Friday notes: Spring takes shape

It was a great week to be an Irish football fan, as we finally got our first look at Brian Kelly’s football team. The early returns, as they always are, were promising.

Here are a few notes from the week of practice:

* It looks like one of the more interesting battles in the depth chart will be at center, where Braxston Cave looks to usurp Dan Wenger as the starting center. Most assumed Wenger would slide back into the spot after losing the job to Eric Olsen last year, who moved from guard to center in the offseason. Before that, Wenger had started all 13 games for the Irish at center in 2008.

When asked by the media about running with the first team during practice this week, Cave sounded confident.

“I can’t sit back and wait around any more,” Cave said after practice this week. “You only get four years of this. I sat back in the offseason and really thought about it and its my time to get out there and shine.”

Offensive line coach Ed Warinner talked about the ability of multiple players to cross-train at multiple positions, and while Cave and Wenger are both natural centers, expect one of them to log some playing time at guard opposite Chris Stewart, if Trevor Robinson gets kicked outside to tackle.

* It seems as if the Washington Redskins have zeroed in on Jimmy Clausen. Multiple reports over the last few days have hinted that Mike Shanahan is considering Clausen with the fourth pick in the draft, which would be a great spot for Clausen to go.

Jimmy will workout privately for the ‘Skins tomorrow, and they will also be in attendance at his Pro Day on April 9th. Earlier in the week, former Notre Dame assistant Vinny Cerrato, who just stepped down as the executive vice president of football operations for the Redskins spoke highly of Clausen when talking to the Washington Post‘s Jason Reid..

“As a junior, he received every vote of all the members of the team to be a captain. And everybody told me, he was a totally different kid from sophomore year to junior year. Really grew up, matured, became the leader of the team, took charge of everything… He’s a totally mature guy. I mean, you know what he is? He’s a gym rat.
He’s a football junkie. He loves to talk about football. He loves to
watch film. He’s very smart about football coverages, all those things.
And you know what? He plays with a passion. That’s the thing.”

Cerrato tabbed ESPN’s Todd McShay as the source for any negative media buzz, but I’ve used my allotment of words about the draft “expert” for the week, so I’ll just leave it at that.

* I stumbled upon a few interesting write-ups about the inside linebacker positions this week. The guys over at One Foot Down did a little chalk talk breaking down the intricacies of the 3-4 inside backers. Here’s a sample:

The inside linebackers generally line up at about 5 yards deep so that
they can fill gaps inside and out as quickly as possible depending on
their read and the point of attack. You want the inside linebacker to be
the point of the spear when attacking an offensive running play. His
initial read is the offensive guard. His initial gap responsibility on a
running play coming straight ahead is the B gap or guard/ tackle gap
with the nose tackle responsible for the A gap. 

Meanwhile, Lou Somogyi at BlueandGold.com made an interesting observation when writing about a variety of defensive players returning to their home positions, after listening to Bob Diaco talk about his prototype Mike and Will linebackers.

“It’s anywhere from six-foot to six-three or four, not much taller than that,” Diaco said. “You’d like them to be about 220 as a developmental player and up to maybe even 260-265 if they can be and still move.”

While the Irish look to find another inside backer to pair with Manti Te’o, Somogyi looked at the linebackers that Diaco played last season at Cincinnati.

At the University of Cincinnati, the options might
have been more limited for Diaco. His starting middle linebacker last
year was 6-0, 222-pound Andre Revels, who led the team in stops with
109. The No. 2 tackler with 100 stops was 6-1, 223-pound outside
linebacker J. K. Schaffer.


The Irish certainly have better fitted options for the system than Diaco was afforded last year. While David Posluszny has been given the first shot to fill the Will role, Anthony McDonald has drawn the praise of Kelly as well. 

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    Notre Dame 99-to-2: No.6 Equanimeous St. Brown, receiver

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    Listed Measurements: 6-foot-5, 204 pounds
    2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with two years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season.
    Depth chart: St. Brown will start as the field receiver, otherwise known as the X. Even as he may move around from the field to the boundary, St. Brown will be a threat for nearly every offensive snap.
    Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, St. Brown held offers from 10 of the Pac-12 programs with Oregon and Oregon State the outliers, as well as from LSU, Miami and Vanderbilt, among others. The Under Armour All-American waited until National Signing Day to commit to the Irish. Rivals.com listed him as the No. 15 receiver in the class of 2015, the No. 23 prospect in California and the No. 144 player in the country.

