"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Here is the other half of ND’s depth chart, well at least the 2nd half that I am going to post on. If you need a ST breakdown you will need to keep searching. I will try to answer any questions when I can.
DE: Sr. Ethan Johnson (LY 34T, 6TFL, 5sack) Fr. Aaron Lynch
Johnson came out of spring camp with a chip on his shoulder, like Crist, he was very business like going into game prep, he actually did lead by example in week 1 though. He finished with 6 tackles and 1 TFL which is double his average from last season. True freshman Aaron Lynch saw a few snaps as expected. He is still raw but has a lot of talent, he finished with 1 tackle and 1 TFL. Unless Johnson goes down with an injury, the staff has said they plan to ease Lynch into the defense as the year goes on.
NG: Jr. Sean Cwynar (LY 32T, 2.5TFL, 1 FF), Fr. Irish Chocolate (AKA Louis Nix)
Cwynar is undersized as a NG but his motor is what won him the position out of spring ball. He saw the majority of his time at the end of the year when Ian Williams went down after Navy’s chop block marathon, that put him against some of the stronger OL’s on ND’s schedule last year. ND fans are quite happy about this position. Nix didn’t play last season as he came into south bend very over weight, he has slimmed up considerably and is now co-starter on defense. He played more than Cwynar in week 1, Nix ended the game with 7 tackles including 1 TFL. Not bad for NG who gets a double team, Cwynar finished with 4 tackles.
DE: Sr. Kapron Lewis Moore (LY 62T, 2.5TFL, 2sack, 1 FF) So. Kona Schwenke (LY 2T) Fr Stephon Tuitt.
KLM was ND’s most productive Dlineman last year, as a senior ND will need him to continue to do well while teaching the 2 younger guys at the position. Schwenke played in 5 games last year but never for any drawn out periods of time, he has put the time into the weight room but didn’t record any stats in week 1. Tuitt is the other freshman Dlineman expected to be eased into the game more and more this season. He did see time in week 1 but didn’t record any stats, though it may have been on ST only. KLM carried the Dline with 8 tackles with 1.5TFL and 1 sack. He did a good job getting penetration and keeping contain on the QB.
OLB: Sr. Darius Fleming (LY 48T, 10.5TFL, 5.5sack), Jr Steve Filer (LY 14T), Fr Ishaq Williams
Fleming was counted on as the edge rusher last year at OLB, but the same complaint of actually getting to the QB when blitzing was still there to some extent. He received a lot of praise through summer camp, and in week 1 had a solid game. He recorded 8 total tackles, 1 TFL and a sack. Filer and Ishaq both backup Flaming. Williams is the 3rd freshman to see time in week 1, he didn’t record any stats but may have only seen ST duty, I haven’t seen a replay to get strong impression on him this early in the season. Filer has been a ST staple since coming to ND, he hasn’t seen many snaps but is a real hit with the fanbase for some reason.
ILB: Jr. Dan Fox (LY 19T), Jr. Carlo Calabrese (LY 62T, 5TFL)
Fox received the starting position at the end of summer camp but doesn’t have the experience Calabrese gained last season. Either could start, either could be in on a given snap but Fox’s emergence was a surprise during camp, a good or bad surprise its unclear. Calabrese was the guy next to Manti nearly every game last season he had a solid first year as a starter. The 3-4 defense seems to have been beneficial to both of these guys. I am not sure the difference in snaps but Calabrese and Fox finished with 5 and 4 tackles respectively which is in line with what ND saw from the position last season.
ILB: Jr. Manti Teo (LY 133T, 9.5TFL, 1sack, 1FF), Anthony McDonald (LY 11T)
No that is not a typo, Manti had a huge season last year recording 133 tackles; the lingering questions on how the change to the 3-4 would effect him seemed to be answered well before the end of the season last year. McDonald doesn’t see a lot of time as Manti’s backup as he doesn’t come off the field very often. Manti lead the defense in tackles week 1 with 9, including 1TFL and 1 sack. Some have said he had a bad game, I haven’t seen the replay, but USF plays to the edges of the defense they want the ball in space and in the flats, so I wasn’t necessarily expecting a huge game out of him anyway. Maybe I am wrong on what his responsibilities actually were though.
OLB: So. Prince Shembo (LY 15T, 5TFL, 4.5sack), Fr Danny Spond, Fr Troy Niklas
Shembo might be the best kept secret from last season, but when 2/3rds of your tackles are done in the backfield that secret won’t be kept long. He saw limited snaps last year as Brian Smith’s backup, I think the staff wants to use the same model for this year’s freshman in the 2 deep, I certainly can’t complain about the results yet. Spond and Niklas seemed to be relegated to ST for the most part at this time it will be interesting to see who emerges as the #2 guy this season. Niklas was expected to play DE or OT when he was recruited but has since been moved to OLB, hopefully that’s not a depth issue.
CB: Sr. Robert Blanton (LY 53T, 7.5TFL, 1.5sack), Jr. Lo Wood (LY 3T)
Blanton saw a diminished roll last year behind Walls and Gray but was still very productive playing in all 13 games. If there is someone running their mouth on the field, Blanton is likely the guy, hopefully he can continue to back it up this season. Blanton recorded 6 tackles and great TFL where he obliterated a WR screen. Lo battled some injuries last season and is currently the nickel back under the right circumstances, sometimes they go 3 safeties depending on the look. Lo recorded 1 tackle in week 1 which quadruples his average per game from last season, lol
S: Sr Harrison Smith (LY 91T, 1TFL, 1 sack, 7int), Jr. Dan McCarthy (LY 4T, 1FF) Harrison is mostly known as the guy who fell down when USC should have won that game last year. Most ND fans remember him as the guy who finished the season with 5ints in the last 2 games, the defense turns a corner when Harrison does plays well. He recorded 6 tackles in week 1, below average from what we saw last season. McCarthy saw limited time last season as he was injured most of the year, the safety position is much deeper this season.
S: Jr. Jamoris Slaughter (LY 31T, 1int), Zeke Motta (LY 50T, 1.5TFL, 1int), So. Austin Collinsworth (LY 7T)
Slaughter, what great name for a safety seriously how much better does it get? Anyway Slaughter and Motta round out what was the safety position last season with Harrison Smith. Motta and Slaughter both played hurt and missed games so the added depth this season should be great help at safety this season. Collinsworth (yeah that Collinsworth’s son) was strictly a ST player last season and has transitioned to DB this season. How much playing time he sees may hinge on how quickly he picks up the position. Motta and Slaughter equaled 7 total tackles week 1, which isn’t so concerning when the front 7 are playing well. Not sure how tested they were in game 1 though
CB: Sr. Gary Gray (LY 66T, 5TFL, 1int, 1ff), So Bennett Jackson (LY 11T)
Gray saw a lot of balls thrown his way last season as the option on the other side was 5th year senior Darrin Walls. Gray is a solid starter and the staff will expect a lot out of him this season if the secondary is going to be strong. Jackson is following the same path as Collinsworth, transitioning from ST gunner to DB. It may have only been 11T last season but I am pretty sure all 11 of those came on punt returns. Jackson recorded 2 tackles against USF while Gray tallied 5.
The front 7 should be fun to watch this year, the first half against USF wasn’t the defense ND fans were looking forward to seeing. It was the one that showed up in the 2nd half that ND needs this season. The stronger ND’s defense is this season the easier it will be on the offense, which appears to need all the help it can get coming out of the USF game. The secondary has added some much needed depth with veterans holding down the starting positions. They were not tested down field much though so how good they actually are is still a question to answer. This defense could be really really good this season and the expectations are high.
Here is the offense, I will probably do defense sometime tomorrow. Wrote the majority of this friday night, so it was kind of funny to see how some of the stuff manifested on the field saturday. Post USF game reflections on some of the more, how you would say "memorable" moments are at the end.
QB: Jr Dayne Crist (LY 174 of 294 15 TD, 7 INT), So Tommy Rees (LY 100 of 164 12 TD, 8 INT) So Andrew Hendrix, Fr Everett Golson
Crist went down for the year during the Tulsa game last season with his 2nd knee injury since coming to ND. After rehab and spring ball was announced the starter about 2 weeks ago, expected to be the starter as long as he is healthy (err uh the first half of game 1….., well actual announcement will be made Monday but just look at the drive chart: http://espn.go.com/ncf/drivechart?gameId=312460087). Has been very business like when it comes to practice and camp this year, had done a lot to win back his position. The problem with Crist as a starter is that he isn’t the steadiest guy on the field, letting a play go, getting the offense refocused it just doesn’t always happen. Rees came in as a true freshman in 2010 and finished with a 4-0 record, though ND is 0-3 when he has had to come in to replace Dayne. Strong depth at QB this year, Golson is the guy of the future but it isn’t clear where he and Hendrix shake out at this point. Either one could see a special package this season which is more in line with their running ability.
RB: So Cierre Wood (LY 119 for 603yds, 3TD), Sr Jonas Gray (LY 20 for 100yds, 0TD), Fr Cam McDaniel, Fr George Atkinson
Wood grew through the year along with ND’s run game, the staff is expecting him to be a workhorse but this isn’t a position of great depth. Gray didn’t see much time last year because he wouldn’t play the role the staff asked of him, ie he wasn’t playing the power back his body is equipped for. If he were reliable it would add much needed depth to a position lacking a lot of it, the early returns aren’t very good for his future. The running game was emphasized much more this year through the spring and summer camp.
WR (X): Sr. Michael Floyd (LY 79 for 1025yds, 12TD), Jr John Goodman (LY 15 for 146, 0TD)
Floyd’s off field stupidity has been discussed pretty thoroughly and what he can do on the field is nothing new either. Goodman is not Floyd, he has similar size but saw the majority of his play on special teams as a sure-handed punt returner. Not so much the return part though, I believe his average return was in the 1-2 foot range, he was reliable though. I am sure his touches will go up this year, the staff is relying on him to be a solid contributor.
WR (Y): So. TJ Jones (LY 23 for 352yds, 3TD), Fr DaVaris Daniels
Jones did pretty well as a freshman last year, he wasn’t targeted nearly as much as Floyd or whichever TE was in at the time. Daniels is a bit of an unknown, supposed to be fast but every kid in the preseason is fast, it does mean something to see him in the 2 deep to start the season though.
WR(Z): Jr. Theo Riddick (LY 40 for 414, 3 TD), Jr. Roby Toma (LY 14 for 187, 0TD)
Riddick the converted RB (sound familiar) was still learning the WR position last season, expected to be the #2 WR behind Floyd. Toma hasn’t seen many snaps, mostly last year as the backup to the slot. Not a ton of top end speed but he is quick enough to get open underneath.
TE So. Tyler Eifert (LY 27 for 352, 2 TD) Sr. Mike Ragone (LY 3 for 32, 0TD)
Eifert was a bit of revelation once Rudolph was knocked out for the year in week 6. The way he played to end the season, he is expected to be a big part of the offense going forward. Ragone has battled multiple injuries through his career, he saw most of his time in protection when on the field last year.
LT Jr. Zach Martin, Fr. Nick Martin
Zach earned his spot last year and has held onto it since then. His backup is actually his brother. I am not yet sold that Nick would be Zach’s first backup as every lineman has cross trained at other positions.
LG So. Chris Watt, Sr. Andrew Nuss
This was the only battle on the Oline coming into summer camp. It is likely there will be a rotation to some degree at the position. One has been talked about as more of a run blocker while the other a pass blocker
C Jr. Braxston Cave, Jr. Mike Golic
Cave held this position all of last year to my knowledge, not much new to really tell. Oh the first Golic sighting. Not a lot has been said about Cave or Golic, it a position of good depth and not really a concern.
RG Sr. Trevor Robinson, Fr. Conor Hanratty
Another returning starter from last season Robinson is a 5th year senior and one of the leaders on the Oline. The offense will not shy away from running in his direction. Hanratty is another freshman Olineman. This one has received quite a bit of praise through camp while putting a lot of time in the weight room from high school.
RT Sr. Taylor Dever, So. Christian Lombard
Dever did well last season, another returning 5th year. He has seen a lot of coaches but really helped the run game develop at the end of the year. Lombard, his backup saw sometime as a freshman last year, he is the heir apparent at the position going forward
The oline needs to show they can be a cohesive unit as they were at the end of the year last year if the running and passing games are going to be effective this year. It all starts on the Oline and with 4 returning starters it should be decent at least. ND has one of the best receiving corps in the country on paper, the WRs themselves along with the TE and RB out of the backfield are all capable receivers. The QBs need to trust their WRs enough to put a few of them out there for them to go and get, but at the same time they need to take care of the ball. Crist has gone through camp this year with actual competition, he sounds to have learned a great deal as well, so we’ll have to see what happens. The running game right now is going to come down to depth, both freshman are likely to play at some point but how much will come down to Gray. If he can be dependable in his role it will take a ton of pressure off the freshman and the offense itself.
USF Game Reflections (NOTE: I did miss the rest of the game past the 2nd weather delay):
Crist threw a horrible pick in the end zone, it was late it was to a covered guy, plus he had floyd, of all people!, open underneath that would have gotten a first down if not a TD. He was supposed to be past this, but his timing is still late, and was really one of the first pieces of the team to crumble. Playing at home, he was playing scared, it really doesn’t get much worse than that.
Gray, opening drive, 3 yards from the goal line, this is what we have a big back for, hand him the ball he fumbles on the 1 its returned for 6. He had 2 more touches during the game. (which surprised me a bit to see him get in at all, probably a reflection on the freshman to be honest)
TJ Jones, 2 drops and one deflection off his head (in the red zone of course) which resulted in the 4th TO. I am not a position coach but I would expect my WR to be ready to receive a ball when on a crossing route just beyond the line of scrimmage. The best part was after he felt himself get hit by the ball, he turned around like who ran into me? Like he was looking for a flag or something.
Riddick, oh man. Well his biggest impact was on the muffed punt, that should be TO #3 I believe, that USF recovered, Mayock was great “he just handed the ball to him” man he is good at this. I was in full ROFL mode at this point. After that he had 2 more muffed-ish punts where he basically would just fall directly onto the ball after catching it. Paging John Goodman, John Goodman into the starting lineup please? Thanks. After that he had a least a couple drops, 1 in particular was just memory inducing. After missing his whole “receiving” role in the offense on this play, he stood up looking to blame the drop on someone, he was wiiiiiiiiide open, ball hit him on both arms it was perfect. Another mayock moment, “not sure who he thinks he can blame that one on but himself”.
Eifert, had a couple drops, 1 was behind him but still the QB is hitting him in the hands with the ball unless he has a broken hand there isn’t an excuse that works.
Wood and Floyd were the only dependable skill positions during the game. Oline did what they needed to. The QB doesn’t need to be a world-beater for the offense to have success but he cannot be the weakest link on the field, in the first half it was absolutely true. Crist had soooooo much confidence in the preseason; everyone wants to know where that was coming from at this point.
From the Offense diary: Received a big response from the pre-fall depth chart that I threw pretty arbitrarily in a diary about a month ago. There were quite a few to expand it, so I included those requests with the updated depth chart for the Purdue game this weekend. I will try to keep this as organized as possible: rivals star ratings in parenthesis, since it was requested, names are followed by media guide class and measurements. (All classes are “true” – whatever, Walk-on = W, Former Walk-on = FW ) The depth chart was a 2 deep so there is some imo beyond the first 2 names listed, but it is an educated imo. Offense from yesterday => http://mgoblog.com/diaries/nd-offensive-depth-chart
DE: Ethan Johnson, Jr 6-4 285 (4), Hafis Williams, Jr 6-2 285 (3). This wasn’t much of a battle leaving spring practice but Williams made his presence known in the fall. Williams is supposed to provide a bit better run stop over Johnson who is better with pass rush. Johnson was an undersized DT last season and his production suffered because of it, totaling only 32 tackles. Johnson, in one of the fall interviews, talked about getting to use some of his pass rushing moves again, which he hadn’t had the opportunity to use since he was in high school. Sounded pretty excited about it.
NG: Ian Williams, Sr 6-2 305 (3), Sean Cwynar, Jr 6-4 280 (4), Brandon Newman, Jr 6-0 300 (4), Tyler Stockton, So 6-0 290 (4), Louis Nix, Fr 6-3 350 (4) This is probably the most overly stacked position on the team, with there being only 1 position on the field. Williams has the strength and the size to hold the starting spot now after a season of beefing up. Newman or Cwynar could be his backup depending on if the staff wants more run stop (Newman) or pass rush (Cwynar). Stockton will make this a big position battle next year and Nix is going to be a bruiser if he gets his weight down to where the staff wants it. Williams had scored a total of 39 tackles last season as a NT, he brings the most experience to the position and is one of the strongest on the team.
DE: Kapron Lewis-Moore, Jr 6-4 283 (4), Emeka Nwankwo, Sr 6-4 290 (3). KLM is looking to improve his production from last year, where he was only able to amass 46 total tackles. That was his first year starting as a DE in the 4-3 he was oversized and out of position, he will do better this year. Emeka talked about a bit this year, its good he made the 2-deep but I am not sure what to really expect from him.
OLB: Darius Fleming, Jr 6-2 247 (4), Prince Shembo, Fr 6-2 243 (4). Poor Fleming, embarrassed by a frolicking Forcier last year, he played nearly the entire year out of position at DE in the 4-3. Oh the humanity, ND’s best pass rusher playing 40lbs light on the line instead of rushing from his natural position at OLB. The defenses shortcomings all seem obvious 9 months later. Fleming totaled a measly 29 tackles last year, yeah that won’t be the same this year. All right so this is the first example, well of the more obvious anyway, “are you sure?” moments with this 2-deep. Prince Shembo will not see the field before a couple other OLBs on the roster but he is listed in the 2-deep. It is probably partly because of the hold Fleming has on the position, that it will be rare that he comes out of the game at all, but it was a little odd. To Shembo’s credit though he has turned a lot of heads this summer; I don’t think he will redshirt but I don’t expect him to see any meaningful snaps either. He will be one to watch in the future though.
ILB: Carlo Calabrese, So 6-1 240 (3), Anthony McDonald, Jr 6-2 238 (4), David Posluszny, Jr 6-0 235 (3). This position is going to change quite a bit throughout the year, I do not know who will start in week 2. It is a good competition though, McDonald appeared to be the leading candidate coming into the fall, and all 3 guys saw time with the 1s. McDonald may be a little nicked up from the past 2 weeks of camp which is why he isn’t set to start but if I was to put money down right now I would bet UM will see him first. All 3 are new starters at the position, Carlo is the only one to not see game time last year, which isn’t surprising as he was a true freshman. This ILB position is not of the same importance as the one below which is why Calabrese has been able to step up into the position battle so quickly.
