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Irish focus recruiting efforts on defensive tackle

Jun 25, 2013, 2:48 PM EDT

It’s no secret that Louis Nix is likely playing his final season for the Fighting Irish. While the preseason All-American has a fifth year of eligibility remaining, Nix is on track to get his degree and will likely enter the NFL Draft after the season, with the mighty defensive tackle on track to be a first round draft pick.

With the loss of Eddie Vanderdoes, that leaves a fairly large hole in the interior of the defensive line. While Tony Springmann looked good in limited minutes, there’s no doubt that the Irish coaching staff is focusing their efforts on finding a new mountain (and maybe two) in the middle of their defensive line, and this week two premiere prospects got a look at Notre Dame.

The early returns on visits from New York’s Thomas Holley and Kentucky’s Matt Elam were both positive. The Irish coaching staff would welcome the commitment of both players — two highly touted defensive tackles — and signing either would be a great get and important anchor for the defensive line.

Taking a closer look at Holley, the Brooklyn native hails from the same high school that gave the Irish Ishaq Williams, though the two don’t know each other. Holley is an intriguing prospect, with the 6-foot-4, 300-pound defensive tackle new to the sport, playing in his first season of organized football last year. That makes for a raw prospect, but the athleticism he’s displayed has brought offers from Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, and many other elite programs.

Holly spent the weekend between South Bend and Columbus, and he had all the obligatory great things to say about Notre Dame that an interested prospect usually says. Camping with the Irish staff, he had a chance to work with defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, defensive line coach Mike Elston, and even head coach Brian Kelly chipped in with the talented New Yorker. Holley isn’t in a hurry to make a decision, but he’s a guy that is well positioned with Notre Dame, and understands that the depth chart has some opportunities.

(Want to feel good about where the Irish stand with Holley? Take a look at 247’s Crystal Ball Predictor, where four of four analysts predict Holley to Notre Dame.)

If there’s a way to make Holley look undersized, standing next to Elam will do it. The mammoth prospect, who reportedly measures 6-foot-6, and according to his high school coach is tipping the scales at close to 370 pounds, took in South Bend yesterday and had nothing but good things to say about his visit.

“It was one of the best visits I have been on,” Elam told Steve Wiltfong of 247 Sports. “Just a wonderful campus. Just so much tradition there. It’s crazy.”

Again, the idea of early playing time was brought up, and as you’d expect, Elam was open to the plan.

“I can come in and really play,” Elam told Steve Hare at Irish Illustrated. “They have absolutely no one at nose guard so it’s a great time to come in. That’s real important to me.”

It’s hard not to think of Louis Nix when you look at Elam and what he brings. If he’s even close to 370 pounds, there’s a ton of work that needs to be done on the conditioning side of things, and expecting Elam to fit into the Irish defense, especially after hearing Kelly and his staff talk about work volume and conditioning, is tough to believe.

That said, it’s impossible to teach size, and Elam looks to be built from a mold similar to the one that produced Stephon Tuitt. Those are rare finds, and if Elam has the work ethic to get himself in shape, he could turn into one of college football’s elite prospects.

Elam has a top five that includes Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Alabama, so if the Irish are going to win either of these prospects, they’ll have to beat two of the country’s most relentless recruiters in Urban Meyer and Nick Saban.

  1. dudeacow - Jun 25, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    I don’t care if he needs some conditioning. Just place him in the middle of the line and tell him not to let anyone run through the middle. He won’t have to be conditioned to do that.

  2. mtflsmitty - Jun 25, 2013 at 4:12 PM

    Stories like this remind me of how tough it has to be for ND to compete for the best of the best. It would be completely normal for these kids to be thinking of nothing but the NFL. Matriculating at ND, while not the academic powerhouse that is my alma mater (Ball State), is infinitely more challenging than most universities in the decision set.

    With the experiential benefits of middle age, it’s easy for me to gravitate to the “life after football” value proposition. But that has to be a tough sell for an 18 yo. As for the tradition, these kids weren’t even alive in ’88.

