The results are in. The classes are ranked. Now it's my turn to give my opinion on the 2014 recruiting class and how it fits in with the 2013 signees. If you've read me for awhile, you'll know I tend to look at recruiting classes in twos. I believe you get a more accurate look at the future when you combine two classes, so that's what we'll be doing in this article.
I'm of the belief that the potential of the 2014 class is greater than their national ranking, but potential is just that---it needs to be developed. The good news is Brian Kelly and his staff appear to be able to do that well.
Let's take a look at how they did. Remember, I'll be looking at both the 2013 and 2014 classes combined.
QB (2)
It should be clear to everyone watching that Brian Kelly prefers a mobile quarterback who can throw. He landed two such guys these past two years in Malik Zaire and Deshone Kizer. Zaire is probably a better runner than thrower at this point, but he's made solid strides in the passing game as well in his first season with the Irish. He's got a lot of physical tools, and he's a very explosive runner when in space. Kizer is probably a better thrower than a runner. Both improved dramatically from their junior to senior season, and I expect you'll see that improvement continue over the next few years. There's a lot to like in this group. Both have solid size and above average arms. The Irish are in great shape having both of these players to fall back once Everett Golson is gone. While it seems like a perfect fit for what you're wanting, they didn't get their No. 1 guy either year, and maybe not their No. 2, but these two are very good prospects.
Grade: B
RB (2)
Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston have both shown they're more than able to get on the field as true freshmen. Can the develop into dynamic running threats who can also pick up the blitz and catch the ball out of the backfield? That's the next step for both---become complete players. Both should develop into NFL prospects. Both will be an upgrade in talent over those who carried the ball most of the time this year. Can they reach Theo Riddick and Jonas Gray productivity? I believe they will. My only question on both is I'm not sure either has game-breaking speed. On pure talent, this is an "A" but I really think this staff would've loved to land another elite one in 2014.
Grade: B+
WR (6)
The numbers are perfect. Sure, if you can grab another, why not? But Notre Dame won't be hurting in the depth department because of numbers, and certainly not in talent. Corey Robinson and Will Fuller have already shown they're going to be in the mix. James Onwualu has also seen quite a bit of time. Brian Kelly singled out Torii Hunter, Jr. for a guy to watch next season, and for good reason. Everyone expects Hunter, Jr. to play a large role in the 2014 offense. I, personally, love the future of Corey Holmes. T.J. Jones is a great comparison, but I also liked Coach D.'s reference to Rhema McKnight pre-knee injury. I see Justin Brent as a player just scratching the surface of his talent. I expect him to get much bigger, stronger and faster under coach Longo. The Irish have landed a great combination of size and speed in this group. This is fantastic group to go along with a lot of talent in the 2012 class as well. The only "miss" was the speedy, shifty slot receiver. That type of player will certainly be a top priority for 2015 recruiting.
Grade: B+
TE (4)
Again, good numbers, but, I feel you have a lot of "projects" here. None of the 4 signed were physically ready to play, and normally that wouldn't matter, but Troy Niklas left and now one of these four will likely be playing before they're physically ready. I believe Durham Smythe and Nic Weishar to have the most upside here, but I also feel Tyler Luatua could develop into a very good in-line tight end for Notre Dame. Mike Heuerman has a lot of good ball skills, but he still needs to add a lot of size and strength before he'll be able to play. I believe both Smythe and Weishar have similar ball skills to Tyler Eifert. Can both be the vertical threat and size mismatch Eifert was? I think talent-wise, this is a very good group. It's not elite, but I do think we'll see at least two of these players extend the tight end legacy at Notre Dame.
Grade (B-)
OL (9)
I seriously can't think of even one nit of this group to pick. When you look at numbers, you really can't do better. When you speak of filling needs and making sure you have quality talent for each slot, again, home run. Talent? home run. Elite talent---check! Guys who can play early----again, check! It's clear that Kelly and Harry Hiestand are very high on Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey, but it will be interesting to see how the other three signed in 2013 develop. Hunter Bivin is a big, powerful man who can play guard or center. We haven't seen much from Montelus or McGovern due to injury, but I really liked Montelus in the nasty department. He definitely needs to redistribute weight, but he plays with aggression and seemed to be a very mobile guard who could pull well. The 2014 class might not have anyone with Elmer or McGlinchey's upside, but I do think the Irish signed four talented and aggressive players. I am very excited about Sam Mustipher's physical tenacity as well as Quenton Nelson's above average athleticism for a guard to go with the mentality of an interior player. Jimmy Byrne really stepped up his level of intensity for his senior season, and Alex Bars has all the physical tools to be a great tackle prospect. Elmer, McGlinchey, Bars and Nelson can all play championship-level offensive tackle, or Nelson could be an All-American potential-type guard. Mustipher can play either guard or center, and I bet he will dominate doing both. There's a lot of flexibility amongst this group. But what I like most about this group is their tenacity. All of these players have shown a true desire to play physical football, and the good news is they all move really well as well. Simply…….Outstanding!
Grade (A+)
I realize some might say "why all the "B" grades"? I see an A as an ideal situation---something to shoot for. I don't believe Notre Dame got their most coveted in some of the B grades, but they did get a lot of talent and good numbers across the board. To earn the A, I think you need to hit more on some of your very top prospects. I think we'll see more of that moving forward, especially when Notre Dame's offense starts producing like many expect it will under Golson. We'll take a look at the defense tomorrow.