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2015 Football Recruiting: DB and K Review

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We wrap up our in-depth look at the 2015 Irish recruiting class by running through the defensive backs. Oh yeah, and the kicker.

Cole Luke is psyched.
Cole Luke is psyched.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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Previously, we gave a review of the 2015 class and our scores for each player, we dove into a little more detail about the offensive backfield, we expounded on the virtues of the big boys on offense, we reviewed the newest members of the AFROS fraternity, we jumped over to the other side of the ball with a look at the defensive guys in the trenches, and checked out one of the best linebacker groups in the country this year. Today, we'll close out the series by reviewing the defensive back and kicker positions. I actually meant to include Justin Yoon in the offensive reviews, but I completely forgot about him because kickers aren't really football players (don't tell PunterBro I said that, or Kyle Brindza for that matter). Not because I have the short-term memory of your average goldfish.

Enjoy!

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

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Irish Defensive Back and Kicker Signees
247C Score Player City/State Ht/Wt. Position 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.946 Shaun Crawford Lakewood, OH 5-9/170 CB
.873 Mykelti Williams Indianapolis, IN 6-0/200 S
.863 Ashton White Clinton, MD 5-11/182 CB
.859 Nick Coleman Dayton, OH 6-0/180 CB
.847 Nicco Fertitta Las Vegas, NV 5-9/175 S
.835 Justin Yoon Nashville, TN 5-11/185 K

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 times as listed on UND.com

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CB Shaun Crawford

Lakewood, OH - St. Edward, 5'9"/170

OFD Average: 93.6

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

Shaun Crawford as I mentioned, state champion at Lakewood High School. Again, a dynamic player as a return man. A dynamic player on offense, defense.

What really sold me on Shaun Crawford, he's a football player. In particular, he was playing a number of snaps during a game this year on both sides of the ball, and it was late in the game, and they were up and he blocked an extra point. And that just told me something about the way he plays. He never takes a play off. They were up big; they were playing somebody; he's playing both ways and special teams, and he comes off the edge and he blocks an extra point. That's the kind of player he is. That's the kind of effort that a guy like Shaun Crawford gives you.

Brendan: 94

In an Irish class that boasts some exceptional athletes, Shaun Crawford may well be the best of them. At the Opening, Crawford logged a 4.48 40, a 39" vertical, and a ridiculous 3.98 shuttle, which matches Odell Beckham's time from last year's combine. Yeah. The only negative with Crawford is his size, checking in at a diminuitive 5'9" - but Darrell Green was 5'9" too, and it worked out OK for him. I think Crawford will see lots of time next year in the nickel back role and may get a look in the return game as well, where he excelled for his state-champion high school team. He should eventually be a starter in the base defense and a very good one for the Irish. As noted by the other guys. if he were 5'11", maybe even 5'10", he'd be a five-star recruit. His football ability is that good.

Eric: 93

If you take away size there’s almost no flaws in Crawford’s game. Pound for pound he’s as gifted as anyone Notre Dame has recruited in 20 years. I truly believe that. Far too often the term ‘elite’ gets thrown around so casually. With Crawford he has truly elite speed, explosiveness, burst, change of direction, acceleration, and more. Pretty much any category you’re looking at with a corner he’s great, including toughness, tackling, and ball skills. Size is still a concern though. He measured at 5-8 during The Opening although he scorched a 4.48 time in the 40-yard dash. If we’re grading Crawford exclusively as a nickel corner (where he’ll probably contribute from day one) then he’s probably good enough to warrant a 96 or 97. Ideally, he’ll be physical enough to start at corner but if he’s an upperclassman roving nickel corner he has All-American potential.

Jamie U: 94

I've said a few times before that if Crawford was a few inches taller, he'd be a 5 star player. But he isn't and those extra inches do make a difference. None of that takes away that he is a truly gifted football player with dynamic speed. He has the tools to be an elite corner with the way he transitions and the way he absolutely explodes when he sticks his foot in the ground and breaks on the football. Even though his height is not ideal, he can get up and compete for the football as well. I would be surprised if he wasn't in the mix to play in the nickel for Notre Dame from day one. I'm very excited to watch his career develop over the next four years with the Irish.

Jim Miesle: 93

Crawford has all the tools to be an elite corner. If he were a few inches taller, he would be a consensus 5 star prospect. Really great pick-up for the staff here and will find his way on the field early in his Irish career.

