Rosters set for the Blue-Gold Game

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Notre Dame released the rosters for tomorrow’s Blue-Gold Game, with both squads featuring a number of starters.

The Blue team features Michael Floyd, Armando Allen, Kyle Rudolph, Dayne Crist on offense and Gary Gray, Jamoris Slaughter, Anthony McDonald, Brian Smith, and Ethan Johnson on defense.

The Gold team will feature Nate Montana, Shaq Evans, Duval Kamara, and Robert Hughes on offense, while the defense will have Darren Walls, Manti Te’o, Robert Blanton, Darius Fleming, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Ian Williams.

There are a number of players that’ll see time on both rosters.

For the complete rosters, see below:

BLUE TEAM
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Class* Hometown/High
School
3 Floyd, Michael WR 6-3 220 Jr. St. Paul, MN/Cretin-Derham
Hall
4 Gray, Gary CB 5-11 190 Sr. Columbia, SC/Richland
Northeast
5 Allen, Armando TB 5-10 201 Sr. Opa Locka,
FL/Hialeah-Miami Lakes
7 Jones, TJ WR 5-11 185 Fr.
Gainesville, GA/Gainesville
9 Rudolph, Kyle TE 6-6 265 Jr.
Cincinnati, OH/Elder
10 Crist, Dayne QB 6-4 235 Jr. Canoga
Park, CA/Notre Dame
17 Motta, Zeke S 6-2 210 So. Vero Beach,
FL/Vero Beach
17 Mulvey, M. QB 6-2 191 Jr. Del Mar,
CA/LaJolla
19 Toma, Roby WR 5-9 175 So. Laie, HI/Punahou
20
Wood, Cierre TB 6-0 210 So. Oxnard, CA/Santa Clara
21 Gallup
Jr., Barry WR 5-11 185 Sr. Wellesley, MA/Belmont Hill
23 Wood, Lo
CB 5-10 175 Fr. Apopka, FL/Apopka
26 Slaughter, J. S
6-0 195 Jr. Stone Mountain, GA/Tucker
27 Banks, E.J. CB 5-11
180 So. Pittsburgh, PA/Montour
29 Coughlin, P. TB 6-0 195 Sr.
Oak Lawn, IL/Brother Rice
30 Paskorz, Steve ILB 6-1 245 Sr. Allison
Park, PA/Hampton
30 Redshaw, James CB 5-9 175 Sr. North Huntingdon,
PA/Norwin
33 Salvi, Chris+ S 5-10 180 Jr. Lake Forest,
IL/Carmel Catholic
35 Turk, Ben P 5-11 196 So. Davie, FL/St.
Thomas Aquinas
36 Posluszny, David ILB 6-0 225 Jr. Aliquippa,
PA/Hopewell
39 Sheehan, Ryan+ CB 5-10 177 Sr. Purcellville,
VA/Loudown Valley
40 Smith, Thomas+ S 6-1 215 Sr. Manchester, CT/East
Catholic
48 Fox, Dan OLB 6-3 230 So. Rocky River, OH/St.
Ignatius
48 Ruffer, David+ K 6-1 176 Sr. Oakton, VA/Gonzaga
51
Wenger, Dan C 6-4 297 Sr. Coral Springs, FL/Saint Thomas Aquinas
54
McDonald, A. ILB 6-2 230 Jr. Burbank, CA/Notre Dame
56 Neal, Kerry
OLB 6-2 244 Sr. Bunn, NC/Bunn
57 Golic Jr., Mike C 6-3 283 Jr.
West Hartford, CT/Northwest Catholic
58 Smith, Brian OLB 6-3
234 Sr. Overland Park, KS/Saint Thomas Aquinas
60 Cowart, Jordan LS
6-2 215 So. Plantation, FL/St. Thomas Aquinas
62 Flavin, Bill+
OC/LS 6-3 260 Sr. Darien, IL/Benet Academy
63 Botsford, Steve+ DE
6-2 220 Sr. Arlington Heights, IL/St. Viator
71 Mahoney, D.
OT 6-7 289 Jr. Baltimore, MD/Boys Latin High School
75 Dever, Taylor
OT 6-5 301 Sr. Nevada City, CA/Nevada Union
77 Romine, Matt
OT 6-5 298 Sr. Tulsa, OK/Union
78 Robinson, Trevor OG 6-5 300 Jr.
Elkhorn, NE/Elkhorn
80 Eifert, Tyler TE 6-6 240 So. Fort
Wayne, IN/Bishop Dwenger
81 Goodman, John WR 6-3 205 Jr. Fort Wayne,
IN/Bishop Dwenger
86 Burger, Bobby+ FB/TE 6-2 245 Sr. Cincinnati,
OH/LaSalle
90 Johnson, Ethan DE 6-4 280 Jr. Portland, OR/Lincoln
91
Nwankwo, Emeka DE 6-4 280 Sr. N. Miami Beach, FL/Chaminade-Madonna Prep
92
Stockton, Tyler NG 6-0 290 So. Linwood, NJ/Hun School
98 Cwynar,
Sean DE 6-4 281 Jr. McHenry, IL/Marian Central Catholic

