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2016 Notre Dame Recruiting: Scholarships and Roster Depth

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Where are bodies needed and how many can we take?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It's been just over 3 months since we last checked in on the Notre Dame scholarship situation so we've got a lot to catch up on today. Just a quick note on something that is sometimes confusing, though. Since we're winding down the 2015 season and the 85-man scholarship limit had to be set a few months ago we're now spinning it forward to next fall as our outlook. While we have focused and will continue to focus on the 2016 class signing this upcoming February, this changes the academic classes we'll show and the positional units will be missing the current seniors out of eligibility following this fall.

OFD LIVING ROSTER

Out of Eligibility Following the 2015 Season:

WR Chris Brown, WR Amir Carlisle, TE Chase Hounshell, C Nick Martin, DE Romeo Okwara, DE Ishaq Williams, DT Sheldon Day, LB Jarrett Grace, LB Joe Schmidt, S Matthias Farley, S Elijah Shumate, S Avery Sebastian*.

We know for sure that 11 players will be moving on to the NFL or making a living in a career other than sports. There was some talk months ago that Grace might apply for a 6th-year but he's likely to be denied, and given his lack of playing time, probably moving on after 2015 anyway.

*However, an interesting case has popped up for Cal transfer Avery Sebastian who hurt his foot early this season and would have as strong a case as anyone to be granted a 6th-year. Given the Irish situation at safety this could be a major development, especially if Sebastian could finally stay healthy for a full season.

2016-17 Academic Classes

  • 17 Verbal Commits
  • 23 Sophomores
  • 21 Juniors
  • 19 Seniors

80 Scholarships

Here we are in November and as usual the numbers are tight. But that's why we're here to discuss how the Irish are going to be adding more recruits.

List of Eligible 2016 Graduate Students

Tier 1

OT Ronnie Stanley

DT Jarron Jones

CB Keivarae Russell

RB C.J. Prosise

Tier 2

LS Scott Daly

OT Mark Harrell

Tier 3

S Nicky Baratti

S John Turner

Notre Dame brought 9 graduate players back for the 2015 season and unless there are multiple incoming transfers the 2016 roster will likely have a smaller amount of these veterans.

The currently injured Jarron Jones has already committed to coming back next year so we know he's in the fold. Stanley is almost assuredly gone as gone can be with a 1st-round NFL selection awaiting him, while Russell is also a long-shot to return but less so than Stanley.

Prosise will be the intriguing player to watch after blowing up this season. He was on our Tier 1 back in early August because he was already a valuable playmaker on offense but now he's entered a different stratosphere within the college game.

My best guess is that we'll be bringing back a combination of 4 players above. Add in Sebastian if he's granted a 6th-year, plus a possible graduate transfer from somewhere else and the Irish might carry 6 of these veterans.

QUARTERBACK

Roster (4): Kizer RS So, Zaire RS Jr, Wimbush So, VanGorder, RS So

Commits (1): Book

It's still far too early to even think about what is going to happen during spring practice with 3 quarterbacks on the roster who have logged playing time this season. For our purposes today all that needs to be said is that the Notre Dame quarterback situation is 100% healthy, assuming Zaire suffers no ill effects from his ankle injury.

RUNNING BACK

Roster (5): Prosise 5th Sr, Folston RS Jr, Adams So, Williams So, Brent RS So

Commits (1): Jones

Notre Dame may very well lose Prosise after this season and while Folston hasn't publicly mentioned he'll be returning (and may not see the need to) all signs are pointing to him playing for the Irish in 2016.

Two running backs should be taken this cycle as the Irish look to add a speedier back to the bruising Tony Jones, Jr.

WIDE RECEIVER

Roster (8): Fuller Sr, Hunter RS Jr, Robinson Sr, St. Brown So, Sanders So, Holmes RS So, Boykin RS Fr, Guyton RS Fr

Commits (2): Claypool, Stepherson

Recruit as if Fuller won't be here next year? Most likely, plus we always seem to over-recruit receivers anyway and Justin Brent has now moved to running back. Add it all up and the numbers here are lower than they've been in a couple years.

Notre Dame has been out on the trail working to pick up a third receiver in this class.

TIGHT END

Roster (4): Smythe RS Jr, Jones So, Luatua Jr, Weishar RS So

Commits (0)

Our young tight ends are growing up quickly. We're definitely headed to an off-season full of "why don't our tight ends catch more passes" but the depth chart looks very solid moving forward. With the No. 1 and No. 6 tight ends already committed for 2017 the Irish are set to pass on this position for 2016 and set up some nice balance of veterans and rookies in a couple years.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Roster (5): Stanley 5th Sr, McGlinchey RS Jr, Bars RS So, Bivin RS Jr, Harrell 5th Sr

Commits (2): Eichenberg, Kraemer

Without Stanley the talent and depth at this position takes a very big hit. And it's not a guarantee that Harrell will be part of the graduate group either. It's expected that Alex Bars will be the next man in at left tackle which should be a nice pairing with the veteran McGlinchey.

Beyond that, filling out the depth chart will be intriguing as Bivin may be more of a journeyman, McGovern has been working at guard and tackle, plus two highly talented freshmen will be added to the mix.

