Report: Clausen not throwing at Notre Dame's Pro Day

There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not Jimmy Clausen, still recovering from surgery to repair torn tendons in his toe, would be ready for his individual Pro Day, currently slated for April 9th. IrishIllustrated.com’s Pete Sampson reports that Clausen definitely won’t participate in Notre Dame’s Pro Day, scheduled for March 23rd.

From Sampson:

Jimmy Clausen won’t be throwing at the event, but will
instead have his own Pro Day at a later date, likely to be April 9.
That will give Clausen more time to heal from his toe surgery to repair
torn tendons, which were initially diagnosed by Notre Dame as turf toe.
The team Pro Day should feature the rest of the Irish draft eligibles,
although it’s unclear to what degree. For example, look for Golden Tate
to run routes but not test. It’s unclear how much Sam Young, Kyle
McCarthy and Eric Olsen will do. The event is more for players in the
mold of Sergio Brown, who wasn’t invited to the combine.


In an interview earlier in the week with St. Louis sports-talk radio station KFNS, Clausen gave an update on his toe, and proclaimed himself still on track for his April 9th workout.


“My toe is feeling better,” Clausen said. There was a lot of walking around going on at the combine and I had to get back to Southern California to rehab. But it’s feeling pretty good right now and I’m just getting ready for April 9th.”

Clausen’s going to have to throw for NFL scouts eventually, and he’s smart to wait until he’s healthy and ready. While Jimmy might take some heat in mock drafts and from talking heads like Todd McShay about his “draft stock,” he only has one shot to ace his exam, and he better make sure he’s fully healthy before he takes it.

Most think the number one quarterback slot — and possibly the first pick in the entire draft — is Sam Bradford’s to lose, but if Clausen dazzles at his personal workout and Bradford struggles, Jimmy Clausen could hear his name going off the draft board very early.

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    LB Shayne Simon’s commitment could solve rover questions of the future

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    With its second commitment in three days, Notre Dame moved a notable step closer to filling its class of 2018. Consensus four-star outside linebacker Shayne Simon (St. Peter’s Prep; Jersey City, N.J.) chose the Irish over Michigan in a Tuesday afternoon announcement.

    “The way they carry themselves and how they go about things at Notre Dame is something I really enjoy,” Simon told rivals.com. “Their reputation for being such a great academic institution was also very intriguing to me.”

    A U.S. Army All-American, rivals.com rates Simon the No. 9 outside linebacker in the class, the No. 4 prospect in New Jersey and the No. 138 overall recruit in the country. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and with developing, though already viable, coverage skills, Simon could project as Notre Dame’s next entry at rover, the preferred wrinkle to Irish defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s scheme.

    Currently, senior Drue Tranquill mans the position, but by the time Simon arrives on campus, Tranquill will be in his final year of eligibility, leaving only current-junior Asmar Bilal and freshman Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah ahead of Simon. Whereas Owusu-Koramoah is a safety moving up to rover, Simon could fill a role similar to Bilal, focusing on ground-dominant opponents while Owusu-Koramoah sees more action against pass-happy foes.

    Whether at rover or not, Notre Dame looks to be thin at linebacker in the coming years. Once current senior captains Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini depart, only junior Te’von Coney and sophomore Jonathan Jones would remain from last year’s depth chart, with sophomore Jamir Jones expected to slowly transition to the defensive line and freshmen David Adams and Drew White joining the program this summer.

    The class of 2018 already had two linebackers in the class — Simon joins rivals.com four-star Matthew Bauer (Cathedral Prep School; Erie, Pa.) and consensus three-star Ovie Oghoufo (Harrison High School; Farmington Hills, Mich.). Combined with Bauer, rivals.com’s No. 7 inside linebacker and No. 129 overall prospect, Simon could form a longtime mid-level partnership on Notre Dame’s defense.

    Simon’s commitment brings the Irish class to 14, after running back Jahmir Smith joined those ranks Sunday evening. Simon knows two of the earliest commitments in the class very well: He is teammates and classmates with the defensive linemen twins Jayson and Justin Ademilola.

    Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 7 Nick Watkins, cornerback

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    Listed Measurements: 6-foot-1, 203 pounds
    2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with two years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season.
    Depth chart: Partly due to his size, partly due to his seniority and partly due to his overall skill, Watkins is the likely starter at the boundary cornerback position this fall. Sophomore Donte Vaughn backs up Watkins, but it is more likely to be junior Shaun Crawford as the third cornerback on the field, though he is expected to focus on nickel back.
    Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, Watkins could have gone to about any school he wanted, receiving offers from Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State, just to name a few. His recruiting rankings may not have been as high as those offers would indicate since he did not take part in much of the camp circuit. Rivals.com rated the Under Armour All-American the No. 15 cornerback in the class of 2014, the No. 22 recruit in Texas and the No. 186 overall player in the country.

    CAREER TO DATE
    Originally, Watkins struggled to see much playing time because the Irish could rely on KeiVarae Russell and Cole Luke to man the position. When injuries decimated Notre Dame’s depth, Watkins got his first chance at genuine playing time against the dynamic Ohio State offense in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2015 season. He rose to the challenge, making three tackles and breaking up one pass against an offense filled with pro prospects.

    2014: 11 games almost entirely on special teams, no other statistics.
    2015: 12 games, one start (Ohio State), contributed both on special teams and as a defensive reserve, eight tackles.
    2016: A broken arm suffered in spring practice did not heal in time to make playing Watkins a worthwhile maneuver last season, thus preserving him a year of eligibility.

    QUOTE(S)
    A year lost to injury is never a positive thing, but Irish coach Brian Kelly pointed to some hidden perks to Watkins spending 2016 on the sidelines.

    “Nick is playing with a lot of confidence,” Kelly said in late March. “He’s long. He’s very coachable. He’s a great kid and [I] really like the way he’s competing out there. The season off obviously was in a lot of ways disappointing, but I think he benefited greatly from that year to see it, to learn. He’s had a really terrific offseason in the weight room and you can see his transition out of his break, breaking on the ball, playing physical at the line of scrimmage. Nice to have him back. He really gives us a presence out there that we’re starting to feel.”

    That presence is part of why the cornerbacks are now more often described as boundary and field positions, rather than left and right or strong side and weak side.

    “What I think [defensive coordinator] Mike [Elko] does really well … is we all have strengths and weaknesses,” Kelly said. “He has a great eye of saying let’s take Nick’s strengths and let’s put him in a position where we can really utilize his strengths. Maybe we’re not a right and left corner team — maybe we’re a short field, wide field. Let’s apply him in that fashion.

    “Nick’s long. He’s a little bit of a physical player and let’s go to those strengths. He’s shown some of those attributes early on.”

    WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
    Of all the injuries we tracked this offseason, Watkins’ broken arm seemed the least on the radar, though has a chance to be the most impactful. That Notre Dame’s medical staff is treating it aggressively says something about the player they think they have in Watkins — who Kelly said would be allowed to fight for a starting job once he’s physically able.

    “I’m no doctor — but that won’t stop me from evaluating Watkins’ progress. And for the most part, I don’t think it’s the best formula for success jumping into the mix with no training camp and limited time to get in shape at the most demanding position on Notre Dame’s roster.

    “While losing Watkins is a blow — especially with the length of these suspensions unknown — any chance to take a medical redshirt could be huge for Notre Dame’s depth, getting Watkins a chance to redo his junior season, capable of stepping in after Cole Luke departs.”

    2017 OUTLOOK
    In theory, a broken arm should not have lingering effects 18 months later. With that in mind, Watkins should have a strong hold on playing time this season. His performance against Ohio State may have been only one game, but it was such a promising showing there is a distinct temptation to forgo any sample size disclaimers.

    Watkins’ physicality can be applied on the boundary, where the sideline limits a receiver’s escape options. The question will be how long it takes Watkins to get back up to game speed, both mentally and physically. The latter half of that query may come down to instinct. As for his mental readjustment, Watkins may be the biggest beneficiary of the particular tendencies of the first few Irish opponents. Temple, Georgia and Michigan State all lean heavily on their run games, giving Watkins a few weeks to adjust to his first consistent collegiate playing time.

