Notre Dame is known for several things. Iconic symbols like Touchdown Jesus, the Golden Dome, the Gipper, Leprechauns speak to the rich tradition of South Bend, Ind. However, this year’s recruiting class may give the Irish a new nickname: Defensive End U.
For all of the success that Charlie Wies had on the recruiting trail, the defensive front never seemed to get enough attention. The old regime’s biggest issue was the defensive side of the ball – whether they missed on big name recruits or simply didn’t focus enough effort/time/money on it. All of that has changed now, as Coach Brian Kelly’s first two classes are loaded with defensive line recruits. This has been Notre Dame’s biggest weakness for years, but no more. Look for the depth and talent along the defensive front to translate into more wins for the Irish very shortly.
With six committed players - including three Athlon Consensus 100 members - listed as defensive ends, and an outside linebacker who looks like an end at the next level, the Irish are dramatically improving their defensive line. It is one of the single most difficult positions to find and this particular group is deep, can run and will play the game in the opponent’s backfield. Kelly has landed three of the top seven defensive end prospects in the nation. He is slowly, but surely, turning the defense around in South Bend - and it starts with one of the best D-line classes in the nation.
AC100 No. 22: Aaron Lynch (6-6, 255) Island Coast HS (Cape Coral, Fla.)
Great looking prospect who passes the eye test. Has a good motor, can penetrate and redirect. Outstanding upside with a chance to be special. Could play early. Is ranked as the No. 3 DE in the nation.
AC100 No. 27: Ishaq Williams (6-5, 225) Lincoln HS (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Terrific length and athleticism, runs well and uses his length to eat up space. Should be a dominant defensive end once he develops his technique. May contribute immediately. Is ranked as the No. 4 DE in the nation.
AC100 No. 44: Stephon Tuitt (6-5, 250) Monroe HS (Monroe, Ga.)
Another big athlete that can move. This kid could play inside or outside on run downs. He’ll be a very good end to set the edge and could move inside on passing downs to get pressure from up the middle. Is ranked as the No. 7 DE in the nation.
Anthony Rabasa (6-3, 215) Columbus HS (Miami, Fla.)
A good penetrator, uses hands well, good quickness off the ball and can redirect. Is a solid defensive lineman that will be good against the run and pass.
Tony Springmann (6-6, 260) Bishop Dwenger HS (Fort Wayne, Ind.)
Listed as a defensive end by some but may project to offensive tackle. The good news is he could be a very good offensive tackle as he has feet, good knee bend and good size to build on.
Chase Hounshell (6-5, 250) Lake Catholic HS (Mentor, Ohio)
Has good feet, knee bend and can roll his hips delivering a blow and creating leverage. Most likely a defensive tackle. His upside could be on the offensive side of the ball. A versatile player.
Ben Councell (6-5, 225) AC Reynolds HS (Asheville, N.C.)
Listed as an outside linebacker, Councell is an athlete that can run and redirect with a good frame to carry more weight. A versatile kid that can play with his hand on the ground or standing up. Another athlete that could play early.