ManorMan10: 94

Crawford is my favorite player in this class - I can't wait to see him on the field. He has tremendous physical tools, great instincts, and plays bigger than his height thanks in part to a great vertical. I'd put him in the conversation to return kicks (along with Sanders) as soon as he steps on campus. His combination of size, physical tools, and competitivness remind me of Jason Verrett.

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S Mykelti Williams

Indianapolis, IN - Warren Central, 6'0"/200

OFD Average: 87

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

Mykelti Williams, again out of Indianapolis, Warren Central, another player here from Indianapolis. Again, finding the players in Indiana, if they are here, we are going to find them. That's our fourth player. And to get this safety was key for us.

We think that we found a young man that has all the tools. He's a guy that can play the ball off the hash. He can run the alley. He can play man to man. He's smart. He's got a high football IQ. He loves to play the game. And you know, checks all the boxes. A good student, great character, couldn't be more pleased to have Mykelti with us, and a guy that's going to have a chance to compete right away. He's got that kind of skill set.

Brendan: 90

I hadn't heard much about Williams before he committed, and there's always a sampling caveat with highlight videos. But after watching his senior film, I think the staff snagged a big-time sleeper in Mykelti. The kid has size, speed, fluid movement, play recognition, toughness. Is he a hidden five-star and the answer to all our problems? Probably not, but he definitely doesn't look like an unheralded three-star. Obviously with our safety situation he'll be plugged right into the two-deep, but I think he may have been able to earn himself a place there anyway. I think he'll prove a capable back-up in 2015 and 2016 and be ready to take over the starting role in 2017.

Eric: 82

An efficient tackler with good instincts. He gets low and drops ball carriers on the spot with great consistency. It’s not flashy but that sound tackling ability is coveted at the safety position. Flashes good footwork from time to time but oftentimes gets by slowly shuffling around before breaking on the ball. A good athlete with mature size. Looks physically ready to compete as a freshman. Would really be nice to groom Williams for a couple seasons and slowly develop him. He’s a nice prospect but I would be concerned if he’s relied on to play even a backup role in 2015.

Jamie U: 89

Williams could end up being the steal of this recruiting class. I was very impressed with his senior film where he was consistently a playmaker at safety. He has fluid hips and the kind of speed where he can open up and cover a lot of ground. Yet, he's also physical enough to be an in the box player that hits through people when he tackles and flashes as a blitzer too. ND needs safeties and he may be someone that is asked to play early in his career, simply because of depth. Whether he can pick up coverages quick enough is yet to be determined, but he's physically talented enough to see some playing time as a freshman.

Jim Miesle: 89

He is a big hitter and not far from college playing weight. He has a future as a strong safety for ND and will be a factor on special teams right away.

ManorMan10: 85

Williams might be a another underappreciated recruit - his immediate offer and commitment brought questions if he was good enough instead of worrying about competing for his signature. He has great instincts at a big position of need for the Irish, and was the playmaker on one of the best teams in Indiana - even playing snaps at quarterback and running back in the state playoffs. Hopefully the staff can afford to redshirt him, but if Drue Tranquill eventually ends up playing closer to the line of scrimmage it wouldn't surprise me if Williams plays early.

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CB Ashton White

Clinton, MD - Archbishop McNamara, 5'11"/185

OFD Average: 82.2

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

Ashton White, as I mentioned earlier, out of Bishop McNamara High School him and Nick and Shaun, all three of them, corners that can play inside and outside. Toughness; love the way Ashton is a very confident player. Plays with a lot of confidence, and believes that he's going to be the starter for us, and I love that kind of attitude. Those are the kind of guys that we are looking for here at Notre Dame.

But great skill set. You know, we had him up here and got a chance to see him in our camp and we loved everything about him.

Brendan: 84

With KeiVarae Russell, Cole Luke, Nick Watkins, Devin Butler, and possibly Matthias Farley on campus already next year and Shaun Crawford and Nick Coleman coming in, minutes will be hard to come by at corner for young pups. I like Ashton White's physicality and ultimately I definitely think he could be a contributor down the road, but he'll benefit from having quality depth in front of him so he can develop physically and hone his technique. I could see him filling a physical third corner role like Farley did in 2014, or perhaps even moving to safety if that position once again becomes a pad-wearing MASH unit.

Eric: 80

White is a pretty good athlete that plays with a lot of passion. There are very few clips of him where he isn’t happily celebrating or jawing with the opponent. Some might not like that, but I’m okay with it for a secondary player. He has good size and probably won’t have to put on much weight to play corner in college. His body looks pretty well developed. However, I don’t see the type of suddenness and quickness that is needed at corner. White has good instincts but might struggle on an island playing man coverage against a wide receiver. I’d probably move him immediately to a strong safety role, add some weight, and try to use his physicality and edge to his advantage.