    DOWN THE ROAD
    Losing Watkins in 2016, along with a number of other defensive backs, undoubtedly played a role in the disappointing season. No one would say having him around in 2018 will be worth that trade, but it is a nice perk.

    Notre Dame’s cornerback depth will be a genuine asset the next two seasons. Having Watkins around for the second half of that will play a crucial part in stabilizing the position amid recent recruiting misses.


    2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
    Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
    No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
    No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
    No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
    No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
    No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 92)
    No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 95)
    No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
    No. 92: Jonathon MacCollister; defensive end (originally theorized as No. 46)
    No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
    No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
    No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
    No. 87: Michael Young, receiver (originally theorized as No. 84)
    No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
    No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
    No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end (originally theorized as No. 90)
    No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
    No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
    No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
    No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
    No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
    No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
    No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman (originally theorized as No. 65)
    No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 73)
    No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
    No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
    No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
    No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
    No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
    No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
    No. 68: Mike McGlinchey, left tackle
    No. 67: Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman
    No. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
    No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
    No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
    No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
    No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
    No. 53: Sam Mustipher, center
    No. 53: Khalid Kareem, defensive lineman
    No. 48: Greer Martini, inside linebacker
    No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, defensive end
    No. 45: Jonathan Jones, inside linebacker
    No. 44: Jamir Jones, linebacker/defensive lineman
    No. 42: Julian Okwara, defensive end
    No. 41: Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 94)
    No. 40: Drew White, linebacker
    No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, kicker (originally theorized as No. 52)
    No. 38: Deon McIntosh, running back/receiver
    No. 35: David Adams, linebacker
    No. 34: Tony Jones, Jr., running back
    No. 33: Josh Adams, running back
    No. 32: D.J. Morgan, safety
    No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, rover
    No. 29: Kevin Stepherson, receiver
    No. 28: Nicco Fertitta, safety
    No. 27: Julian Love, cornerback
    No. 26: Ashton White, safety
    No. 25: Jafar Armstrong, receiver (originally theorized as No. 87)
    No. 24: Nick Coleman, safety
    No. 23: Drue Tranquill, rover
    No. 22: Asmar Bilal, rover
    No. 21: Jalen Elliott, safety
    No. 20: Shaun Crawford, cornerback
    No. 19: Justin Yoon, kicker
    No. 18: Troy Pride, cornerback
    No. 17: Isaiah Robertson, safety
    No. 16: Cameron Smith, receiver
    No. 15: C.J. Holmes, running back
    No. 14: Devin Studstill, safety
    No. 13: Avery Davis, quarterback
    No. 13: Jordan Genmark Heath, safety
    No. 12: Ian Book, quarterback
    No. 12: Alohi Gilman, safety
    No. 11: Freddy Canteen, receiver
    No. 10: Chris Finke, receiver
    No. 9: Daelin Hayes, defensive end
    No. 8: Donte Vaughn, cornerback
    No. 7: Brandon Wimbush, quarterback

    TRANSFERS
    No. 66: Tristen Hoge, offensive lineman, transfers to BYU
    No. 50: Parker Boudreaux, offensive lineman
    No. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State

    INJURIES
    No. 13: Tyler Luatua, tight end, career ended by medical hardship

    Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 7 Brandon Wimbush, quarterback

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    Listed Measurements: 6-foot-1 ½, 226 pounds
    2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with three years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season.
    Depth chart: Wimbush will start at quarterback against Temple in 39 days. If needed, sophomore Ian Book will back up Wimbush, though obviously the Irish very much hope Book is not needed for more than an occasional snap this fall.
    Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, Wimbush originally committed to Penn State. When he chose Notre Dame, he did so to the dismay of a litany of other programs, including Alabama, Ohio State and Stanford. Rivals.com rated the 2014 New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year and Under Armour All-American the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in his class, the No. 2 prospect in New Jersey and the No. 60 overall in the country. Wimbush was also named a Max Preps first-team All-American, if those earlier honors were not enough.

