If you just look at recruiting rankings, the latest Notre Dame class is very similar to the last five groups brought in by head coach Brian Kelly. Each of those classes finished between 10th and 15th in the 247Sports Composite rankings and this year the Irish are sitting at 15.
But after a little more analysis, this year is a little different. For starters, two players that signed in December may not be on scholarship until next January. These grayshirting and blueshirting techniques have been used by many of the top programs, but it is new for Notre Dame.
And the reason the Irish have incorporated these new tactics is because they oversigned this class, something they have been reluctant to do in the past. Currently, Notre Dame has 87 players on scholarship for next year, and that does not count the two players that may not have a full ride until the second semester. That means that at least two — and perhaps up to four — current members of the Fighting Irish squad will not be on the roster come fall.
Regardless of how this class was put together, Notre Dame added some exciting prospects, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Here are five incoming freshman that could make an impact sooner rather than later.
Zeke Correll, OL
Notre Dame signed four highly-touted offensive linemen (Quinn Carroll, Andrew Kristofic, and John Olmstead the others) and they all enrolled early. Correll may be the most physically ready to go at this point. With Sam Mustipher out of eligibility, there is an opening at center, where Correll is projected to eventually settle in. Whether he wins a starting job or not, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Cincinnati product on the two-deep at either center or guard after spring sessions are completed.
Kyle Hamilton, S
Hamilton was rated as a five-star by 247Sports and is the highest-rated Notre Dame recruit in their composite rankings. He is a rangy (6-3, 190) athlete with great instincts. The Irish return Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott at safety, but Hamilton may be able to carve out some playing time this fall.
Jacob Lacey, DT
Lacey has a huge opportunity to see meaningful minutes in 2019. He is currently listed as the No. 2 nose tackle on the depth chart behind Kurt Hinish and he has yet to suit up for a real practice. The four-star prospect from Kentucky is very athletic for a player his size and like the freshman offensive linemen, Lacey is already on campus.
Isaiah Rutherford, CB
At 6-foot, 192 pounds, Rutherford has pretty good size for an incoming cornerback prospect. Though Notre Dame is solid on numbers at cornerback, Julian Love did declare for the NFL draft and the best player will claim his spot. Rutherford was a four-star prospect that had offers from elite programs like Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, and USC.
Kyren Williams, RB
The St. Louis product is a versatile player that had a big senior season both running and catching the ball. He churned up more than 2,000 rushing yards and had 55 receptions for 725 yards. With Dexter Williams’s time up, there is a vacancy and a true freshman making an impact at that position is not unheard of.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.