If Notre Dame doesn't land another defensive player in the 2022 class the Irish will finish with a strong haul on that side of the ball. If Notre Dame wants to truly close the gap, to bring in the kind of elite haul that allows Marcus Freeman and the staff to go toe-to-toe with Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State from a talent standpoint more is needed.
The good news for Notre Dame is that caliber of class is in sight, the players to have that kind of finish are currently on the board. Making it happen will require a strong finish by the staff.
DEFENSIVE LINE CLASS NEEDS MORE
The loss of high-upside defensive end Darren Agu knocked down the defensive line class a bit, but the presence of Tyson Ford and Aiden Gobaira gives the Irish a very strong foundation up front. Ford is a big, powerful defender while Gobaira broke out this spring with a dominant edge rushing performance.
Agu decommitting means Notre Dame has room for two more defensive linemen, and landing at least one more defensive line commit is vitally important for this line class to be as good as Notre Dame needs it to be.
My highest graded player on the board is Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral defensive lineman Anthony Lucas. He would also be the highest graded player in the Notre Dame class if the Irish staff is able to land him.
It's simple, Lucas isn't a gap closer, he's a gap eraser. He is a 6-4+, 275+ pound defender that's just as good dominating up the middle as he is playing a power end position. Lucas ranks as the nation's No. 18 overall player by 247Sports and if he continues his current trend as a player I'll have him as a five-star recruit by the time his senior season is over.
Lucas is looking hard at Alabama, Miami, Oregon and Texas A&M, but the Irish are right there with those programs. Landing him will be difficult but he's a must-get for the Irish.
Notre Dame is also making a run at German-native Hero Kanu, a 6-5, 290-pound defensive tackle that ranks as the nation's No. 80 overall player on the 247Sports composite list. The Irish just recently offered Kanu a scholarship, but a spot opened up after Agu decommitted and the Irish had the offer out to Kanu even before Agu went public with his decision.
Kanu visited Notre Dame this week and things went very well. The Irish and Ohio State are going to be major players in his recruitment and could be the top two programs, setting up yet another battle between Notre Dame and the Buckeyes.
NWANKPA HOLDS THE KEY ON THE BACK END
Notre Dame has a talented group of four cornerback commitments in Benjamin Morrison, Devin Moore, Jaden Mickey and Jayden Bellamy. That group of cover players is outstanding and will go down as one of the better corner classes in the country.
There is one player on the secondary board, Xavier Nwankpa, and he is the key to this being a really good defensive back class or an elite defensive back class.
Nwankpa is one of the nation's premier safeties and like Lucas he is a Top 50 caliber prospect. The Iowa native is long, athletic, instinctive and he's a very smart football player as well. With Kyle Hamilton likely to leave for the NFL following the 2021 season there is a need for the Irish safety depth chart to add another elite talent, and that's Nwankpa.
It's an Ohio State and Notre Dame battle. The Buckeyes have been the leader for some time, but Notre Dame has continued to chip away and gets closer and closer. Him taking his recruitment into the fall is good for Notre Dame, but prying him away from the Buckeyes won't be easy.
The key for Notre Dame is to convince Nwankpa just how important he is to the Irish class, and how he can either continue the already established tradition at Ohio State, or follow Hamilton and be part of starting a new tradition at Notre Dame.
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