    CAREER TO DATE
    Wimbush reaches his junior year with three years of eligibility remaining in a bit of unorthodox fashion, seeing action his freshman season while intentionally preserving a year of eligibility in 2016. The broken ankle suffered by Malik Zaire in 2015’s second week forced Wimbush to ready for action as DeShone Kizer’s backup. In order to get him some snaps before a competitive need arose, Irish coach Brian Kelly inserted Wimbush two weeks later during a rout of Massachusetts. He got a similar opportunity in a November victory over Pittsburgh.

    With both Zaire and Kizer healthy in 2016, Notre Dame could keep Wimbush on the sidelines and return him to the originally-intended timeline.

    2015: Two games, 3-of-5 passing for 17 yards, seven rushes for 96 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown run against UMass.
    2016: Preserved a year of eligibility.

    QUOTES
    Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long both sang Wimbush’s praises and spoke of his needed improvements the day before this spring’s Blue-Gold Game.

    “Brandon can make all the throws,” Long said. “The biggest thing is his footwork, getting that corrected, getting him more confident with that.

    “There’s not a throw he can’t make. His velocity, the way it comes out of his hands is tremendous. He throws a really nice deep ball. He’s doing a lot better job, just his presence in the pocket, understanding when he needs to evade and doing a nice job throwing on the run. Still a lot to go, but once he gets his footwork down and cleans it up, the sky is the limit for him.”

    Long also indicated Wimbush grew as a leader throughout the spring, but is not yet counted on in that capacity, partly because he does not need to be.

    “The best thing about Brandon is he’s never too high and never too low,” Long said. “That’s what you want with your quarterbacks.

    “We have enough leaders who are proven, have been there in the heat of battle. He just needs to go out there and operate the offense. I don’t want to have any more added pressure on his shoulders. If he does that, we’re all going to be happy. As time goes, the leadership can grow, but be a great follower right now.”

    WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
    To date, this portion of each 99-to-2 entry has been pulled from the “Crystal Ball” piece of Keith’s series. In this instance, “Future Potential” is the more pertinent bit, though the Crystal Ball was entirely accurate.

    When it comes to upside, you can make the argument that Wimbush has the best of any quarterback on campus. And the fact that a sophomore quarterback is on board with using a redshirt season as a sophomore also points to a maturity you really have to like in a quarterback.

    “That said, the depth chart will eventually force Wimbush to step in and skip the part of the learning curve that includes a young player making first-time mistakes. Because assuming that Kizer or Zaire will be on campus next season, Wimbush will have two seasons to run the offense, likely a fourth-year junior when the fog clears.

    “That’s plenty of time to establish himself. But it’ll require the lion’s share of his developments to take place on Monday to Friday, not Saturdays.”

    2017 OUTLOOK
    This isn’t complicated. As Wimbush goes, so will go Notre Dame’s offense. To a large extent, as the Irish offense goes, so will go the season. A quick application of the transitive property indicates as Wimbush goes, so will go Notre Dame’s season as a whole.

    That could be a lot to put on an unproven and inexperienced starter. Wimbush should be the exception to that rule. He displayed his athleticism in his first collegiate action with that 58-yard touchdown scamper. His arm has dazzled in practices for two years now such that it seems it might be unanimous he had the strongest arm on the team last season.

    Will Wimbush make some mistakes this season? Undoubtedly. But the same could be said of any experienced veteran, as well.

    As far as projecting any statistics, let’s defer to Phil Steele’s computers, both because they have a proven track record and because speculating the output of an unknown commodity such as Wimbush sounds like the job for an automated program. They project the Irish offense will average 268.0 passing yards per game. That would top every year of Kelly’s time at Notre Dame aside from 2014’s 285 passing yards per game.

    If Wimbush reaches that mark while limiting turnovers — and that is not even factoring in his legs’ inevitable impact on the game — then the Irish should have little difficulty making the scoreboard work in 2017.

