SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame, hurt repeatedly this past season by big plays, tried to shore up its secondary by signing seven defensive backs among the 24 recruits added to the roster on Wednesday.
The Irish lose starting cornerback KeiVarae Russell and starting safety Elijah Shumate and return starting safety Max Redfield, who struggled at times last season and was sent home from the Fiesta Bowl for violating team rules. Things got so bad in the secondary late in the season that receiver Torii Hunter Jr. took some snaps at nickel back. Coach Brian Kelly explained the move at the time by saying, “We couldn’t trade for a nickel.”
The highest-rated defensive backs to sign were cornerback Troy Pride Jr. and safety Donte Vaughn. The Irish also signed three linebackers to help fill the void left by the losses of Joe Schmidt and Jaylon Smith, and three receivers to help replace Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle.
What to know about Notre Dame’s class
Top-25 class? Yes
Best in class: Offensive tackle Tommy Kraemer, 6-foot-5, 310-pounds, from Cincinnati. He was the first player in the recruiting class to commit to Notre Dame and ranked among the top 50 players nationally by several recruiting services.
Best of the rest: WR Javon McKinley of Corona, California, OT Liam Eichenberg of Cleveland and LB Daelin Hayes of Belleville, Michigan, who initially committed to USC.
Late addition: LB Jonathan Jones of Ocoee, Florida, picked the Irish over Michigan.
One that got away: For the first time in seven recruiting cycles under Kelly, the Irish didn’t have a player decommit. LB Ben Davis picked Alabama over Notre Dame, Auburn and Georgia on Wednesday.
How they’ll fit in: The seven defensive backs will have a chance to compete for playing time as will 6-4, 245-pound defensive end Khalid Kareem, who could provide the Irish with a much-needed pass rush. Kraemer, Eichenberg and Parker Boudreaux likely won’t have an immediate impact on the offensive line, but give the Irish line a solid foundation for the future.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.