Fall's first official depth chart


While head coach Brian Kelly made a point of not looking too closely at the initial depth chart, here’s where the two-deep starts as camp begins.


QB: Dayne Crist, Nate Montana
RB: Armando Allen, Robert Hughes

LT: Zack Martin, Matt Romine
LG: Chris Stewart, Mike Golic
C: Dan Wenger, Braxston Cave
RG: Trevor Robinson, Chris Watt
RT: Taylor Dever, Andrew Nuss

WR: Duval Kamara, John Goodman
WR: Michael Floyd, Shaq Evans
WR: Theo Riddick, TJ Jones

TE: Kyle Rudolph, Bobby Burger

Offensive thoughts:

Obviously the battle at center will be one to follow throughout camp, as many had guessed that Braxston Cave had wrestled the starting job away from Dan Wenger during spring practice. Listening to offensive coordinator Charley Molnar today, he said that exiting camp, Wenger was ahead by a bit, but that’s obviously up for grabs starting tomorrow.

Also interesting is the tight end depth chart. Conspicuously absent is Mike Ragone, who was cleared to play after his run-in at the beginning of summer, but might have to work from the back of the line to get some playing time.

I’m not surprised that the top two running backs are Allen and Hughes. If Cierre Wood or Jonas Gray are going to get playing time, they’re going to have to earn it over two seniors that have played a lot of football. What is a bit surprising is that Theo Riddick has leap-frogged TJ Jones, who was one of spring’s big surprises after a breakout first semester at Notre Dame. I expect both of them to see the field a lot, but you’ve got to think that Riddick’s shoulder injury limited his ability to thrive this spring.


DE: Ethan Johnson, Hafis Williams
NT: Ian Williams, Sean Cwynar
DE: Kapron Lewis-Moore, Emeka Nwankwo

OLB: Darius Fleming, Kerry Neal
ILB: Manti Te’o, Steve Paskorz
ILB: Anthony McDonald, Carlo Calabrese
OLB: Brian Smith, Steve Filer

CB: Gary Gray, E.J. Banks
CB: Darrin Walls, Robert Blanton
S: Harrison Smith, Zeke Motta
S: Jamoris Slaughter, Dan McCarthy

Defensive thoughts:

No real surprises on here, though it’s interesting than Cwynar will be the second defensive tackle into the mix. I’m guessing that he had a great off season, and packed on a lot of mass, weight and power that he’ll need to use to fill the middle of the defense. 

Interestingly, it’s Carlo Calabrese who fills the two-deep and not David Posluszny, who was mentioned by Kelly today as one of three people fighting for the second linebacker spot. Staying with linebackers, if I had to guess, I’m expecting to see all four OLBs listed on the field a lot, and even a fifth in Dan Fox, who got a lot of praise from defensive coaches.

Last thought: It’s no wonder that it looked like Ethan Johnson was playing on roller skates last year if his squat was below 400 pounds. That’s just not enough power for a guy trying to play on the interior of the defensive line. Now he’s squatting 550 pounds and playing a position he should be at. I’ve been hard on Ethan, but I expect the extra muscle to translate nicely. 

Even amidst chaos, Kelly expecting USC’s best

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Rocky Hayes, Blaise Taylor

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was fired on Monday, with interim head coach Clay Helton taking the reins of the Trojan program during tumultuous times. Helton will be the fourth different USC head coach to face Notre Dame in as many years, illustrative of the chaos that’s shaken up Heritage Hall in the years since Pete Carroll left for the NFL.

All eyes are on the SC program, with heat on athletic director Pat Haden and the ensuing media circus that only Los Angeles can provide. But Brian Kelly doesn’t expect anything but their best when USC boards a plane to take on the Irish in South Bend.

While the majority of Notre Dame’s focus will be inward this week, Kelly did take the time on Sunday and Monday to talk with his team about the changes atop the Trojan program, and how they’ll likely impact the battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh.

“We talked about there would be an interim coach, and what that means,” Kelly said. “Teams come together under those circumstances and they’re going to play their very best. And I just reminded them of that.”

While nobody on this Notre Dame roster has experienced a coaching change, they’ve seen their share of scrutiny. The Irish managed to spring an upset not many saw coming against LSU last year in the Music City Bowl after a humiliating defeat against the Trojans and amidst the chaos of a quarterbacking controversy. And just last week, we saw Charlie Strong’s team spring an upset against arch rival Oklahoma when just about everybody left the Longhorns for dead.

“I think you look at the way Texas responded this past weekend with a lot of media scrutiny,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I expect USC to respond the same way, so we’re going to have to play extremely well.”

Outside of the head coaching departure, it’s difficult to know if there’ll be any significant difference between a team lead by Sarkisian or the one that Helton will lead into battle. The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach has been at USC for six years, and has already held the title of interim head coach when he led the Trojans to a 2013 Las Vegas Bowl title after Lane Kiffin was fired and Ed Orgeron left the program after he wasn’t given the full time position.

Helton will likely call plays, a role he partially handled even when Sarkisian was on the sideline. The defense will still be run by Justin Wilcox. And more importantly, the game plan will be executed by a group of players that are among the most talented in the country.

“They have some of the finest athletes in the country. I’ve recruited a lot of them, and they have an immense amount of pride for their program and personal pride,” Kelly said. “So they will come out with that here at Notre Dame, there is no question about that.”

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.