After an undefeated regular season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish should remain near the top with a number of instant impact recruits projected to join Brian Kelly’s team.
Just four years ago, the Fighting Irish snagged 5-star linebacker Manti Te'o out of Hawaii. Although he came up short in leading his team to a national title, Te'o was a bona fide star as soon as he stepped foot on campus.
Fast forward to 2013 and it appears the Fighting Irish will have secured their first 5-star linebacker since they brought Te'o to South Bend. Let's take a look at the top instant impact recruits for the Fighting Irish.
Jaylon Smith, LB, Bishop Luers HS
Jaylon Smith, the No. 2 overall player in the class of 2013, is regarded as a can't-miss prospect. Blessed with an incredible 6'3", 218-pound frame and 4.44 speed, the consensus top outside linebacker is a physical freak. Anyone who watched the U.S. Army All-American Bowl realized just how special this kid can be.
Lining up at both outside linebacker and with his hand in the dirt, the best player in the state of Indiana displayed impressive pass-rushing skills and even blocked a field goal. With his frame and athleticism, Smith could fit at any linebacker position. While he should ultimately end up as a premier 3-4 outside 'backer, Smith should make an instant impact on passing downs.
His pure speed and freakish first step should make him a pass-rushing nightmare, while his fluidity and pass-coverage skills will make him a valuable third-down defender.
As he continues to grow into his frame, Smith will evolve into an All-American player, but he'll certainly make noise as a third-down defender as a freshman.
Max Redfield, Safety, Mission Viejo HS
The strength of Notre Dame's recruiting class goes far beyond its top player. With safety Zeke Motta graduating, the Fighting Irish are in need of a playmaker on the back end. Ask and you shall receive.
Fellow 5-star recruit Max Redfield should step in immediately at Motta's free safety spot and become a first-round pick.
Pound for pound, Redfield might just be the best athlete in the country. Checking in at 6'' 3'', 195 pounds, the California native could dominate at receiver or defensive back, but looks like a lock at safety. A consensus top-five safety, Redfield draws high marks for his hands, instincts and coverage skills. Combined with his fantastic frame and 4.50 wheels, Redfield should be an upgrade over Motta.
Like Smith, he could bulk up a bit, but he should find his way onto the field early in his career.
His incredible skill set should give Fighting Irish fans plenty to cheer about in 2013.
Greg Bryant, RB, American Heritage HS
While Smith and Redfield should anchor the defense for years to come, running back Greg Bryant should be a staple on offense.
Checking in at 5'11", 196 pounds with 4.48 wheels, Bryant clearly has the size and speed to be an excellent college back. When watching the tape, it's evident that the star out of Delray Beach, Fla., runs with conviction. He isn't the shiftiest back, but plays with power behind his pads and breaks tackles consistently.
Notre Dame hasn't been able to reel in a running back with his talent in quite some time, so the Fighting Irish shouldn't be coy in showing off their new toy in 2013.