    CAREER TO DATE
    After a ho-hum, limited-action, injury-shortened freshman season, St. Brown broke out last year, to say the least. St. Brown led Notre Dame in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, establishing himself as then-quarterback DeShone Kizer’s most-dangerous as well as most-consistent target.

    2015: Seven games, one reception for eight yards before a shoulder injury ended his debut campaign. St. Brown blocked a punt against USC.
    2016: 12 games, 12 starts, 58 receptions for 961 yards and nine touchdowns. Highlighting his season, St. Brown took four catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns against Syracuse, including a 79-yard score on the first play from scrimmage. He also logged 116 receiving yards against Duke.

    QUOTES
    When a sophomore comes about two average-length catches short of a 60-reception, 1,000-yard and 10-touchdown season, not much needs to be worried about the following spring. Instead, Irish coach Brian Kelly noted the improvements in the receiver corps around its standout, though St. Brown is obviously working to stay ahead of the pack, as well.

    “I see better balance,” Kelly said in late March. “We have some guys that will come up to the level [St. Brown] was at least year to give the quarterback and the offense a little more balance than we had last year. [St. Brown] will be a better player. He’s working on some of the weaknesses that he has, which limits him in certain areas, and he’s diligently working on those.

    “You’re going to see a better supporting cast across the board, which will give us much more balance. More importantly, it’s going to give us much more consistency from an offensive standpoint.”

    WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
    The drop-off from a veteran like Chris Brown to a receiver with one career catch is sizable. But from a physical skills perspective, St. Brown can do everything needed to be a standout, he just needs to grow up in a hurry.

    “Predicting a breakout sophomore season like the ones Golden Tate or Will Fuller had isn’t fair. But with a strong running game and Torii Hunter across from him, St. Brown will have plenty of opportunities to make big plays, he just needs to seize those chances.

    “Can St. Brown put himself on course to be the next great Irish receiver? The hype has slowed, but there’s no reason the answer should be no.

    “This camp has been all about young receivers finding consistency. While [current-sophomore] Kevin Stepherson seems to have taken most of the excitement, I think St. Brown will be the best of the bunch — at least in 2016.

    “But let’s keep expectations in check. I’ll set the bar somewhere between Torii Hunter’s 2015 and Chris Brown’s junior season, with St Brown catching somewhere around 30 balls if he stays healthy and holds onto his starting job.”

    2017 OUTLOOK
    Suffice it to say, St. Brown exceeded any and all expectations in 2016, beginning with his tumbling touchdown against Texas. In a way, those successes make it likely St. Brown falls short of expectations in 2017. If he does appear to take a step back, whether that is shown in statistics or not, it could be partly due to the added depth Kelly referred to.

    Notre Dame has more options at receiver this year, losing only Hunter form last year’s top-five receivers, and only him and [Purdue transfer] Corey Holmes among those with double-digit catches. Meanwhile, junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush will have an ascending junior Miles Boykin to target at the boundary position and returning, to much hype, junior tight end Alizé Mack drawing attention, as well.

    Defenses will not be able to key on St. Brown this season, but Wimbush will not be doing so, either. Overall, that behooves the team, even if it lessens St. Brown’s chances of gaining 39 more yards than last season to reach a four-digit total.

    DOWN THE ROAD
    Do not be surprised if St. Brown declares for the NFL after this, his junior, season. This is a player with an intellect capable enough to speak three languages fluently (German, French and he dabbles in a little English). He will presumably be close to graduation by the end of 2018’s spring semester. A strong season with a few notable highlights could solidify a strong draft status.

    That said, do not be surprised if St. Brown returns to Notre Dame for another year. If he does, that may be a positive indicator for the Irish for a few years beyond 2018. St. Brown’s youngest brother, Amon-Ra St. Brown, is the No. 1 receiver and No. 4 player overall in the class of 2018, per rivals.com, and is considering a list of scholarship offers even more impressive than his oldest brother’s was. Name a prominent college football program and Amon-Ra has heard from its coaching staff, including Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Miami, Oklahoma and Oregon (though still no note of Oregon State).

    If the consensus five-star chooses Notre Dame over USC and Stanford, perhaps Equanimeous St. Brown will not be able to resist spending a season lining up alongside his brother. However, it should be noted, the middle St. Brown brother, Osiris, will be a freshman receiver at Stanford this season.


    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
    No. 7: Nick Watkins, 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

    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