Jamie U: 83

White reminds me a lot of former Notre Dame cornerback Bennett Jackson in that he may not be the most talented athlete on that field, but the edge he brings to his game helps make up some of that difference. He's a very good tackler and is a physical player. That's the kind of thing that makes many believe he may move to safety and I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen, although I'm not counting him out at corner. I think he'll be a very good player on special teams as well and I see him contributing there early in his career before getting in the mix for a more regular role on defense later on.

Jim Miesle: 83

White has some talent, but really needs a couple years at the college level to start putting it all together. He is a physical corner that needs to add some weight first, but could end up being one of the sleepers in this class.

ManorMan10: 81

I love White's competitiveness, but he might be a little bit of a tweener as a college prospect. His physicality will be a plus in man coverage, but like Eric I worry a little bit about his quickness and change of direction at corner. I think safety might be ultimately be his best positional fit, but it may take some time for him to physically develop and find his home. Even if that happens, he has the aggressiveness and nose for the ball that should make him a contributor early in special teams.

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CB Nick Coleman

Dayton, OH - Archbishop Alter, 6'0"/180

OFD Average: 84.6

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

Nick Coleman out of Archbishop Alter, another team that played in Ohio for a state championship. Nick played running back. We see him as an inside and outside corner for us. I think we have three of them that we recruited in Coleman and Crawford and Ashton White, all three of those guys can play both inside and outside for us. Meaning they can play that nickel or that corner position on the outside. And they will all compete for that in and out corner position, which is very vital to us in situational defense, and in particular, our sub packages. We believe the three of those guys will compete for playing time early on.

Nick is a very good athlete, basketball player, played running back. I really like his skill set and again, will get a chance to compete on the defensive side of the ball.

Brendan: 82

Coleman is an interesting case. He definitely has athletic ability and actually looks pretty good with the ball in his hands as a running back for his high school. He's not as polished as some of the 2016-and-beyond corners on the roster or the guys coming in - Cole Luke, Nick Watkins, Shaun Crawford, Ashton White - so he'll have some work to do to find a spot. I think he's the kind of guy that can provide quality depth and eventually be a solid fifth defensive back, but he'll probably have to bide his time on what will be a crowded cornerback depth chart. Not so long ago a guy of Coleman's caliber would've been a guaranteed starter at Notre Dame, which tells you something about the job this staff has done at recruiting and developing the position.

Eric: 85

Coleman is probably right up there among the most underrated players in this class. He’s got excellent speed and a great second gear. Also, his open field stride is fluid and fast. I particularly like his loose hips--he’s not stiff when changing directions. Doesn’t quite look 6-0 on film but closer to 5-10 so we’ll see where he falls once he reports to campus. He’s clearly pretty raw as a corner and isn’t quite as physical as some of his classmates in the secondary. Still, the foot speed and athleticism are all there to mature into a good corner for the Irish.

Jamie U: 84

Coleman was known more for scoring touchdowns than preventing them in high school, but he's projected at corner for the Irish. He has a ton of natural ability, but is raw with his technique. Kerry Cooks did a heck of a job working with KeiVarae Russell by turning the former high school running back into Notre Dame's top cover man and hopefully he can do the same with Coleman. I love his potential, but he won't have to be thrown into the fire like Russell was back in 2012 and will likely get a year of learning the position before jumping into the mix.

Jim Miesle: 86

Coleman might be the best overall athlete in this recruiting class. He could play DB, RB or even at receiver. I have no idea where he ends up playing, but he will make an impact somewhere.

ManorMan10: 86

I think the KVR comparison is an appropriate one - Coleman has the speed and agility that once he's focused full-time on the defensive side of the ball, watch out. He'll fit nicely into Brian Van Gorder's scheme, and his stock would be much higher if he had spent more time last summer at camps to increase his exposure.

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S Nicco Fertitta

Las Vegas, NV - Bishop Gorman, 5'9"/175

OFD Average: 79.6

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

Nicco Fertitta out of Bishop Gorman High School, Las Vegas. What I love about Nicco is the toughness that he brings every single play, every single snap. I was looking for somebody in this class to bring that kind of dominant competitor spirit to our defense, and Nicco brings that.

You know, he got a chance to play in the All Star Game and showed that he can play with anybody. Again, what he brings to your locker room, what he brings to your playing field, is a toughness that you can't duplicate.

