clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2013 Notre Dame Football Recruiting Class -- Quarterback, Running Backs and Tight Ends

OFD embarks on a journey to break down the 2013 football recruiting class on a position-by-position basis.

Jonathan Daniel


Welcome to the first of what will be a six part, in-depth series on the 2013 Notre Dame football recruiting class. I unveiled the OFD average grades for the newest members of the Fighting Irish family last week.

The first installment will focus on the backfield and tight ends: QB Malik Zaire, RB Greg Bryant, RB Tarean Folston, TE Mike Heuerman and TE Durham Smythe.

Here are a few comments from Coach Kelly. Well, maybe more than a few:

Coach Kelly Signing Day Press Conference (via NotreDameAthletics)

The transcript from Coach Brian Kelly's press conference on national signing day can be found here.


Official OFD Recruit Grading Scale:

95-100: Elite impact freshman with All-American potential

90-94: Multi-year starter with All-conference potential

85-89: Eventual starter with chance to play as underclassman

80-84: Raw prospect with decent potential but a couple years away from impact

75-79: Likely a backup

70-74: Reach by the coaching staff

Note: All Height/Weight/40 times as listed on


QB Malik Zaire

(Dayton, OH - Archbishop Alter) - 6'1"/185

OFD Average: 90

2011 Malik Zaire Season Highlights (via SuttmanRecruitment)

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Malik Zaire: Malik is an early enrollee, as well. I think what I loved about Malik is when he came up here last spring, he sat in our quarterback meeting room, and in that meeting room you've got some really good quarterbacks. When he left that meeting, he made it clear to me that this was the place he wanted to be. He loved the environment, he loved the coaching, he loved the opportunity to come in and run the offense, and that's looking at great competition and saying, I don't care about that, I'm going to come to Notre Dame because it's the right place for me academically, and it's the right place for me because I'm going to be the starter here at Notre Dame, and we love those kind of guys that have that attitude. Malik has obviously showed himself at that high level in camps that he went out and really excelled in. He can throw it, he can run it, he's got great versatility at the quarterback position, and he's a really, really smart kid.

Here is's interview with Zaire:

Malik Zaire Interview - 2013 Notre Dame Football Early Enrollee (via NotreDameAthletics)

Whiskey: 89

Zaire is a dual threat lefty with a style very similar to current Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson. Zaire is quick, and can run, but also keeps his eyes down field when he's on the move a-la Golson. Zaire is an eventual starter who will benefit from having a couple of years to develop behind Golson and Kiel. Zaire is a great young QB to have in the cupboard.

Eric: 88

I love mobile quarterbacks in Kelly's system and we got another good one here. The comparisons to Michael Vick are a bit much, but Zaire is a very promising prospect. He doesn't appear to be great at anything but is very good at everything. As a runner and athlete he'll be the biggest weapon of the quarterbacks on campus. I don't think he has that suddenness and quickness that Golson has, but he looks like a much stronger open field runner.

His arm appears quite strong but Zaire will have much to prove as a passer once he gets to Notre Dame. That's not to say he's a poor passer but he will have his work cut out for him in matching Kiel and Golson's passing abilities. I do think he'll push Kiel for playing time more than most people think. Being two years removed from Golson will also be a plus because he won't be sitting on the bench behind an established starter for that long the way Gunner might be. If he can stay patient and work hard Zaire should be a starter some day.

4pointshooter: 89

alstein: 89

Jim Miesle: 93

It looks like I am the outlier here, but I have to say-I think this kid will be the real deal. The comparisons to Golson are obvious (very similar size and style) and he probably gets the Vick analogy due to be a lefty. The thing I really like about him is that he walks into an ideal situation-he enrolls early to get the spring reps, doesn't need to contribute in the fall and can focus on 2014 from basically day one.

The thing I really like about his future is his arm--remember, he is an Elite 11 QB-as he can make all the throws, but knows when to put a little more air on the ball or when to throw the frozen rope. He has enough speed to keep opposing defenses honest, and should be pushing his way up the depth chart in a little over a year's time.


