Somewhat quietly, Notre Dame is putting together a potential top-10 recruiting class for 2014. The Irish tend to get overlooked a bit on the recruiting circuit with the SEC bringing in so much talent on a yearly basis, but that hasn't stopped coach Brian Kelly and his staff from going out and landing some serious talent.
The Irish class currently ranks No. 9 on the 247Sports composite, with a group of star prospects still up in the air. Five-star athlete John "JuJu" Smith is the highest-rated of four potential Notre Dame signees who'll announce his school choice on Wednesday. Visit One Foot Down for details on where the Irish stand with all their targets.
Feb. 5 update: The Irish have added four-star defensive lineman Daniel Cage out of Ohio, according to his high school coach. He was also down to Michigan State and others.
Just two players elected to sign early in January. Justin Brent is a four-star wide receiver out of Indianapolis' Speedway High School and the top prospect in the state of Indiana. He held offers from Notre Dame and Louisville, but an early commitment to the Irish likely scared off other suitors.
Andrew Trumbetti, a 6'5, 250-pound defensive end, played high school football at Northern Valley Regional High School in Demarest, N.J. He was ranked as the No. 4 recruit in New Jersey and No. 9 strongside end nationally, and was pursued by Michigan State, Florida, Miami, Virginia, UCF, and a handful of others.
The rest of the class will make its verbal pledge official as it puts pen to paper on Wednesday. Notre Dame has 22 recruits expected to sign on National Signing Day, including 13 four-star prospects.
The highest-ranked of the unsigned commitments for Notre Dame is Nyles Morgan, a four-star inside linebacker out of Crete-Monee High School (Ill.) Morgan chose the Irish at the Army All-American Game over the likes of Florida, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and others. He is the 53rd best prospect nationally and the third-best ILB, according.to 24/7 Sports. Here is part of SB Nation's scouting report on him:
Morgan has an excellent blend of size, power, speed and quickness. He quickly diagnoses the play and takes good routes to the ballcarrier, without a lot of wasted steps. He is very good at defeating blocks, using his hands and his power to keep them off his body.
In pass coverage, Morgan is adequate to decent. He is not the best cover linebacker nationally, but for a player who is as good against the run as he is, the pass defense is pretty good. He is a three-down linebacker and not someone who will need to come off the field in passing downs.
The two other fringe-top-100 prospects committed to Notre Dame are offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars. Nelson hails from Red Bank Catholic in New Jersey and is ranked as the No. 2 offensive tackle in his class. At 6'5 and nearly 300 pounds, Nelson possesses the size and strength to potentially make an early impact in South Bend. Bars is rated the No. 107 prospect nationally. A product of Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Bars checks in at 6'6 and 310 pounds. Like Nelson, he should really add some bulk to the Irish's offensive line in years to come. Here is SB Nation's scouting report on Bars:
Bars is one of the better offensive tackle recruits in the 2014 class, but I do not believe he is quite as good as some believe. Personally, I would have him in the top-20 range of offensive tackles, rather than the top-10.
Bars has a good blend of power, speed and agility. In run blocking, Bars can fire out of his stance low and with quickness. When he has an angle, he can finish off blocks and roach the defender. I think Bars can turn into a very good starter at the BCS level, but I am not sure he will be a dominant force.
As a whole, Notre Dame has put together a strong class. It's clear they placed an emphasis on bulking up the line on both sides of the ball, adding four offensive linemen, two tight ends and five defensive linemen. The Irish struggled in the trenches at times in 2013, and the coaching staff wasted no time addressing their biggest needs with the 2014 class.