National signing day is quickly approaching, and the Tennessee Volunteers are hoping to wrap up a solid class of recruits. Butch Jones and company have done a nice job over a short period of time after having been dealt a bad situation. They've definitely addressed their top priorities.
The Vols lost some offensive talent at the skill positions but otherwise are in good shape for 2013. Their national signing day priorities are filling positions that will become vacant in 2014 and snagging a few prospects that could have immediate impact within units that only have a couple major contributors.
Besides dealing with anxiety all day, I'll be writing, reporting, tweeting, live blogging and everything else you can think of for Tennessee on national signing day.
Stay close to Bleacher Report on February 6, and I'll make sure you know the news.
Coach Bill O’Brien and Penn State did more than surprise college football last season.
O’Brien showed how proper coaching can take a team that had little depth in many areas and turn it around.
Players such as Allen Robinson and Zach Zwinak were sleepers heading into 2012 that virtually no one noticed.
In 2013, another small group of “sleepers” or little-known players will begin to shine.
With seniors leaving many key spots open for next year, such as quarterback and linebacker, there will be a new group of stars in Happy Valley.
But these sleepers might not be at the spots you expect.
If Alabama is going to have a true chance to bring home a third consecutive BCS national title, there are a number of players that must step up their game.
The Tide will most certainly enter the season loaded with the talent needed to make such an unprecedented run, but, as coach Nick Saban would be happy to tell us, there is a lot of work yet to be done before title talk can be justified.
Alabama is facing the task of replacing key players on the offensive line and lost some of its defensive leaders as well. And don't forget running back Eddie Lacy. Again, there is work to be done.
Saban has brought in the kind of recruits needed to fill these holes, and Alabama has a stable of elite talent waiting in the wings. Nonetheless, the Tide's success in 2013 will largely depend on improvement from some of their returning playmakers from 2012.
Here is a look at some of those who must take it to the next level when the Tide takes the field again this fall.
While some teams in college football have uniforms that are easy on the eyes, there are other squads who are certainly in need of some type of upgrade when it comes to attire.
There are unique uniforms in every sport, but college football might take the cake when it comes to quality, design and uniqueness.
While some teams' uniforms might just be a little outdated and others have been awful for a long time, other universities have new and improved uniforms that are definitely not new and improved.
This list does not discriminate as both FBS and FCS schools are included.
Here are 25 teams who could use some type of an upgrade when it comes to their uniforms.
Although the Hurricanes will return 20 of 22 starters this upcoming season, it doesn't mean they won't need much from the recruiting scene next Wednesday. There are a lot of holes to fill, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Coming off a very mediocre 7-5 season, the Hurricanes must fill gaps and add depth. Here is a list of the Hurricanes' top priorities for Feb. 6.
Let's talk about the SEC for a minute.
No, not about the conference dominance—that topic has been belabored to the point it's like a cow's cud at this point, chewed, regurgitated and re-chewed.
The conference is the best in the nation—there is no arguing the point—but every team in the conference has cause for concern heading into 2013, although at varying levels.
For instance, Steve Spurrier is more concerned with finding a real linebacker than he is with his linebackers finding real girlfriends, while Les Miles must try and figure out how to play defense minus his most productive linemen—and their backups.
But those two aren't alone; read on for a list of every SEC team's Achilles' heel.
With National Signing day just around the corner (literally), fans of the USC Trojans are eagerly anticipating the decision of recruit Jason Hatcher, amongst others. While this is the time for recruiting speculation and news, the 2013 season will shape up with a bevy of experienced players taking the lead.
From star receiver Marqise Lee to sophomore Nelson Agholor, the Trojan offense needs to step up and fire off touchdowns much more efficiently than it did in 2012.
The loss of wide receiver Robert Woods, QB Matt Barkley and Center Khaled Holmes will certainly be felt, but there is plenty of talent on the USC bench to fill those slots and more.
The most worrying losses are center and quarterback, but those issues should resolve themselves this spring as Max Browne battles it out with Max Wittek and Cody Kessler for the starting QB job.
