SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame added depth on national signing day where it was most needed: along the defensive front seven and the offensive line.
“You’re winning up front, and building that depth in the front seven and the offensive line really stands out in this class, and then having some really good players across the board for us,” coach Brian Kelly said Wednesday.
The Irish have holes to fill along the defensive front. Linemen Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt decided to leave with a year of eligibility left to enter the NFL draft and because defensive line recruit Matt Dickerson decided last month to sign with UCLA instead of Notre Dame because he wanted to stay closer to home after his father was diagnosed with cancer.
Defensive lineman Daniel Cage of Cincinnati announced Wednesday he was signing with the Irish after visiting the school just last weekend, and Peter Mokwuah of Staten Island, N.Y., committed to the Irish late last month before even visiting the school.
Kelly said the Irish coaching staff decided late it needed more defensive line depth.
“We didn’t cast a large enough net, and we just needed to be out there larger in terms of our number of candidates, and so that’s why we went back in that way,” he said.
Another late addition was defensive lineman Jhonathon Williams, who committed in late November. Kelly conceded that even though Williams lives about 40 miles from Notre Dame, the Irish didn’t know about him until late.
CBS Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said it was a good class for the Irish.
“They addressed their needs at defensive tackle. It’s not the guys they wanted originally, but they’re still pretty good ball players,” he said.
The highest-rated recruits signed by the Irish were linebacker Nyles Morgan of Crete, Ill., offensive lineman Quenton Nelson of Holmdel, N.J. and tight end Tyler Luatua of Paramount, Calif. Kelly said it’s difficult to predict which player will likely have the immediate impact, saying it will depend on who is best prepared mentally.
“You really can’t tell that until they get into camp and how they pick up the grind of going through double sessions and the grind of school and balancing all those things, because physically if you look at a number of these guys, you could say they could play right now. I don’t know how they’re going to handle it mentally,” he said.