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2014 Notre Dame Recruiting Class Analysis

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 7, 2014


2014 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Head Coach: Brian Kelly


Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2013 Record: 9-4
8/31 Temple W 28-6
9/7 at Michigan L 41-30
9/14 at Purdue W 31-24
9/21 Michigan State W 17-13
9/28 Oklahoma L 35-21
10/5 Arizona State W 37-34
10/12 OPEN DATE
10/19 USC W 14-10
10/26 at Air Force W 45-10
11/2 Navy W 38-34
11/9 at Pitt L 28-21
11/16 OPEN DATE
11/23 BYU W 23-13
11/30 at Stanford L 27-20
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
12/28 Rutgers W 29-16
 


Notre Dame | The 2014 Recruiting Class

Team Concerns For 2014: The Irish need to get the running game back on track. If Everett Golson is back to form and can take off more – you could gain more rushing yards than Tommy Rees – then all of that changes. The Irish threw the ball well last year, but the attack wasn’t quite efficient enough. Even with NFL starters Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt up front, the run defense still allowed 168 yards per game. The punting game has to be far stronger after averaging just 34.7 yards per pop.

The 2014 Class Is Heavy On ... Defensive linemen. Getting tackle Daniel Cage on Signing Day was a huge help to the overall ranking, but it was already a great class with Jay Hayes for the inside and Grant Blankenship and Andrew Trumbetti on the ends. Nyles Morgan is a terrific middle linebacker prospect – he’ll someday lead the team in tackles – and while only one defensive back was signed, corner Nick Watkins is a good one. Quenton Nelson is a next-level offensive tackle, and Alex Bars isn’t far behind as a potential NFL guard. The tight end tandem of Nick Weishar and Tyler Luatua should be great in a few years.

2013 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 3. That Class Was Heavy On ... Offensive tackles. This is a fantastic class with a star for just about every spot, highlighted by the late get of defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, the overall star of the class. Once again, the Irish have a pipeline to tight ends with Durham Smythe and Mike Heuerman each looking the part. The receiving corps is terrific with Will Fuller and James Onwualu the best prospects, but Torii Hunter and David Robinson's son, Corey, the two big names in the bunch. Getting Jaylon Smith makes the linebacking corps special, and Cole Luke and Max Redfield are two starting defensive backs with next-level skills. However, the best overall position is offensive tackle with Steven Elmer, Mike McGlinchey and Colin McGovern all good enough to be the star of anyone's offensive line class, and Hunter Bivin isn't too far behind. John Montelus might be the nation's best guard prospect.

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 20. That Class Was Heavy On ... A star quarterback. Head coach Brian Kelly brought in some nice options over the years, but he didn’t get anyone like Gunner Kiel, Scout.com’s No. 1 ranked quarterback, who switched from LSU to Indiana to the Irish. The talent level is quickly improving over the last two classes with the most noticeable difference on the lines from the last two years. This year, if everything goes according to plan, the secondary will provide the biggest boost with a few nice safety prospects and corner Tee Shepard out of Fresno to soon be the team’s shutdown coverman on one side. 

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Notre Dame 29, Rutgers 16
Basically … Kyle Brindza kicked five field goals and TJ Jones and Tarean Folston ran for short scores as Notre Dame got by the Scarlet Knights in an entertaining game that was expected to be a big blowout. Rutgers answered the Jones eight-yard score with a 14-yard Brandon Coleman touchdown catch late in the first quarter to tie it at 10, and the two went into the locker room tied at 13. It was all Notre Dame in the second half, outscoring the Scarlet Knights 13 to 3 and dominating, but failing to turn the game into a blowout as the Rutgers D stiffened time and again.

- Notre Dame outgained Rutgers 494 yards to 236. The Irish forced four turnovers and gave away just one.
- Time of possession: Notre Dame 38:16 – Rutgers 21:44
- Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees completed 27-of-47 passes for 319 yards
- Rutgers QB Chas Dodd completed 10-of-28 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown with three picks.
- Notre Dame PK Kyle Brindza connected on five of six field goal attempts hitting from 21, 38, 26, 25 and 49 yards out, missing from 44 yards away. He also punted once for 34 yards.
- Rutgers SS Lorenzo Waters made 12 tackles with a tackle for loss.
- Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt made four tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss.

