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Counting down the Irish: The top five

Jul 19, 2013, 10:41 AM EDT

Notre Dame defensive players Tuitt, Nix III, and Te'O celebrate after breaking up a play in the fourth quarter during their win over USC in their NCAA college football game at the Coliseum in Los Angeles

For the past few years, the Irish haven’t been shy on leading men. Since we began this exercise before the 2010 season, there has always been a dynamic duo at the top of the Irish roster.

Last season the choice was who to rank first among the returning All-American candidates, Manti Te’o on defense or Tyler Eifert on offense? The season before it was a two-man race between Te’o and Michael Floyd, with Harrison Smith coming in third. In 2010, it was Kyle Rudolph who battled Floyd for the top spot, with the Irish receiver beating out Rudolph, who struggled and missed a large portion of his final season in blue and gold because of a balky hamstring.

This year, it was pretty easy to slot in the top three players on the Irish roster. Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt received first and second place votes by all but one of our panelists, where senior All-American candidate Zack Martin stole a 2nd place ballot. Martin, as steady of a player as the Irish have had in the last decade, wasn’t ranked lower than fourth on any ballot. 

With the opening of training camp two weeks away, Brian Kelly has begun to make the rounds with a few obligatory radio and print interviews. His early comments will likely be echoed many times in the next few weeks, with the Irish depth being as strong as its ever been.

The top five players on this list might not have the Q-rating that Te’o, Eifert or Floyd had, but they are all legitimate All-American candidates. Working down our list, you see a group of players that will surely be highly productive players this year, with many high ceiling guys projecting an upside that puts them on the national stage as well.

There’s no doubt that this team has lost a few proven commodities, with anchor players like Kapron Lewis-Moore, Te’o, Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter all leaving the defense. Offensively, the Irish will need to replace their four most productive skill players, with Eifert, Theo Riddick, Everett Golson and Cierre Wood gone as well.

But this team has the personnel to make that happen. Sure, it’s only a small percentage of the equation — as we’ve seen far too often the past two decades. Still, after a mostly disruptive offseason for the Irish since their appearance in the BCS National Championship game, this Top 25 list stands as a reminder that the strength and health of this football team is only getting better.

Here is the final list:

2013 Irish Top 25
25. Max Redfield (S, Fr.)
24. Elijah Shumate (S, Soph.)
23. Jaylon Smith (OLB, Fr.)
22. Ishaq Williams (OLB, Jr.)
21. Greg Bryant (RB, Fr.)
20. Christian Lombard (RT, Sr.)
19. Amir Carlisle (RB, Jr.)
18. Carlo Calabrese (LB, Grad.)
17. Jarrett Grace (LB, Jr.)
16. Matthias Farley (S, Jr.)
15. George Atkinson III (RB, Jr.)
14. Dan Fox (LB, Grad.)
13. Sheldon Day (DE, Soph.)
12. Danny Spond (OLB, Sr.)
11. Tommy Rees (QB, Sr.)
10. Davaris Daniels (WR, Jr.)
9. Troy Niklas (TE, Jr.)
8. KeiVarae Russell (CB, Soph.)
7. TJ Jones (WR, Sr.)
6. Chris Watt (LG, Grad.)

RANKINGS

5. Prince Shembo (OLB, Sr.) After a sophomore season where Shembo got washed away with a position switch to the weak side, the junior reemerged as one of the Irish’s most dangerous weapons in 2012 when he moved back to the Cat linebacker position, racking up 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in a very nice junior season.

At 6-foot-2, 250-pounds, Shembo doesn’t have the prototype size you’d expect for his position, but set the edge well, playing excellent against the run with a physical presence nonetheless. While his sacks came in bunches, there were times when Shembo was unblockable off the edge, playing an excellent game against Michigan State while absolutely dominating Boston College with three sacks and a fumble recovery. 

Shembo could be poised for a breakout season. He’s on the Bednarik watch list for the defensive player of the year and has been listed by some as one of the top linebackers in the country. There’s no doubt that Shembo has explosive ability, and if he continues to develop could see his pass rush numbers easily get into double digits while also being a great run stopper.

Highest Ranking: 3rd. Lowest Ranking: 15th.