The guy snapping the ball may actually be more of a concern, with Cyrus Hobbi not garnering a ton of confidence after his performance versus Stanford in 2012. What Trojan fans need to remember, of course, is that Hobbi was highly recruited and ranked. After a number of years in Lane Kiffin’s system it is now or never for him. After all, there are new Trojans aching to claim a starting job, and even veterans will have to battle for their positions.
Other than the Heisman Trophy, there were few honors Lee wasn’t in consideration for in 2012. He is USC’s first Biletnikoff winner—surprising given the school's long history of standout receivers. Expect Lee to come out firing on all cylinders in 2013. He will be chasing not just the record books, not just the Heisman, but also setting the stage for his potential 2014 NFL draft.
He will need to put up big numbers to avoid the same kind of “he’s fallen off” chatter that plagued Robert Woods in his junior season after an outstanding sophomore outing.
What hasn’t been said about Lee? And what further accolades will we heap on this young man next season? Shall we take bets on how many touchdowns he has? How many kickoff returns he goes 80, 90 and 100 yards to deliver?
Lee has a lot of expectation on his shoulders heading into 2013. Is he ready for it?
Nelson Agholor showed Trojan fans what he was made of in USC’s 62-51 loss to Oregon last season. In that contest he caught six passes for 162 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman.
Just about every time Agholor took the field in 2012, Trojan fans were treated to a show. The knowledge that Agholor waited in the wings to take the flanker job helped sooth the potential for Woods to leave via the NFL Draft.
Agholor should have a breakout season in 2013, provided Lane Kiffin’s mercurial play calling goes his way.
Silas Redd, the Penn State transfer running back, did some good things in 2012, but maybe not as many as most Trojans would have liked. With a full year to ease into Lane Kiffin’s system and given the talent Redd exhibited under Joe Paterno as a Nittany Lion, it isn’t hard to imagine that Redd’s best Trojan season will start to unfold on a humid August night in Honolulu.
Redd figures to be the undisputed featured back in 2013.
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In the Crimson Tide’s quest to close with the nation’s top class for the third consecutive season, there are several big fish remaining on the board that Saban will try to sign by Feb. 6.
Some of the nation’s top uncommitted prospects—like defensive tackles Dee Liner and Montravius Adams, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and safety Vonn Bell—are elite talents that the Tide are still hoping to land.
But with limited spots available and some of the nation’s top prospects still interested in the Tide, which player should be the most important target for Saban and his staff over the next week?
The truth of the matter is that Alabama’s class will be loaded regardless of what happens in the next week. However, if there is one target that would be the biggest coup on signing day, Tunsil fits the bill by filling a need with the nation’s premier talent at his position.
On a roster loaded with freakish talent across the board, Alabama’s main needs in the 2013 cycle are at quarterback (two commits), running back (three commits), defensive end (one commit) and offensive line (four commits, including JUCO transfer Leon Brown and fellow early enrollee Brandon Hill being projected as tackles).
Alabama’s foundation on offense has relied on employing a deep and talented stable of running backs and combining that unit with the most powerful offensive line in the country to pave the way for them.
Fortifying their offensive front—specifically the left tackle position that could open up following next season if Cyrus Kouandjio turns pro—makes securing the pledge of Tunsil the biggest priority.
Alabama has loaded up on safeties—with 5-stars Landon Collins and Eddie Williams anchoring the Tide’s 2012 class—which makes adding Bell a luxury more than a necessity.
Additionally, Saban brought in four players in last year’s class (Darren Lake, Dakota Ball, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Korren Kirven) that could contribute at defensive tackle—with all but Lake taking a redshirt last season.
With depth prevalent at defensive tackle, the additions of Liner or Adams (or both) are simply a bonus to an already stacked defensive line group. Of the two, the Tide appear to be in great shape for Liner, per B/R’s Barrett Sallee.
Offensive linemen are easily the toughest position to evaluate, and it is harder to find difference makers that are capable of becoming dominant players early in their careers.
That is what makes Tunsil—who is widely regarded as the nation’s top left tackle (h/t, 247Sports.com)—such a valued commodity. Luckily for Alabama supporters, the Tide have an ace in the hole—with fellow 5-star Sunshine State product and recent running back enrollee Derrick Henry urging his good friend to join him at the Capstone.
As hard fought as last month’s 32-28 victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game was, the battle for Tunsil’s signature will serve as round two between the two powers--with this battle likely to be every bit as much of a nail-biter as their last meeting on the field.
If Saban and the Tide can get the better of the Bulldogs (and the other presumed finalist in Tunsil’s top three, Ole Miss), their offensive line will have everything it needs to remain amongst the nation’s elite units in the future.
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When Meyer took over in late November 2012 the Buckeyes' recruiting class was in a state of limbo. But, three months later Meyer had signed one of the top classes in the country.
Like last year, the Buckeyes only have a few spots left as the recruiting season comes to a close. Since Ohio State has limited scholarships because of NCAA sanctions, the Buckeyes have one or two spots left open.
It seems like Ohio State will take Bell, Hunt and Wilson or Clark if those players want in, but the Buckeyes may not be the favorite for any of them.
Ohio State's Top Priority
Bell, the 5-star safety from Georgia, has to be the Buckeye's top priority left on the recruiting board. Not only is he the top-rated prospect left on Ohio State's wish list, but he would fill a position of need.
Ohio State will return both of their starters at safety with C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant. However, both will be seniors in 2013. The third safety on the depth chart and the likely starter at the "star" or nickelback position, Corey Brown, is also a 2013 senior.
In 2014 Ohio State will have to break in two new starters, possibly three if you count the "star" position as a starting spot.
If Bell joins this class he would solidify Ohio State's secondary class as one of the best in the country. The class already has three cornerbacks— Cameron Burrows, Eli Apple and Gareon Conley—who played in high school All-American games.
Will Bell Even be a Buckeye?
Bell is from SEC territory and it won't be easy to pry him out of the south. Alabama and Tennessee are both more likely destinations for Bell than Ohio State, but it's not wise to bet against Meyer.
The reasons for Bell to go to Alabama are pretty obvious. Nick Saban has built one of the best programs in recent memory by winning three of the last four national titles.
Tennessee is the childhood favorite of Bell and has seemingly made a push since the school hired Butch Jones as the new coach.
All three schools still have a chance to get good news on ESPNU at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, February 6th when Bell will announce his decision.
Whether or not Ohio State gets Bell, the class will still finish in the top-10 in the country. However, a lack of depth in the back-end of the secondary could come back to bite the Buckeyes without a commitment from Bell.
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The Georgia Bulldogs offense was one of the most explosive in the country this year, breaking records left and right and battling its way to a Capital One Bowl victory. Luckily for Dawg fans, this squad will be returning almost all of its starters.
With playmakers on the field like Aaron Murray, Tavarres King, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, it's no surprise that the Bulldogs seemed to score at will at times this season.
Before we move forward to looking at the 2013 season, let's take a moment to enjoy the top plays by the Dawgs in 2012:
"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."—Political and spiritual leader, Mahatma Ghandi (via North Texas University Center for Sports Psychology)
The Auburn football team had plenty of problems while stumbling through a 3-9 record in its 2012 campaign. There was poor tackling in the open field. A vertical passing game was never established. The SEC's elite teams pushed the Tigers around on both sides of the ball.
However, the most disturbing problem that Auburn had in 2012 wasn't the worst record in the modern era of Auburn football. It wasn't even an SEC-worst statistic like rushing defense.
It was the perception that the Auburn football team was not only physically defeated, but it was also mentally defeated each and every week, particularly in the latter part of the season.
Auburn QB Jonathan Wallace doesn't believe his team quit. "That's the biggest thing right now, not giving up," Wallace told Chris Low of ESPN.com after the 38-0 defeat at the hands of rival Georgia. "The guys aren't giving up, and we just have to keep pushing."
Physically, the players didn't quit. But the 2012 Auburn team never developed the mental toughness that is required to be successful.
