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Recruiting Snapshot: Thirteen and counting

Jun 5, 2012, 4:21 PM EDT

Alex Anzalone

Jaylon Smith‘s commitment over the weekend gave the 2013 recruiting class it’s proverbial crown jewel. More importantly, it puts the Irish on a pretty impressive trajectory as it heads into a time of year where recruits start to buckle down and narrow their lists.

For the Irish, sitting at 13 commitments after a season where just about everyone thought Notre Dame took a step backwards is a pretty impressive feat. To land a guy like Smith — one of the elite athletes in the country and also a must-have recruit in the Irish’s backyard — was essential, and will only go towards helping get other top flight players into South Bend.

In the momentum game of recruiting, the best want to play with the best. Malik Zaire‘s inclusion in Elite 11, along with the Irish’s signing of Gunner Kiel last cycle, should keep skill position recruits’ eyes open. Smith’s work on other defenders, whether it’s linebacker Alex Anzalone or cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, won’t hurt either.

With a staggering eight months until Signing Day, let’s take a look at where this recruiting class is and where it’s likely headed:


THE OFFENSIVE LINE: The Irish have already locked down their offensive line class, one of the biggest needs in the class of ’13. While guard John Montelus has moved to the top of the Rivals totem pole, Steve Elmer, Mike McGlinchey, Hunter Bivin and Colin McGovern can all stake a legitimate claim for being a national prospect, and one of the top 100 to 250 players in the country.

CORNERBACK: Even the biggest naysayers couldn’t have anticipated what happened with last year’s cornerback class.  After the defection of Ronald Darby, the disappearance of Tee Shepard, the academic pitfalls of Anthony Standifer, and the unfortunate tweeting of Yuri Wright, the Irish were left for dead at a position of need, filled admirably by Cam McDaniel this spring.

The Irish have moved quickly in this recruiting cycle, landing Devin Butler and Rashad Kinlaw, two players that profile perfectly in the Irish scheme. They’ve got Smith working on Hargreaves, while blue-chip Arizona cornerback Cole Luke is on campus today with his high school coach, former Irish QB Steve Belles. The Irish are likely going to bring in one more player at this position, and have quite a few big names still on the board.

RECEIVERS & TIGHT ENDS: Notre Dame snagged an important prospect when Florida tight end Mike Heuerman gave the Irish his commitment. It was a huge victory, the first of two blue-chippers that had brothers playing for Urban Meyer that chose the Irish over the Buckeyes. Heuerman won’t likely put up big numbers in his high school offense, but he’ll walk in and immediately compete to help replace Tyler Eifert.

It’s hard to look at Corey Robinson without assuming he’s going to grow even more. At 6-foot-4, he’d already be one of the biggest wideouts in the Irish stable. But with a seven-foot Hall of Fame basketball player as a father, who just so happened to be a late bloomer himself, Robinson might turn into an instant mismatch, especially if he can hold onto his athleticism. James Onwualu keeps a pretty prolific pipeline open at Cretin-Derham Hall. He won’t be expected to replace fellow CDH’er Michael Floyd, but Onwualu will impress you with his power in the open field, where he gets the football as both a running back and wide receiver.

The Irish have a ton of offers out to elite receivers coast-to-coast, and have fought their way into the battle for Illinois’ Laquon Treadwell. With neither Robinson or Onwualu a true burner, expect Notre Dame to focus on getting a guy with elite speed onto campus.

FRONT SEVEN: For the purpose of bundling, we’ll look at these two commitments together. Jacob Matuska is a guy that doesn’t garner the star-power of some of the other Irish recruits, but he’s got offers from Michigan, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. At 6-foot-5, 240-pounds, that’s an intriguing prospect to add along the defensive line, and it’s hard to argue with the current staff’s success at that position.

We’ll mention Smith again just because it’s fun, but he’ll walk onto campus and probably be the most dangerous defensive player on the roster. Other than Manti Te’o, he probably would be that this season as well.

