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Notre Dame

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If top recruit skips, Irish still high on defensive line signees

– Notre Dame’s 2013 signing class was deemed the best it had since fourth-year coach Brian Kelly was hired.

But the incoming freshmen class could be one blue chipper light when summer classes start at Notre Dame on June 17.

Defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes is reconsidering his decision to join the Irish, according to multiple reports. The 6-foot-2, 310-pounder from Placer High School in Auburn, Calif., was the final member of Notre Dame’s 24-player class to sign on Feb. 6.

Even if Vanderdoes, who de-committed from USC before choosing Notre Dame, doesn’t come to the Irish, defensive line coach Mike Elston said he likes the linemen the team is bringing in this year.

“We signed an excellent class of defensive linemen,” Elston said before speaking at the Notre Dame Club of Fort Wayne’s golf outing and silent auction at Cherry Hill Golf Club on Tuesday.

“I’m excited about coaching those guys that we signed, and Eddie being one of them. I’m excited about him reporting in June with his classmates, and I can’t wait to develop him into an excellent football player.”

Vanderdoes is one of three defensive linemen Notre Dame signed in February, but the five-star prospect was the most decorated of the group. He was rated the No. 21 overall prospect by Rivals.com, and 247Sports ranked him sixth overall.

The other defensive linemen Notre Dame signed were Isaac Rochell, a four-star prospect, and Jacob Matuska, a three-star prospect.

If Vanderdoes does decide to back out of playing at Notre Dame, his absence would likely not be felt right away.

The Irish return starters Stephon Tuitt, a defensive end who had 47 tackles and 12 sacks last year, and Louis Nix III, a nose tackle who had 50 tackles and two sacks last year, to a line Athlon Sports ranked No. 2 in its preseason rankings. Sheldon Day, who had 23 tackles and two sacks last year, is projected as the third starter, and the Irish also have former Bishop Dwenger standout Tony Springmann, Kona Schwenke, Tyler Stockton, Justin Utupo and Jarron Jones in reserve.

Junior Chase Hounshell will not be available this season as he recovers from his third shoulder surgery in less than two years.

“The first day that I stood in front of the cameras as the defensive line coach at Notre Dame, somebody asked me the question, ‘What is the expectation of the defensive line?’ And it was to be the No. 1 defensive line in the country,” Elston said. “We are not that. We are far from that. We are working on that every single day in the recruiting process, the developmental process and getting the guys ready to play. We are making strides … but we are not near the top. We will continue to work on that.”

The Irish also have two defensive line commits for the 2014 class, so far, in Jay Hayes and Andrew Trumbetti.

Notes: Tight end Jake Golic, who appeared in five games for Notre Dame, announced on his Twitter account that he will transfer to Cincinnati. … Athlon Sports ranked the Irish No. 8 in its preseason Top 25, and it named defensive end Stephon Tuitt and nose tackle Louis Nix III to its preseason All-American first team and left tackle Zack Martin to its third team. … Former Notre Dame safety Jamoris Slaughter signed a four-year contract with the Cleveland Browns, the team announced on its website.

tkrausz@jg.net

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