College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation.
Brian Kelly has always recruited well during his three seasons (four cycles) of recruiting in South Bend. But this season, he capitalized on an unbeaten regular season and BCS championship game bid by finishing extremely well on the trail. This group could be special for Notre Dame as many of the recruits have already bonded and have developed connections prior to even showing up on campus.
No. 3: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 5
National Signees: 15
Total Signees: 24
Where They Got 'Em:
With a powerful national brand to sell, Brian Kelly went all over the country to land one of the best classes in the nation. He used 16 different states to land his 24 new players with no more than four players coming from any one state. He invested heavily in the talent-rich waters of the South with four signees from Florida and one nationally ranked prospect from Georgia, Kentucky and Virginia each. Out West, he landed the No. 2- and No. 3-rated players in the state of California and another nationally ranked star from Arizona. He went into the Northeast to pull talent from D.C., New Jersey and Massachusetts. Kelly also had a presence in Texas, the best state for talent in the nation, as he signed three players from The Lone Star State.
Otherwise, local recruiting yielded some rare players as well. Indiana sent one of the best players the state has ever seen to South Bend in Jaylon Smith. Michigan, Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (2), Illinois and Minnesota also are represented in this year's class.
Areas of Focus:
No one can accuse Kelly of not capitalizing on the recruiting trail after a run to the BCS National Championship game. The first thing that stands out about this class is the talent and the depth of the offensive line. Five elite, nationally ranked prospects signed with Notre Dame this cycle, including three of the top 13 blocking recruits in the nation. It might be the best O-line haul of any team in the nation. Kelly and the Irish got a wake-up call against Alabama's immovable linebacking corps and he addressed it with the Class of 2013.
The pass-catchers are the next area of the roster that appears to be set for the future. Four talented wide receivers and two quality tight ends join the roster this year. Torii Hunter Jr. leads a versatile group of wideouts. This group isn't as highly touted as the offensive linemen, but it still features some big-time upside (See early enrollee Corey Robinson).
The defensive front seven also got abused in the national title game and Kelly addressed this area as well. The No. 1 hybrid linebacker-defensive end Jaylon Smith is a special player who is a leader and a winner. He has a chance to be a taller version of Georgia's Jarvis Jones. He is joined by the No. 2 defensive lineman in the nation Eddie Vanderdoes. The No. 1 tackle prospect decommitted from USC and instead is headed to South Bend where he will continue what is developing into one of the better defensive line traditions in the nation. Versatile inside-outside defensive lineman Isaac Rochell and linebacker Doug Randolph were both nationally ranked as well.
Future star safety Max Redfield is cut from the exact same cloth as current Minnesota Viking Harrison Smith. He is big, rangy and will bring physicality to the back end. He is an immediate contributor in nickel packages and can play near the line of scrimmage. Nationally ranked Cole Luke as well as two others make up this excellent secondary class.
The offensive backfield features only three names, but they were all nationally ranked. Greg Bryant was an AC100 prospect while both quarterback Malik Zaire and running back Tarean Folston landed in the top 200 nationally. Zaire is a similar player to current starter Everett Golson.
Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 4, TE: 2, OL: 5
Defense: DL: 3, LB: 3, DB: 4, ATH: 0
Ft. Wayne, Ind.
Mission Viejo, Calif.
Delray Beach, Fla.
Torii Hunter Jr
New Lenox, Ill.
St. Paul, Minn.
San Antonio, Texas
Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes: