Notre Dame football plays its last game of the 2013 season this Saturday. There are also 44 more days left until the 2014 recruiting cycle effectively ends when National Signing Day arrives on Wednesday, February 5th. Many are wondering what the numbers crunch looks like right now.
We got you.
Keep in mind that this is a very fluid situation. If this article was written a week ago it could have focused on a different set of numbers with a different set of conclusions on what the Irish are looking to do for 2014. Here are the raw numbers for each class to give us a clearer look at the scholarships available. The classes used right here are the players' current academic class for 2013-14:
- 23 Freshmen
- 13 Sophomores (Badger left before the season making this tiny class tinier)
- 23 Juniors (includes the return of Golson from suspension & Tuitt staying for now)
- 10 Seniors Eligible for a 5th Year
- 22 Verbal Commitments (we've officially removed WR McKenzie from the verbal list)
91 Total Scholarships
Now let's take a look at the 5th-year players:
QB Andrew Hendrix
WR Luke Massa
TE Alex Welch- transferring
OG Bruce Heggie
OG Christian Lombard
DE Justin Utupo
NG Louis Nix- NFL life
LB Kendall Moore
CB Lo Wood- transferring
S Austin Collinsworth
With Welch, Nix, and Wood officially moving on after the season we're down to 88 scholarships. Listening to Kelly's words in the recent past on the QB situation it seems highly unlikely that Hendrix will return as well which brings the number down to 87.
In his recent press conference Brian Kelly made a rare statement on the recruiting numbers saying (paraphrasing): "We can take up to 27 this year but probably won't get there and we might not want to."
Notre Dame can take 27 this cycle by back-counting Andrew Trumbetti and Justin Brent (who arrive on campus in a couple weeks) to the previous class effectively balancing the last two classes at 25 apiece.
Taking 27 recruits would also mean the roster would be 1 over the 85 limit even without bringing back any 5th-year seniors (27+23+13+23=86). The staff may be prepared to do that by moving Joe Schmidt back to walk-on status and/or expecting further roster attrition (Tuitt bolting for the NFL, transfers, etc.).
The more likely scenario is 2 or 3 more commits are added to the 2014 cycle--bringing the class to 24 or 25--which leaves room for 2 or 3 additional 5th-year seniors. This means in addition to Wood, Welch, Nix, and Hendrix we can likely say goodbye to Massa, Heggie, and Utupo.
Lombard is a virtual lock to return and we have him listed below on the 2014 roster. There is room for one more commit (23rd in the class) to ask both Moore and Collinsworth back. A 24th and 25th commit are likely replacements for Moore or Collinsworth.
Now let's take a closer look at the roster.
Roster (2): Golson, Zaire
Commits (1): Kizer
This isn't perfect depth but according to Coach Kelly carrying 3 next year with a preferred walk-on is the plan. I would have to think that opening up some space for '15 commit Blake Barnett--the highest rated QB of the Kelly era--has something to do with accepting sub-par depth next season.
Roster (6): Atkinson, Carlisle, McDaniel, Mahone, Bryant, Folston
The Irish appear to be in full-on pass mode at running back with all 6 players coming back next year. With Atkinson and McDaniel out of eligibility following the 2014 season, you can expect tailback to be a high priority for the 2015 cycle.
Roster (7): Daniels, Brown, Prosise, Fuller, Hunter, Onwualu, Robinson
Commits (2): Brent, Holmes
As noted above we've officially removed Isaiah McKenzie from the verbal list. The scuttlebut with his academics does not sound positive and it's starting to look unlikely that he makes it into Notre Dame.
Notre Dame will still like another receiver, though. A spot will be there for Michiah Quick and they're also still working on Charles Nelson. The Cal commit Erik Brown has kept in contact, as has Iowa State commit Allen Lazard, although neither are expected to flip.
Roster (4): Koyack, Niklas, Heuerman, Smythe
Commits (2): Luatua, Weishar
There will be more-than-ample depth at tight end for next season. However, with Welch not coming back and both Koyack and Niklas gone after 2014 it wouldn't be ridiculous to go after Dalton Schultz, who has continued his interest in Notre Dame.
Roster (2): Hegarty, Martin
Notre Dame hasn't developed nor recruited a steady third center. With Hegarty and Martin on the same eligibility clock it will probably be a priority to start training someone from the 2013 or 2014 classes.
Roster (5): Lombard, Hanratty, Harrell, Bivin, Montelus
Commits (2): Byrne, Mustipher
Great depth at the guard position with 4 young freshmen and redshirt freshmen ready to make their mark next fall. Notre Dame has also kept its name in the Braden Smith sweepstakes, but he's still a long-shot.
Roster (4): Stanley, Elmer, McGovern, McGlinchey
Commits (2): Bars, Nelson
Here's optimal depth moving forward, plus Bivin offers the ability to cross-train.
Roster (2): Jones, Springmann
Commits (2): Dickerson, Hayes
Notre Dame could use a svelte 310-pound high school senior to come in and play as a freshman next fall but it isn't happening. Neither Dickerson nor Hayes are prototypical nose guards, but for depth concerns should be moved here over the long term.
Dickerson suffered through a back injury all fall and is likely to redshirt, while Hayes could play defensive end in 2014. There don't appear to be any other targets here with Matt Elam eliminating Notre Dame last week.
Roster (5): Tuitt, Hounshell, Day, Matuska, Rochell
Commits (3): Blankenship, Bonner, Trumbetti
If Tuitt does indeed return, things look quite nice for depth and talent at end. Notre Dame didn't make Solomon Thomas' top five from late last week, leaving Andrew Williams as a lone long shot possibility.
Roster (3): Williams, Rabasa, Okwara
Commits (2): Hill, Williams
Even with the loss of Shembo the depth here looks superb, especially if the program can start to get something out of Anthony Rabasa. Both Hill and Williams are very long and could grow into defensive ends.
Roster (4): Grace, Schmidt, Deeb, Randolph
Commits (2): Martini, Sykes
As I mentioned in the past it's not so much a lack of numbers that is concerning at MLB but a lack of experience and to a lesser degree, a lack of talent. Being able to snag Nyles Morgan won't make a difference for the former but makes a huge difference in the latter.
Doug Randolph--who Kelly said in his recent presser will not see contact during the spring--could very well move to either outside linebacker position once he gets healthy.
Roster (2): Councell, Smith
Commits (1): Yeargin
You'd like another body here but Jaylon Smith has 3 more years of awesomeness left so it's not as alarming. Plus a couple incoming recruits offer some initial flexibility at Dog, and as I said Randolph could very well be here next year.
Roster (6): Brown, Atkinson, Russell, Butler, Luke, Kinlaw
Commits (1): Watkins
The corners are relatively young and with outstanding talent. There may not be another positional group with as much potential. The numbers here look perfect. If he's good enough, some playing time might be available to Watkins but there's also no need to hurry him into the lineup.
Roster (6): Farley, Hardy, Baratti, Shumate, Turner, Redfield
Commits (1): Tranquill
The unit with the most off-season intrigue is going to have a ton of bodies on hand during the spring and fall. Tranquill offers more depth for now but might be a candidate to move to Dog after a year or two.
Notre Dame will obviously hold a spot for 5-star recruit JuJu Smith although that might not be the case for Payton Hendrix.
Roster (2): Brindza, Daly
Commits (1): Newsome
I'm not real big on using scholarships for special team guys so this is a good number in my opinion. Newsome can both punt and kick although he's supposed to be more polished in the former area. The 2015 cycle will likely target a place-kicker for scholarship.