GOLD TEAM
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Class* Hometown/High
School
1 Walker, Deion WR 6-3 195 Jr. Christchurch, VA/Christchurch
2
Walls, Darrin CB 6-0 185 Sr. Pittsburgh, PA/Woodland Hills
5
Te’o, Manti ILB 6-2 250 So. Laie, HI/Punahou
6 Boyd, Spencer
CB 5-10 175 Fr. Cape Coral, FL/Cape Coral
11 Evans, Shaquelle WR 6-1
205 So. Inglewood, CA/Inglewood
12 Blanton, Robert CB 6-1 190 Jr.
Matthews, NC/Butler
13 Rees, Tommy QB 6-2 200 Fr. Lake Forest,
IL/Lake Forest
14 Walker, Brandon K 6-3 210 Sr. Findlay, OH/Findlay
15
Castello, Brian+ QB 6-2 210 Sr. Pittsburgh, PA/Chartiers Valley
15
McCarthy, Dan S 6-2 205 Jr. Youngstown, OH/Cardinal Mooney
16
Montana, Nate+ QB 6-4 215 Jr. Concord, CA/De La Salle
18 Kamara,
Duval WR 6-4 220 Sr. Jersey City, NJ/Hoboken
22 Smith, Harrison S 6-2
212 Sr. Knoxville, TN/Knoxville Catholic
24 Badger, Chris S 6-0 195
Fr. Provo, UT/Timpview
25 Gray, Jonas TB 5-10 225 Jr.
Pontiac, MI/Detroit Country Day
27 Herlihy, Derry+ TB 6-0 198 Sr.
Houston, TX/St. John’s
29 Garcia, Michael+ S 6-2 195 Sr. Colorado
Springs, CO/St. Mary’s
32 Riddick, Theo WR 5-11 190 So. Manville,
NJ/Immaculata
33 Hughes, Robert TB/FB 5-11 245 Sr. Chicago,
IL/Hubbard
35 Plaska, Andrew+ CB 5-11 185 Jr. Zeeland, MI/Zeeland
West
36 Kramer, Pat+ P 5-11 160 Jr. Akron, OH/Archbishop Hoban
38
Gurries, C.+ WR 5-10 186 Sr. Reno, NV/Bishop Manoque
40
Tausch, Nick K 6-0 190 So. Plano, TX/Jesuit
42 Franco, Dan+
WR 5-10 188 Sr. Granger, IN/Clay
42 Lezynski, Nick+ CB 5-9 180 Sr.
Newton, PA/Notre Dame High School
44 Calabrese, Carlo ILB 6-1 245 So.
Verona, NJ/Verona
45 Fleming, Darius OLB 6-2 245 Jr. Chicago, IL/St.
Rita
46 Filer, Steve OLB 6-3 235 Jr. Chicago, IL/Mount
Carmel
50 Kavanagh, Ryan+ LS 6-3 200 Jr. West Chester, PA/Salesianum
(Del.)
50 Oxley, Sean ILB 6-2 227 Jr. Avon Lake, OH/Avon
Lake
52 Cave, Braxston C 6-3 309 Jr. Mishawaka, IN/Penn
59
Stewart, Chris OG 6-5 344 Sr. Spring, TX/Klein
61 Quintana, M
DE 6-0 232 Sr. Berwyn, IL/St. Joseph
62 Skubis, C. DE 6-2
232 Sr. Clarence, NY/Clarence
65 Wray, Evan+ ILB 6-0 215 Sr.
Kettering, OH/Kettering Fairmont
66 Watt, Chris OG 6-3 313
So. Glen Ellyn, IL/Glenbard West
70 Martin, Zack OT 6-4 280
So. Indianapolis, IN/Bishop Chatard
73 Clelland, Lane OT 6-5 290 Jr.
Owings Mills, MD/McDonogh School
76 Nuss, Andrew OG 6-5 303 Sr.
Ashburn, VA/Stone Bridge
79 Williams, Hafis NG 6-1 290 Jr. Elizabeth,
NJ/Elizabeth
83 Ragone, Mike TE 6-4 250 Sr. Cherry Hill, NJ/Camden
Catholic
88 Golic, Jake TE 6-4 230 So. West Hartford,
CT/Northwest Catholic
89 Lewis-Moore, K DE 6-4 275 Jr. Weatherford,
TX/Weatherford
95 Williams, Ian NG 6-2 301 Sr. Altamonte
Springs, FL/Lyman
99 Newman, B NG 6-0 297 Jr. Louisville,
KY/Pleasure Ridge Park
 

