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Periodically throughout the year, The News-Sentinel will take a look at the top priorities for the Notre Dame football program in this recruiting cycle with The Wish List. This will be an objective look based on position need, program fit, current commitments at the same position and overall talent level.
The top five will change as recruits commit to the Fighting Irish or other programs, team attrition due to injury or transfer and other factors.
Other information will include commitments and de-commitments from the previous recruiting update and where the class is currently ranked according to several national Internet recruiting services.
Current commitments: 13
RECRUITING CLASS RANKING
1. Jacques Patrick, 6-foot-2, 232-pound running back
It is wise to take at least one running back per recruiting cycle. Add the fact that Notre Dame passed on the position in the Class of 2014 and you can see why this is a top priority.
Notre Dame has offers out to some of the best running backs in the country, but none are better than Patrick, who is a five-star recruit according to Rivals.com and has an offer list that reads like a who's-who of college football powers.
Film of Patrick shows a running back that has moves in the open field that could rival nearly anyone currently in college football. His ability to sidestep defenders and accelerate away fluidly would put him immediately into the Notre Dame running back rotation.
Landing Patrick would be a huge get for the Fighting Irish and give the position some young firepower heading into 2015.
2. Byron Cowart, 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive end
Anytime you have a chance to host one of the nation's top prospects, you do everything you can to take advantage. That is the situation Notre Dame will find itself in later this month when Cowart visits South Bend.
While defensive line recruiting has been solid thus far for the Fighting Irish with a trio of verbals, Cowart is the type of prospect that can change an entire defensive unit. The Florida product would be an immediate starter at Notre Dame with his combination of size and quickness with the ability to rush the passer and play the run effectively.
Despite the visit to Notre Dame, it will be extremely difficult to pull Cowart out of SEC country, with in-state Florida in the best position thus far with him. However, plenty of teenage minds have been swayed with a simple visit to South Bend.
3. Travis Waller, 6-foot-2, 195-pound quarterback
When Blake Barnett committed to Notre Dame last November, the Fighting Irish appeared to have closed down its quarterback recruiting for the Class of 2015 before it even began. But Barnett de-committed earlier this month, throwing the position into flux going forward.
While the quarterback position isn't a massive need looking at the current depth chart – with Everett Golson, Malik Zaire and incoming freshman DeShone Kizer each holding multiple years of eligibility – all it takes is a transfer or two to really destabilize the position.
Much like running back, it is wise to take a quarterback each cycle, and Waller is the top target for the Fighting Irish at this point and fits Coach Brian Kelly's mold of what he wants in a signal caller.
4. Justin Hilliard, 6-foot-2, 225-pound inside linebacker
Notre Dame already has one of the top outside linebackers committed in Andrean's Josh Barajas, now it is setting its sights on one of the nation's best inside 'backers.
Hilliard is set to visit both Notre Dame and Ohio State this weekend, his final two trips before making his college decision. The Cincinnati native's finalists include the Fighting Irish and Buckeyes as well as Michigan, Iowa and Alabama.
One of the most fundamentally sound linebackers in this cycle, Hilliard's base technique is already highly refined, meaning he will step onto a college campus ready to begin putting on weight and learning the defense instead of having to be coached up significantly.
Plucking a top defensive player from Ohio would be huge for Notre Dame and give the Fighting Irish a killer one-two punch in the middle of its defense this cycle.
5. Equanimeous St. Brown, 6-foot-5, 195-pound wide receiver
The slot receiver position is in good shape this cycle for Notre Dame with a pair of commits in Jalen Guyton and C.J. Sanders, now the focus is on grabbing an elite talent for the outside receiver position.
At this point in the recruiting cycle, St. Brown appears to be the best option for the Fighting Irish, with a visit to South Bend planned for this summer.
St. Brown is your prototypical big, physical wide receiver who can out-jump defenders downfield. He has good body control and utilizes good positioning against defenders and has that second gear of speed to quickly get away after a reception.
Getting a commit like St. Brown would be a big boost to the wide receiver corps perhaps as soon as 2015.