Notre Dame is focusing on big names in the defense and offensive line this recruiting cycle.
NOTRE DAME — The 2012 Notre Dame football season is slightly more than halfway over, but the 2013 recruit class commitments are piling up for the Irish.
As of Thursday, Notre Dame has 21 verbal commitments from the Class of 2013 and ranks fourth in college football in strength of class behind USC, LSU and Michigan.
Here’s a look at a few future faces of Notre Dame football and some of the commitments Irish coaches are still chasing.
Jaylon Smith, linebacker
Rivals.com rating: Five stars (1st in position, 3rd overall).
Smith, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound product of Bishop Luers in Fort Wayne, has been Notre Dame’s most prolific grab since he verbally committed in early June.
Though Smith will come to Notre Dame as a linebacker, he also carried the ball 160 times for 1,389 yards and 31 touchdowns his junior year at Bishop Luers. On defense, he added 52 tackles, eight sacks one interception and one fumble recovery.
Smith turned down offers from Ohio State, USC, Michigan, Florida State, Florida and Alabama for Notre Dame.
Malik Zaire, quarterback
Rivals.com rating: Four stars (4th in position, 106th overall).
Zaire, a 6-foot, 196-pound prospect out of Kettering, Ohio, committed to Notre Dame back in March. Despite his small stature, the dual-threat quarterback finds himself on Rivals’ “Elite 11” quarterback list.
Zaire’s mobility, consistency and accuracy is poised to be a good fit in Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly’s spread offense.
Zaire also had offers from Pitt, Nebraska, Ohio State and Alabama, among other schools.
John Montelus, offensive line
Rivals.com rating: Four stars (1st in position, 57th overall).
Montelus is a 6-5, 295-pound verbal commit out of Everett, Mass., who committed to Notre Dame during the Blue/Gold Game weekend.
Montelus was the fifth and final offensive line recruit for Notre Dame and has the ability to play either inside or outside along the line.
Montelus also fielded offers from Florida, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State.
Steve Elmer, offensive line
Rivals.com rating: Four stars (4th in position, 61st overall).
Elmer is a 6-6, 305-pound lineman out of Midland, Mich., and was Notre Dame’s earliest commitment after choosing the Irish after last year’s loss to Michigan.
Elmer said he knew his heart was with Notre Dame because he was upset the Irish lost, even though he was a Michigan guest at the game.
Elmer also had offers from Michigan State, Mississippi State Wisconsin and Stanford.
Alex Anzalone, linebacker
Rivals.com rating: Four stars (6th in position, 48th overall).
Anzalone, a 6-3, 229-pound prospect from Wyomissing, Pa., committed to Notre Dame in July but has lately been showing up in Florida.
Though he’s being recruited as a linebacker, Anzalone played running back and strong safety — where he registered 58 unassisted tackles — as a junior.
Anzalone will graduate in December, enroll at Notre Dame early, and says he plans on wearing the No. 5 jersey worn by Manti Te’o.
The rest of Notre Dame’s commits on the offense are William Fuller, receiver; Torri Hunter Jr., receiver; Corey Robinson, receiver; Jamel James, running back; Michael McGlinchey, offensive line; Hunter Bivin, offensive line; Colin McGovern, offensive line; Jacob Matuksa, tight end; James Onwualu, athlete; and Rashad Kinlaw; athlete.
On defense there’s Devin Butler, defensive back; Michael Deeb, linebacker; Doug Randolph, linebacker; and Isaac Rochell, defensive end.
IN THE HUNT
Of the players who haven’t yet committed to Notre Dame, 5-star cornerback Priest Willis has yet to narrow down his choices from an impressive list of schools — including Notre Dame, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Nebraska, Florida State and LSU — knocking at his door.
Running back Khalfani Muhammad, who plays for Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., is also putting off promising himself to a school. Muhammad visited Notre Dame for the Irish win over Michigan, but he also has offers from UCLA, California, Arkansas and Washington to juggle.
Safety Max Redfield and cornerback Chris Hawkins, both USC commits, are very interested in the Irish after paying a visit to South Bend during the overtime win against Stanford.