RB Greg Bryant

(Delray Beach, FL - American Heritage Boca/Delray) - 5'11"/196/4.48

OFD Average: 95

2013 Running Back Greg Bryant Highlights (via Prep1Force)

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Greg Bryant: Again, when we talk about a specific need within the program, the loss of Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, Greg Bryant puts himself in a position to compete. What we really love about Greg is, again, a guy that has shown a proficiency of catching the football as well as running physically tackle to tackle. He's a guy that will and you guys saw this later in the year, the way Theo ran for us between the tackles. We think we get that kind of physical play with Greg Bryant. He's a well conditioned athlete. He's got great instincts in running the football, but he also we love the fact that he can catch the football, as well. Outstanding football player. His dad is a coach, coaches at the high school. We just love that kid that comes from a coach's family. He really understands the game.

Whiskey: 94

Bryant is the best running back prospect that the Irish have landed in quite some time. He is very well rounded and is already put together like a grown man. He should be able to run inside and brings a ton of upside in every capacity. I fully expect Bryant to compete for time immediately. He has a freshman All-American type skillset.

Eric: 96

I've got Bryant as the second best prospect in this class and the top running back to come to Notre Dame in a long, long time. It appears that he lacks truly elite breakaway speed but if he had that he might be considered the best running back in the country. As it is, I don't think he's that far off the mark.

I just love the way he's put together (big legs, muscular upper body) and the way he runs (hits holes hard yet shows off an agile side while shedding defenders). He's really adept at cutting back and finding cut-back lanes, but he won't be able to do it as much as he did in high school. Early in his career I'm sure he'll have a ton of plays in which he's tackled from behind for this very reason.

Bryant is a very complete back with good hands and pass-catching ability. His juking ability is top-notch and he runs with really good strength. I don't want to pigeonhole him as a power-runner only because he has the quickness, vision, and agility to be much more than that. He's so talented and ready physically that I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that Bryant leads the 2013 team in total carries like Georgia's Todd Gurley did last year---that's how special I think Bryant can be immediately.

4pointshooter: 94

alstein: 96

Jim Miesle: 95

It is no secret that we think pretty highly of Mr. Bryant, but my colleagues keep referring to him as the highest rated RB prospect in a long, long time. Cierre Wood was pretty highly regarded coming out of high school as well, gents. He actually reminds me a bit of Wood.

He has all of the tools to be a great player, but his career will likely be defined by the little things-pass protection, protecting the football, decisive running. The depth chart is pretty deep at RB, so he will have to compete for time with the likes of GAIII, Carlisle, Run CMc and others. He should be able to work his way on the field and get a few reps per game in addition to contributing on special teams this fall.


RB Tarean Folston

(Cocoa, FL - Cocoa) - 5'9"/185/4.40

OFD Average: 91

Tarean Folston Highschool Football Highshool (via FootballProspects)

There were no comments from Brian Kelly,as Folston had not yet signed his LOI at the time of the press conference.

Whiskey: 90

Folston is an intriguing prospect that should fit well in that slot/RB hybrid role that this staff likes in to have in their offense. Folston is fast and makes people miss. I could see him getting into the mix with Davonte Neal in that slot receiver / RB hybrid role as early as this fall.

Eric: 90

Something is telling me I'm not fairly judging Folston because I don't think he's as good as Bryant and he didn't get offers from Florida, Florida State, or Miami within his own state. With that aside, Folston looks like a great prospect with outstanding quickness and explosive first-step.

He's pretty short (listed at 5'9") but he's got a good frame that should allow him to get to 200 pounds in college and handle the physical toll on his body. His grade is boosted by the fact that he'll be able to flex out in the slot and is the type of athlete who can flourish there long-term if need be. With no one behind Davonte Neal in the slot heading in to the fall, Folston might have the opportunity to have a strong freshman season, while also being in the mix at running back.

4pointshooter: 91

alstein: 92

Jim Miesle: 90

Folston is the kind of player that makes me wonder when (not if) he will make an impact. He could benefit taking a year and adding a few more pounds-but he could have a great camp and find himself in the rotation early. His best bet for freshman reps on offense would come from the hybrid Slot WR/RB role behind Neal. He has breakaway speed, which could earn him a spot returning kickoffs as well. Great prospect who should be a household name (at least an ND fan's household) in a few years.