Auburn needs a lot of things to happen between now and Aug. 31—when the Tigers face off against Washington State to open the season—for the 2013 campaign to be successful. But the single most important thing new Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn must do is to make his team believe it can be successful again.
In the first two years under former head coach Gene Chizik, the Tigers were known for their resiliency; it was almost a guarantee that if the game was close, Auburn was going to find a way to pull it out. The 2009 West Virginia "Rain Game" and numerous games in 2010 come to mind.
In 2009, West Virginia led 30-27 going into the final quarter. The fourth quarter was all Auburn. A Chris Todd TD pass to Darvin Adams and a Craig Stevens interception sealed a 41-30 win. The Tigers refused to lose in front of the rain-soaked fans.
In 2010, Auburn came back from a 17-3 halftime deficit to beat Clemson in an overtime thriller. It took a 19-play, seven-minute drive at the end of the game for Auburn to beat Kentucky to keep its undefeated season alive. All along, Auburn fans knew their team would find a way to gut it out.
Oh. Some game known as "28-27" to Auburn fans happened in 2010 as well.
Chinks in the mental armor started to show in 2011 when Auburn was defeated by SEC rivals LSU, Georgia and Alabama by a combined score of 132-31.
The wheels came flying off in 2012. And it was the fourth quarter in which the nightmare kept recurring.
In every game leading up to the Texas A&M game Auburn entered the fourth quarter with a realistic shot to win the game. In those seven games, the Tigers were outscored 62-6 in the fourth quarter. Only two field goals (against Clemson and Vanderbilt) kept them from being scoreless.
After a close loss to Vanderbilt, Auburn mentally packed it in. Against the next three SEC opponents (Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama) Auburn was out of the game by the end of the first quarter. The Tigers were outscored 150-21 in those games.
Auburn trailed by scores of 42-0, 28-0 and 42-0 against the Aggies, Bulldogs and Tide, respectively.
The psychological part of the game is extremely important. On the other side of the state, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban thinks that part of the game is so important that he hires a sports psychologist, Tim Moawad of IMG Academy, to mentally strengthen his team.
William Evans of The Crimson White details how Moawad conditions Alabama mentally:
Moawad, with the help of his staff and various professionals brought in by Saban, teaches the young athletes of the Crimson Tide football program the fundamentals of mental preparation. The players enter into classes throughout the summer that concern how mood impacts performance, how the mind processes distracting information like the roar of the crowd and how decisions, especially mistakes, can turn into out-of-control consequences on the field.
“Most college programs, I think, do it the wrong way,” he said. “They bring in a Navy SEAL or a speaker that attempts to motivate the athletes. When you’re trying to motivate every now and then, all you can impact is an athlete’s willpower, and willpower is a short-term fix compared to an athlete’s real self-image. Self-image has to be trained just as speed, strength and skill are trained.”
During training camp and the regular season, world-class athletes, substance abuse professionals and experts in the field of leadership or improvisational training visit the team to facilitate the mental conditioning of the players.
Auburn doesn't have to do what Alabama does to get its team mentally prepared. Malzahn should find what he thinks will work best for his team.
Regardless, Saban's focus on having his team mentally prepared is intriguing. It works, too.
The mental toughness of a team is often developed in the weight room. New strength coach Ryan Russell is tasked with molding the Auburn football team both mentally and physically.
According to WR Jaylon Denson, Russell is accomplishing that mission. Workouts also appear to be much different than they were a year ago.
In an article by Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News, former strength coach Kevin Yoxall didn't have the authority a strength coach needs to mentally toughen a team under Chizik in 2012:
Some players weren’t going to class. Others weren’t working out. What should have been mandatory workouts became optional, and the authority of head strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall was severely undermined.
When Malzahn was hired, a culture change around Auburn was obvious. That is a main reason he needed to "clean house."
That culture change will happen with a completely new staff. When Malzahn spoke to the crowd at the Auburn basketball game versus Kentucky on Jan.19, he made sure fans knew that the Tigers would "get their edge back."
Maybe all Auburn needs is to find that edge.
If it does, the awful 2012 season will be a distant memory for Auburn fans in just a matter of months.
