Last week, I broke down how the roster will likely look in 2012 based on returning players, likely 5th years, and recruiting (as it stands today). For reference, the article can be found here.
Based on my assessment, I saw three key areas that need to be addressed this cycle, namely QB, OL, and DE. Eric also pointed out that OLB appears to be a bit short, and with the de-commitment from David Perkins earlier this fall, it appears that the staff was planning on taking a second OLB in this class.
Official offers and targets after the jump.
Based on the positions of need (maybe we will abbreviate this the OFD-PON), we will start with the QB position.
The QB list is pretty short, because it begins and ends with one name--Gunner Kiel (Columbus, IN). It appeared that earlier in the summer the staff was targeting taking a QB in this class, and had a pretty short list of targets (Kiel, Matty Mauk, Cyler Miles). By the end of the summer, all of the QBs had committed elsewhere (Kiel-Indiana, Mauk-Mizzou, Miles-Washington), and it appeared that ND would go without in 2012.
Then October rolled around, and suddenly Kiel had a change of heart and reopened his recruiting.
The Irish appear to be the leader, and he is tentatively scheduled to announce in early January and enroll in his school of choice for the spring semester. I will save a full preview for when/if he commits, but simply put--he is the entire package, and would be an ideal fit for BK's offensive system.
In the two classes that Brian Kelly has signed as head coach at Notre Dame, there has been one underlying theme to the offensive linemen he recruits--athleticism. Watching the line play this fall, that last statement is obvious. The OL are asked to do many things, and blocking in space is at the top of the list.
The 2012 class already features two OL commitments: Mark Harrell (6'5"/270--Charlotte, NC) and Taylor Decker (6'8"/315--Vandalia, OH). Harrell has been working with a coach on playing all three OL positions, including center (which is a real need). Decker has the size to play right away at either tackle position, but long-term will likely end up at right tackle.
Based on the numbers at particular positions, the one that is a little short is a having a true LT, so that is where the staff will likely focus their search.
Of the offers extended, there are three players that fit the bill: Zach Banner (Lakewood, WA), Ronnie Stanley (Las Vegas, NV), and Joshua Garnett (Puyallup, WA). Of the list, Banner already visited for the USC game, and the other two are set to come to South Bend this coming weekend for the banquet/awards show on Friday.
Hopefully the Irish will make an impression on one of the three, but there isn't one of them that is currently considered a ND lean yet.
The staff has done a great job of recruiting players along the line that can fill in at multiple positions, so if they don't sign a third OL this cycle things will still be fine--and likely bring back another 5th year OL for 2012.
By my count, there is one current commitment at the DE position--JarronJones (Rochester, NY). Depending on the service or person you consult, they may include Sheldon Day (Indianapolis, IN) and Romeo Okwara (Charlotte, NC) in that list. I think Day is a DT and Okwara an OLB, but what do I really know? The staff has shown that they are able to shift players around to fill needs, and DE is no exception.
The ND staff has a luxury at DE in recruiting for 2012--they are only losing one player (Ethan Johnson) and have already filled that need. That being said, they can still sign another player for depth, but it should be a top-flight guy (a.k.a. difference maker). Based on my criteria, there is really only one name out there--Arik Armstead (Elk Grove, CA).
Armstead, a one-time USC commit, has received offers from basically every major program in college football. There are two advantages that ND has: (1) he wants to play defense when most schools want him for an OT, and (2) he wants to play basketball. Needless to say, Brian Kelly has Mike Brey on board to bring in Armstead as a dual-sport athlete.
Currently, the Irish have one commitment from an OLB, the aforementioned Romeo Okwara (which is an awesome name).
It appears that there are two targets left at the position: Ifeadi Odenigbo (Dayton, OH) and Ken Ekanem (Clifton, VA). Odenigbo took an official visit for the USC game and has publicly stated that academics are a top priority. Ekanem appears to be one of the players to recently appear on the Irish radar and is scheduled to visit in a few weeks. Both are exceptional athletes that would benefit from Bob Diaco's system.
Since finding athletes to play the OLB position at the collegiate level can be a difficult proposition, I wouldn't be surprised if the staff wanted to sign both players. They look to have an edge with Ekanem (the only OV scheduled right now) and are in the hunt for Odenigbo (who doesn't seem to give much indication on preference right now).
Wrapping It All Up:
The Irish would be fortunate to sign any of these guys, and quite honestly are in line for at least one or two of the players outlined. With about 6-7 scholarships left for 2012, the coaching staff has the luxury to focus on brining in the best talent left. In addition to the positions listed above (QB, OT, DE, OLB), I think that you will see another WR and DB signed as well.
February 1st is right around the corner.