Notre Dame lands four-star former FSU commit, Houston Griffith, at safety

rivals.com
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If its defensive backfield was a concern this recruiting cycle, Notre Dame is putting together a strong finish to the class of 2018 to eradicate those worries. Consensus four-star Houston Griffith (IMG Academy; Bradenton, Fla.) became the second defensive back to commit to the Irish this week with his Tuesday evening declaration and the fifth of Notre Dame’s 19 (and counting) expected signees.

Griffith immediately becomes the most highly-rated commit in the Irish class. Rivals.com considers him the No. 3 safety in the class, the No. 9 player in Florida and the No. 35 overall prospect in the country. He had long been a Notre Dame target but initially committed to Florida State, partly due to the Irish struggles a year ago.

After Notre Dame showed much improvement this season — more specifically, its defensive shift — Griffith reopened his recruitment in late November.

“The changes that [Irish coach Brian Kelly] made really helped,” Griffith told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “The guys I know up there tell me it’s a different program, it’s a different team up there. Last season was a learning year and this year shows that they are starting to get all the pieces.”

Griffith has certainly bought in on the direction trending from 2016 to 2017.

“I feel like the next few years all the pieces are there to compete for a national championship.”

In addition to the Seminoles, Griffith held scholarship offers from the vast majority of college football’s powers, including Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State and USC.

He presents as a safety and seems to have been targeted as one, but he could also see early time at cornerback. In theory, a freshman may have a better chance of grasping that latter position. Then again, Notre Dame has a few established playmakers at cornerback; it very much does not have that luxury at safety.

At either position, Griffith and his fellow defensive back commits should shore up a position grouping that the Irish essentially whiffed on in 2017, when only two safeties were signed (Isaiah Robertson and Jordan Genmark-Heath) with no cornerbacks in the mix. Griffith is the third safety in the class of 2018, joining consensus four-star Derrik Allen (Lassiter H.S.; Marietta, Ga.) and consensus three-star Paul Moala (Penn; Mishawaka, Ind.).

All three, as well as the two cornerback commits and the other 14 prospects, are intended to sign with Notre Dame during this year’s early signing period, Dec. 20-22.

Where Notre Dame was & is: Running Backs

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Notre Dame’s running game stood little chance of exceeding expectations this season, considering how ambitious they were to start. This space’s preseason predictions, intended as a conservative and realistic harbinger of the months then-ahead, projected junior running back Josh Adams to gain 1,174 to 1,274 rushing yards this season. That upper limit would have placed Adams fourth in Irish program history, just ahead of his position coach’s 1,268 yards gained in 1997.

With a game to go, Adams stands only 51 yards of breaking Vagas Ferguson’s single-season record of 1,437 rushing yards, set back in 1979.