    I suspect BK’s pitch focuses on the development of the whole man, and that ND will care for the player off the field as well as on. That has to be a potent message delivered extremely well for us to do as well as we have.

    Kudos to BK and his staff. If we lose a few every year as the price to recruit at the highest level I’m all in. Great ROI, even with the high profile defections.

    (My apologies to the Language and Humanities Dept at Ball State for ending the first sentence of the third para with a preposition. You’re better than that)

    • thefightinfloyds - Jun 25, 2013 at 11:49 PM

      Haha Balls Tate. Im pretty sure you have to be accepted into MENSA before your even allowed to set foot on campus… A glorious and shining beacon of knowledge and learning.

    • dillonbigred - Jun 26, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      My wife, a ’81 Ball State grad, wholeheartedly agrees. She has learned to live with the embarrassment of marriage to an ND grad.

    • 1historian - Jun 26, 2013 at 3:11 PM

      Your quote – “As for the tradition, these kids weren’t even alive in ’88.”

      Are you sure you want to leave that one out there? Even by booger king standards that one is a WHOPPER.

      a simple “whoops” will suffice.

      Somewhere prominent BSU grad David Letterman is chuckling

      • mtflsmitty - Jun 26, 2013 at 8:58 PM

        Sorry Historian. Not sure what the issue is with my quote.

        ’88 was ND’s last National Championship, as I’m sure you’re perfectly aware. My point was simply that there have been many lean years since then. And those lean years are the ones an 18 year old would be most aware of.

        Interested in the benefit of your clarity as to my gaff.

  3. 11thstreetmafia - Jun 25, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    Imagine having to really really bust your behind to get down to 345!

    • papadec - Jun 25, 2013 at 4:59 PM

      Boggles the mind – at my age (70), I’m having a hard enough time getting under 225. But, I’m not exactly busting my …………….either.

  4. loadofwash - Jun 25, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    Me thinks these lads are not the pot of gold. Steady as she goes fellas. The ND puzzle has been missing the last and only significant piece since the 80’s. Support yes, but not with ye blinders on. Peace out homer domers.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 26, 2013 at 11:51 AM

      In the immortal words of Matt Foley,”Hey Dad, I can’t see real well (adjusting glasses). Is that Bill Shakespeare over there?”
      Load, here’s hoping you end up eating a steady diet of government cheese and living in a van down by the river.

      • bb90grad - Jun 26, 2013 at 1:14 PM

        Perhaps Load follows Matt’s advice to shut yer yap.

        He may have been down in the basement drinking coffee for the last 5 hours too.

        Classic skit.

      • 1historian - Jun 26, 2013 at 3:06 PM

        Are you talking about the english writer or about the dude who played a prominent part in ND’s defeat of Ohio State in the 1930s? (I was not there)

  5. fnc111 - Jun 25, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    ^^^^^ always making ND relevant.

  6. mediocrebob - Jun 25, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    Load loves the Irish. That’s why I’ve tried to be friends with him but he never talks to me.

    I feel for him and all the rest of the kids affected in the Second Mile Organization. You don’t have to pretend to be a Bama fan anymore, Load! We’ll welcome you :)

    • thefightinfloyds - Jun 25, 2013 at 11:34 PM

      Hee hee…thats funny

  7. mediocrebob - Jun 25, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    Me thinks…

  8. mtflsmitty - Jun 25, 2013 at 10:52 PM

    Someone put an APB out for Bern and Nude. I have no idea who you guys really are. But I’m missing you lately. The proportion of TROLL to INSIGHT/SATIRE is way off these days. Almost missing Dick, but not really.

  9. yaketyyacc - Jun 26, 2013 at 7:30 AM

    the coaches not only have the players moving, but Keith is finding it hard to keep up with the unbelievable players taking a hard look at ND. Even poor “load” is finding it hard to stem the enormous tide(yes, ND has a tide) of talent and the determination of our coaches, players, and writers.
    keep up the pace Keith, we love it….

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