    DOWN THE ROAD
    Barring injury, a la Zaire, Wimbush will start until he heads to the NFL. That could conceivably happen as soon as after this season or as far off in the distant future as after the 2019 campaign. Wimbush’s acceptance of spending his sophomore season on the sideline leads one to think he is in no rush to get to the next level, though any starting quarterback at Notre Dame undoubtedly has that ambition in due time.

    The most-likely scenario seems to be Wimbush spends four seasons with the Irish before taking his chance among the professionals. That theory would leave Book with two seasons of eligibility, freshman Avery Davis with a likely three and class of 2018 commit Phil Jurkovec a hypothetical four seasons to make his mark.


    2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
    Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
    No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
    No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
    No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
    No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
    No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 92)
    No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 95)
    No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
    No. 92: Jonathon MacCollister; defensive end (originally theorized as No. 46)
    No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
    No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
    No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
    No. 87: Michael Young, receiver (originally theorized as No. 84)
    No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
    No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
    No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end (originally theorized as No. 90)
    No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
    No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
    No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
    No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
    No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
    No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
    No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman (originally theorized as No. 65)
    No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 73)
    No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
    No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
    No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
    No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
    No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
    No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
    No. 68: Mike McGlinchey, left tackle
    No. 67: Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman
    No. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
    No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
    No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
    No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
    No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
    No. 53: Sam Mustipher, center
    No. 53: Khalid Kareem, defensive lineman
    No. 48: Greer Martini, inside linebacker
    No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, defensive end
    No. 45: Jonathan Jones, inside linebacker
    No. 44: Jamir Jones, linebacker/defensive lineman
    No. 42: Julian Okwara, defensive end
    No. 41: Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 94)
    No. 40: Drew White, linebacker
    No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, kicker (originally theorized as No. 52)
    No. 38: Deon McIntosh, running back/receiver
    No. 35: David Adams, linebacker
    No. 34: Tony Jones, Jr., running back
    No. 33: Josh Adams, running back
    No. 32: D.J. Morgan, safety
    No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, rover
    No. 29: Kevin Stepherson, receiver
    No. 28: Nicco Fertitta, safety
    No. 27: Julian Love, cornerback
    No. 26: Ashton White, safety
    No. 25: Jafar Armstrong, receiver (originally theorized as No. 87)
    No. 24: Nick Coleman, safety
    No. 23: Drue Tranquill, rover
    No. 22: Asmar Bilal, rover
    No. 21: Jalen Elliott, safety
    No. 20: Shaun Crawford, cornerback
    No. 19: Justin Yoon, kicker
    No. 18: Troy Pride, cornerback
    No. 17: Isaiah Robertson, safety
    No. 16: Cameron Smith, receiver
    No. 15: C.J. Holmes, running back
    No. 14: Devin Studstill, safety
    No. 13: Avery Davis, quarterback
    No. 13: Jordan Genmark Heath, safety
    No. 12: Ian Book, quarterback
    No. 12: Alohi Gilman, safety
    No. 11: Freddy Canteen, receiver
    No. 10: Chris Finke, receiver
    No. 9: Daelin Hayes, defensive end
    No. 8: Donte Vaughn, cornerback

    TRANSFERS
    No. 66: Tristen Hoge, offensive lineman, transfers to BYU
    No. 50: Parker Boudreaux, offensive lineman
    No. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State

    INJURIES
    No. 13: Tyler Luatua, tight end, career ended by medical hardship

    Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 20 Shaun Crawford, cornerback

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    Editor’s Note: When it was learned sophomore cornerback Donte Vaughn would be changing his number from 35 to 8, that led to an adjustment of the “99-to-2” schedule. While editing that spreadsheet, your resident mistake-maker accidentally eliminated a planned entry from the docket.

    A sincere thanks to @DFeliciano98 for pointing out the absence of No. 20 Shaun Crawford, a junior cornerback. Hopefully, delaying Crawford’s post had no adverse effect aside from momentarily compromising the countdown nature of organizing these posts via number.

    To be clear: Fall camp starts in about eight days. The season begins in 40.


    Listed Measurements: 5-foot-9, 175 pounds
    2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with three years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season, though there is a reasonable argument to be made Crawford could appeal the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility should he want to pursue it once the assured three are fulfilled.
    Depth chart: If just looking at the depth chart, Crawford looks to be a backup cornerback, supporting either sophomore Julian Love at the field corner position or senior Nick Watkins over at the boundary. More accurately, Crawford will be the first choice at nickel back, a position not usually listed on the two-deep, though it is used as often as not in the modern era of college football. Naturally, this assessment should come with an if healthy disclaimer.
    Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, the Under Armour All-American walked away from a commitment to Michigan shortly after receiving an offer from Notre Dame. The No. 7 cornerback in the class of 2015, per rivals.com, the No. 7 recruit in Ohio and the No. 82 in the country, Crawford also held offers from Miami, Ohio State and Florida State, among others.

    CAREER TO DATE
    Two unrelated injuries have stymied Crawford’s rise. In 2015, he quickly established himself as the likely option at nickel back — and if not there, playing time was assured in some variety or another — before a torn ACL ended his freshman season before it began.

    After an impressively quick recovery, Crawford partook in some of 2016’s spring action. By the time the season began, he had established himself as a starter, getting that nod against both Texas and Nevada. He made six tackles and picked off one pass before a season-ending Achilles injury halted what looked to be a promising campaign.

    QUOTE(S)
    Achilles injuries are notoriously difficult to come back from quickly. Thus, expectations for Crawford’s spring were always tempered, yet even before practices began, Irish coach Brian Kelly expressed optimism regarding Crawford’s rehab.

    “He’s jumping, has change of direction,” Kelly said in early March. “You’re going to see him extremely active in the spring. I don’t see him in a contact position at this time, but he won’t be cheated this spring. He’s really going to use spring as an opportunity for him to continue to grow as a football player.”

    The coaching and training staffs kept an eye on Crawford’s snap counts throughout the spring, but he still showed enough to encourage both Kelly and defensive coordinator Mike Elko. The week of the Blue-Gold Game, Kelly described Crawford as “if we had to play, h’s close to playing” after partaking in seven-on-seven drills.

    Elko went so far as to lump Crawford in with other possible situation-specific options at the rover position, the malleable linchpin of Elko’s defensive scheme he brought with him to Notre Dame.

    “A lot of that is dictated by who that guy is lined up [against] and what we’re trying to do,” Elko said. “We’re going to see a lot of really talented slot receivers. We’re going to have to match up and cover them well. There’s other names than the big linebacker/safety bodies to put at that position. … When Shaun gets healthy, I think he’ll do that some.”

    WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
    I think it’s only a matter of time before Crawford is a starter on this defense. I’m confident he’s already one of the team’s best 11 defenders, regardless of if he’s categorized as a starter or nickel back.

    “The battle to start on the outside opposite Cole Luke will be interesting. Devin Butler’s foot injury likely turns this into a three-horse race, with Nick Watkins having to rehabilitate a broken arm this summer and [junior cornerback-now-converted-to-safety] Nick Coleman still very raw. Crawford’s best spot might not be on the outside, though he could be a compelling boundary cornerback. But he might be too good to pull off the field, especially if Watkins isn’t able to ascend to the starting job.

    “I’m not going to get wrapped up in what Crawford is called. I think he’ll be a guy that stays on the football field for as many snaps as possible, knowing that his playmaking ability and nose for the football will make him invaluable in [former Irish defensive coordinator] Brian VanGorder’s scheme. I expect him to be one of the team’s leaders in filling up the stat sheet, an instantaneous upgrade from Matthias Farley at his best — when he had a quietly productive 2015 season in the slot.”

    2017 OUTLOOK
    Let’s start by staying healthy for a season. Crawford’s injuries are certainly not his fault, but until he can hold up to the grind of a collegiate season, this outlook hardly matters. He played both sides of the ball in high school with great success, so there is reason to believe his body is up for a physical workload — it just has not had an opportunity to show that yet.