ILB: Manti Teo, So 6-2 245 (5), Daniel Spond, Fr 6-2 225 (4). It is really a shame UM fans didn’t get a formal introduction to Teo last year. Teo only played 2-3 series in the game but still was able to rack up 2 tackles, one of which was on Forcier where he actually caught from behind and dropped him for a loss, it was a thing of beauty. In Teo’s freshman year he racked up 63 total tackles and didn’t start his first game till UW in week 5. He is going to be one of the best linebackers ever to play at ND. Teo is ND’s field general on defense and the only player on defense to do anything against all 3XX lbs of Chris Stewart in the Oklahoma drill. Enough Manti love, this now brings us the 2nd occurrence of “are you sure?”. Spond another freshman LB to break the 2 deep is very unlikely to see the field before either of the other 2 ILB’s mentioned above. He’s done well in the fall though, Spond also is one of the “5 QBs” from the past recruiting class.
OLB: Kerry Neal, Sr 6-2 245 (4), Brian Smith, Sr 6-3 245 (4), Steve Filer, Jr 6-3 235 (4). This was the last position battle to be settled on the defensive side of the ball and is likely to be ongoing throughout the season. All 3 guys will see time on the field this year, and the competition is quite encouraging; Smith led all linebackers last season in tackles with 71. Even more encouraging is Smith’s natural position is OLB not the MLB he played last season in the 4-3, both a depth and talent issue at the time. If Neal has passed him on the depth chart he must have done pretty well in the off season. Filer is the fan favorite for his overall athleticism on the field, there were a lot of happy people when he was named as a candidate for the starting spot. This position is another case of “any of the 3 could start week 2”, whomever isn’t starting is likely the next guy in at the other OLB spot above before Shembo.
CB: Darrin Walls, 5th 6-0 190 (4), Lo Wood, Fr 5-10 178 (3). Walls the final member of the 2006 recruiting class will be returning for his final year of eligibility. The CBs were one of the most abused positions in 2009, often left out on an island while a failed Tenuta blitz was called. Walls in particular had a hard time of it last year, coming back to ND after a year off, he admitted he wasn’t as prepared as he needed to be last year. He amassed 27 tackles, at a CB position I believe he held all season. Lo Wood should be a pretty house hold name for UM fans. Wood has had to step up this off season after the team lost sophomore EJ Banks for the season. He has so far answered the call, as the staff hasn’t had to add anyone new to the secondary since he was thrust into the spotlight as it is.
SS: Harrison Smith, Sr 6-2 214 (4), Daniel McCarthy, Jr 6-2 205 (4). Both safety positions were up for grabs coming into fall camp but both spring incumbents locked them down. Harrison Smith is back at SS after a season of poor experiments last year that saw him all around the field. He lined up as an OLB, ILB and S last year in what was a poor attempt to get the best players on the field. Smith is a sure tackler when he knows where is supposed to be which wasn’t always a common occurrence; whether it was confusion from the blitzing schemes or just learning at the position I am not sure. He accounted for 69 tackles last year as a junior, which was a small drop off from his sophomore season. Harrison appears to be a lot more comfortable with this year’s defense, at least in interviews anyway. Dan McCarthy will get his strongest chance to contribute this year as a junior who has been stuck behind many team leaders in tackles the past few years, his brother Kyle one of them.
FS: Jamoris Slaughter, Jr 6-0 195 (4), Zeke Motta, So 6-2 210 (4). Has there ever been a better name for a safety than Slaughter? I mean come on, what else do you need? Motta saw a lot of special teams action last year and some garbage time as well, he can cover a lot of space on the football field quickly for a guy of his size. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get some meaningful minutes on the field this year.
CB: Gary Gray, Sr 5-11 190 (4), Robert Blanton, Jr 6-1 192 (4). I didn’t even realize he was a senior already, anyway he is the 2nd returning starting corner from last season. Gray did well in his second season last year, he wasn’t picked on as much as Walls was. He also came up with an impressive pick against USC last year returning it for 30 yards. Gray suffered from the same issues as did Walls, stuck on an island with a QB given too much time to throw the ball. Blanton is likely first candidate to play in nickel packages, he is the most talkative player in the secondary for all the right reasons. He has quick feet and quick hips that helped him to major playing time his freshman year. Even though he didn’t start last season he still tallied 38 tackles off the bench.
So there you go, that’s ND’s starting defense going into week 1. Lots of questions still to be answered, but I can’t say I have seen this much confidence being shown from a defensive staff at ND in quite some time. Manti is the Crist of the defense minus the ACL recovery. He leads the team in practice and will lead them on the field, I cannot say enough about him as you can see. I cannot say with any certainty how good the defense will be this year, but I expect it to be a mix of the how they played a few years ago and how UC played the last few years.