4. Bennett Jackson (CB, Sr.) There was a reason why the coaching staff wasn’t worried about Jackson sliding into the starting lineup last season, even though he had yet to start a game for the Irish. Jackson had a terrific junior season, starting all thirteen games, even with a shoulder that needed surgery (and was repaired this offseason).

A physical corner that can play at the line of scrimmage as well as run with any receiver, Jackson tallied 65 tackles, ranking third on the roster, while also snatching four interceptions. For a guy that started his career as a wide receiver, the transition to defense looks like a brilliant one, especially considering the team’s needs in the back end when the switch occurred.

Jackson has sprinter speed and seems to enjoys the physicality that comes with playing on the short side of the field. He’s proven himself to be a playmaker, and the national stage views him accordingly. He’s also on the Bednarik watch list and if he puts up similar statistics, should be in the hunt for All-America honors.

Highest Ranking: 4th. Lowest Ranking: 11th.

3. Zack Martin (LT, Grad.) A rare four-year starter at left tackle for the Irish, Martin was another one of Kelly’s six-star recruits, returning for his final year of eligibility and bypassing the NFL, where he’d likely have been a second or third round draft pick.

Put simply, no starter on the offensive side of the ball means more to the unit than Martin. If you’re a fan of advanced baseball statistics, consider Martin’s VORP out of this league, with true freshman Steve Elmer or untested second year player Ronnie Stanley the alternatives if Martin didn’t return.

He won’t wow you with his physical attributes, but the Irish staff views Martin among the best offensive linemen in the country. A three-time offensive lineman of the year for the Irish, he was a second team Walter Camp All-American last season, has made 39 consecutive starts and will be an Outland Trophy candidate.

Highest Ranking: 2nd. Lowest Ranking: 4th.

2. Stephon Tuitt (DE, Jr.) If Martin dominates while looking less than incredible, Tuitt is among the most impressive looking athletes in all of college football. While South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney is viewed as the most dominating defensive end in the country, Tuitt isn’t all that far behind him. The Irish junior’s game is more power rather than Clowney’s speed attack, though his 77-yard touchdown scamper against Navy showed a rather ridiculous burst for a 300-plus pound man.

After seeing action in just nine games during his freshman season, that Tuitt notched 12 sacks, forced three fumbles and tallied 47 tackles was a breakthrough. On pace to smash the Irish single-season sack record when he had 8.5 sacks through the season’s first seven games, Tuitt’s output slowed late in the season, notching only 12 tackles and two sacks in the season’s final four games.

An offseason hernia surgery helped explain the late season regression, and Tuitt enters the 2013 season on just about every preseason All-American team, joining Clowney as bookend defensive ends. A monster of a man that can slide inside on obvious passing downs and pressure the quarterback from both inside and out, Tuitt is the prototype 3-4 defensive end, and could be a first round draft pick if he decides to leave for the NFL after his third season in South Bend. Tuitt is on both the Bednarik and Maxwell Award watch lists.

Highest Ranking: 1st. Lowest Ranking: 3rd.

1. Louis Nix (DT, Sr.) That Nix finds himself the top rated player on the Irish roster is a credit to the work the rising senior has put in. Arriving on campus as an overweight, out of shape, raw but talented defensive tackle, the Florida native sat out his freshman season as he worked his way into shape. In between bouts of homesickness and ongoing battles with his fitness levels, Nix has managed to work his way into one of the premiere defensive linemen in all of college football.

Nix made 50 tackles last season, leading the Irish’s defensive linemen. He had 7.5 tackles for loss and broke up five passes. As a true 3-4 nose guard, Nix was the tip of the spear of one of college football’s most stout units, and showed an athleticism and strength that made him one of the country’s most fearsome interior linemen. He’s an immoveable force on the inside of the Irish defense and is among the most important players in the country.

For all that Nix does on the field, he’s just as dynamic of a character off of it. Never shy to engage on social media or in the local community, Nix has become an ambassador for the school, a jolly, funny, irreverent character that’s among the most beloved players of recent memory, almost a joyous counterpoint to the spiritual leader that Te’o was last season. While he still has a season of eligibility remaining, Nix will graduate this spring and likely be selected in the NFL Draft’s first round.

Highest Ranking: 1st. Lowest Ranking: 2nd.

***

Once again, a mighty thanks to the panelists that helped with the vote. Do yourself a favor and check out their websites and learn more about Notre Dame football almost by default.