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In a sense, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen is starting from scratch all over again.
Of course, Badger football is in much better shape than that of Utah State when he took over that program four years ago, but Andersen wants to make some changes in Madison. As we know, this will take time, as fans will have to be patient while waiting for Andersen to recruit his style of players and allow them to develop.
That transition will begin Feb. 6 on national signing day, which is suddenly just a week away.
Andersen was handed the reins to Wisconsin football on Dec. 19, giving him roughly six weeks to try and get in on recruits from the class of 2013 who were still undecided on where to play. The Badgers already had 18 players committed before Andersen took over, and one of those players has reopened his search as a result of the coaching switch.
Since then, Andersen has locked down a few lesser-known prospects, but he is still looking to make a noticeable splash leading up to national signing day. That splash could turn into a tidal wave if he cashed in on his latest top priority, junior college quarterback Tanner McEvoy.
McEvoy, rated as a 4-star recruit and the top dual-threat quarterback in the 2013 class according to 247Sports, is making a visit to Wisconsin on Jan. 30 and is due to visit Florida on Feb. 1. He has also made the rounds to Oregon and West Virginia.
Last season with Arizona Western College, McEvoy completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,813 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 252 yards and three touchdowns.
At a towering 6'6" with excellent speed, McEvoy is projected to be a wide receiver or tight end at the next level according to this ESPN scouting report, but those are the type of athletes who have been excelling in spread, pistol and even pro-style formations as of late.
Because Wisconsin, along with Florida, will be the latest schools McEvoy has visited, Andersen has an opportunity to make a final lasting impression on the former South Carolina Gamecock, who would have three years of eligibility remaining.
The opportunity to attend Madison has to be enticing for McEvoy for a number of reasons. The most obvious is Andersen's experience with running a spread, option-based offense, a style that appeals to McEvoy more than Wisconsin's typical power running game setup.
Andersen has said in the past that his running of a spread option last season at Utah State was a result of adjusting to personnel, and that the power running game would still be very much in full effect in 2013.
Even so, those who believe that having a dual-threat quarterback automatically leads to a spread attack need to look no further than new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who used two different dual-threat quarterbacks in a pro-style offense at San Diego State.
That being said, he also produced Ronnie Hillman, a 1,700-yard rusher in 2011 who now plays for the NFL's Denver Broncos.
And if people believe dual-threat quarterbacks must play in a spread offense to have success, look at Wisconsin's 2011 season when Russell Wilson used his effective scrambling ability while the Badgers maintained their pro-style, run-first approach with Montee Ball.
Considering the record-setting ways of that Wisconsin offense two years ago, Badger fans probably wouldn't mind going down that route again with McEvoy should Andersen convince him to sign on at Madison.
When taking into account Wisconsin's fluctuating quarterback situation, you have to figure that McEvoy would have a great chance to seize the starting gig. While many would like to see redshirt freshman Bart Houston get a fair shot at the job, Andersen didn't recruit Houston, nor did he recruit Joel Stave, who is the favorite to reprise his role in 2013, or Curt Phillips, who was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.
Then there are the other offers on the table for McEvoy, beginning with Oregon. Not only is Marcus Mariota a freshman with a stronghold on the quarterback position, but former head coach Chip Kelly has bolted for the NFL since McEvoy's visit to Eugene on Jan. 11. It wouldn't appear to make any sense for him to become a Duck unless he was considering a position change.
West Virginia has to be enticing for McEvoy considering the departure of Geno Smith for the pros, and Florida could also be appealing even with sophomore Jeff Driskel in place because of his inconsistent play. But the competition is heavier at Florida considering Driskel and some of its recent quarterback commits, and the Mountaineers, a team that essentially has to start from scratch, are high on Ford Childress, who is just a freshman.
Wisconsin isn't exactly high on anybody at the moment, which is exactly why McEvoy needs to strongly consider Madison as his next destination. It's his best opportunity to be a starter for the next three years, especially when considering how he'd be the only quarterback on the roster that Andersen recruited.
