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February 6, 2013

Meet The Class: Defense

Irish Illustrated: Meet the defense 2013
Defensive Line
6-5, 240
Columbus, Ohio
Recruitment Recap
A two-way power player who will develop at defensive end, Matuska was Notre Dame's second commitment in the class as the Irish racked up nine commits in less than a month. He didn't have an elite offer list, but Oklahoma and Michigan pursued. There was never a doubt in his commitment and he even faced off with Jaylon Smith in a high school game.
Prister's Take
The sleeper of this class was the first on defense to commit. Listed as a tight end/defensive lineman coming in, I see Matuska as a lineman, perhaps even along the offensive line. He's tough and physical, but borderline athletic enough to play the tight end position on the next level, particularly with all the fine candidates the Irish have at the tight end position. Really interested to see how he develops. Has plenty of motivation to prove his doubters wrong.
6-5, 260
McDonough, Ga.
Recruitment Recap
Notre Dame's top commitment on the defensive line going into signing day and a critical get considering Rochell's program fit. The Irish beat out Florida State and Clemson for a player who's a top talent but not one Notre Dame needs to contribute from opening day. Rochell might not be the next Stephon Tuitt, but he's an outstanding get. A spring visit sealed it.
Prister's Take
I've loved this kid's ability since the first time I saw him, perhaps a bit more than most. I just think his upside is sky high and that he hasn't come close to showing how good he can be once he adds some bulk to his frame. Really like the way he gets off the snap, and in everything he does, he does it physically. Plays with a great love for the game and an aggressive frame of mind. When his strength/physicality catches up with his passion and want-to, this is a true difference-maker for the Irish. I see real star potential here.
6-3, 302
Placer, Calif.
Recruitment Recap
The final piece of Notre Dame's recruiting puzzle signed with the Irish over UCLA, Alabama and USC. Vanderdoes gives Notre Dame a five-star prospect at all three levels of the defense and changes the long-term outlook of the defensive line. There was plenty of signing day drama with Vanderdoes, but none of it was created by the prospect himself.
Prister's Take
A rare combination of size, length, agility and quickness in a body made for interior defensive line play. He'll overpower an offensive lineman, but also show good technique to beat an opponent. Excellent pad level for a player of his size. Lateral quickness to make plays down the line. As good as he is now, he still has a bunch of upside. Should get better every step of the way toward a level of dominance. As significant to Notre Dame's interior defensive line play as Louis Nix.
6-3, 237
Plantation, Fla.
Recruitment Recap
Prototype inside linebacker for Notre Dame's defense, Deeb's senior film showed why Florida State offered. Despite a three-star rank, Deeb added an extra gear during his final prep year, meaning he's more than a downhill run-stuffer. Deeb committed on June 29 during a month when the Irish scored four linebacker commitments, keeping three through signing day.
Prister's Take
My take on this young man has changed dramatically since the first time I saw him. Still concerned about lack of height/leverage critical in a 3-4 for an inside linebacker. Also think he will have some difficulty tracking down ball carriers sideline to sideline. But a battering ram of a Mike linebacker with an unbridled love for contact. Exactly the attitude Bob Diaco wants from the man in the middle. A tone-setter with a first-man-off-the-bus attitude. Hope he has enough to compensate for his physical shortcomings.
6-3, 215
Richmond, Va.
Recruitment Recap
Notre Dame flipped Randolph from Stanford during the summer, leaning on its recruiting class to deepen the linebacker's relationships with the program. He follows former Woodberry Forest teammate CJ Prosise to South Bend and precedes Greer Martini. Randolph also continues the Irish tradition of picking off at least one Cardinal commit per cycle.
Prister's Take
A versatile, rangy edge player who can line up in a two-point stance as a Cat linebacker or a three-point stance as an end in a four-man front. Athletic and light on his feet. Uses his hands as weapons. Aggressive, but not as physical as he'll be once he grows into his body. Needs to learn body control and take proper tackling angles. But the combination of his athleticism and aggressiveness compensate. Once he's in the 250-pound range, he'll be a difference-maker. A taller Prince Shembo.
6-3, 202
Fort Wayne, Ind.
Recruitment Recap
The must-have prospect in this class, Notre Dame comfortably beat out Ohio State for Smith despite the five-star linebacker's brother being part of the Buckeyes program. The Irish scored Smith's commitment during a summer camp but led throughout the process for the outside linebacker who dominated every camp and combine that he attended during the past two years.
Prister's Take
He's one of the truly great high school players in the country who gives Notre Dame incredible flexibility as a pass dropper and a pass rusher at Dog linebacker. Great kid, great prospect. Notre Dame doesn't get athletes like this at outside linebacker. The cornerstone of the defensive class. That being said, he has a ways to go physically to hold the point of attack the way a Danny Spond does. If you saw the Alabama game, you know how high the bar is in terms of setting the edge. When Smith reaches that point, you'll see his greatness shine through.
Defensive Back
6-1, 185
Washington D.C.
Recruitment Recap