QUARTERBACK: There’s nothing not to like about Malik Zaire. After landing one of the country’s top quarterback prospects last cycle in Gunner Kiel, and with a mess atop the depth chart with Andrew Hendrix, Tommy Rees, and Everett Golson still ironing things out, hoping for a quarterback and landing one this class were two very different things. But head coach Brian Kelly got the commitment of Zaire, who might just be the best fit for the system of the group.


Listed in absolutely no order of importance, here are five recruits worth keeping an eye on.

Isaac Rochell, DE: McDonough, Georgia — Rochell is an elite prospect who sounds 99 percent committed to the Irish.The 6-foot-5, 260-pound blue-chipper has offers from the best of the best, and just left South Bend after another visit. Better to have him go slow than flip-flop.

Ebenezer Ogundeko, DE/OLB: Brooklyn, New York — One of the Big Apple’s best prospects just visited campus as well, mingling with Ishaq Williams and Prince Shembo, two players that’ll join him in his position group. Getting Ogundeko to campus this summer was a big deal, and he’ll likely return for an official visit this fall.

Ryan Green, RB: St. Petersburg, Florida — Even when the Irish were chasing Ty Isaac, Green was their top running back on the board. The Irish coaching staff thinks Green compares favorably to Keith Marshall, one of the best in the class of 2012. It’ll be a dog fight getting Green out of Florida, but one Tony Alford is ready for.

Alex Anzalone, LB: Wyomissing, Pennsylvania — After committing to the Buckeyes at their spring game, Anzalone’s step away has been widely discussed. What gets overlooked is the linebacker’s talent, where the 6-foot-3, 225-pound two-way star lights up game film. He and Jaylon Smith have grown close during this recruitment. He’d be a huge addition and anchor the middle linebacking corps.

Danny Mattingly, LB: Spokane, Washington — Mattingly might be the perfect Brian Kelly recruit. Prototype size (6-foot-5, 225-pounds), moderate star-rating, but incredible recruiting cohorts. With Alabama, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and every team in the Pacific Northwest chasing him, Mattingly is as close to under the radar as this Irish staff is going to get.



  1. nudeman - Jun 5, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    Waiting, watching, watching, waiting … for the next domino to fall
    And chewing

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:17 AM

      You know what they say about guys with big ears.

  2. bernhtp - Jun 5, 2012 at 6:45 PM

    The campus will be buzzing with student in two weeks, so get ready to swallow your cud.

    Unfortunately, the news out of early summer session is rarely good, but maybe they’ve learned a bit vicariously from Tommy, Carlo, and his people. This time it might be different with some notable recruits showing up for a visit.

  3. brazilianirish - Jun 5, 2012 at 8:37 PM

    “The best want to play with the best”. It sounds like music… I mean, the epic ones… It sounds as good as the trumpets under the Golden Dome. Feels like heaven.

  4. ekalderf - Jun 5, 2012 at 8:50 PM

    Good early indications…win 10+ and they will all stay in the fold, any less and we will once again be wringing our hands come February 2013.

    • georgegipp - Jun 6, 2012 at 3:47 AM

      Not sure if 10+ is the magic number, but your point is well-made. What happens on the field will be terribly important to keeping the high ranked recruits we already have and getting a few more. If we underperform on the field, I fear signing day will once again be ugly. If, on the other hand, Kelly gets it together and we over perform on the field, I suspect we could end up with a top 5 class.

    • 1historian - Jun 6, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      Not the kind of stuff I like to see but you’re right.

      A reluctant thumbs up.

      86 days and counting

      • nudeman - Jun 6, 2012 at 12:17 PM

        I think the impact their record will have on recruiting, including avoiding decommits, is overstated.

        In an extreme case, like a 4-8 season with a bunch of blowout, sloppy losses and all sorts of dissension and controversy about the coach’s future, then yes.

        If they go 8-4 or 7-5 but compete week in/week out, no one will be jumping ship. In this year’s class so far I don’t see any Darbys or Fresno idiots. Kids like Jaylon Smith, Steve Elmer, the Admiral’s son, Zaire and the others – this SEEMS like a collection of young men who are a cut above in terms of maturity and having their heads screwed on straight.