Brian Hamilton, Chicago Tribune
Pete Sampson, Irish Illustrated
JJ Stankevitz, CSN Chicago
John Vannie, ND Nation
John Walters, MediumHappy.com
Ryan Ritter, HerLoyalSons.com
4pointshooter, OneFootDown.com
Keith Arnold, Inside the Irish

  1. simmel65 - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    Thanks for this series, Keith! Getting really excited for the upcoming season.

    Our defense is ridiculous this year. Lose Manti, but everyone else is a year older and we have a lot of experience out there. We also have a lot of young talent behind, so the depth is getting better. Irish look poised to have a good long run of success!

    GO IRISH!

    • NotreDan - Jul 20, 2013 at 10:10 AM

      I’m comment hopping, but, I want to remind everyone one more time…

      Think about ALL the doubts, fears, hopes and unknowns this time last season!

      I think the MOST important thing returning this year from last isn’t any one player, but an attitude. That attitude is embodied in unselfish play, in focus, guts and determination, in conditioning (think about how many games we were in better shape in the 4Q last year) and in putting team first.

      The attitude is a chemistry, from Swarbrick and CBK all the way on down through the ranks of players and other staff.

      Hang on boys… we may not know how it’s going to turn out, but my optimism couldn’t be higher… it’s going to be a FUN year!

  2. NotreDan - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    It’s going to be a special year, watching Big Lou dominate the inside. What a special guy, and a pleasure to watch.

    Tuitt = Monster

    Martin will shine.

    We definitely need and will benefit from the leadership of Shembo and Jackson.

    It’s gonna be a special year fellas.

    LET’S GO IRISH!

    Also, if any of you will be in Ann Arbor on September 7, please reply here and I will give you my email address. I will be there early that morning and serving up some great food all day long (I wonder if the pro bloggers might drop in? would be awesome)

  3. irish4006 - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    Phew, I was worried for a bit thinking Tuitt might take it away from Nix. ;-)

    Great job, guys! I would probably put TJ ahead of Watt and Shembo in the top five and maybe leave Niklas out of the top ten, but this is an impressive list of athletes, as impressive as I have seen… errr… ever.

    Go Irish!!

  4. nudeman - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    1. Three frosh: Redfield, Smith, Bryant. No pressure guys. You’ve never played a down of CFB but you’re in the top 25. I still don’t completely understand the criteria (the best players? the most promising? most athletic? etc) but the encouraging thing is at what other point in ND’s recent history would there have been three frosh? Maybe 1973.

    2. Rated too high: Niklas. He might in fact be a top 10 player when this year is over, but not based on anything he’s done so far on the field. Not a bum at all, and decent potential to have a solid year, so there is a chance he could be an impact guy.

    3. Rated too high, #2: Ishaq. There’s no guy I’d like to see break out more, but really, I do not have a single recollection of a big Ishaq play in 2 years. He’s only a rising Jr, I realize. And maybe at this point #22 is about right. I’d just like to see the 5 start guy I thought he was.

    4. Rated too low: No one jumps out. Maybe GAIII, but there are a lot of questions about his ability to be the #1 RB, so I get him being slotted at 15.

    5. Rated just about right: Everyone else, I guess.

    • mtflsmitty - Jul 19, 2013 at 6:27 PM

      This time next year Keith will write a follow-up article exploring what the panel got right, and where they were wrong.

      There will be loads of “right”. However, the will be some “wrongs”.

      – Top of the list on misses will be CJ Prosise not making the list. He will be one of the two most productive receivers in 2013.
      – Next will be Redfield. He is likely a remarkable talent. But I predict little impact outside of special teams.

      Additional Note: Dark horse for K or Punt return duties: Folston

      • nudeman - Jul 20, 2013 at 9:11 AM

        If u r right about Prosise, that would be a good thing. To have him step up and have a good year would be a very good thing. But I ask again … what is the criteria here?

        If it is the “25 players they are counting on most”, then he could be on the list. If it is the “25 best players”, there is no body of work to judge from, nor is there with any of the frosh.

      • mtflsmitty - Jul 20, 2013 at 6:47 PM

        Agreed. This was really just a show of optimism for CJP. With Ferguson gone and Chris Brown slow to develop, I think the sort could be open for him.

