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Notre Dame's 2015 roster is loaded with blue chip recruits at every position

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The Irish have recruited at a championship level and will have over 50 former blue chip recruits on their roster in 2015 giving Brian Kelly his most talented roster yet

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not telling anyone what they don't already know when I say the return of offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley is huge for Notre Dame. He should be on several pre-season All-America lists going into next season and has the chance to be a dominant player for the Irish.

The most exciting thing about Stanley coming back though, in my opinion, is his reason for returning. He wants to win a national championship.

Of course, we want players to select Notre Dame for reasons beyond football. But we also want them to want to be at Notre Dame so they can win championships. Stanley watched the Ohio State-Oregon game on Monday night and knew right then, that's what he wanted to compete for. For a guy who could have been the top tackle off the board in this year's NFL Draft to want to return for that reason, it's the kind of thing that can even get the most cold hearted message board poster pumped for spring ball and beyond.

The best part about Stanley's motivation for coming back is that it is an actual realistic goal. Yes, there are questions that need to be answered about next season's squad, but a lot of those questions can be answered because of how many players are returning and the amount of talent the Notre Dame coaching staff has recruited.

The 2015 team should have 54 55 players on the roster that were considered blue chip recruits (those who have a 4 or 5 star ranking) coming out of high school. That accounts for some losses they have had due to attrition as well. There may even be more than that if some players return from suspension and Notre Dame lands some other top players to finish out this recruiting class. (More on both of those later)

That's an elite roster of raw talent that Brian Kelly is going to have at his disposal. That's more raw talent than any roster during the Kelly era and 19 (make it 20 with Alize Jones) more blue chip recruits on the team than Kelly's first season in 2010. That's the kind of talent on a roster that is good enough to compete for a spot in the playoff and play for the national championship.

It's even more impressive when you break it down by position. A couple of things before we get going: I'm doing this under the assumption that all committed players will sign with Notre Dame in February and also that players with uncertain futures, like DaVaris Daniels and Eilar Hardy, will likely not be back next season.

Let's start with the big boys up front. (All star rankings are taken from 247Sports composite rankings. Yes, I realize Quenton Nelson was a 5 star on some sites. His composite ranking was a 4 star.)

Offensive line

Ronnie Stanley Tackle 4 star
Matt Hegarty Center/guard 4 star
Nick Martin Center/guard 3 star
Mark Harrell Center 3 star
Hunter Bivin Guard 4 star
Steve Elmer Guard 4 star
John Montelus Guard 4 star
Mike McGlinchey Tackle 4 star
Colin McGovern Guard 4 star
Quenton Nelson Tackle 4 star
Alex Bars Tackle 4 star
Sam Mustipher Guard 4 star
Jimmy Byrne Tackle/guard 4 star
Tristen Hoge Center/guard 4 star
Trevor Ruhland Guard 3 star

To say that Brian Kelly and Harry Hiestand have done an outstanding job recruiting offensive linemen is a gigantic understatement. I think it's obvious, this should be a strength of the team like it was in the Music City Bowl versus LSU. Running behind these big dudes is probably a good idea.

Running back

Tarean Folston Running back 4 star
Grey Bryant Running back 4 star
Josh Adams Running back 3 star

One look at the lack of numbers in this group and makes it kind of scary, but Brian Kelly and Tony Alford don't deserve as much heat as you might think. There has been unexpected attrition at this position with the dismissal of former 4 star running back Will Mahone and position changes for transfer Amir Carlisle and KeiVarae Russell. Suddenly the numbers wouldn't look quite as bad if they were all still at running back and all were rated as 4 star players out of high school.

The one huge mistake that you can ding the Irish coaching staff for is not signing a back in last year's class after having 5 star running back Elijah Hood decommit. That wouldn't make the Irish as desperate to sign a second running back in this class as they are right now. There are plenty of good running backs still left on the board and there's a good chance they'll be adding another blue chip player to the talent pool at running back.

Wide receiver

CJ Prosise Slot receiver 3 star
Chris Brown Wide receiver 3 star
Torii Hunter Jr. Wide receiver/slot 4 star
Corey Robinson Wide receiver 3 star
Will Fuller Wide receiver 4 star
Justin Brent Wide receiver 4 star
Corey Holmes Wide receiver 4 star
Miles Boykin Wide receiver 4 star
C.J. Sanders Slot 4 star
Jalen Guyton Wide receiver 3 star
Amir Carlisle Slot 4 star

This is another loaded group when it comes to talent and the 3 star players, like converted safety Prosise and Corey Robinson, have shown flashes of becoming big time playmakers. The scariest part is that this list doesn't include DaVaris Daniels, who may be back next year, and two players who transferred in Davonte Neal and Justin Ferguson. They all were 4 star players out of high school as well.

Notre Dame could also very well add to the group with a commitment from 4 star Equanimeous St. Brown on signing day.

Tight end

Durham Smythe Tight end 4 star
Mike Heureman Tight end 4 star
Tyler Luatua Tight end 4 star
Nic Weishar Tight end 4 star

There aren't many programs that have recruited better at the tight end position and a big reason why is that Notre Dame continues to develop their tight ends into NFL players. These four are pretty much all potential and no production other than some solid blocking from Luatua as a freshman. One or two should emerge this season and if they don't, the breakout star may end up being 4 star Alize Jones who could flip his commitment to the Irish from UCLA.

