Notre Dame just lost the BCS National Championship Game and could be losing head coach Brian Kelly to the NFL, but the Fighting Irish can't afford to lose commitments from their top-three recruiting class.
With NFL.com's Albert Breer confirming that Kelly interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles, the trickle-down effect could make its way to Notre Dame's 2013 recruiting class, which is ranked No. 1 on Rivals.com and No. 3 on 247Sports.com.
Besides possibly losing its head coach, the Fighting Irish's trademark defense will say goodbye to seniors Manti Te'o, Zeke Motta, Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese and graduate student Kapron Lewis-Moore.
Those five players accounted for 49 starts this season and will leave behind sizable holes in Notre Dame's defense. However, the Fighting Irish have managed to reel in some top recruits, but which ones are most needed in 2013? Let's take a look.
Jaylon Smith, No. 1 Outside Linebacker, No. 2 Overall (247 Composite Rankings)
One of three 5-star recruits currently committed to the Fighting Irish, 6'3", 212-pound Jaylon Smith might just be the best of the trio.
Blessed with tremendous 4.44 speed and a great frame to add another 30 pounds of muscle, the top-ranked player from the state of Indiana has a laundry list of offers from the best programs in the nation. The speedy outside linebacker spurned offers from Florida, Ohio State, USC, Michigan and Auburn to give his commitment to the Fighting Irish back in June.
Because of his rare speed and athletic frame, there's no limit to what this elite prospect can do.
Notre Dame could line him up at outside linebacker in the 3-4 to maximize his pass-rush skills, or let him start his career as a coverage linebacker.
Either way, it's clear the Fighting Irish can't afford this future superstar.
Max Redfield, No. 3 Safety, No. 29 Overall (247 Composite Rankings)
With Zeke Motta exhausting his eligibility, California native Max Redfield is a crucial commit to hold on to.
The 6'3", 195-pound safety was an Under Armour All-American selection and announced his decision at the game less than a week ago.
Hauling in one of the top athletes in the country was a major coup for the Fighting Irish, as Redfield has all the makings of becoming an All-American safety or wide receiver.
According to his profile on Scout.com, Redfield has great hands and instincts to go along with a high football IQ. Those traits would also translate well to receiver, where the two-way player could develop into a go-to target for rising quarterback Everett Golson.
No matter what position he ends up playing in college, it needs to be for the Fighting Irish.
Greg Bryant, No. 6 Running Back, No. 46 Overall (247 Composite Rankings)
On the offensive side of the ball, the Fighting Irish clearly need help. And with rumors surfacing that starting running back Cierre Wood will likely join senior Theo Riddick in entering the NFL draft, keeping the commitment from 4-star running back Greg Bryant has never been more important.
Bryant is one of two high-profile running backs committed to Notre Dame, but the 5'11", 196-pounder from Delray Beach, Fla., is the flashier prospect.
With 4.48 speed to complement his solid frame, Bryant runs with plenty of power and is more of a straight-line type of runner. He won't wow anyone with his quickness because he doesn't have to. The top-50 player runs hard and isn't afraid to lower his shoulder into contact.
If the Fighting Irish lose their top two backs, Bryant could compete for a starting spot, assuming he keeps his commitment.
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