OFFENSIVE GUARD

Roster (6): Elmer Sr, Nelson RS So, McGovern RS Jr, Montelus RS Jr, Byrne RS So, Ruhland RS Fr

Commits (1): Boudreaux

Optimal, ideal, max depth.

CENTER

Roster (2): Mustipher RS So, Hoge RS Fr

Commits (0)

We're going to have a nice off-season battle here with Mustipher getting a little bit of garbage time this year and Hoge recently earning some praise from Kelly.

DEFENSIVE END

Roster (5): Rochell Sr, Trumbetti Jr, Bonner RS So, Blankenship Jr, Randolph RS Jr

Commits (4): Kareem, Okwara, Jones, Ogundeji

Jamir Jones is listed as an outside linebacker but already weighs more than Okwara and Ogundeji and projects to defensive line. There's already a lot of bodies committed but an impact pass rushing specialist is still being pursued.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Roster (8): Jones 5th Sr, Cage Jr, Tillery So, Matuska RS Jr, Hayes RS So, Taylor RS Fr, Dew-Treadway RS Fr, Tiassum RS Fr

Commits (0)

It's not often when a position goes basically un-recruited (is this is a word?) but it's been that way for defensive tackle. With Jones coming back the depth here is satisfactory and the top 3 interior players could potentially be among the country's best. Still, lots of young talent needs to develop soon and there's always the possibility that one of the ends mentioned above grows into a tackle or swing-type of player like Rochell.

STRONG-SIDE LINEBACKER

Roster (3): Onwualu Sr, Martini Jr, Bilal RS Fr

Commits (0)

(see commentary below)

MIDDLE LINEBACKER

Roster (2): Morgan Jr, Barajas RS Fr

Commits (0)

(see commentary below)

WEAK-SIDE LINEBACKER

Roster (2): Smith, Sr, Coney So

Commits (0)

So many things are going to be fascinating with linebacker next year. The first thing that pops out is that there aren't that many bodies (most likely saying goodbye to Jaylon) and no recruits on board yet for 2016.

Secondly, is it in any way possible Martini remains a backup again for his junior season? That seems so crazy when Mike and Will are going to be breaking in far less experienced new starters.

Thirdly, without Jaylon who fills out the depth chart at weak-side linebacker? Jaylon has been grooming Coney so does he step right into a starter role? Does Martini move back here? Bilal has the speed but needs to gain about 20 pounds to play in the middle of the field.

CORNER

Roster (7): Russell 5th Sr, Luke Sr, Butler Sr, Crawford RS Fr, Coleman So, Watkins Jr, White RS Fr

Commits (2): Vaughn, Love

The pessimist could say things are not looking so hot right now at corner and not be wrong. Russell seems like a safe bet to move on to the NFL, Luke hasn't played as well as last year, Butler, Coleman, and Watkins have played very minimal snaps, Crawford will be coming off a serious knee injury, and we don't know what we have with Ashton White.

A third corner in the class would be nice.

SAFETY

Roster (6): Redfield Sr, Tranquill RS So, Baratti 5th Sr, Fertitta So, Turner 5th Sr, Williams RS Fr

Commits (3): Elliott, Perry, Morgan

So many questions that it's downright scary. We don't know what will happen with the two 5th-year candidates nor if Sebastian will be eligible for a 6th-year, either. A lot of good things need to happen at this position in the coming months: Redfield playing well down the stretch, finishing strong in recruiting, and hopefully seeing Mykelti Williams surprise in spring practice.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Roster (3): Daly 5th Sr, Newsome RS So, Yoon, So

Commits (1): Shannon

Nearly a perfect situation heading into 2016 although carrying two long-snappers on scholarship makes me a little grumpy.

Remaining Priority Targets for 2016:

*High Need

Linebacker

Corner

Safety

*Medium Need

Wide Receiver

Defensive End

Running Back

*Low Need

Quarterback

Defensive Tackle

Offensive Line

Tight End

***

Since our last update the Irish have gained commitments from DE Khalid Kareem, CB Donte Vaughn, S D.J. Morgan, and QB Ian Book. Plus, DE Kolin Hill transferred.

Multiple sites have mentioned Notre Dame would like to take 25 bodies for the 2016 class, which yeah, is like saying the staff would like to keep winning and make the playoffs. I don't know if we'll get quite to that number but in our August edition something in the 22 range made sense and still does.

If we use 4 players as our 5th-year number the current scholarships get bumped up to 84: 17 + 23 + 21 + 19 + 4

Remove Jaylon and Fuller as junior class NFL entries and the number is knocked down to 82. Add in some attrition--we have 9 months to be at the 85-man limit--and the 1-year scholarship situation with VanGorder and there's certainly some wiggle room to get below 80. However, add in the possible return of Sebastian and another graduate transfer and things tighten up once again.

My best guess is that without any decommitments Notre Dame will add 5 to 6 more players to the 2016 recruiting class. Two linebackers and a couple more secondary players seem likely. Adding another running back also seems to be in the cards. One more spot to the best available recruit at receiver or defensive line puts a nice cherry on top of this whole thing.