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Projecting the freshmen

Jun 21, 2011, 2:42 AM EDT

Aaron Lynch Blue Gold

With a tip of the cap to Frank over at UHND.com and as we get ready to embark on another fun offseason exercise of projecting the Top 25 players on the Irish roster, I wanted to follow up on his series that’s been going on here, here, here and here.

In what likely will be something we can look back on and chuckle, I’ll attempt to pick my rookies that’ll likely make the biggest impact on the 2011 season. And just because Frank came up with the idea and I obviously need to advance his original thought, I’ll get crazy and rank the 23 incoming freshman in order of their impact on the season.

Because this isn’t picking teams in gym class, I’m going to avoid ranking these guys from 1-to-23, but you’ll see where I’m going with this one rather quickly.

Without further ado, here’s a quick projection of what we can expect from the Irish rookies. (With the very large asterisk signifying my right to change my opinion, groupings, and thought process whenever I want to.)

Group One: See you at Training Table

This group can basically be lumped together, as I don’t expect any of them to use a year of eligibility. Again, this doesn’t mean I don’t think they won’t become big-time players (ask Harrison Smith what redshirting did for him), it just means that these guys will likely spend the season on the scout team.

Brad Carrico, OL — The debut commitment of the 2011 signing class and an early-enrollee will likely see incredible physical gains during his year watching, learning and eating.
Nick Martin, OL — With his older brother holding down the blind side, Martin can follow the family plan by redshirting a season then hopefully stepping into the starting lineup.
Conor Hanratty, OL — Terry’s son will definitely benefit from Paul Longo’s weight room and a few extra meals at training table.
Tony Springmann, DE — He’s got the size to potentially be a mammoth individual, I just don’t see Springmann breaking into the two-deep at defensive end yet.
Matt Hegarty, OL — He might be highly touted, but Hegarty will likely spend his freshman season facing off against the Irish’s No. 1 defense — pretty good practice.

Group Two: Don’t hold your breath, but intrigue awaits

Whether it’s a stacked depth chart or some needed development, there’s a good chance we won’t hear any of these names, but they could just as easily turn into a Kona Schwenke-like player, coming out of nowhere to make a difference. At the very least, they might be special teams candidates and earn a letter.

Chase Hounshell, OL/DL — Something about this kid strikes me as fierce, and his ability to cross-train on either side of the ball has me thinking he might work his way onto the field.
Anthony Rabasa, OLB — Rabasa might not grab the eyeballs like some recruits, but this kid played elite football in an elite league, a good recipe for early success.
Troy Niklas, OL/DL — Call it West Coast bias, but there’s something about this lanky Orange County product that’s intriguing right out of the gate.
Jarrett Grace, LB — He’s walking into a crowded depth chart, but Grace has an All-American ceiling, something I won’t say about many recruits.

Group Three: So you’re saying there’s a chance…

In honor of Lloyd Christmas, Group Three either fills a need for the Irish or is good enough to have the coaching staff find a role for them. Sure, they might not turn into freshman All-Americans, but expect to hear Tom Hammond or Mike Mayock gushing over one of these guys relatively soon.

Ben Koyack, TE — The Irish have a great depth chart in front of him, but Koyack’s the real deal with the ball in his hands. If he puts in the time this summer gaining some good weight, he’ll have every chance to add some weaponry to the tight end position.
Josh Atkinson, DB — He’s got nice height, good speed, and great bloodlines, I just don’t know how ready Josh is to contribute on a very good defense with an excellent (but thin) secondary.
Kyle Brindza, K/P — That rocket that’s replaced Brindza’s leg hopefully will give the Irish a jolt, both in the kickoff game and in punting.
Jalen Brown, DB — It’s hard to know what someone brings until they’re on campus, but Brown’s got the speed to contribute early on in special teams.

Group Four: Expect to hear these names

They might not turn into instant stars, but expect to hear from this group in the same way you heard from Prince Shembo. Brian Kelly will find a way to get the player, and his talents, onto the field.