TE Mike Heuerman

(Naples, FL - Barron Collier) - 6'4"/215

OFD Average: 88

Mike Heuerman 2013 Tight End Junior (via ABGWorldLLC)

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Mike Heuerman is also one of our mid year enrollees. That tight end position as you know, we like to use it in multiple fashions, whether he's split out as a wide receiver or if he's in line blocking or moving him around, Mike fits that profile. He was an early commit to us. He was part of the interesting Irish Mob, if you will, this year, which was taking its own life form online and through Twitter and Facebook, and he was one of those guys recruiting other players in this class. And I think that's a great thing. That says a lot about what he feels about Notre Dame and the kind of kids he wants in the class, and Mike was active in that. But he's going to be a fine football player for us. He continues to develop at that position. We've got an outstanding one.

Here is's interview with Heuerman:

Mike Heuerman Interview - 2013 Notre Dame Football Early Enrollee (via NotreDameAthletics)

Whiskey: 90

Tight End U it is. We have really been spoiled by the downfield Threat that Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Eifert brought to the table the last few seasons. Heuerman has great potential as a downfield target if he can maintain his speed and agility as he continues to add weight. Oh yeah, he's a pretty decent blocker too. Great pickup.

Eric: 88

Heuerman looks like the next playmaking tight end for the Irish. He doesn't have the height that Tyler Eifert has, but Heuerman might be a little quicker in the open field. I like his effort while blocking and I think he'll do well at the next level being attached to the line. He has a nice muscular physique but I do wonder if that might limit his ability to put on 30 more pounds of weight.

If he can add weight without any problems we have a great one at the tight end spot. I don't know how the extra weight will affect him but right now he's the most agile tight end we have. If he's fast enough Heuerman could be a major down field threat in this offense.

4pointshooter: 90

alstein: 86

Jim Miesle: 86

While I think Heuerman is a great TE prospect, I am not sure how the staff will utilize him in the future. He played in a high school offense that only threw the ball a handful of times a game, so his blocking skills have been developed at the prep level. Being an early entry will help, but his contribution in 2013 may be determined mainly by the health of Alex Welch. He has a similar frame and may play more of the blocking TE/HB role that Welch (and Ragone, when healthy) have in the past. The staff may look to split him out wide in the red zone to exploit a size mismatch with opposing DBs.


TE Durham Smythe

(Belton, TX - Belton) - 6'5"/233/4.75

OFD Average: 88

Durham Smythe (junior highlights) (via Jeremy Lin)

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Durham Smythe out of Belton: Another tight end that we really believe fits the style of the offense that we run. He hasn't even tapped his potential at 6'5", 230, and he's 230 right now. He's going to be obviously a big, physical player for us but has the soft hands and the ability to get out and run routes. We're excited about Durham coming in later in the process, but getting a chance to meet his family and spending time, it's a great fit. Durham, he grew up as a Notre Dame fan. Obviously being close to Austin, Texas, they have a pretty large following in that area, but he had always been somebody that looked at Notre Dame carefully, and now given that opportunity, we were able to get him signed and here on campus. Durham Smythe will be another one of those tight ends that will really, really do well here.

Whiskey: 89

I love seeing Texas kids on the roster. Smythe was originally committed to the Longhorns and turned into a great pickup for ND after he de-committed Texas. When that happened we immediately got a tip that Smythe really wanted to come to ND and a few weeks later that materialized. Smythe is a reliable blocker that can also contribute in the short to intermediate threat in the passing game. I expect to see him on the field no later than year 2.

Eric: 88

I really like the way Smythe blocks and gets out in to his routes. I was reading a scouting report on him and it was saying how smart of a player he is---and I agree. He seems to have an ethereal ability to go find open spots in a defense and make a tough catch.

I think his potential is a little higher than Heuerman's because he'll be a little bigger and well-rounded. Yet, I don't think Smythe is going to be making a living down field the way Eifert did and the way Heuerman may be able to. In that sense, Smythe's potential is limited but he could turn in to a deadly short to intermediate pass catcher with great blocking skills.

4pointshooter: 84

alstein: 88

Jim Miesle: 91

Smythe is the second guy in this group that I gave a much higher grade to than the rest of our reviewers. Upon watching his highlights, I was immediately reminded of the way that Tyler Eifert played the position, especially in 2010 when he came out of nowhere to replace an injured Kyle Rudolph. Given his size and pass-catching ability, he is an every-down TE of the future for the Irish. I think he probably sits out this fall (unless there are injuries among the TE corps) in order to put on 15-20 lbs, but should make his way up the depth chart quickly and spend a few years as the #1 TE option for the Irish.