        My thoughts on Folston….I’m sure he’s not reading any of the stuff written in places like this. But with all the attention GB has been getting at camps he has to be feeling a bit left out. As fall camp begins, GB is going to continue to get lots of attn. Hope he hangs tough.

    • bernhtp - Jul 20, 2013 at 1:43 PM

      The darkhorse misses are mainly on offense because I predict at least a couple with step up and surprise.

      Nobody’s really talked about Rees at #11. The problem: I believe this is the right sport for him. You have an issue if the QB – the team’s most important player because he is a/the key participant on every offensive play – isn’t in the top five. I would say that Golson ended the year at about #5. If Rees ends the year at #11, it means the offense was very anemic or a few other offensive players had breakout monster years.

      Ishaq at #22 has more upside than downside (barring injury). Get over your disappointment that he isn’t right behind Tuitt and realize that 22 is right and a significant contributor to the team.

      GA3 and Carlisle are wildcards. Both have tremendous potential. If GA3 learns to hit the holes faster and lower, he will be amazing. If Carlisle stays healthy, he may be the electric game changer we need.

      I agree about Niklas. There is a lot of projected development in his ranking. If he learns the position much better – dramatically improved blocking, route running, and catching – he can use his athleticism to be top ten, but that’s a bunch of speculation. On the downside, a developing Koyak or resurgent Welsch might take the starting job from him, at least in single TE sets.

      As for frosh, history indicates that several will end the season in the top 25, especially given the number of studs we recruited. It’s hard to project Bryant over GA3/Carlisle, Redfield over Farley/Shumate, Smith over Spond, etc., but at least a couple of the frosh will break through because of some combination of ability and injury.

      • nudeman - Jul 21, 2013 at 10:24 AM

        bern
        Great comment on Rees. The fact that the qb is not in the top 5 or even 10 is an issue and would be for any team.

        Here’s another category for everyone’s consideration: Not counting injuries, who are the guys most likely to NOT be in the top 25 at season end? The one guy who jumps out at me is Farley. I loved the season he had last year and on a personal note he sounds like a true renaissance man and a really cool guy. But I thought he was somewhat exposed vs. Bama (as were many others). He’s not a bad player at all and I like having him on my team. But I just think the talent on the team is getting so much stronger that he’s a candidate to get passed.

      • bernhtp - Jul 21, 2013 at 5:45 PM

        Here are my votes for those most likely to miss among these top 25.

        The biggest opportunity for misses is in the secondary due to the depth there. While I’m a big fan of Farley, Russell and Shumate, will they all fend off the likes of Lo Wood, Collingsworth and Redfield? Certainly not guaranteed.

        While I think that Grace will be the replacement for the Mighti Manti, and we see nothing from spring ball to dissuade from that belief, Jarrett has played very little, never started and is thus speculative. We’ve got lots of talent at the various LB positions. For example, Carlo could slide over to the Mike instead of sharing the Will with Fox.

        Of course, we have Tommy Rees. While the staff indicates that Rees is THE guy, I think this position is more tenuous than most believe. He’s lost his job before due to poor performance, and to a freshman that had zero experience and a fair amount of difficulty. Some combination of poor performance and step up by one of the other two may return Tommy to donning a red hat holding a clipboard.

      • nudeman - Jul 22, 2013 at 10:51 AM

        BIG difference between Rees losing his job to Golson last year vs. the potential for same to Zaire this year.

        Last year, by the time of the Navy game Golson had been through 2 spring practices, 2 summer camps and an entire season of ND coaching and running the scout team.

        Zaire will have had 1 Spring practice and 1 summer camp.

        He is in no way ready to take over the starting reins. So IMO that combined with the obvious lack of confidence they have in Hendrix means it’s Rees or bust this year.

  5. goirishgo - Jul 19, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    So much to like about this team and where the program is headed in general.

    TY defense has a damn good shot at being even better than LY. Lots of playmakers in that lineup.

  6. standingdomer - Jul 19, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    By the time I got down to reading #2, I just couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Thanks Keith. Looking forward to another great season.

  7. irishaggie - Jul 19, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    This team reminds me of the LSU team from 2011. Absolutely stacked defensively, and to some degree limited offensively. The offense will do enough to score points and the defense will just wear down the opponents.

