Skip to content

Competition: Crowded depth chart part of evolution

Mar 21, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Matthias Farley

Just a few minutes after talking about Gunner Kiel’s decision to leave the football program, head coach Brian Kelly deflected a question about the battle to back-up Everett Golson. It was an interesting look into the psyche of a head coach that’s spent four years building a roster that’s going to feel mighty crowded for years to come.

“We had kind of created an opportunity for him to compete in the spring,” Kelly said of Kiel, when asked if he was surprised to hear about Kiel’s move. “So maybe I was a little surprised from that standpoint, because he was actually told that he would be given an opportunity to compete.”

That appears to the only right for any player on the roster this spring. Compete for a job. Even if it appears the one in front of you is locked up.

“Everett Golson has experience, but that’s all he has,” Kelly said, when asked about the battle at back-up quarterback. “It’s your job to go out there and show us that you can be the starting quarterback, not to settle for being the backup. When you’re given your opportunity, to compete and keep pushing. If you back off at all, you don’t want to be the starter, we can make that happen for you.”

That competition won’t just happen at quarterback. Tracking some of the major position battles, expect to see these fifteen practices only the beginning of the competition at positions like center, running back, tight end and a very crowded secondary.

At center, Kelly identified Matt Hegarty, Nick Martin and Mark Harrell as the three guys competing for the job. For Hegarty, getting on the field after a serious medical condition showed Kelly a commitment to the team that impressed. For Martin, the opportunity to start alongside his brother on the offensive line feels like it should be quite a motivating factor. And for Harrell, his work not just in the offseason, but in the month of bowl prep, when there was next to no depth on the line, was the look he needed to get Harry Hiestand’s attention.

“That’s what we’re looking for. We want competition,” Kelly said Tuesday. “Your program is in good shape when there’s competition within. And competition without thinking about who’s coming in.”

That’s certain the case at running back, where George Atkinson will be given the first chance at holding down the starting job before talented freshman Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston arrive. And with Amir Carlisle’s ability to add competition now that he’s returned after injury, there’s another wrinkle that maybe didn’t exist last season.

“He’s got a gear. He’s got a high level where he’s really going to be able to help us,” Kelly said of the USC transfer. “He’s got the ability to play, he’s a very good pass catcher, he’s got good ball skills, I could see us getting him the football in a number of a different ways with another running back on the field.”

Perhaps no competition will be more interesting than the one being waged in the secondary. With Bennett Jackson being protected this spring after shoulder surgery, there’s a chance for just about everybody to take a shot at the starting lineup. That includes Lo Wood, who is likely gunning for a starting job he lost to KeiVarae Russell. And Austin Collinsworth, who would have been on the field before Matthias Farley last season.

“I think the way we set things here, there isn’t a depth chart,” Kelly said. “You don’t walk into the locker room and see a depth chart.”

That’s probably for the best, because things could get mighty confusing in the secondary, especially with the Irish finally having the flexibility to play a dime defense for the first time in the Kelly era. That means guys like Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown are competing for jobs. Elijah Shumate will push his way onto the field, now that he’s locked in at safety. And even starters like Russell and Farley, they’ll be challenged all the way to fall.

“Keep in mind we also have to go through the spring and find a Matthias Farley,” Kelly said, talking about unearthing contributors. “We need to find those guys that are going to step in and be key players for us during the season.  You can never have enough of those guys.  We welcome that.

“The best guys are going to play.  We’ll choose the right 11.”

 

 

 

 

Latest Posts
  1. Medical redshirts announced for Michael Deeb, Mike Heuerman

    Aug 4, 2015, 5:52 PM EDT

    Heuerman

    Two veterans on the Notre Dame football team will be permanently hanging up their cleats. Linebacker Michael Deeb and tight end Mike Heuerman have both been medically disqualified, the university announced today. Both will remain at Notre Dame, staying on scholarship while working towards their respective degrees.

  2. Greg Bryant academically ineligible for ’15 season

    Aug 4, 2015, 5:31 PM EDT

    North Carolina v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Notre Dame won’t have running back Greg Bryant this season. Already looking at a four-game suspension for violating team rules, news broke today via Irish Illustrated that the junior running back was declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, ending his season before it even began.

  3. Irish A-to-Z: Isaac Rochell

    Aug 4, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Michigan v Notre Dame Getty Images

    When last summer’s never-ending academic investigation froze Ishaq Williams’ football career, the next man on the defensive end depth chart was Isaac Rochell. After a mostly anonymous freshman season, counting on Rochell to be a starter looked like a stretch that exacerbated the Irish’s roster inefficiencies at defensive end.

  4. Irish A-to-Z: Corey Robinson

    Aug 4, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    Notre Dame v Florida State Getty Images

    Perhaps the most impressive student-athlete on Notre Dame’s roster, Corey Robinson’s sophomore campaign saw him earn first-team Academic All-American honors, a rare achievement for an underclassman. Now the goal is something perhaps more superficial—sync up his work on the field with his achievements off of it.

  5. Counting down the Irish: 20-16

    Aug 4, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Stanford v Notre Dame Getty Images

    We kicked off our list with five candidates for a breakout season. Our next installment seems to be doing one better: All five players have already started football games (or in one case, a game), now the goal is to become dominant performers.

