It’s never too early to talk about recruiting, and with a lull in the football cycle right now, I thought it’d make sense to talk a very early look at who Brian Kelly and staff are targeting for next year’s recruiting class.
Kelly already said that defense would be a priority. I couldn’t agree more with this approach as i’ts clear that both Weis and Kelly had/have the ability to get premium results out of non-premium offensive recruits. It’s also been clear that the Irish haven’t been able to make the leap to being a premiere football program because defensive deficiencies held the football team back.
The key for the Irish’s success in the upcoming years won’t be finding playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, but finding athletes that can play in Kelly’s 3-4 scheme that are elite level defenders. Whether those recruits are highly touted or not, Kelly needs to target prospects early, find out if they fit into the Notre Dame culture, and make sure they fit the profile of defenders Kelly needs on defense. It’s clear with the recruitment of Bruce Heggie that Kelly doesn’t care what analysts think, he’s trying to find body types and athletes that can grow into roles on this defense.
Depending on your source, Kelly and staff have already offered 40+ junior recruits a scholarship. Of that group, roughly 25 of them project out to be front seven defensive players, and if you add in the tight end recruits that Kelly is also targeting, that’s a fairly large percentage of offers going to a key area of need.
While you’re better served going to the recruiting sites for a comprehensive list of offers (Here’s ISD’s list that’s free), it’ll be interesting to see Kelly’s philosophy when making offers compared to Weis’ style.
Here is a quick look at some of the early defensive targets that the Irish will be after:
Ray Drew - Thomasville, GA: 6-foot-5, 240-pound defender is also an ordained minister with offers from just about every power school from coast-to-coast. He’s already met with Mike Elston and has the Irish grouped with everyone else.
Brad Carrico - Dublin, OH: Another big bodied edge player that hails from a Notre Dame pipeline. He described the Irish scholarship as his “dream offer,” and he’s planning on enrolling early at whatever school he chooses. Expect the Irish to be in this one to the end.
Cedric Reed - Cleveland, TX: While Reed doesn’t have an offer yet, most of the recruiting sites tie him to Notre Dame, if the dreaded Longhorns don’t swoop him up first.
Vincent Croce - Olney, MD: Croce would fit the bill as a big body, but might not be the run-stuffing 300-pounder that the Irish are looking for. Still, the Notre Dame offer immediately put the Irish in the mix with schools like Wisconsin, Michigan, Maryland, and North Carolina.
Kevin Williams - Holland, OH: While the Irish haven’t offered yet, Holland does have offers from Nebraska and Michigan, and with the connections to the state of Ohio, don’t be surprised if Notre Dame makes a play at Williams in the near future.
Jarrett Grace - Cincinnati, OH: A big body that’s from the Queen City, The Irish already have Tim Hinton and Mike Elston on Grace. Grace already had an offer from the Bearcats, but the Notre Dame offer bowled him over.
Anthony Wallace - Dallas, TX: The Irish will need to get in line for this talented backer who already has over 15 offers. Texas hasn’t offered yet, but the Irish will need their new Texas ace Kerry Cooks to make a solid impression.
Stephone Anthony - Wadesboro, NC: Long, lanky, and fast, Anthony fits the mold for an edge player in Kelly’s defense. The Irish have offered along with a slew of others including Florida State, Georgia, Miami, and both North Carolina schools. The Irish have had luck pulling players from the region. Maybe Anthony will be another one.
Trey DePriest - Springfield, OH: DePriest certainly doesn’t lack prestige offers, with the defending champs and Nick Saban already offering. He’s anywhere from 6-2 to 6-5, depending on where you look, and with Kelly’s emphasis on the Midwest, the Irish hope to be in it until the end.
Jadeveon Clowney - Rock Hill, SC: Clowney is another national recruit that the Irish are reportedly targeting, but the hometown Gamecocks might be tough to beat. His build and speed make him another ideal fit as an edge player.