Eilar Hardy, DB — The safety depth still isn’t great, and Hardy could add some athleticism to the mix.
Matthias Farley, WR/DB — Raw athlete was singled out by Brian Kelly for being the potential sleeper of the freshman class. He’s 6-foot-4 and 200-pounds. His spot might be the red zone.
Ben Councell, OLB — With both Shembo and Danny Spond impressing, Councell might not have much of a role in the two-deep, but the lanky linebacker could be a terror on special teams.
Ishaq Williams, OLB — Call me crazy, but Williams might not see the field all that much this year. Sitting behind Darius Fleming and potentially a guy like Steve Filer, Williams could really learn a lot of football, even if it’s from the bench.
Everett Golson, QB — I think Golson will beat out Andrew Hendrix for the three-spot, but I don’t know if Dayne Crist (or Tommy Rees) will let him make much of a difference. Golson brings some much needed athleticism to the position and a nice change of pace.
Cam McDaniel, RB — If anything, McDaniel might walk onto campus as the best punt returner on the roster. (Something the Irish are clearly in need of getting fixed.)

Best Bets for Breakout

My failed attempt at an alliteration does give us a few great candidates for major immediate impact. If these guys deliver on what recruitniks drooled over, then Irish fans are going to be very happy with this group dominates as soon as early September.

Davaris Daniels, WR — His athleticism seems to jump off the screen when you watch him, but his lack of experience at wide receiver might hurt. That said, if he’s a quick learner, expect a trio of Michael Floyd, TJ Jones and Theo Riddick starting things out with guys like John Goodman, Deion Walker and Davaris Daniels breathing down their necks.
George Atkinson, RB/WR — Atkinson played in the Army All-American game as a safety. He’ll likely tote the football at Notre Dame, or pass catches depending on what the offense needs. His versatility could mean a lot to the Irish offense.
Stephon Tuitt, DE — We didn’t get a chance to see him this spring, but the man is the size of a redwood tree. If Tuitt comes into camp in shape, he’ll be playing quite a bit of football.
Aaron Lynch, DE — Come on, did you think it’d be anyone else? Lynch’s transcendent performance in the Blue-Gold spring game has people thinking the Irish have their first true pass rushing threat since Justin Tuck.

  1. notredave - Jun 21, 2011 at 6:29 AM

    Hear the echoes?

    • trbowman - Jun 22, 2011 at 1:18 AM

      Loud and clear.

  2. bigirishphan - Jun 21, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    I hear em… I have always been optimistic about our freshman class, but this one is very special.

  3. ndfan1183 - Jun 21, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    Is Matthias Farley really 6’4″??? That seems about 3-4″ taller than I’ve seen in the past.

    • nudeman - Jun 21, 2011 at 2:14 PM

      All the great recruiting, especially on the OL and DL done by Kelly and his staff highlights two things:

      1) These guys understand college football, unlike the guy with the schematic advantage who thought he could draw up a bunch of cool plays and fool everyone into winning

      2) The schematic advantage guy is an egocentric blowhard who set the ND program back 5-10 years. Did less with more than anyone in recent memory.

    • borromini - Jun 22, 2011 at 3:30 PM

      The 6′-4″ has to be a typo…Farley is listed as 6′-1″.

  4. 808raiderinparadise - Jun 21, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    Davaris Daniels, if he can learn the offense and keep up with the pace, he will have a nice year. Thing is: TJ, Floyd, Riddick and lets not forget Kelly liked inserting Toma towards the end of the year too. Then Goodman. I think we will be slingin it a lot, he will get his touches and have a few WOW plays.

    More than anything else, we have nobody in the backfield, Cierre Wood is not a RB. We don’t have any, this leads me to believe Everett Golson will get a few series a game to run the read option and get some rush yards in certain points of games and create a dual threat, lets face it: Crist and Rees are pro style, west coast QB’s … Kelly likes Hendrix and Golson, thats his hybrid type.