It's an exciting prospect for Wisconsin to be in the discussion for Tanner McEvoy, and with the quarterback situation a huge unknown for the Badgers, he is their top priority on national signing day.
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There is a great deal at stake on Feb. 6, national signing day, for the Oregon Ducks and their continued football success. Big duh, huh? With Chip Kelly's untimely departure, the Ducks are scrambling and have a long recruiting priority list.
New head coach Mark Helfrich undoubtedly knows that if he doesn't get good players next week, he likely won't have a good team the next few years. The good news is that Helfrich and his assistants are realizing some success on his post-hiring road trip.
As of today, the Ducks have 16 verbal commitments, with three prospects picking Oregon in the past four days. Let's take a quick look at the three new recruits, and then get down to the serious business of revealing the Ducks' top priority on Feb. 6.
With national signing day just a week away, schools from across the country are not only scrambling to get commitments from uncommitted players, but to also try and close the deal on those who have agreed to come to their school. Backing out of a verbal commitment almost seems to happen daily in this day and age.
High school players are very impressionable and seeing a coach like Nick Saban or a school like Michigan and USC come at you late can be very enticing for a 17- or 18-year-old. Remember, these are kids and every school has a chance until the player has signed a letter of intent.
Virginia Tech has verbal commitments from 20 players in their 2013 recruiting class. A handful of those players enrolled in January and the Hokies will wait until next Wednesday and hope no one bails at the last minute, which has happened on more than one occasion in the past.
Here is a look at the Hokies’ top priorities, by position, and how they have fared to this point.
National Signing Day is right around the corner and the Georgia Bulldogs have done a lot of work this recruiting season, addressing key needs in an attempt to reach the SEC Championship game for the third consecutive year.
The Bulldogs already have 13 recruits enrolled this semester and they will likely have 35 players sign on February 6.
So what is the Bulldogs top priority on National Signing Day?
It’s simple, really. The Bulldogs must ensure every defensive players signed already committed signs onto the program. They also would like to get some of the top undecided defensive players in the country who have Georgia near the top of their list.
Committed linebackers Johnny O’Neal and Tim Kimbrough could potentially start for the Bulldogs in 2014, so it’s essential that the Bulldogs make sure that they do not decided to sign with another school.
The same goes with committed defensive backs Brendan Langley and Shaq Wiggins who could see a lot of playing time this season. Wiggins committed to UGA in Feb ’12 while Langley committed this past November.
With the Bulldogs playing the 3-4, they can never have too many linebackers, so that’s why they are working hard to grab two of the best in the country.
Matthew Thomas is considered the second-best outside linebacker in the country according to Rivals. Thomas has Georgia high on his list, but there’s a chance he could sign with Florida State or Miami.
Foster played the majority of his high school ball in Columbus, Georgia before moving to Auburn, Alabama his senior year. Foster does have Georgia on his list, but the Auburn Tigers do have a lead and because of Foster living in Auburn, he could very well stay there the next four years.
The Bulldogs also need nose tackles that can plug up space for the inside linebackers.
Enter Montravius Adams, who Rivals has the third-best defensive tackle in the country, as well as the third-best player in Georgia.
Clemson is right on Georgia’s tail for the 330-pound defensive tackle, but Georgia could get him on National Signing Day because he live in area which is pro-Georgia and he has a lot of connections with the current Georgia commits.
Just because the Bulldogs need to address the defense on National Signing Day doesn’t mean they can ignore the other side of the ball.
One player they would like to get is running back Alvin Kamara from Norcross, Georgia. Kamara is considered the second-best all-purpose back in the country according to Rivals and it’s a deadlock between the Bulldogs and Alabama in terms of where Kamara will sign.
Georgia also needs a few more offensive lineman and have a really good chance of getting the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country, and that’s Laremy Tunsil from Lake City, Florida. Georgia has worked hard to build a relationship with Tunsil the past couple years and it would be shocking if he doesn’t sign with the Bulldogs when the time comes.
This will be a very interesting National Signing Day for the Bulldogs. With the players that have already committed to the Bulldogs, it will be very strong class.
