Between the past season’s play and the loss of players to graduation and the draft, every team is facing uncertainty of some sort at certain positions. Fortunately, national signing day is right around the corner to fill some holes.
With high school prospects putting pen to paper on Feb. 3, here’s what Notre Dame is looking for in 2016 -- and what the Fighting Irish are getting.
Biggest need: Here are Notre Dame's sack rankings the past three years: tied for 84th in 2013, tied for 62nd in 2014 and tied for 74th in 2015. Simply put, the Irish have not had an elite pass-rush since their 12-1 campaign in 2012, spearheaded by future NFL starter Stephon Tuitt. Notre Dame had 34 sacks in 2012, 27th nationally, as the defensive front-seven carried that team to a perfect regular season. The 2016 season may present an even steeper challenge for the Irish, who say goodbye to their top two pass-rushers in Romeo Okwara (eight sacks in 2015) and Sheldon Day (four). Day made a living in the QB’s backyard, as he was credited with 13 hurries this past season. Notre Dame’s close regular-season losses at Clemson and at Stanford may have been encouraging measuring sticks for a program with championship aspirations, but one look at the defensive fronts of Alabama and Clemson in last week’s national title game showed the difference between very good and championship-level. -- Matt Fortuna
Recruiting scoop: The Fighting Irish are looking for pass-rush ability in the class of 2016, and they have found it. ESPN 300 Khalid Kareem starred in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl Jan. 3, and is expected to be an impact player. Four-star end Julian Okwara needs time to develop physically, but when he hits the field he will provide that ability. ESPN 300 outside linebacker prospect Daelin Hayes is another that could bring pass-rush ability to South Bend with a 6-foot-4 frame that could carry 260 pounds. —-- Gerry Hamilton