With 2016 recruiting in full swing, who do you think should be Notre Dame's #1 priority for the class?
When talking about top priorities, it is easy to gravitate towards some of the flashier positions--quarterback, wide receiver and pass-rushing defensive ends. I will agree that a big-time DE should be high on the priority list, the secondary is tops on my personal list of priorities.
I think the overall top target for the 2016 class should be a lock-down corner--both because of the defensive system that Brian VanGorder is running and the likelihood that KeiVarae Russell heads to the NFL after the 2015 season.
Looking at the list of top corners in the class, most live in the south and will likely stay there for college. The Irish have offered several of these prospects already, but one who received a recent offer is Joejuan Williams from Nashville, TN. I think it is a long-shot right now for Notre Dame, but they have had some success over the years with the private schools in Nashville.
My honorable mention for top priority goes to Ahmir Mitchell - ATH (Egg Harbor City, NJ). He recently included Notre Dame in his Top 8 and is likely a safety at the next level.
Notre Dame signed one edge player, Bo Wallace, in last year's recruiting and that means they need to target players who can play on the edge in the 2016 class. So I'm choosing a defensive end partly because of need.
There is more to it than that though. I'm choosing Illinois defensive end Josh King because I think he has all the tools to develop into a special football player at the college level. At 6'6" and around 250 right now, he already has the size to compete, yet he isn't done filling out his frame.
His speed and freakish length should help him be able to eventually excel as a pass rusher and he can also be an outstanding player versus the run as well. There aren't a lot of times that Notre Dame has the chance to land a defensive with this kind of potential from the Midwest so when they get a chance at a kid like King, they need to win the recruiting battle and get him to South Bend.
There are other big time defensive ends they are targeting, but King is at the top of my list. They'll get the chance to impress him very soon when he attends Notre Dame's junior day on March 21.
I'm picking Josh King too and will echo all of the reasons Jamie referenced above. The position is a major need, King is supremely talented, he's a top Midwest product, and he's someone we've been targeting for the past year and change.
I'll also add that there's a distinct possibility of a grumpy frustration boiling up for 2016 due to the odds of a small class, a reconstructed recruiting staff (going great right now during the honeymoon phase but this could change), and the combo of Meyer and Harbaugh creating uneasiness throughout the entire cycle.
We've got the top player currently from Ohio but the only other major recruits from the state who have giving a verbal are committed to Ohio State and I don't think we'll grab any of the best 4-stars in the state.
There's a chance we don't sign the top two players in Indiana, which would bring very loud boos from the gallery, although I think most would agree King is a better end prospect than Auston Robertson and a receiver like Austin Mack would be nice but isn't a huge need in the grand scheme.
USC, of all freakin' places, has the state of Michigan's top player (Daelin Hayes) and Notre Dame will have to fight for the other small handful of top recruits in a weak year for the Great Lake State.
Then you have King as the top player in Illinois (by a wide margin) so I think he could be the difference between contentment with Notre Dame's efforts in the Midwest and hundreds of comments about the disappointing Irish recruiting efforts.
I'm tempted to say Rashan Gary - it's kind of a no-brainer, right? At #2 overall in the composite, how could anyone be higher? There are a handful of other five- and high four-stars that it would be really nice to get too, like linebackers Caleb Kelly, Ben Davis, and Lokeni Toaiola, cornerback/athlete Levonta Taylor, quarterback Dwayne Haskins, or receiver Dylan Crawford. Any one of those guys has the potential to be an instant impact freshman and would be a tremendous add.
But there's no question where the most gaping hole on the roster seems to be right now - even with the depth issues at safety it's the lack a true pass-rusher, a guy who can get pressure without scheme, that may limit what the defense can do. It's really, really close with Gary, but for me I'll say defensive end Josh King is at the top of my board. King has the ability to contribute as a freshman, unlike projects Bo Wallace and Auston Robertson.
That said, I would do a backflip if we land any of those guys. Gary has the potential to become a 3-4 year war daddy. Caleb Kelly is a Fresno kid, we could finally break through there. Ben Davis is almost literally a stone's throw from the Alabama campus. Levonta Taylor is a phenomenal athlete and would help grow our presence in Virginia. Lokeni Toaiola is a great player with a little brother who might he even better. Dwayne Haskins is another perfect fit for Kelly's quarterback profile. Crawford is a very talented receiver who could fight his way onto the field despite our impressive depth there. You could justify just about any kid in the top 100 and be rightfully excited if he were to commit to the Irish. But I'll stick with King as my choice for most wanted.