Notre Dame (8-4) vs. Rutgers (6-6) Dec. 28, 12:00, ESPN

Here’s The Deal … Neither Notre Dame nor Rutgers is pleased by its regular season results. Both, though, are intrigued by the prospect of wrapping up the year in the Bronx.

at Stanford 27, Notre Dame 20
Basically … Stanford pulled ahead 21-6 in the second half on a 20-yard Anthony Wilkerson touchdown run after getting a one-yard Tyler Gaffney scoring run and a Devon Cajuste 16-yard scoring catch in the first half, but the Irish fought back with Tommy Rees touchdown passes to TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels to pull within four. Jordan Williamson helped push the Cardinal ahead with a 28-yard field goal and the D held up. Wayne Lyons picked off two Rees passes.
- Stanford RB Tyler Gaffney ran 33 times for 189 yards and a score.
- Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees completed 16-of-34 passes for 199 yards and two scores with two picks.
- Stanford outrushed the Irish 261 yards to 64.
- Notre Dame WR DaVaris Daniels caught five passes for 79 yards and a score.

at Notre Dame 23, BYU 13
Basically … In the snow and wind, Tommy Rees fought through the elements with a 61-yard touchdown pass to DaVaris Daniels and engineering scoring drives finished off by three Kyle Brindza field goals. Tarean Folston gave the Irish a 14-7 lead on a two-yard run, and BYU never tied it again. JD Falslev scored on a seven-yard touchdown catch, but the Cougar offense could only manage two Justin Sorensen field goals the rest of the way.
- Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees completed 15-of-28 passes for 235 yards and a score with a pick.
- BYU QB Taysom Hill completed 21-of-36 passes for 168 yards and a score with a pick, and ran 24 times for 101 yards.
- BYU RB Paul Lasike ran four times for 101 yards, but Jamaal Williams was held to 43 yards on 18 carries.
- Notre Dame RB Cam McDaniel ran 24 times for 117 yards.

at Pitt 28, Notre Dame 21
Basically … James Conner ran for two short scores, with his one-yarder in the fourth turning into the game-winner for the Panthers. Notre Dame turned the ball over three times with a few key late mistakes proving costly. Tommy Rees found DaVaris Daniels for a ten-yard score in the first, and he connected with TJ Jones in the third quarter from 80 yards out in the third. But Tom Savage threw two touchdown passes including a 63-yarder to Devin Street late in the third quarter to tie it at 21, and the defense did the rest.
- Pitt QB Tom Savage completed 22-of-35 passes for 243 yards and two scores.
- Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees completed 18-of-38 passes for 318 yards and two scores with two interceptions.
- Notre Dame WR TJ Jones caught six passes for 149 yards and a score, and he ran three times for 41 yards and a touchdown.
- The Panthers were outgained 451 yards to 355, but they were +3 in turnover margin.

at Notre Dame 38, Navy 34, Nov. 2
Basically … Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith made an open-field tackle on Navy’s Shawn Lynch with 1:08 left in regulation, preserving a four-point win for the Irish. Smith’s tackle stopped Lynch short of the first-down marker on a fourth-and-four end-around play. The two teams traded leads throughout the second half. Navy took a 34-31 lead on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Keenan Reynolds to Matt Aiken with 8:55 left in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame came back to take a 38-34 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Tarean Folston with 3:47 to go.
- Folston carried the ball 18 times for 140 yards and one touchdown. Teammate T.J. Jones caught 4 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.
- Navy converted 10-of-16 third downs, with five separate ball carriers rushing for at least 48 yards.
- Notre Dame finished with over 500 total yards. Navy accumulated 331 rushing yards.
- Navy held the ball for 37:36, compared to 22:24 for Notre Dame.

at Notre Dame 45, Air Force 10
Basically … Air Force scored first on a ten-yard Colton Huntsman run, but Notre Dame dominated the rest of the way with Tommy Rees throwing five touchdown passes to five different receivers with a 35-yarder to Corey Robinson and a 46-yarder to William Fuller in the first half. Scoring 31 unanswered points, the Irish didn’t have any problems moving the ball on an inept Air Force deference that couldn’t come up with a meaningful stop.
- That’s what Tommy Rees can do as a good veteran. The senior didn’t have any problems with the neck injury, completing 17-of-22 passes for 284 yards and five scores. The running game wasn’t effective, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry and not busting anything loose, but Rees took care of the offense with a strong, decisive day. This was one of his best performances of his career.
- It’s going to take something special to get into the BCS, but if Rees keeps playing like this, and if Louis Nix and the defense can get healthy, there’s a chance. On a three game winning streak, the Irish should be able to roll through Navy and Pitt before facing BYU and Stanford in a make-or-break showdown of games to close.