UC in 2008, http://web1.ncaa.org/football/exec/rankingSummary?org=140&year=2008&week=19
The entire front seven is excited about the move back to the 3-4, and I cannot stress enough that this is the scheme they were all recruited to play when they signed their LOIs. That recruiting class was rated the highest in the nation in 2008. 16 of the 23 members of that class are in the 2 deep, and another 4 are likely to see significant playing time this year. Lots of potential on this roster, hopefully Kelly will help them grasp it.
Received a big response from the pre-fall depth chart that I threw pretty arbitrarily in a diary about a month ago. There were quite a few requests to expand it, so I included those requests with the updated depth chart for the Purdue game this weekend. I will try to keep this as organized as possible: rivals star ratings in parenthesis, since it was requested, names are followed by media guide class and measurements. (All classes are “true” – whatever, Walk-on = W, Former Walk-on = FW ) The depth chart was a 2 deep so there is some imo beyond the first 2 names listed, but it is an educated imo. Here is the Offense, I will do Defense tomorrow.
QB: Dayne Crist, Jr 6-4 235(5), Tommy Rees, Fr 6-2 210 (3), Nate Montana, Jr 6-4 215 (FW), Andrew Hendrix, Fr or Luke Massa, Fr. Biggest change here is Rees breaking the 2 deep over Montana. I am not sure on how much separation there actually is between the 2 of them, it was a strong battle all camp per the media, but as Rees is the younger by a lot he may have been given the nod just based on his future potential. There will still be a big drop off in experience, yes experience, and ability at the 2nd position no matter who comes in. Nice to see Rees be competitive so quickly, he was an EE, but it doesn’t really fortify the position over what we knew going into the fall. Crist is 100% and practiced without a brace throughout the summer, I still expect to see him in one on game days.
WR: At the beginning of camp there was only 1 known WR (Floyd) with many expecting Kamara to get the second one followed by a bunch of hunches and gut feelings. As camp progressed Floyd locked down his spot as expected and as did recently moved, from RB, Theo Riddick. In the final 2 weeks of camp it was a 3-way battle for the final spot between Tailer Jones, Duval Kamara and Shaq Evans, a week later it was a battle between Jones and Kamara and that is how they finished. Evans just announced his transfer, likely to Oregon it seems, though it isn’t only depth related but I would expect it to be a factor. On to the depth chart:
(X, L – R, I think): Tailer Jones, Fr 5-11 187 (4), Duval Kamara, 5th 6-4 225 (4).
(Z): Theo Riddick, So 5-11 198 (4), Robby Toma, So 5-9 175 (3)
(Y): Michael Floyd, Jr 6-3 227 (5), John Goodman, Jr 6-3 207 (3)
You know Floyd already, Jones is my favorite recruit from the last class, once a Stanford commit Weis flipped him back to ND and he held strong through the coaching change. If you want to see a DB get abused search for his highlight videos from last year, worth the time. The X spot could very well be an “OR” situation depending on the match up the coaches are looking for. Expect to see Kamara on the field quite a bit; I would have said the same about Evans if he hadn’t transferred as well. Riddick as I mentioned was recently moved from RB, which he played last year as a true freshman. I don’t remember how much UM saw him last year, but lets just say he has some speed to burn. The last RB to transition to WR made out pretty well in the end, the staff sounds pretty confident in what Riddick is capable of. Beyond the 2 deep there isn’t much I can say, Chris Collinsworth’s son, Austin (Fr) had a chance to crack the 2 deep and may see some garbage time this year. Otherwise it is mostly freshman destined for red shirts at the position.
RB: Armando Allen, Sr 5-10 205 (4), Cierre Wood, So 6-0 178 (4), Robert Hughes, Sr 5-11 245 (4), Jonas Gray, Jr 5-10 240. The new name here is Cierre Wood, star of the spring game, he showed everything ND fans had hoped for this spring and fall by cracking the 2 deep. It was clear everyone was behind Allen going into the summer, but just how it would shake out was anyone’s guess. Hughes is still also listed as a part time full back and Jonas has just as much size if not more from summer workouts. I really see a division between the “Speed” and “Big” backs here and the Speed backs are the ones on the depth chart. Both Jonas and Hughes will see the field but just how is a bit unclear; Kelly is really high on this position group, they will be getting a lot of touches.
TE: Man I love tight ends, enough man-crushing. Kyle Rudolph, Jr 6-6 265 (5), Tyler Eifert, So 6-6 242 (3), Bobby Burger, 5th 6-2 248 (FW), Mike Ragone, Sr 6-4 245 (4) The whole country has met Rudolph, not a lot more to say. The big riser here was Eifert who now weighs in at +25 his freshman year, he has filled out to say the least. You can expect to see his name for a few more years as he still has 4 years of eligibility left, as of now. Ragone was the faller, after his off the field troubles in the off season, and past off seasons it may be part disciplinary part never getting over his knee injuries. Burger is a utility player, he can line up at TE or FB and HB. He transferred to ND and then walked on his junior year, nice little story. The staff is very confident in Eifert, Kelly named him as someone he needs to find a place for on the field. You can expect to see 2 TE sets often.
