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February 1, 2012

Meet the Class: Defense

Irish Illustrated: Meet the defense 2011
Defensive Line
6-2, 286
Indianapolis, Ind.
Recruitment Recap
Day committed to Notre Dame over Michigan during the summer, giving the Irish the one interior defensive lineman it wanted in this class. Day's early enrollment adds to his value for Notre Dame, which is loaded on the defensive line this year but could use all the help it can get during spring ball. While Day isn't a prototype nose guard with his size, he does have a quick first step.
Prister's Take
An aggressive, vicious, play-hard defensive lineman who is light on his feet and shows an array of pass-rush moves. Uses his hands well, and plays larger than his listed weight. Starts low, stays low, which makes him very difficult to block one-on-one. Has a mean streak to him and a strong desire to get to the football. Probably limited to an interior line position, but that's a need for the Irish and a good fit for Day while providing above-average pass rush skills from the interior of the line.
6-5, 290
Rochester, N.Y.
Recruitment Recap
Jones has elite size and could develop into a defensive end in Notre Dame's multiple front or an offensive tackle if needed. Either way, it's hard to find prospects that bring 6-foot-7 and 308 pounds to the table. Jones could use a red shirt year to reshape his physique, but there's a ton for Paul Longo to mold. Jones flipped to Notre Dame from Penn State last summer and never looked back.
Prister's Take
Imposes his will on offensive linemen, using an array of swim and rip moves as a pass rusher. Uses his hands very well, and then clubs blockers for good measure. Engulfs ball carriers with sheer size. Has the quickness of a player 50 pounds lighter. Has a tendency to play upright and win battles with upper body strength instead of technique, which isn't necessary (nor effective on the next level) because he has the mechanics to stay within the framework. Has the versatility to play on the inside of a four-man front or at strongside defensive end in a three-man front.
Linebacker
6-5, 240
Charlotte, N.C.
Recruitment Recap
Notre Dame landed a Prince Shembo style prospect in Okwara, who came from the same high school as the Irish linebacker. Okwara has more bulk than Shembo but a similar bullish mentality. A probable cat linebacker, Okwara could grow into a defensive end too. The Irish beat out a host of ACC programs to get him, including Clemson, Miami and North Carolina.
Prister's Take
A spring-loaded edge player with the versatility to vie for an outside linebacker spot early and a defensive end position as he packs on the weight. A natural pass rusher who keeps his head up and maintains vision of a scrambling quarterback. Takes on and sheds blocks well. Excellent change of direction keeps him in plays. "Shaves" the edge very well. Long reach and covers ground well. Young for his grade and currently undersized for a defensive end spot, but would fit right in physically at Cat linebacker.
Cornerback
6-1, 180
Fresno, Calif.
Recruitment Recap
Notre Dame's first commitment might also be its most important. Not only is Shepard a national recruit, he enrolled early at Notre Dame and the Irish kept him away from rival USC. Shepard committed to the Irish last March, then took official visits to Arizona State and USC before showing up in South Bend as scheduled in January. He'll battle for playing time immediately.
Prister's Take
Great length and agility at cornerback. A smooth, graceful athlete with excellent hip turn. Uses hands very well at line of scrimmage in press coverage. Length makes it difficult to throw over/around. Superb closing speed, and also knows how to squeeze receivers running sideline routes. Squares up and brings hips well through tackles. Not afraid to throw his body around, although his overall strength needs to catch up to his aggressive frame of mind.
Safety
6-2, 215
Spring, Texas
Recruitment Recap
Baratti committed to Notre Dame during the spring game and never wavered. He's a true athlete prospect who figures to contribute on special teams next season. Baratti also held offers from Arkansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech. The only concern would be the concussion suffered during his high school senior season that sidelined him for a few games.
Prister's Take
Obviously, a difficult analysis (for those not on the inside recruiting him) as a high school quarterback projected at safety. An explosive athlete with good feet and leg drive. Has the physical gifts that translate well to the secondary, but has a lot of ground to make up in terms experience and technique defending the pass as well as supporting the run. Have to trust the coaching staff's judgment that his physical tools are applicable to the defensive side of the football.
6-1, 202
Woodberry Forest, Va.
Recruitment Recap
Notre Dame beat out Virginia Tech and Penn State for Prosise, who's a versatile athlete that could help on special teams out of the gate. It's tough to know if he projects best at receiver or safety, where the Irish recruited him. Coming from Woodberry Forest means a major step up in competition, although Prosise should fit in perfectly at the University overall.
Prister's Take
Possesses a strong safety frame with free safety skills. A big, long, rangy athlete with natural ball skills. Plays the ball in the air like a four-to-five star prospect. Timing, leaping ability and desire to come down with jump balls is top-of-the-line. A favorite to win most jump-ball scenarios. (A Deontay Greenberry vs. C.J. Prosise practice battle would be worth the price of admission.) Would appear to be further along as a pass defender than a run stopper, although that's more of a reflection of available film than empirical evidence.
6-1, 205
West Orange, N.J.
Recruitment Recap

The blue chip safety get in Notre Dame's class, Shumate committed to the Irish over South Carolina and Rutgers at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Getting a toehold into Don Bosco Prep could prove important over the long haul. Shumate could play a role similar to Jamoris Slaughter considering his hitting ability. There's a lot to like for the Irish with Shumate.

Prister's Take
A big, physical, prototype strong safety with an aggressive, physical, thirst-for-contact attitude, yet a long, aesthetic stride as a ball carrier. Attacks the line of scrimmage against the run. Excellent closing speed. Solidly built player that plays with emotion, motivation for impact. Low pad level and drives through ball carriers. A perfect battering ram for kickoff coverage. Needs to wrap/secure ball carrier better, and must prove coverage skills.
6-2, 205
Indianapolis, Ind.
Recruitment Recap
Notre Dame took a chance on the in-state prospect after a strong summer camp showing. The Irish were Turner's only high-major offer, with Notre Dame beating out Indiana, Minnesota and most of the MAC for the safety. If Turner isn't an elite prospect, he does bring elite expectations to South Bend having won back-to-back state titles the past two seasons.
Prister's Take
A safety/linebacker combo who can flip his hips and run with receivers. Shows a very natural flow to the football. Comes out of backpedal well and makes up ground in a hurry. Also shows good hand-to-hand combat skills with receivers at the line of scrimmage. Could very well out-grow safety for linebacker, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. In fact, since this class is short on linebackers, might be a good candidate to use a fifth year to make the transition to the next level.
Specialist
6-4, 230
Downers Grove, Ill.
Recruitment Recap
Notre Dame snapped up Daly during spring practice with Northwestern the only other program to offer the long snapper. It's a slightly unconventional use of a scholarship, but it's something the Weis staff did with Jordan Cowart. Daly was a fixture at home games and recruiting weekends, comfortable with being a pitch man for the program. Daly could compete for early playing time.
Prister's Take
What can you say about a long-snapper? All the film we've seen of him has shown pinpoint accuracy with a good pace to his snaps. Also seems to return to blocking mode after the snap with good quickness and efficiency.
Meet the 2012 Offensive Class




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