    If healthy, Crawford’s quickness and pound-for-pound strength should make him nearly the ideal of a nickel back. Few slot receivers or running backs running routes can shake someone with Crawford’s skill set. In fact, Notre Dame’s offense shows just how far a team may have to go in order to evade a talented nickel back with the 6-foot-4 ½, 224-pound sophomore Chase Claypool currently projected for its slot receiver. Few opponents will be able to trot out such a towering weapon against Crawford.

    DOWN THE ROAD
    As talented as Crawford may be, his height, or lack thereof, puts a ceiling on his talents. He will never be a stellar field cornerback. Fortunately for the Irish, they have Love for that role. Crawford could serve at the boundary position, and he will have a chance to do that once Watkins runs out of eligibility in 2018.

    For that matter, if Crawford handles the nickel back duties with aplomb this fall, he may force Elko to find a way to keep him on the field for every snap. Moving Crawford ahead of Watkins on the boundary could serve that purpose.

    As for eligibility, Crawford suffered two season-ending injuries, one before playing a snap and the other in only the year’s second game. In similar instances, the NCAA has allowed a sixth year to complete four years of playing. Those decisions are not made until after a player’s fifth year, though, so it would come after the 2019 season if both Crawford and Notre Dame want to pursue such.


    2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
    Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
    No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
    No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
    No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
    No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
    No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 92)
    No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 95)
    No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
    No. 92: Jonathon MacCollister; defensive end (originally theorized as No. 46)
    No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
    No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
    No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
    No. 87: Michael Young, receiver (originally theorized as No. 84)
    No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
    No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
    No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end (originally theorized as No. 90)
    No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
    No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
    No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
    No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
    No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
    No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
    No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman (originally theorized as No. 65)
    No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 73)
    No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
    No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
    No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
    No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
    No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
    No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
    No. 68: Mike McGlinchey, left tackle
    No. 67: Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman
    No. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
    No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
    No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
    No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
    No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
    No. 53: Sam Mustipher, center
    No. 53: Khalid Kareem, defensive lineman
    No. 48: Greer Martini, inside linebacker
    No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, defensive end
    No. 45: Jonathan Jones, inside linebacker
    No. 44: Jamir Jones, linebacker/defensive lineman
    No. 42: Julian Okwara, defensive end
    No. 41: Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 94)
    No. 40: Drew White, linebacker
    No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, kicker (originally theorized as No. 52)
    No. 38: Deon McIntosh, running back/receiver
    No. 35: David Adams, linebacker
    No. 34: Tony Jones, Jr., running back
    No. 33: Josh Adams, running back
    No. 32: D.J. Morgan, safety
    No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, rover
    No. 29: Kevin Stepherson, receiver
    No. 28: Nicco Fertitta, safety
    No. 27: Julian Love, cornerback
    No. 26: Ashton White, safety
    No. 25: Jafar Armstrong, receiver (originally theorized as No. 87)
    No. 24: Nick Coleman, safety
    No. 23: Drue Tranquill, rover
    No. 22: Asmar Bilal, rover
    No. 21: Jalen Elliott, safety
    No. 19: Justin Yoon, kicker
    No. 18: Troy Pride, cornerback
    No. 17: Isaiah Robertson, safety
    No. 16: Cameron Smith, receiver
    No. 15: C.J. Holmes, running back
    No. 14: Devin Studstill, safety
    No. 13: Avery Davis, quarterback
    No. 13: Jordan Genmark Heath, safety
    No. 12: Ian Book, quarterback
    No. 12: Alohi Gilman, safety
    No. 11: Freddy Canteen, receiver
    No. 10: Chris Finke, receiver
    No. 9: Daelin Hayes, defensive end
    No. 8: Donte Vaughn, cornerback

    TRANSFERS
    No. 66: Tristen Hoge, offensive lineman, transfers to BYU
    No. 50: Parker Boudreaux, offensive lineman
    No. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State

    INJURIES
    No. 13: Tyler Luatua, tight end, career ended by medical hardship