LT: Zach Martin, So 6-4 290 (4), Matt Romine, Sr 6-5 295 (3). Martin is the first or three new starters on oline. He was originally slated for guard with the previous staff but was moved by the oline coach when he saw how quick Martins feet were. Seems to have worked out so far as he locked up his starting spot 2 weeks into camp. Martin was expected to take the spot over semi-incumbent Romine after spring ball.
LG: Chris Stewart, 5th 6-5 351 (4), Chris Watt, So 6-3 310 (5). Stewart is the first ND football player to not only play but also play while he is going to law school. (You can expect to hear that once or twice more this year on NBC) Stewart is huge, huge and strong, huger (yeah I know) than his listed 351; I expect he and Robinson (RG) to be the jumping-off-points for the running game. Watt was a late addition to the 2-deep, he is also the #3 center, I expect he will see the field more than a couple times as the season goes on.
C: Braxton Cave, Jr 6-3 301 (4), Chris Wenger, Sr 6-4 298 (4). I expected Wenger to hold the position down, but after he missed a few practices with a concussion it opened the door for Cave and he locked it up. I am sure both will play and both will start, I don’t know if this position battle will end anytime soon, which is a good thing. ND officially returns 2 starters now on oline.
RG: Trevor Robinson, Jr 6-5 295 (4), Mike Golic, Jr 6-3 283. Not a lot has been said about this position in the last 3-4 weeks. Robinson was expected to have this spot locked down after the staff tried him out at tackle a bit in the spring, and he did. Same with Golic, I don’t remember hearing either Golic mentioned much this fall at all.
RT: Taylor Dever, Sr 6-5 297 (3), Andrew Nuss, Sr 6-5 297 (3). This was also a position battle going into fall practice and was just a quickly locked down by Dever as Martin at LT. Freshman Christian Lombard, 6-5 290 (4) was talked up quite a bit late as a RT candidate, but hasn’t cracked the 2-deep as of yet. I expect to see him quite a bit as the year goes on though.
Expectations: I already hit on the running game a bit, but for emphasis Kelly has repeatedly talked about how strong a group he thinks they are, they have been one of his surprises from the fall. Armando Allen hasn’t shown to be much of an every down back and has gotten pretty banged up as each season wore on, Cierre Wood is the perfect fix for that. He has great vision and awareness on the field and brings good speed and athleticism to get up field quickly. Both big backs may only see situational touches but the way Kelly talks about the unit I really doubt it, not really sure what to expect here to be honest. The passing game is pretty straight forward, Crist needs to protect the ball and get it to his play makers which he has many beyond Floyd and Rudolph, the offense will hinge on his play more than anyone else. With the addition of 2 TE sets the possibilities are enormous, Eifert at 6-6, Floyd at 6-3, Rudolph at 6-6 and Kamara at 6-4, which one will the defense double team? Each one can get it in the end zone. The potential is there for some big numbers on offense but it all comes down to Crist.
Defense tomorrow, probably
I have gotten this question a few times on what ND's depth chart looks like. Problem is Kelly doesn't release a "depth chart" and you have to draw conclusions based on who you see there during scrimmage. So at the end of spring this is the picture I had in mind, if you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them.
Also don't confuse the lack of a starter as a sign of a weak position group.
QB: Behind Crist is Montana and then 3 freshmen, Hendrix Massa and Rees
RB: Allen should be #1 but he isn't an every down back, Cierre Wood would be his backup for the speedy back and then Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray could both be the big back. Cameron Roberson is a freshman and unlikely to see playing time but Kelly really liked his film, more so maybe than anyone from the last recruiting class
WR: Obviously floyd will start but who knows from there. Goodman, Walker and Shaq evans have all played outside and all bring different things to the table. In the slot Shaq evans is again an option, Theo Riddick just changed to this position, Kamara would be the veteran in the corp, and then Tailer Jones another freshman who played a lot in the spring game seems to be right there for playing time too. Behind all that is Bennett Jackson, Austin Collinsworth and Dan Smith who are freshman and unlikely to be seen on the field any time soon.
TE: Rudolph is #1 without a doubt, and probably followed by a combination of Bobby Burger and Ragone. Eifert and Golic are probably situational guys but otherwise may only be ST players this year. 2 more behind them in freshmen Alex Welch and Derek Roback
On the oline : I think Wenger will probably get the nod at center but Braxton Cave is named by others so not entirely positive; Jordan Cowert is likely in third and may only be a special teams long snapper
OG: Stewart and Trevor robinson should be almost guaranteed to be filling out the interior. Behind them is Chris Watt, another Golic, and lane Clelland
OT: After spring conditioning Zach Martin and Taylor Dever seemed to be the consensus starters but it will be a battle again in the fall. Besides them Matt Romine, Lane Clelland, Alex Bullard are options, with Christian Lombard and Tate Nichols incoming freshman this year. There is also a chance that either of the above guards could get bumped outside to a tackle.
