Brian Kelly likes depth of ND’s 23-player class
By LaMond Pope firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-2691 February 5, 2014 8:06PM
Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly talks about recruits during signing day at Notre Dame Feb. 5, 2014 in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Updated: March 7, 2014 1:48PM
Brian Kelly looks at Notre Dame’s 2014 recruiting class and sees depth across the board.
The Irish signed 23 players Wednesday. It’s a class that stands at No. 10 in the Rivals.com team rankings and No. 11 according to ESPN.
“Eighteen of these recruits that are in this class were in the top 15 in their position group,” Kelly said. “If you really boil it down, it’s about the front seven and the offensive line. Yes, there are some great skill players, but you’re winning up front. And building that depth in the front seven and the offensive line really stands out in this class.”
The four additions to the offensive line include Quenton Nelson (6-5, 302 pounds), the team’s lone five-star recruit according to Rivals.com, and Alex Bars (6-6, 290), who is ranked No. 76 in the ESPN 300. Bars’ father, Joe, played for the Irish from 1981-84.
“Alex is a young man who we think has all the gifts necessary to be a great student-athlete here at Notre Dame,” Kelly said. He later added that Nelson is “one of the best players in the country at his position.”
He had similar praise for tight end Tyler Luatua (6-3, 241). National analysts believe the Irish faired well at tight end, where Luatua and Nic Weishar will get a chance to offset the loss of Troy Niklas.
“If there’s been one staple and tentpole of a Notre Dame offense over the last three to five years it’s been at the tight end position,” said Tom Luginbill, ESPN’s national recruiting director, during a teleconference. “I think they’ve done that with more than one player, including Tyler Luatua.”
Weishar (6-4, 215), and Nelson were Parade All-Americans.
“He’s the finest pass-catching tight end that we saw,” Kelly said of Weishar.
Defensively, the Irish signed seven linemen.
“Along the defensive front, maybe my favorite player in this class is Andrew Trumbetti (6-3, 260). He’s one of those guys that not only will lend to an overall increase of productivity within the defense, but an overall increase of team chemistry within the locker room,” Luginbill said. “Those are things you can’t put a price tag on.”
The linebackers include Nyles Morgan (6-2, 223), who is the highest-rated Notre Dame player on the ESPN 300 (No. 72).
“One thing that stands out about Nyles is his thirst for knowledge of the game,” Kelly said.
The class includes two players from Indiana (DB Drue Tranquill and WR Justin Brent). Three players from Texas chose the Irish over the Longhorns (DB Nick Watkins, LB Kolin Hill and DL Grant Blankenship).
It’s too soon to tell which players will make an immediate impact. But it’s a group with plenty of potential.
“They’ve hit a lot of needs in this group,” Luginbill said, “and at the end of the day, that’s the ultimate accomplishment for every program.”
Note: Austin Collinsworth, Kendall Moore, Christian Lombard, Luke Massa and Justin Utupo will return for their fifth seasons, Kelly said.