WHERE NOTRE DAME WAS
In addition to the anticipation regarding Adams’ third season as a contributor, the Notre Dame backfield had depth entering the season. Junior Dexter Williams could provide a speed threat while sophomore Tony Jones built on springtime buzz as a do-everything option, often described as the best receiver of the group.

Early-enrolled freshman C.J. Holmes’ shoulder injury in spring practice seemingly sidelined him for the season, opening the door for sophomore Deon McIntosh to move from receiver to the backfield as a rest-granting fourth-stringer.

WHERE NOTRE DAME IS
As good as the season was for the Irish on the ground, it will be marked by “What if” thoughts as much as anything else. What if Adams had not worn down as the season progressed? What if Williams had been healthy for more than a week or two in the season’s first two months?

Even with his figurative crawl to the season’s conclusion, Adams surpassed all preseason projections and expectations. It still must be noted he gained only 195 yards on 54 carries in the final three regular season games, a 3.61 average.

Williams, meanwhile, was limited throughout the year. At the beginning, specifically against Georgia, that appeared to be by coaching decisions, but for most of the season, ankle and quad ailments robbed the speedster of his primary quality.

Absolutely no one expected sophomore Deon McIntosh to be the second-leading rusher among Notre Dame’s running backs in 2017. Credit to McIntosh, though, for making the most of an opportunity granted by others’ injuries.(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Jones, when healthy, provided a schematic shift as much as any statistical production. Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long clearly preferred Jones to be half of any two-back formation, due to Jones’ overall aptness.

McIntosh capitalized on every chance granted him, providing fourth-quarter rest to those limping from sprained ankles whenever the Irish had a worthwhile lead.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING
Some of a statistical influx in rushing production should be credited to junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush, but the ground game as a whole was more successful in 2017 than it was a year ago no matter how the numbers are dissected.

2016: 2,123 yards on 410 carries (sacks adjusted); 176.9 yards per game and 5.18 yards per rush.
2017: 3,462 yards on 501 carries (sacks adjusted); 288.5 yards per game and 6.91 yards per rush.

— Jr. Josh Adams: 1,386 yards on 191 carries; nine touchdowns; 7.3 yards per rush; 10 catches for 82 yards.
— So. Deon McIntosh: 368 yards on 65 carries; five touchdowns; 5.7 yards per rush; three catches for eight yards.
— Jr. Dexter Williams: 324 yards on 37 carries; four touchdowns; 8.8 yards per rush; two catches for 13 yards.
— So. Tony Jones: 232 yards on 43 carries; three touchdowns; 5.4 yards per rush; four catches for 13 yards.
— Fr. C.J. Holmes: 32 yards on eight carries; 4.0 yards per rush.

COMING QUESTIONS
Will Adams stay for his senior year and further his assault on the Notre Dame record books or will he head to the NFL Draft with a year of collegiate eligibility remaining? He very much should take the latter option. Running backs’ careers are not long due to the very nature of the position. For the second year in a row, that wear and tear proved itself on Adams. There is little chance he could put together an even better season in 2018.

Thus, this is his chance to go in the Draft’s first couple rounds. By every reasoning, Adams should take this opportunity.

When utilized, junior running back Dexter Williams has proven to be a viable threat for Notre Dame. He has not always been incorporated into the game plan, though, partly due to classmate Josh Adams’ rampant success. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

At that point, will Long be able to incorporate Williams into the two-back set? Those multiple running back formations were some of the most productive looks for the Irish offense, and they almost entirely came with Jones joining Adams. Between pass-catching and pass-blocking, Williams lagged behind those two significantly. For the threats presented in a two-back alignment to be real, though, he will need to broaden his skillset appropriately.

If Williams doesn’t, could a healthy Holmes plug into the system? As much praise as McIntosh received, and earned, this season, he will never be the answer in the Notre Dame backfield. Holmes may be.

With Wimbush again the presumed starter in 2018, the ground game will be featured for another fall. The offensive line is (almost certainly) losing two first-round Draft picks, but it has enough experience to hold its own moving forward. Which back emerges as the workhorse if Adams turns pro could be the biggest offensive question all spring and summer. Williams may present the most big-play potential, but Jones has already shown greater consistency overall.