DE: Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore are the favorites after spring practice but Hafis Williams and Emeka Nwankwo are just as interchangeable as is Sean Cwynar. Behind those 5 is 3 freshman Kona Schwenke, Justin Utupo and Bruce Heggie
DT: Ian Williams should be starting here in september but Brandon Newman isn't far off, behind them is Tyler Stockton and freshman Louis Nix
OLB: It will be 2 of the following, Kerry Neal Brian Smith, Steve Filer or Darius Fleming. I expect Smith and Fleming will get the most time but both Neal and Filer have gotten just as much praise and more at times. Behind them is Dan Fox and freshen Prince Shembo and Danny Spond
MLB: Teo will start he will be ND field general on defense, beside him will probably be Anthony McDonald or David Posluszny. Steve Paskorz recently switched back to MLB after being a FB last season so he may make an impact as well, just not sure yet. Calabrese and freshman Kendall Moore round out the unit
CB: Its a group of 3, Darrin Walls, Gary Gray, and Robert Blanton. Pick any 2 you want I am sure they will all see a lot of time. Behind them are EJ Banks and freshman Lo Wood.
S: Probably the weakest unit on the team tbh just based on all the questions to be answered. Harrison Smith and Jamoris Slaughter are the 2 most likely to be back there but I wont be sleeping on Dan McCarthy or Zeke Motta either. Freshman Chris Badger hits like a truck but I don't expect to see him this year.
P/K Tausch and Turk are likely to split the duties like last year, Brandon Walker is still on the team but has some back issues holding him back from really competing. There is also a walkon kicker that is the more likely backup FG kicker (ahead of walker) but I can't remember his name....
Update x2: 3 more (in addition to Alford) assistant coaches and both O and D coordinators have been announced. I will underline them as they become official. All of them had some interesting quotes should answer peoples question as to why Martin came to ND, in particular. Molnar will be coaching QBs in addition to being the OC, that most likely means that Hinton will be the WRs coach when he is officially announced.
Coordinator/ILB - Bob Diaco (Cincy)
DBs - Chuck Martin (GVSU)
D Line - Mike Elston (Cincy)
OLBs - Kerry Cooks (Wisconsin)
Coordinator/QBs - Charley Molnar (Cincy)
TE and OTs - Mike Denbrock (Indiana State)
RBs - Tony Alford (Notre Dame)
Interior Line - Ed Warriner (Kansas)
WRs - Tim Hinton (Cincy)
S&C - Paul Longo (Cincy)
Special Teams -
<blockquote> From the Article: Most are expected to be hired and finalized early next week and out on the recruiting trail by midweek. We also expect an announcement on the staff sometime next week. </blockquote>
Defense and S&C
Hinton is the big unknown obviously, he is a LB coach on the current Cincy staff but has also been a RB coach for Kelly while at Cincy. With Alford already announced as the RB I think he stays on the defensive side of the ball, Kelly seems to like splitting the LB duties between a ILB and OLB coach so my guess is Hinton and Cooks will continue that trend. Otherwise, I like what Cooks has done at Wisconsin and of course Martin has been well discussed post GVSU HC. Longo is Kelly's Barwis its as simple as that; he has really developed some nice lineman in particular. He also heads up Camp Kelly, the spring workout sessions which have a reputation of their own.
I was really hoping Molnar would come with Kelly and he looks to be the Coordinator as well, Denbrock is also a possibility as well. Denbrock is a bit of a ND ex-patriot as he coached at ND when Willingham was the HC. This is supposedly a good thing though from what I have been hearing, but I am still skeptical myself. He seems to be pegged for TE for sure and probably also include the OTs. The only other new name is Ed Warriner (pronounced Warner if your so inclined) from Kansas. Kelly is looking to bring the same OLine scheme he used at Cincy which is supposed to be pretty uncomplicated compared with the zone blocking scheme Weis used. That leaves Alford and his RBs; I loved the hire last year and I was really happy when he was retained by Kelly. He seems to be the next "Recruiting Coordinator" based on what he is doing right now for Kelly. The big hole remaining on offense is a QB coach, maybe that is where Hinton will end up but it seems unlikely right now based on the discussions going on. Only 9 assistant coaches (not counting S&C) are permitted by the NCAA rules so it would have to be someone already listed or Kelly himself. Jeff Genyk was expected to come with Kelly from Cincy (current QB coach) so just have to wait and see.
But there you go, should know more soon