at Notre Dame 14, USC 10
Basically … Tommy Rees found Troy Niklas for a seven-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and connected with TJ Jones on an 11-yard scoring play to take the lead for good late in the second quarter. And then the two defenses went to work. Rees was knocked out for the game with a reported neck injury, and USC’s Marqise Lee was out with a knee injury after catching two passes for 18 yards. Silas Redd ran for a one-yard touchdown to give USC the early lead, and a 22-yard Andre Heidari field goal took it back in the second, but that was it for the Trojan offense.
- Notre Dame will take the home win over USC no matter how ugly it was. Tommy Rees did a nice job completing 14-of-21 passes for 166 yards and two scores before getting knocked out. He didn’t give up any picks, and he did what he needed to do. Unfortunately, Andrew Hendrix struggled, missing on all four his passes in the fourth quarter and ran for just five yards.
- With 11 penalties and too many stalled drives, it wasn’t a good day from the USC offense. Cody Kessler was okay, but he didn’t throw any touchdown passes and he didn’t keep the chains moving. The O revolved around Silas Redd, who looked fresh running for 112 yards, but he couldn’t carry the Trojans in the second half.
- It’s going to be that kind of a year for the Trojans. It’s going to be inconsistent, and there are going to be times when things don’t work, but they’re fighting. This the first road game in a run of three away games in four weeks, and that makes the Utah game up next vital. USC will get to six wins, but it would be nice to get the fifth victory now.
- Stephon Tuitt is starting to step up his game. After a rocky first part of the season, he’s starting to be more active, and he came up with his best performance of the season with seven tackles with two sacks. Tuitt was great on the outside, and Louis Nix was Louis Nix in the interior, holding up, even with Silas Redd running well.

Notre Dame 37, Arizona State 34 in Arlington
Basically … Notre Dame got three touchdown passes from Tommy Rees, and Dan Fox returned an interception 14 yards for a score with just over a minute to play for a ten-point lead and breathing room. The Irish would need it as Taylor Kelly and the Sun Devils would march down the field in a hurry, pulling within three on a 16-yard Marion Grice touchdown catch with 11 seconds to play, but Notre Dame recovered the onside kick. ASU’s defense had some fun of its own with a Osahon Irabor pick six to start out the wild fourth quarter , but the Irish would stay ahead helped by two of Kyle Brindza’s three field goals.
- Tommy Rees got a little bit of help from the running game, but not quite enough to not have to carry the offense himself. Cam McDaniel cranked out 15 carries for 82 yards, but it was Rees who fought through some rough patches throwing for 279 yards and three scores. TJ Jones helped the cause with eight catches for 135 yards and a score.
- Taylor Kelly proved the Wisconsin game of a few weeks ago really wasn’t a fluke. He made a few key mistakes, but he threw for 362 yards and spread the ball around really, really well. The problem was time – he didn’t always have enough of it.
- Now there’s the Notre Dame pass rush. Prince Shembo brought the heat from the outside making here sacks along with seven tackles. Stephon Tuitt didn’t come up with a sack, but he got into the backfield and applied a little bit of pressure.
- ASU safety Damarious Randall made 17 tackles and broke up a pass. He had to help out time and again against the Irish passing game, and while the secondary didn’t come up with enough key stops, he had a great day.

Oklahoma 35, at Notre Dame 21
Basically … Oklahoma picked off Tommy Rees three times, with Corey Nelson taking the first one for a score less than a minute into the game. Blake Bell added two touchdown passes from 26 yards out to Lacoltan Bester and 54 yards away to Sterling Shepard to get ahead and stay there – Notre Dame never led. George Atkinson III tore of an 80-yard touchdown run, and Troy Niklas pulled the Irish within six early in the fourth on a 30-yard touchdown catch, but Shepard put it away less than two minutes later.
- Notre Dame can’t win when Tommy Rees isn’t great, but it stayed alive even though he only completed 9-of-24 passes for 104 yards with two scores and three picks. The running game that hasn’t been there on a consistent basis all season long came up with 220 yards, but 80 of them came on the George Atkinson III scoring run.
- This is why Blake Bell makes the Sooners a national title contender. He was tough, poised, and quick when he needed to be, completing 22-of-30 passes for 232 yards and two scores, and he ran 12 times for 59 yards.
- Where’s the Notre Dame pass rush? Considering Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt are two of the best pro prospects in the country –certain first rounders, and probably top 15 picks – There weren’t any sacks, and while Tuitt got to Bell a few times, it wasn’t nearly enough. There’s no pressure into the backfield.
- All of a sudden, considering Oklahoma State looked mediocre to West Virginia, Oklahoma is playing more and more like a sleeper national title contender. It should’ve had the game well in hand by the fourth quarter instead of being in such a fight, but it’s a strong win on the road by an emerging team.

at Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 13
Basically … TJ Jones caught a two-yard touchdown pass and Cam McDaniel scored on a seven-yard run to get by a mistake-prone Michigan State. The Spartans got in the end zone on a 12-yard touchdown catch from Macgarrett Kings in the second quarter, but could only manage two Michael Geiger field goals in the second half. MSU
- Michigan State had chance after chance, but misfires in the passing game or penalties or bad plays proved too costly time and again. The Spartans were nailed for ten penalties for 115 yards, and the passing game struggles with Connor Cook completing half of his passes before getting knocked out with an apparent hand injury. Andrew Maxwell entered with a chance to lead the way to a late win, but he fired fastballs high and wide going 0-for-3, and he tried running for a first down on 4th-and-20.
- It wasn’t a thing of beauty for the Irish, but they got by on some timely tough runs and just enough key throws from Tommy Rees. He only completed 14-of-24 passes for 142 yards and a score, but against one of the nation’s nastiest defenses, he didn’t make any major mistakes. Turnovers were the key – the Irish didn’t give away any.
- There still isn’t enough of an Irish pass rush. Stephon Tuitt came up with a sack, but there weren’t nearly enough plays behind the line. Granted, the D didn’t need to take any chances, but the disruption wasn’t there.
- Zero. That’s how many sacks Michigan State came up with. Rees might not have been razor-sharp, but he got the ball out of his hands in hurry and didn’t hurt the team. Again, it wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.

Notre Dame 31, at Purdue 24, Sept. 14
Basically … A sluggish Notre Dame woke up in the fourth quarter as Tommy Rees and DaVaris Daniels hooked up for touchdown passes from nine and 82 yards out, and Bennett Jackson took a pick for a touchdown to cap a 21-pount run. Purdue kept pressing with Rob Henry throwing his second touchdown pass of the game with just over eight minutes to play, but the Irish was able to close out the clock late?
- Is wasn’t Notre Dame’s best performance, it looked sleepy after the Michigan loss, but Tommy Rees and DaVaris Daniels turned it on when they had to. Rees finished with 309 yards and two touchdowns, and Daniels caught eight passes for 167 yards and two scores.
- Purdue still can’t find any semblance of a running game. Akeem Hunt ran 12 times for 22 yards, and that was the high point. There wasn’t any push up front, and while Rob Henry threw well, he couldn’t come up with the late scoring drive and the defense couldn’t get back off the field.
- Where is the Notre Dame pass rush? Bennett Jackson came up with a sack, but that was it. Stephon Tuitt was held in check, and there wasn’t an interior pass rush.
- The Notre Dame offensive line neutralized Purdue defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, but the Boilermaker run defense came up with a decent performance allowing just 2.5 yards per pop. The Irish backs never broke free.

at Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30, Sept. 7
Basically … Devin Gardner threw a horrible desperation pass in his own end zone that Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt picked off for a late score. That was almost the only thing Gardner didn’t do right as he threw four touchdown passes and ran for a score with a team-leading 82 yards. Jeremy Gallon was on the receiving end of three of Gardner’s scoring passes, highlighted by a 61-yarder in the first quarter, but Notre Dame kept pressing. Tommy Rees threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns, but the Michigan defense clamped down late with a ricocheting interception in the end zone late.
- The crowd of 115,109 was the largest to ever watch a college football game.
- To honor Michigan great Tom Harmon, Devin Gardner was issued the No. 98 jersey. Outside of the miserable pass in his own end zone for a Stephon Tuitt touchdown, he was legendary throwing for 294 yards and four touchdowns while giving the Irish fits with his legs.
- Notre Dame’s defense was fantastic against everyone except Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon. Unfortunately for the Irish, those two did whatever they wanted. They were locked in all game long.
- Once again, Tommy Rees had a fantastic game in Ann Arbor, and all he got was another loss. He didn’t get much support from the running game, and he kept slinging, keeping the team in the game until late. Blake Countess had his number with two picks, one off a late deflection.