        Not worried. Future looks good.

      • bernhtp - Jun 6, 2012 at 2:56 PM

        I agree with Nude. While the on-field performance this year is not completely unimportant, the vast majority of the recruits committed to Notre Dame the university and not to a national championship contender. Manti switched his commitment from USC to ND after an abysmal 3-9 season. I think the general character of this class is far closer to Manti than, say, Ronald Darby.

  5. jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 6, 2012 at 1:28 AM

    Keith, shouldn’t your sentence read,”More importantly, it puts the Irish on a pretty impressive trajectory as they head into a time of the year where recruits start to buckle down and narrow their lists.” Is it grammatically correct to consider “Irish” as a plural or singular noun? Is this just one of those things where improper grammar sounds better? Any English majors out there care to weigh in?

    • 9irish - Jun 6, 2012 at 9:04 AM

      Oh God man! I see your point, but kind of weak. “it” might mean “things in the cycle of college football”…”the Irish” could also mean the collective, which would be an “it”. Don’t go beating up on poor Keith! (I didn’t give a thumbs up or down, by the way)

      • 9irish - Jun 6, 2012 at 9:50 AM

        okay..I gave you a thumbs down. Still don’t know what where the hell that came from, by the way. This really is a slow time of year.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 6, 2012 at 11:50 AM

        Not beating up on Keith at all. It’s just that I read this all the time (here and other sites) and it sounds wrong to me but I guess if everybody does it then I must be the odd man out. That’s why I wondered if there were English majors who could address it. Not trying to be an a hole and sorry if it came off that way.

      • 9irish - Jun 9, 2012 at 8:24 AM

        nah…no worries, I thought you were kinda kidding around, and I was too.

    • 1historian - Jun 6, 2012 at 12:13 PM

      The sentence strikes me as being grammatically ok but it is a bit hazy.

      I don’t think it will take Keith too long to dry his tears after the attack, and as I’ve already said there are only 86 days until the season starts.

      Go Irish

      • nudeman - Jun 6, 2012 at 12:24 PM

        My take: The word “Irish” represents a “group”. And while there are multiple members in this group, there is only one “group”. Other “groups” could be “The Boys Club”, “Mormon Tabernacle Choir”, etc.

        So you’d think, using this logic, that “Irish” would be considered 2nd person singular, right? As an “The Irish IS gonna’ win”. But no one would say that as it sounds ridiculous. However … you WOULD say “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir IS appearing at Carnegie Hall” and “The Boys Club IS having a benefit tonight”.

        So I guess the rules don’t apply here and it’s whatever sounds right. I needs a beer.

  6. tlndma - Jun 6, 2012 at 6:01 AM

    Starting out 4-0, while beating Michigan, would be a big plus in this recruiting cycle.

    • 9irish - Jun 6, 2012 at 9:07 AM

      Michigan, to me, is the most annoying thing in recent years. Beat the hell out of them 3 years in a row, still figured out a way to blow the game. Ugh!

  7. tonyricemajorharris - Jun 6, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Maybe I’m drinking the kool-aid, but it sure feels like ND is building something special here. Unlike old coaching regimes, BK and staff will turn all their talent into Champions. This staff can flat out coach.

    • audomer - Jun 6, 2012 at 12:43 PM

      TRMH, After last year, i’m officially done drinking Kool-Aid……However I will be pouring Bloody Mary’s on my cornflakes on September 1st around 6am 😀

  8. alsatiannd - Jun 6, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    I’ll go along with the Jaylon Smith-Alex Anzalone dynamic being an intriguing thing to watch. But who’s to say who’s the more persuasive? What if AA convinces JS to go with him some place else. I’ll set my alarm clock for September 1, 2013. That’s when we’ll know for sure.

    • nudeman - Jun 6, 2012 at 12:45 PM

      And what if frogs start taking over the world?

      There is ZERO evidence, anecdotal or otherwise to suggest that 1) Anzalone would be trying to get Smith to go elsewhere; and 2) Anzalone has that type of influence over Smith (or anyone else)

      Jesus, settle down.

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