    Unlike last year. I think we will see more blowouts. More Louis and Stephon enjoying their gatorade in the fourth quarter.

    By the way does anyone know where I can get a 2013 ND schedule poster? I really want one but haven’t had luck finding any.

    • domerboyirish - Jul 19, 2013 at 2:05 PM

      Your reference to LSU is appropriate, except LSU has a fantastic punt return game. Ours is non-existent.

  8. newt7 - Jul 19, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    Keith,
    I’m surprised to see Jarron Jones hasn’t been discussed somewhere on the top-25. Has everyone forgot about him? He’s another beast like Tuitt.

    As much as everyone dislikes the thought of Rees playing throughout the year… I think that “Tommy Ice” will not let us down. Zaire should not play this year.

    It’ll be fun to watch the RB battle. I’m really excited to see what Bryant can do (seeing as though you say he’s a better Riddick). I’m still pulling for Cam.

    If our WRs can stay healthy I think we’ll have a really good year. If Hercules can get into a good rhythm early with Rees… I’ll think we’ll be great.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jul 19, 2013 at 3:10 PM

      Agreed on Jones. If the criteria includes potential impact players, he’s got to be on the list, he’s a monster. Have you seen him in some of the practice videos? Looks like he’s gonna be a good one but I guess when is the question.

      • newt7 - Jul 19, 2013 at 3:20 PM

        I was disappointed to see Day in action this past year, and not impress that much… instead of J. Jones. Maybe they were saving some time for him after Tuitt & Nix leave.

    • shaunodame - Jul 19, 2013 at 6:46 PM

      Jarron Jones >> Redfield, Smith, Bryant

      If were talking today, or even this season, I gotta believe Jones has both greater skill, and greater potential to play than the 3 True Freshies that made the list.

      Dont get me wrong, I love those 3 freshman as much as the next overzealous ND fan, but I really believe they missed the ball on Jones

  9. bernhtp - Jul 19, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    Here is the issue with offense vs. defense. The defense return most of the guys from the best outfit ND has had in decades. They are proven. We can see what they can do.

    This is not true with the offense. First, last year’s offensive unit did not compare favorably with the defense. Second, most of the big playmakers are gone – Golson, Eifert, Riddick, Wood – and so you have to imagine/project positions of contribution from those in the depth chart of otherwise not visible contributors.

    With that said, I think the offense has lots of athletes, some of whom will step up and make a big contribution. The trouble is, we don’t know who they are. Will GA3 learn the position better and blow by people? Will Carlisle somehow stay healthy and show off his amazing abilities either at RB or slot? Will one of the frosh like Bryant dazzle the fans? Will Rees get significantly better and make the offense under his guidance no longer anemic? Some of these will happen and some won’t. We have less visibility into this than we do for the defensive contributors.

    • papadec - Jul 19, 2013 at 6:03 PM

      bern – I guess the positive aspect of what you are saying (and I agree with you) is that opposing Defensive Coordinators don’t know much either.

    • shaunodame - Jul 19, 2013 at 6:41 PM

      This is college football though, thats how it works. Every year there will be players with no experience having to prove themselves to be as good as last years stars.

      I agree with you that our returning defense is certainly more experienced than whats left of our offense, but in the world of College Football, experience is not a pre-requist for success.

      One of the most exciting parts about CF for me is this phenomenon. Things certainly are cloudy right now on offense, but there’s no reason to believe that it’ll rain anymore than it’ll be some beautiful sunshine. Does that analogy make any sense?

      If not here’s one that certainly makes sense in this situation, It’s just the nature of the beast lol.

  10. masalaswag - Jul 19, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    Just for fun, if we were to create a “depth chart” based on this top 25, it would look like this:

    QB: Rees
    RB: Atkinson, Carlisle, Bryant
    WR: Jones, Daniels
    TE: Niklas
    OL: Martin, Watt, Lombard
    DL: Tuitt, Nix, Day
    OLB: Shembo, Spond, Williams, Smith
    MLB: Fox, Grace, Calabrese
    CB: Jackson, Russell
    S: Farley, Shumate, Redfield

    Running back is obviously a spot where there is great depth .. hopefully one of those three emerges as a “workhorse”, but if there is the need to go running back by committee, at least there is talent there to work with. I like the idea of Carlisle in the slot for this reason – it gets both him and GAIII on the field at the same time and I can imagine BK doing cool things with Carlisle in motion. I hope that way, either Bryant or McDaniel can see some time spelling Atkinson and backing him up.