at Notre Dame 28 … Temple 6, Aug. 31
Basically … Tommy Rees was more than fine in his first game again as the main man for the attack throwing three touchdown passes with two 32-yarders to DaVaris Daniels in the first quarter. Temple managed a one-yard Kenneth Harper touchdown run in the second, but Rees answered with a 66-yard scoring pass to Troy Niklas.
- Rees is going to have a great year. He’s a veteran in the Brian Kelly system and he knows what he’s doing. As long as he doesn’t force throws and keeps the picks to a bare minimum, he and the Irish will be fine.
- The Irish defense will have to be far stingier against Michigan after giving up a few too many yards. Notre Dame bent a little, but rarely broke with Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese each coming up with good days for the back seven. Stephon Tuitt made three tackles with a sack, but it was Prince Shembo who was the dominant force pressuring the quarterback all game long.
- Temple tried to use Connor Reilly for a little bit of everything on offense. He didn’t get much of anything going with the passing game, dinking and dunking when he had his chances, and he led the team with 65 rushing yards. That’s not a positive – he needs more help.
- Temple came up with 25 first downs to Notre Dame’s 21, but the Irish generated more big plays.

Spring Analysis

Why To Be Excited The schedule isn’t nearly as bad. While the Irish were able to get through the 2012 regular season slate unscathed, it appeared to be devastating before the season started with road games against USC and Oklahoma to go along with nasty battles with Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford and BYU. Most of the usual suspects are back on board, but the games against the Trojans, Spartans, Sooners and Cougars are all at home. Going to Michigan and Stanford won’t be easy, and a neutral-site game against Arizona State in Jerry World in Arlington will be tough, but Temple, at Purdue, at Air Force, Navy and Pitt shouldn’t be that big a problem - overall the slate isn’t the same killer.

On the field, with each Brian Kelly recruiting class the talent level is getting stronger with a defense that shouldn’t slip too much despite the loss of Mr. Te’o, safety Zeke Motta and end Kapron Lewis-Moore. Even with eight starters gone on offense, there’s enough speed and ability across the board to be more than fine.

Why To Be Grouchy Okay, so the schedule is still nastier than anything anyone outside of the SEC has to deal with, and losing an Heisman-caliber linebacker and eight offensive starters really does matter. Like last year, it’s asking way, way too much to get through a regular season schedule like this one unscathed, but now the bar is set at BCS or bust. That might be tough to do with a revamped O line that has to find the right five this spring so the summer practices can be all about tuning up. The backfield needs to find a steady running back with Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood done, and Everett Golson – assuming it still is Everett Golson under center – needs a new No. 1 target with Tyler Eifert off to the big leagues.

What Needs Working On The return game has to be better. There’s too much talent and too many good options to be so mediocre in any phase of the special teams. George Atkinson III is a touchdown waiting to happen every time he has the ball in his hands, but the Irish averaged fewer than 20 yards per kickoff return and Davonte Neal and the punt return game averaged a paltry 2.19 yards per try. The kicking game wasn’t bad, but the kickoff coverage was pedestrian.

Team Concerns For 2013: As good as last year was, a lot of problems were glossed over by the team's terrific ability to find ways to win. Everett Golson might have been great, but he needs to be a more consistent and efficient passer despite the loss of tight end Tyler Eifert and with so much turnover on offense. The defense should be special again, but it'll have to go on without Manti Te'o and find a replacement for Kapron Lewis-Moore on the end. The return game was inexcusably bad considering how good George Atkinson III is. The Irish averaged a pathetic 2.19 yards per punt return and just 19.6 yards per kickoff return.

The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Offensive tackles. This is a fantastic class with a star for just about every spot, highlighted by the late get of defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, the overall star of the class. Once again, the Irish have a pipeline to tight ends with Durham Smythe and Mike Heuerman each looking the part. The receiving corps is terrific with Will Fuller and James Onwualu the best prospects, but Torii Hunter and David Robinson's son, Corey, the two big names in the bunch. Getting Jaylon Smith makes the linebacking corps special, and Cole Luke and Max Redfield are two starting defensive backs with next-level skills. However, the best overall position is offensive tackle with Steven Elmer, Mike McGlinchey and Colin McGovern all good enough to be the star of anyone's offensive line class, and Hunter Bivin isn't too far behind. John Montelus might be the nation's best guard prospect.

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 20. That Class Was Heavy On ... A star quarterback. Head coach Brian Kelly brought in some nice options over the years, but he didn’t get anyone like Gunner Kiel, Scout.com’s No. 1 ranked quarterback, who switched from LSU to Indiana to the Irish. The talent level is quickly improving over the last two classes with the most noticeable difference on the lines from the last two years. This year, if everything goes according to plan, the secondary will provide the biggest boost with a few nice safety prospects and corner Tee Shepard out of Fresno to soon be the team’s shutdown coverman on one side. 

 

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