  5. 808raiderinparadise - Jun 21, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    and no I don’t hear the echoes. Not unitl we stop losing to military academies and Tulsa at home (syracuse, uconn, navy) on and on and on. We aren’t back until this school wins big. ND has been shamefully moderate at best of late. I think the defense is set to shine, Crist is a solid guy, quiet leader, strong arm, we need him to be sensational and somehow find RB production to have any real hopes for a BCS game.

  6. oldestguard - Jun 21, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    I don’t know what you call it – but something is stirring….and it feels good.

    I like all 4 of your “Best Bets”, and I think that Golson and McDaniel have something special in them as well…we’ll see, huh ?

    Meanwhile, please keep the tidbits coming – they are appreciated.

  7. patells07 - Jun 21, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    wait… Since when is Mathias Farley 6’4?? Everywhere else has had him about 6’0-6’1. Did I miss his growth spurt or was it a typo?

  8. notredave - Jun 21, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    @ 808raiderinparadise

    My ‘hear the echoes’ post was meant to be a rallying cry for us fans. Speaking for myself, I have been a loyal Irish fan for over thirty-five years. I’m well aware of our struggles since Holtz boogied. I also live in the Tulsa area. I’m still getting my nads busted over that game.

    Perhaps I should have stuck with the ol’ ‘Go Irish’ war cry.

    Peace.

  9. nudeman - Jun 21, 2011 at 9:16 PM

    This is to tpsdomer.
    He was the one wringing his hands over ND’s dealing with Michael Floyd; didn’t think they’d been sufficiently strict.
    I just came across THIS on the net. Let’s just see how tough Louisville is with this drunk. My guess is he plays in the very first game.
    —————————————————————————————————————————–

    In December, Louisville’s Darius Ashley was found passed out/unconscious — with a .192 BAC — inside his in-gear, running vehicle and was ultimately charged with driving under the influence.

    Six months later, the cornerback is facing yet another drunk-driving charge. And likely an uncertain future at the school.

    The Louisville Courier-Journal is reporting that Ashley was arrested early Saturday morning and charged with DUI. His BAC this time around was .186, which is still more than double the legal limit.

    In the police report, it was noted that Ashley told the arresting officer that he had consumed four beers prior to being pulled over and that he was distracted by his cell phone.

    A university spokesperson told the paper that head coach Charlie Strong is aware of the incident but will have no comment at this time.

    Provided he remains on the team, Ashley is expected to be one of the Cardinals’ starting corners in 2011.

  10. jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 21, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    It’s all good KA……….all good. It’ll be the Fourth of July before you know it and then Labor Day weekend. Then we’ll see what happens when we go against Holtz’ team. I hope the defense remembers how to play downhill like they did in closing out 2010. The offense will only get better, but what I can’t wait to see is a championship caliber defense. I have visions of them smothering the Wolverines, shutting down SC and Stanford and totally dominating all of our other opponents. I still think that BCS Championship is a year or two off but 10-2, 11-1 is entirely doable. The Stanford game is already poised to be a great late season match-up and one which may have a lot riding on it for both squads. Can’t wait….GO IRISH (I’m not getting any younger).

  11. 808raiderinparadise - Jun 22, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    Ha, ok sorry. Yeah that Tulsa loss was … well I don’t think I need to go over the ending of that game again. Honestly I do think ND’s defense will be destructive and help Crist come along in his 2nd outing. What we need most for this season: More sacks on Defense/Pressures to aid our sketchy secondary and most importantly a RB/run game.

  12. 808raiderinparadise - Jun 22, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    I refuse to make record predictons anymore. ND drops ugly ones too much. Never lives up to anything. Like at least 2 bad losses a year (TULSA, NAVY) and one OT loss on national TV (mich st) per season it seems. and then one loss were we just dont belong (stanford). You can’t tell me I’m wrong.

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