Update: You can officially include Alize Jones in this group. Huge get for the Irish!

Quarterback

Everett Golson Quarterback 4 star
Malik Zaire Quarterback 4 star
DeShone Kizer Quarterback 4 star
Brandon Wimbush Quarterback 4 star

First off, let's not assume anything yet with Golson. There is still the spring to figure this all out and as of right now, he will be on the roster for 2015. Either way, Notre Dame has not had this much talent at quarterback in a very long time. You also have to consider that 5 star Gunner Kiel would have been in the mix too. There is no David Wolke or Darrin Bragg in this group. (Thanks Ty)

Defensive end

Ishaq Willams Defensive end 5 star
Romeo Okwara Defensive end 3 star
Isaac Rochell Defensive end/tackle 4 star
Andrew Trumbetti Defensive end 4 star
Grant Blankenship Defensive end 4 star
Jhonathan Williams Defensive end 3 star
Kolin Hill Defensive end 3 star
Bo Wallace Defensive end 3 star

They have definitely brought in some talent at defensive end, but this is the position with the most question marks on the entire roster. If Ishaq Williams is back, can he come anywhere close to living up to the hype that originally surrounded him? Is Rochell a more effective player and pass rusher if he moves inside to tackle on a permanent basis? Who is going to emerge as the edge rusher that the Irish so desperately need?

Most of these questions all stem back to the coaching staff not signing enough players at the position in the 2012 and 2013 classes.

We will have to wait and see how it plays out, but young talent like Trumbetti and Blankenship should be significantly better in 2015.

Defensive tackle

Sheldon Day 3 technique 4 star
Jarron Jones 1 technique 4 star
Jacob Matuska 1 technique 3 star
Jay Hayes 3 technique 4 star
Jonathan Bonner 3 technique 3 star
Daniel Cage 1 technique 4 star
Pete Mokwuah 1 technique 3 star
Jerry Tillery 1 technique 4 star
Micah Dew-Treadway 3 technique 3 star
Elijah Taylor 1 technique 4 star
Brandon Tiassum 3 technique 3 star

I can't even remember the last time Notre Dame had this many players at defensive tackle. It's a nice luxury to have. It's also nice to have Day and Jones back, which may end up being the top starting defensive tackle tandem in the nation. The players are still young behind them, but guys like Cage and Hayes could take a big step this upcoming season.

Linebacker

Joe Schmidt Mike 2 star
Michael Deeb Mike 3 star
John Turner Sam 3 star
James Onwualu Sam 4 star
Jaylon Smith Will/Sam 5 star
Doug Randolph Will 4 star
Nyles Morgan Mike 4 star
Greer Martini Mike/Will 3 star
Tevon Coney Mike/Will 4 star
Josh Barajas Will/Sam 4 star
Asmar Bilal Will/Sam 4 star

The obvious thing that stands out is the big old 2 star the top. It's obvious Schmidt has far exceeded his original ranking while at Notre Dame. The other thing is the player that is missing: Jarrett Grace. His football future and potential 5th year status is uncertain at this time.

The Irish now have better athletes at linebacker than they have had at any time during the Kelly era and the group has been bolstered by a really talented trio that will be starting their career in 2015. Most of that athletic talent, other than Smith and Onwualu, is still inexperienced though.

Safety

Matthias Farley Safety/nickel 3 star
Elijah Shumate Safety 4 star
Max Redfield Safety 5 star
Drue Tranquill Safety 4 star
Nicco Fertitta Safety/nickel 3 star
Mykelti Williams Safety 3 star

Virtually every Notre Dame recruiting site has counted out Prentice McKinney from actually signing with the Irish, so he was not included. Neither was Nicky Baratti, whose career seems likely over after another shoulder injury, or Eiler Hardy, who is likely going to transfer.

Those are reasons to be concerned and why Notre Dame is still after signing another safety in this class. But just like every other position, there is talent there. They just need to play better.

Cornerback

KeiVarae Russell Cornerback 4 star
Cole Luke Cornerback 4 star
Devin Butler Cornerback 4 star
Nick Watkins Cornerback 4 star
Shaun Crawford Cornerback/nickel 4 star
Nick Coleman Cornerback 3 star
Ashton White Cornerback 3 star

Losing Cody Riggs hurts. Gaining back KeiVarae Russell takes the sting away.

Russell and Luke could be a great duo at cornerback with some solid depth behind those players. And to think, another talented player in Tee Shephard was once supposed to be included in this group.

There is no denying that there are plenty of questions that need to be answered next season before Notre Dame officially can be considered a national championship contender. There is also no denying that the talent is there to make a run. There are very few teams in the nation that boast similar raw talent and it will be rare for the Irish to face a talent deficit this season.

Sure, there have been some misses in recruiting and everyone likes to dwell on those, but anyone who says Brian Kelly hasn't increased the talent level at Notre Dame isn't making that argument based on fact. The 2015 squad will be his most talented team he has ever coached.