  6. Irish A-to-Z: Max Redfield

    Aug 3, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    Terrence Magee, Max Redfield Terrence Magee, Max Redfield

    Irish fans have been waiting to see Max Redfield emerge as the star safety Notre Dame has desperately needed since Harrison Smith went to the NFL. But entering his third season, Redfield is still a work in progress.

  7. Irish A-to-Z: Doug Randolph

    Aug 3, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Doug Randolph

    Two seasons in and we have yet to see much from linebacker Doug Randolph. But after a shoulder injury slowed him at the beginning of his career and various injuries kept him from contributing more in 2014, perhaps a position change is what gets the rising junior back on track.

  8. Counting down the Irish: 25-21

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Quenton Nelson Twitter

    As we begin our rankings, we find a cross-section of players that represent just about every type of Brian Kelly recruit. There are blue-chippers. There are “RKGs.” And there are position switches and developmental projects.

  9. Irish A-to-Z: James Onwualu

    Aug 3, 2015, 1:06 AM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Getty Images

    As a true freshman, James Onwualu found his way into the starting lineup, an unheralded freshman finding playing time by doing the little things right. As a sophomore, Onwualu made the rather unheard of transition from wideout to linebacker, and once again found himself starting football games.

  10. Counting down the Irish: Just missed the cut

    Aug 2, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT

    USC v Notre Dame Getty Images

    As we begin to reveal the top 25 players on Notre Dame’s roster, our raw numbers point to an intriguing amount of depth on this football team. As you consider the returning talent on this football team—only Ben Koyack, Everett Golson, Matt Hegarty and Cody Riggs depart from the Music City Bowl’s starting lineup—the depth chart and high end personnel is there, and that proof seems to be in our numbers.

  11. Irish A-to-Z: C.J. Prosise

    Aug 2, 2015, 1:58 PM EDT

    C. J. Prosise C. J. Prosise

    Spring hero? Tough to find a bigger one than C.J. Prosise. With numbers low in the backfield this spring, Notre Dame’s emerging slot receiver transitioned to running back—and immediately became an X factor in 2015.

  12. Irish A-to-Z: Romeo Okwara

    Aug 1, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Michigan v Notre Dame Getty Images

    For most of Romeo Okwara’s college career, the defender’s young age was mentioned when discussing the intriguing athlete’s upside. With ideal length, more than adequate athleticism and a skill set that fit in both Bob Diaco and Brian VanGorder’s defense, it was always a wait-and-see proposition for the North Carolina native, who simply needed a few years in Paul Longo’s weight room to catch up to his age.

  13. Coming Soon: Counting Down the Irish, 2015 edition

    Jul 31, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT

    Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt

    With the start of training camp right around the corner, it’s time for our annual tradition of ranking the Top 25 players on the Notre Dame roster.

  14. Irish A-to-Z: Tyler Newsome

    Jul 31, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    247Sports 247Sports

    With Kyle Brindza gone, sophomore Tyler Newsome takes over the punting duties. And outside of seeing a few not-really live kicks in the Blue-Gold game, what that means remains to be seen.

  15. Offseason Q&A: Stanford

    Jul 31, 2015, 11:48 AM EDT

    David Shaw

    We wrap up our offseason look at Notre Dame’s 2015 opponents with the Stanford Cardinal. The postseason could come down to a late-season showdown in Palo Alto with David Shaw’s team trying to rebound from a five-loss season.

  16. Irish A-to-Z: Quenton Nelson

    Jul 31, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Quenton Nelson

    After a redshirt season, Quenton Nelson is ready to play. Jumping to the head of the line at a crowded (and talented) position, Nelson is taking his five-star pedigree and bringing it to the starting lineup.

  17. Irish A-to-Z: Sam Mustipher

    Jul 30, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Property of Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated Property of Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated

    This spring, you’d have probably won some money if you had Sam Mustipher emerging as the No. 2 center. But with Matt Hegarty’s departure and some failed experiments before him, it was Mustipher who was backing up Nick Martin and snapping the ball to Everett Golson in a spring game played on Notre Dame’s practice field.

  18. Notre Dame ranked 11th in preseason Coaches Poll

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:47 PM EDT

    Malik Zaire Malik Zaire

    Notre Dame opens the season ranked No. 11 in the preseason USA Today Amway Coaches Poll. The Irish, who finished last season 8-5, return the majority of their starting lineup, providing some context for the bullish expectations. Only Gus Malzahn’s Auburn team is ranked higher among teams that finished with five losses in 2014.

  19. Irish A-to-Z: Nyles Morgan

    Jul 30, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    Notre Dame v Arizona State Getty Images

    Last year, we saw what a talented freshman linebacker in over his head looked like. His name was Nyles Morgan, and the blue-chip recruit personified the second-half defensive collapse that flushed the Irish season down the drain. Want the good part? Stick around, as Irish A-to-Z continues.

  20. Irish A-to-Z: John Montelus

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Twitter Twitter

    When Brian Kelly plucked offensive lineman John Montelus from his hometown of Everett, Massachusetts, the Irish looked to be adding another mauler to the interior of Harry Hiestand’s offensive line. And after two seasons of reshaping his body and learning the ropes, Montelus is in a competitive two-deep, still looking for a role in this offense.