Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly used last year's undefeated regular season and run to the BCS National Championship to his advantage, raking in a slew of fantastic high school prospects.
A trio of 5-star players are the focal point of the 2013 class, and all are capable of instantly playing a massive role for the Irish even as true freshman. 247Sports.com ranks the Irish as the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation, which seems to suggest that the program's 2012 success will carry over into next season.
Here is a breakdown of the best of Notre Dame's stacked bunch of incoming freshmen.
Eddie Vanderdoes, DT
As the No. 1 defensive tackle recruit in the country, according to 247Sports.com's composite rankings, the 5-star Vanderdoes already has a massive advantage heading to South Bend, due to his established relationship and rapport with senior standout NT Louis Nix.
Having that type of a player available as a mentor early in Vanderdoes' career should do wonders for the recruit in developing an understanding of Notre Dame's defensive scheme.
Vanderdoes already has outstanding size at 6'3", 310 pounds and is surprisingly nimble. He is strong against the run and has the ability to collapse the pocket from the inside due to his explosive strength.
What stands out most is how well Vanderdoes pursues opposing ball-carriers, as he will not only chase them down from behind but also cut them off as they get to the edge.
That Vanderdoes was so highly coveted and chose the Irish over the arch-nemesis USC Trojans will only add to the blood-boiling rivalry that is one of the best in college football.
He has drawn comparisons to New York Jets first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson, which is extremely high praise, since the Placer High School (Calif.) product has yet to set foot on the college football gridiron.
Jaylon Smith, OLB
There is a lot to like about Smith, who hails from Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Gifted with so much natural athleticism, the 6'3", 218-pound linebacker is simply phenomenal to watch. In fact, 247Sports.com has him behind only Ole Miss commit Robert Nkemdiche in the country's top overall prospects.
Smith runs a 4.44 40-yard dash, which easily allows him to get sideline-to-sideline and make plays anywhere on the field. He seems to fit the bill as a 3-4 outside linebacker and will, at the very least, become a situation pass-rusher in 2013 for the Irish.
Senior Danny Spond and the explosive Prince Shembo will likely enter as the favorites to play the majority of snaps on the outside. But Smith figures to see plenty of action on the strong side due to the most exciting element that he brings to the table: pass coverage.
Even slot receivers or dynamic tight ends will likely find it difficult to beat Smith one-on-one, especially once he gets a feel for pass defense in the NCAA.
If Smith adds even 10 extra pounds, there will be few teams that will prevent him from racking up monster numbers.
Max Redfield, S
Like classmate Vanderdoes, the pride of California's Mission Viejo High School was ripped away from the Trojans, despite hailing from the home state.
Due to the graduation of standout safety Zeke Motta, there is a strong chance that Redfield will figure prominently into the Irish's plans early on. At 6'3", 195 pounds and with room to fill out more, there is no doubt that Redfield has the size to play right away.
Some outlets regard Redfield as a 4-star recruit, but 247Sports.com has him as a 5-star in its composite rating. And for good reason.
Not only is he capable of laying down the wood, but his ball skills and soft hands are phenomenal for a defensive back. Plus, Redfield's speed is a huge asset, as he can recover and provide valuable help for corners over the top.
Opponents won't want to throw deep on the Irish very often with Redfield playing center field.
This was a massive pickup for Kelly, as Redfield will in all likelihood pay instant dividends as the Irish reload on defense.
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