Butler committed to Notre Dame during spring practice, picking the Irish over some East Coast programs along with Penn State. He doesn't have elite speed, but the size is ideal for what Notre Dame wants at cornerback. He also proved to be a effective recruiter for the program, working on several other commitments and targets over social media. Butler is a solid get.

Prister's Take
A physical corner with very good change of direction. Uses his upper body as a battering ram. Plays strong with a safety/linebacker attitude. Smooth out of the backpedal and arrives at the ball in a physical frame of mind. More quick than fast. Explodes into the lower body of a ball carrier. Has functional/football speed. May be a tweener cornerback/safety, but a good fit for Bob Diaco's defense. Should learn the ropes for a year or two before he's required to step into the lineup.
6-2, 184
Galloway, N.J.
Recruitment Recap
Back-to-back season-altering injuries hurt Kinlaw's development and profile, making the New Jersey prospect a raw athlete coming to South Bend considering how little he's played defense. Notre Dame landed him back in March following a junior day visit. In terms of size, he's exactly what the Irish staff wants. He picked Notre Dame over regional offers.
Prister's Take
One of the real wildcards in this class because a) he played quarterback in high school and b) he has suffered a broken right fibula two years in a row. While the general feeling is that he'll end up in the defensive secondary, I could see Kinlaw playing an offensive skill position as well. But the Irish probably have him pegged for cornerback, and contrary to KeiVarae Russell this past season, he should have time to settle in and develop down the road. Probably needs to be placed on a five-year plan.
6-0, 165
Chandler, Ariz.
Recruitment Recap
Luke saw Notre Dame live three times this season, committing after an official visit to Oklahoma where he watched the Irish upset the Sooners. Luke played for former Notre Dame football player Steve Belles at Hamilton High School and is the star cornerback in this class. His size, speed and feel for the game separate him from some recent Irish gets at the position.
Prister's Take
You can watch film, but there's no substitute for seeing a player in person, which was why I was glad to see him in Dublin. At the time, the focus was on Khalfani Muhammad and it seemed unlikely Luke would fall to Notre Dame. Loved the way the kid "prepared for success" throughout that game. Luke used every opportunity to work on his hands/footwork/technique when he wasn't in the game. A very natural cover corner who plays low and comes out of his backpedal nicely. One of the more accomplished corners you'll see coming out of high school.
6-2, 195
Mission Viejo, Calif.
Recruitment Recap
The highest-rated defensive back to sign with the Irish in the Rivals.com era and somebody who should contribute from the day he steps on campus, Redfield picked Notre Dame over USC in a heads-up battle. Credit the divergent seasons between the two programs for helping this flip. Redfield committed to Notre Dame at the Under Armour All-American Game.
Prister's Take
A strong, explosive, difference-making athlete. Athletic enough to play cornerback; fast and elusive enough to play receiver, but a natural safety on the collegiate level. Great suddenness and change of direction. A spring-loaded athlete who bounces around the football field. Has a knack for reaching the pinnacle of his leap to make a play on the ball. Carries himself with a high degree of confidence. Could be a dangerous return man as well. An impact player from the outset of his collegiate career. A rare athletic catch for the Irish at safety. A legit five-star prospect.

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