He's going to make an impact right away. You'll see him on every special teams. You'll see him with the energy that he brings, he's pretty infectious to a football team. Look forward to coaching him this year.

Brendan:

I wrestled some with the grade for Fertitta (no pun intended, UFC fans), because I think it's a little complicated. If I'm grading him strictly as a safety, 80 is probably about right, maybe even a little lower. But how do you put a value on what Mike Anello did? I'm not in any way damning with faint praise when I say that Nicco could give us four years of elite gunner play, which can be a huge weapon. I think he could also be a capable nickel back eventually. Finally, he's a tone-setter, and not just because he hits like a freight train. By all accounts his leadership qualities are off the charts - even at the Army game, where most recruits were far more "elite" than him, kids tended to gravitate to him. He could well end up a team captain before he's done.

Eric: 77

There’s no doubt that athletically Fertitta is impressive. I think his DB skills are second to only Shaun Crawford in this class. I love his aggressiveness, although his scud missile tackling is sure to get him penalties and some embarrassing whiffs on tackles. It’ll be imperative for him to control that instinct and tackle with more fundamentals in college. He’s just so small. A future at nickel could work but I don’t think the staff will trust someone at 5-8 unless that person has nationally elite athleticism like Crawford. However, Fertitta is good enough to see the field but his size leaves him as a specialized defender or possibly a slot receiver--and I doubt he’s switching to offense.

Jamie U: 79

When I think of Fertitta in this class, the two players I think of are Joe Schmidt and Austin Collinsworth. He's in that same mold of physical, heady players that isn't oozing with athletic talent, but he's just a darn good football player. It would be foolish to say that he isn't going to have to overcome his size at the college level or that he is someone that is probably not quick enough to handle too many fast receivers in man coverage. For everyone who may criticize Notre Dame signing him right now, I wouldn't be surprised if they changed their tune and he became one of their favorites from this class in a few years. He should be a core special teams player during his entire career and should compete to play at strong safety later in his career.

Jim Miesle: 81

The big knock on Fertitta has been and will continue to be his size. I like the way he plays with reckless abandon which makes him an ideal fit in nickel or dime packages as well as on special teams.

ManorMan10: 79

Fertititta is the other guy in this class (along with Hoge) that I'd bet on becoming a future captain. His size will be a limiting factor, but I'd be shocked if Fertitta finishes his career without making a few big plays - either in special teams, pressed into duty with injuries, or finding a unique role in the defensive rotation. He has probably been underestimated on the field his whole career, and my guess is that has fueled him.

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K Justin Yoon

Nashville, TN - Milton Academy (MA), 5'11"/185

OFD Average: 92.6

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

Somebody that will impact us probably more than maybe any one player on this roster is Justin Yoon. Justin out of Milton Academy is going to be our kicker and he'll come in and start right away. We think he's the best kicker in the country. We've got a chance to evaluate all the kickers that are out there.

The thing that stood out was his strength and accuracy. He's a hockey player, as well, and gave up hockey to concentrate this year strictly on his kicking, and I think he proved himself pretty good in the All Star games this year. But I think you'll see him as being one of the real stars in this class in terms of impacting right away.

Brendan: 94

The departure of Kyle Brindza leaves a massive hole in the kicking game. Enter Justin Yoon, the #2 kicker nationally in the 247 Composite rankings. Yoon has shown a booming leg and plus accuracy in camps and all-star games. He fractured three vertebrae in his back at the beginning of his senior season, but came back strong from it and is not expected to face any long-term issues. He should step in as the starting kicker immediately.

Eric: 92

Looks to be a real technician. He kicks a pretty and accurate ball.

Jamie U: 92

Most coaches have no idea how to evaluate what makes a good kicker and they rely on a few national kicking camp instructors to let them know who they think is the best kicker in the nation. Those coaches say Yoon is the best kicker in the class of 2015, so who am I to argue?

Jim Miesle: 90

Yoon should be the place kicker starting right away and has the potential to compete for the Groza. I don't think we will really know what he is made of until he hits a clutch kick or two, which is the case with any kicker.

ManorMan10: 95

Confident prediction - Justin Yoon will score more points than anyone else in this class. I love Yoon as a Brindza replacement - he has a booming leg, good accuracy, and appears to be strong mentally - probably the biggest asset in transitioning to the college game. Yoon hit all three of his attempts in the Under Armour All American game (including one from 47 yards out), so hopefully that performance in big games can continue once he puts on a gold helmet.

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