Each recruiting class has a purpose. For Brian Kelly and company, continuing to widen the base of the roster was a key for the 2013 recruiting class. It was far from coincidental that this group could literally line up and play against itself if it needed to do so. In fact, that balance — and that ability to infuse quality players at every position grouping on the roster — is one of the things that should have you so excited about this group of players.
On the offensive line, Kelly brought in a freshman starting five. Steve Elmer locks down the left tackle position, while Mike McGlinchey fits in perfectly at right tackle. Colin McGovern and John Montelus both have the size, skill and disposition Harry Hiestand and company want at the guard spots. And Hunter Bivin looks very much like the type of athlete that could bring elite size to the center position.
“We had five offensive linemen from that period of the USC game until the Alabama game that could go out there and function with five offensive linemen,” Kelly said on Signing Day. “That impacts your program, I’m telling you. It impacts the way you practice. You don’t get a chance to tackle quite as much, and all those things begin to show themselves when you’re below the scholarship numbers.”
With quarterback Malik Zaire running the offense, tight ends Mike Heuerman and Durham Smythe restocking their position group, and Corey Robinson, Will Fuller, James Onwualu and Torii Hunter each adding their own element to the wide receiving corps, the passing game added some key pieces. Throw into the mix Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston, two running backs that Notre Dame’s coaching staff thinks have elite ability both as runners and catchers, and the Irish offense continues to rebuild.
Defensively, Notre Dame put together an incredible trio of five-star prospects, with Eddie Vanderdoes anchoring the defensive line class, Jaylon Smith one of the nation’s most dynamic athletes at linebacker, and Max Redfield the No. 1 safety on the Irish board.
Filling in those position groups with high level prospects — Isaac Rochell and Jacob Matuska at defensive end, Michael Deeb and Doug Randolph at linebacker, Cole Luke, Devin Butler, and Rashad Kinlaw in the secondary, and it’s very clear that while the offensive line and skill positions were areas where the Irish needed an immediate depth infusion, this staff very much believed they needed to continue to build this roster at the very base level.
“With this class, it really addresses some of our depth needs across the board,” Kelly said. “We targeted in year one and two, we addressed comprehensively needs throughout the entire class in year three, and what I’m most excited about is that now we’ll have the depth in the certain areas that we felt like we did not have in 2012 and in this off‑season.”
We’ll be taking a closer look at each position group, and seeing how those incoming pieces help solve the roster puzzle.