If they can finish it strong with such surprise signings of Foster, Matthews and Kamara, then the Bulldogs' signing class could be the best in recent memory.
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Much like a prototypical "ladies' man," the Notre Dame coaching staff is tasked with courting the best prospects available on the recruiting market between now and National Signing Day (Feb. 6).
When that day arrives, Brian Kelly and Co. will kick their efforts into fourth gear in an attempt to put the finishing touches on what very well may be the nation's top recruiting class—the Irish's 2013 class currently ranks second behind Florida's, per Rivals.com.
With 23 current commits in its class, Notre Dame can afford to be choosy on National Signing Day, much like a ladies' man.
In the Irish's case, their top priority on National Signing Day must be the never-ending pursuit of establishing depth among the defensive front seven.
Championships are won with defense (see Alabama 2009, 2011 and 2013), and elite defenses begin with the structuring and formation of a monstrous front seven.
Notre Dame has established a formidable group up front, with players such as defensive end Stephon Tuitt, nose guard Louis Nix and hybrid linebacker/defensive end Prince Shembo. But it's a unit that now needs to develop quality depth .
The initial step in that process is the acquisition of elite prep talent, which the Irish are in the process of accomplishing.
Notre Dame is currently targeting four available defenders who would be ideal fits within defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's 3-4 scheme.
Eddie Vanderdoes, DT
Notre Dame will only have the services of Louis "Irish Chocolate" Nix for one more season, meaning that the search for his replacement should begin now.
The Irish would have a few feasible options with their current roster, including sliding Jarron Jones from defensive end to nose guard, but the more sensible option would be to secure a commitment from Vanderdoes.
The Placer, Calif., native would be a perfect fit as a nose guard in Diaco's 3-4 scheme, checking in at 6'3" and 310 pounds, which is only a few weeks in the weight room with Notre Dame strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo away from matching Nix's 326-pound frame.
And with limited depth at nose guard, Vanderdoes would likely receive playing time as a freshman.
Vanderdoes, a former USC commit, visited Notre Dame last weekend and has an official visit to Alabama—the Crimson Tide is likely the Irish's stiffest competition for Vanderdoes—scheduled for Feb. 1.
Kylie Fitts, DE
If I was a member of the Notre Dame coaching staff recruiting Fitts, a 6'4", 260-pound defensive end, I would be hammering away at the point that the Irish's 2013 class currently only has one true defensive end—Isaac Rochell.
And with former defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore's vacant starting spot up for grabs, Fitts would likely be able to compete for that spot right away. Either way, Fitts would more than likely be in the rotation for playing time at defensive end.
Fitts visited Notre Dame last weekend with Vanderdoes and has an official visit to Utah scheduled for Feb. 1.
Deon Hollins Jr., LB
Despite Notre Dame having perhaps the deepest linebacker class in the country, current UCLA commit Deon Hollins Jr. is showing serious interest in the Irish.
In fact, the Missouri City, Texas native visited Notre Dame last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed that visit, leaving the 6'2", 225-pound linebacker with a lot to think about before National Signing Day, per Steve Hare of IrishIllustrated.com.
Having been committed to UCLA for nearly one year, it's a tad surprising that Hollins Jr. is showing this type of uncertainty this late in the recruiting process—he visited Utah on Jan. 11 and UCLA the following week.
I would be shocked if Hollins Jr. chooses Notre Dame on National Signing Day because of the number of linebackers already committed to the Irish.
Torrodney Prevot, DE
While he currently considers himself a "soft verbal" to USC, Torrodney Prevot seems like a prime candidate to be yet another Trojans' decommit.
Rivals.com lists Prevot as a weak-side defensive end, though it's a certainty that he will play linebacker at the collegiate level, as he has only 201 pounds packed onto his 6'3" frame.
Because he projects as a linebacker, I would be surprised if he signed with Notre Dame due to the Irish's high number of current linebacker commits in the 2013 class.
However, his wavering commitment has only appeared weaker in recent weeks, as the Houston native visited Texas A&M last weekend and has an official visit to Notre Dame scheduled for Feb. 1.
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