Where Notre Dame was & is: Defensive Line
Where Notre Dame was & is: Linebackers
Where Notre Dame was & is: Special Teams
Where Notre Dame was & is: Tight Ends

Monday’s Leftovers: Notre Dame lands second cornerback commitment

rivals.com
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Hardly a week shy of the early signing period, Notre Dame doubled its cornerback haul in the class of 2018 with Tariq Bracy’s commitment Sunday night.

A rivals.com three-star recruit, Bracy (Milpitas High School, Calif.) had long said the Irish led in his recruitment, having visited campus for Notre Dame’s 49-14 victory over USC on Oct. 21. Rivals rates Bracy as the No. 65 overall prospect in California.

“The coaches, they made me feel welcome,” Bracy said to Blue & Gold Illustrated. “They really wanted me to go down there. They like my skillset. The players, they were welcoming, too. It’s really the whole atmosphere about Notre Dame, and the academics, too.”

Bracy opted for the Irish over a number of schools on the west coast, including Utah, Cal and Washington State.

Notre Dame now has 18 commitments in the class, including consensus-three star cornerback Joseph Wilkins (North Fort Myers H.S., Fla.). All 18 are expected to sign National Letters of Intent during the inaugural early signing period Dec. 20-22. For that matter, it remains possible an additional commitment or two could join those ranks either before the three-day stretch or in the midst of it.

Irish coach Brian Kelly has said he would evaluate any commitment not signing during the December dates as not being genuinely committed to Notre Dame, still needing further recruitment.

— Bracy’s, and Wilkins’, commitment holds more value for the Irish than many of the other 16 in the class thus far. In the last recruiting cycle, Notre Dame failed to sign so much as one cornerback.

Neither Bracy nor Wilkins may start in 2018. They, in fact, almost certainly will not, but they will provide both depth and a possibility of a future at the position.

— Just as another reminder — it is listed twice on the legal pad providing today’s outline, after all — the early signing period runs from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22. There will still be a nationwide focus on National Signing Day, Feb. 7, as any recruits not yet signed will have even more of a share of the spotlight.

— Bowl games have little long-term evaluatory value. They do, however, provide a delightful stretch of mid-day and/or mid-week December distractions. As an example, consider the game-a-day outlook on the horizon …

Sat., Dec. 16: Middle Tennessee St. v. Arkansas State; 8 p.m. ET; a high-scoring affair, if nothing else.
Tues., Dec. 19: Akron vs. FAU; 7 p.m. ET; Lane Kiffin with a nation’s lonely eyes turned to him.
Wed., Dec. 20: Louisiana Tech vs. Southern Methodist; 8 p.m. ET.
Thurs., Dec. 21: Temple vs. Florida International; 8 p.m. ET; Notre Dame’s season-opening opponent is favored by seven.
Fri., Dec. 22: Central Michigan vs. Wyoming; 4 p.m. ET; Josh Allen’s farewell to college football.
Sat., Dec. 23: Texas Tech vs. South Florida; 12 p.m. ET; This very well may end up being the most-dramatic bowl game.
Sun., Dec. 24: Houston vs. Fresno St.; 8:30 p.m. ET.
Tues., Dec. 26: Kansas State vs. UCLA; 9 p.m. ET.
Wed., Dec. 27: Boston College vs. Iowa; 5:15 p.m. ET; Of the 10 Irish foes in bowl games, six are like the Eagles, underdogs.
Thurs., Dec. 28: Stanford vs. TCU; 9 p.m. ET; A healthy Bryce Love could erase the 2.5-point spread in the Horned Frogs favor.
Fri., Dec. 29: USC vs. Ohio State; 8:30 p.m. ET; As strongly as the Trojans finished the season, they are still touchdown underdogs in the Cotton Bowl.
Sat., Dec. 30: Wisconsin vs. Miami, 8 p.m. ET; Despite playing at home, literally so, the Hurricanes are nearly touchdown underdogs.
Mon., Jan. 1: Georgia vs. Oklahoma; 5 p.m. ET; Frankly, Notre Dame vs. LSU in the Citrus Bowl will be but an appetizer for an evening of outstanding college football.

