talking about.
There is a considerable amount of buzz on campus about the potential for the Notre Dame offense to be very good next season. Kelly has told Irish fans that he finally has quarterbacks in place who fit the type of offense he would like to run and he seems very, very excited about the prospect of having an explosive offense next season.
The return of Everett Golson have some wondering if he could be that player who has the “it” factor needed to lead a team into the national championship picture. Golson, though, has not played collegiate football for a year and will have stiff competition from Malik Zaire for the starting spot.
The Fighting Irish football squad of 2014 will have some very good players at the running back position coming back. Despite struggling to establish the run since taking over the program, Kelly has, arguably, the best group of young running backs he has had since coming to Notre Dame. Tarean Folston showed great potential last season and should be even better this season. A healthy Gregory Bryant has great potential as well. Can either be that game changing player?
At the wide receiver position the Irish have so much depth. There is a very solid group in place. Most seem to have that similar type of profile though, strong, tall, but lacking top end speed. There are a few exceptions in this group in Davaris Daniels, William Fuller and Chris Brown. All three have top end speed and could be very good, but there have been no indications that Daniels, Fuller, or Brown could be the type of game breaker the Irish so desperately need. Perhaps with a strong armed quarterback next season, one could have a break out season. Only time will tell.
Few would argue that the Notre Dame football program seems to be heading in a positive direction under Kelly and his staff and are poised to have another solid season. However, many believe that with the absence of a game changer the Irish simply do not have the type of roster needed to compete or win a national championship.