There were far more pessimistic responses to Notre Dame’s signing of 22 recruits in the class of 2019 than there were glass half-full assessments. To quote one of the former, hardly an outlier, “Seems what we’ve got here is a lot of ‘program-maintaining guys. … [It] cannot be denied that there are no true game changers in this class.”
If limiting “game changers” to skill position players, that appears to be true. The Irish did not pull in any top-flight recruits at the traditional offensive skill positions. However, narrowing one’s focus to that select grouping misses most of a football game.
Consider the most-recent Notre Dame game, even if most Irish fans would rather never again think about the 30-3 loss to Clemson in the Cotton Bowl. What injury crippled Notre Dame’s defense? The head woes suffered by consensus first-team All-American cornerback Julian Love. What position group made the Tigers’ defense so stout? Its heralded defensive line, rendering any Irish ground game utterly moot.
Notre Dame signed 8 four-star recruits at those two positions. It was not by accident.
“If you’re looking at it from an NFL perspective, those guys that get paid a lot of money are those cornerbacks and guys that can rush the quarterback,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said last week.”
The most important position group in college football is the defensive line. Notre Dame signed 5 four-star prospects there, including tackle Jacob Lacey (pictured above). The second-most important position group in college football is the offensive line, if only to stop some of those best opposing fronts. The Irish signed 4 four-stars up front. And then comes defensive backs, more and more necessary in modern football. Four-star safeties Kyle Hamilton and Litchfield Ajavon lead the way among the newcomers.
Disparaging a class with this influx up front on both sides of the line and that caliber of defensive back in the secondary is a stance it is somewhat impossible to agree with and hard to understand. Those are the foundations on which solid programs are built. Without them, no number of talented skill position players can produce consistent winning football.
Former Notre Dame center and captain Sam Mustipher did not receive an invite to the NFL draft combine, a reflection of how the NFL generally views college centers more than it is of Mustipher’s three-year track record. Linemate Alex Bars was invited, despite a torn ACL still limiting his workouts, and he has reportedly been working at snapping the ball during his prep. The NFL is more likely to move a college guard to center than it is to invest in a college center, right or wrong.
Joining Bars … receiver Miles Boykin, tight end Alizé Mack, running back Dexter Williams, defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, linebacker Te’von Coney, linebacker Drue Tranquill and cornerback Julian Love.
INSIDE THE IRISH READING
— Virginia Tech WR graduate transfer to consider Notre Dame
— Who are Notre Dame’s next names to know?
— German DE first defensive commit in class of 2020
— Signing Day Victory: Consensus four-star DE Isaiah Foskey the last piece in ND’s class
— Foskey’s signing underscores Notre Dame’s trenches recruiting this cycle
— Signing Day thoughts from Notre Dame’s assistants
— 247Sports, Rivals disagree most on 2019 safety signee Litchfield Ajavon
— Brendon Clark is both the player of the year and the area’s top recruit
— New UCF QB Brandon Wimbush will get his shot to earn starting job
— Rivals’ top 25 recruiters of 2019
— Jerry Tillery: 2019 NFL draft film room
— Top RB Chris Evans no longer on Michigan football team
— Here’s a better way to measure 2019 college football returning production
— Updated four-year recruiting rankings for all 130 teams
— 130-team rankings over the last 5 years show the Pac-12 cratered
— From Army to NC State: Why the Wolfpack chose Boo Corrigan as the new athletic director
— Second South Carolina player granted sixth season by NCAA