During Notre Dame’s retrospective awards, Tranquill & Weishar set focus forward

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Notre Dame spent Friday night giving out awards to recognize 2017’s top players, but the night’s attention went to two pieces of news received regarding next season. Both linebacker Drue Tranquill and tight end Nic Weishar announced intentions to return for fifth seasons in 2018.

Tranquill especially seemed increasingly unlikely to return after a career season and a two-year stretch of health set him up for NFL consideration. The idea of what could have been, of what could be, proved too much for him to bypass his remaining season of collegiate eligibility.

“I think it started after the Miami game, just on the busses, realized that we probably weren’t going to make the College Playoff anymore and realized everything everyone had put into this thing,” Tranquill told Irish Illustrated. “I felt I owed it to this team in my heart to come back and finish what we started.”

Tranquill’s return will stymie what could have been a decimating linebacker exodus. Senior captains Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini are both out of eligibility. If Tranquill had joined them in pursuing an NFL future this spring, Notre Dame would have lost three of its top four tacklers, and perhaps all four. Leading tackler, junior linebacker Te’von Coney and his 99 takedowns including 13 for loss and three sacks, is still considering an early entry into the NFL Draft.

Weishar’s return will provide a baseline at tight end following the departure of current fifth-year Durham Smythe.

RELATED READING: Where Notre Dame is & was: Linebackers
Where Notre Dame is & was: Tight Ends

As for the Echoes awards, senior left guard Quenton Nelson received Most Valuable Player honors, only the third offensive lineman to be named MVP in Irish history.

Along the lines of Tranquill’s and Weishar’s returns, only a couple of Friday night’s awards portend future developments. Freshman offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons performed well enough behind the scenes to claim Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year. With Nelson presumably heading to the NFL, Gibbons could insert himself into the competition to fill the left guard spot.

Sophomore safety Alohi Gilman spent the season following his transfer from Navy leading the scout defense. His success there only furthers the likelihood he will be starting in the defensive backfield when Michigan arrives at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 1.

With few surprises — perhaps naming junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush and senior defensive lineman Jonathan Bonner the offensive and defensive newcomers of the year, respectively, was too obvious to be widely-considered beforehand — the full listing of the awards …

— Most Valuable Player: Sr. left guard Quenton Nelson.
— Offensive Player of the Year: Jr. running back Josh Adams.
— Defensive Player of the Year: Sr. linebacker Nyles Morgan.
— Impact Player: Jr. linebacker Te’von Coney.
— Offensive Newcomer of the Year: Jr. quarterback Brandon Wimbush.
— Defensive Newcomer of the Year: Sr. defensive lineman Jonathan Bonner.
— Offensive Lineman of the Year: Fifth-year left tackle Mike McGlinchey.
— Moose Krause Lineman of the Year: Jr. defensive tackle Jerry Tillery.
— Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year: Fr. lineman Dillan Gibbons.
— Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year: So. safety and Navy transfer Alohi Gilman.
— Special Teams Player of the Year: Sr. linebacker Greer Martini (eight special teams tackles).
— Walk-On Players Union Player of the Year: Jr. linebacker Robert Regan.
— Next Man In: Sr. defensive end Andrew Trumbetti.
— Father Lange Iron Cross, for weight room presence: Fifth-year tight end Durham Smythe.
— Pietrosante Award for leadership, teamwork, etc.: Sr. captain and former walk-on Austin Webster.
— Rockne Student-Athlete of the Year: Sr. linebacker Drue Tranquill.
— Irish Around the Bend, for community service: Sr. tight end Nic Weishar.

THIS WEEK’S INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
Notre Dame to the Citrus Bowl to face LSU, with some numbers
Monday’s Leftovers: Brian Kelly on Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl, facing LSU, and the early signing period
Where Notre Dame was & is: Linebackers
Where Notre Dame was & is: Special Teams
Where Notre Dame was & is: Receivers
Notre Dame releases 2018 home schedule, includes trip to Yankee Stadium
Where Notre Dame was & is: Tight Ends
Friday at 4: Projecting Notre Dame’s Echoes

THIS WEEK’S OUTSIDE READING:
SI’s 2017 All-America Teams
LSU RB Derrius Guice on NFL decision: ‘I will not know until after the bowl game’
RB Mark Walton leaving Miami early for the NFL