Chicago Colleges: Doug Randolph

Position battles to watch: No. 1

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
9:00
AM CT
Our series looking at the top positions battles concludes with an area that will feature plenty of new faces in the middle of the Irish defense.

Inside linebacker

[+] EnlargeSchmidt
Chris Williams/Icon SMIFormer walk-on Joe Schmidt played significant action inside for the Irish last season.
No Manti Te'o in 2013 was a bigger adjustment than most expected. The veteran presence of Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese kept things familiar, with Fox moving to the Mike, losing his job to Jarrett Grace, then bouncing back to play some of the best football of his career to close the 2013 season.

Now both are gone, and while the Irish lose Prince Shembo at the starting Cat linebacker spot as well, it is presumed that Ishaq Williams will step in with the chance to fill those shoes. (Jaylon Smith was a freshman sensation as the starting Dog linebacker.)

Grace figured to be the starting Mike, but his recovery from a broken leg means that the doors are open this spring for others to step up and make their marks. Kendall Moore is back for a fifth season and figures to play a big role this spring. So does redshirt junior Joe Schmidt, the former walk-on who earned a scholarship entering last season and played significant action inside in 2013.

One other thing to consider is that there is a new defensive coordinator in Brian VanGorder. And although Brian Kelly said that the Irish will still operate out of a 3-4 base and go 4-3 about half the time, it remains to be seen how much more aggressive, if at all, VanGorder is with the personnel at hand.

There will probably be plenty of mixing and matching this spring, as the Irish try to find where some of their young guys are most effective -- notably, Michael Deeb and Doug Randolph, a pair of players who redshirted last season as freshmen.

Outside linebacker has a bit more depth, with Romeo Okwara and Ben Councell, who will likely miss the spring after tearing an ACL late last season. And a major reinforcement inside could be on the way this summer in Nyles Morgan, the No. 5 inside linebacker in the nation and Notre Dame's top recruit from the 2014 class.

But that's a topic for fall practice. In the spring, the Irish need to work on replenishing the position unit that takes the biggest hit from 2013 to 2014 in linebacker, and in particular, at inside linebacker. Several players have opportunities to cement significant roles for the 2014 season.

Bryant addition another boost

December, 10, 2012
12/10/12
9:50
PM CT
Notre Dame has gotten quite the lift off the field following a 12-0 regular season on it.

Look no further than this past weekend, when four-star running back Greg Bryant pledged to the Irish, one day after the school beat out Ohio State for Class of 2014 Watch List offensive lineman Jimmy Byrne. Insider

Bryant, Notre Dame's 22nd 2013 commit, immediately becomes the Irish's second-highest rated prospect, beyond Jaylon Smith. And he will likely have the chance to step in immediately, with the Irish losing Theo Riddick and possibly Cierre Wood after this season.

With Bryant, George Atkinson III, Cam McDaniel, the yet-to-be-seen Amir Carlisle and freshman William Mahone, the Irish should have no shortage of backs to turn to next season, and the different styles each brings will create an interesting dynamic.

The addition of Bryant moved Notre Dame up one spot, to No. 3, in ESPN's class of 2013 recruiting rankings, behind USC and Florida. Insider You can read scouts' take on Bryant here. Insider

Below, we break down the Irish's 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes. The 2013 class features eight ESPN150 prospects (*), four ESPN300 prospects (**), 17 four-star commits and one five-star. The Class of 2014 consists of four players, three of whom are ESPN Watch List members.

Class of 2013
Class of 2014

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