    The secondary is also looking solid. With the monsters up front in combination with the athleticism at the linebacker level, the defense should be really good again. I was a little worried about the linebackers with Te’o leaving, but there are enough athletes there to give me hope that 3 or 4 will emerge as really good players.

    I’m left wishing the offensive line were a bit stronger to give Rees the time he needs to make the right decisions (but that’s being greedy) and also wish Rees had more proven guys to throw to (also, pretty greedy considering what Jones and Daniels are expected to become). But all in all, despite all the bad news from between the NCG and Vanderdoes, Kelly has brought an overall upgrade across the board. Now, as he enters years 4-6 of his tenure, he’s got to either develop of bring in the difference makers that make a good season a great one.

  11. sullyp18 - Jul 19, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    I don’t know why everyone is so hard on Niklas. They took a 19 year old kid and switched his position after one year. I personally would have loved to see him as a DE. I am confident that Kelly and his coaches know what they are doing and expect Niklas to go crazy this year.

    • shaunodame - Jul 19, 2013 at 6:29 PM

      DIdnt they technically change his position twice? He came out of High School as an Offensive Tackle, before Kelly & Co. moved him to Linebacker, If i remember correctly.

      Im with you though, I think he’s better than people give him credit for. His versatility alone should speak to his athletic potential

  12. shaunodame - Jul 19, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    God do I LOVE watching a tough, stingy, athletic defense dominate an offense. Not that I dont like to see OUR offense do well, as I certainly am expecting big things from that side of the ball as well.

    But go figure, when Brian Kelly was hired from Cincinnati did anyone thing he would have THIS kind of success on defense? I know this issue is basically a moot point by now, but when a list like this appears, and is dominated by defensive players, I certainly bask in my own wrongness.

    I think the most exciting part is how Kelly & Co. continue to bring better and better players, across the board, to South Bend. I get kiddy and have to change my underpants every time I start to think how STACKED this list will be in coming years!

    Like the Jefferson’s Theme song said, “Well we’re movin on up…”

    • 1historian - Jul 21, 2013 at 4:54 PM

      better stock up on your skivvies

  13. shaunodame - Jul 19, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    Anyone else think Kyle Brindza should have been on this list?

    I know I know, he’s a kicker/punter, but Jesus I hope he’s AT LEAST one of our Top 25 players this year. Especially with him being expected to play both roles, thing’s could get pretty ugly for us on Special teams.

    #fingerscrossed

  14. 10of14 - Jul 19, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    What Teo brought to the table was leadership; both vocal and through his actions. You could see it on the field and as importantly, on the sideline while the offense was on the field. I am a bit concerned that we don’t have that this year. We need someone to step up and be that person and I’m not sure I see that player yet. Thoughts?

    • mtflsmitty - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:55 PM

      Nix.

  15. 4horsemenrideagain - Jul 19, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    Shembo and grace on d. and jones and ….Rees on offense. As it is said ” some men are born leaders and some have leadership thrust upon them.” Shembo and Rees do not strike me as naturally vocal rah rah guys but they have it in them to do the job now that it is it what is needed from them. Jones has cut his teeth and proven his mettle and grace will show he can chew the leather soon enough. I am all out of sayings and cliches now.

  16. elwaysagenius - Jul 19, 2013 at 10:21 PM

    “Tuitt isn’t that far behind Clowney”

    Bias at its finest

  17. 25kgold - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:12 PM

    St. Nix and his bag of (tricks) gifts–coming to an opponents stadium near you this season! Stay tuned!

  18. heartofgoldandblue - Jul 20, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    This is off topic and may have been touched on before but does anyone know how many years of eligibility Golson has? Is it two or three? He will not be enrolled this semester so I would think that he would have three remaining but I have heard otherwise as well. (Can never trust anything you read on Bleacher Report)

    • dillonbigred - Jul 20, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      I believe he will have two left. This year counts against his five years (including red shirt year). I think the only way you get a sixth is for the medical exception. I agree about Bleacher Report, I keep telling myself I won’t go back there, but I keep relapsing. Keith provides all the relevant information here, and except for a few trolls like elway above, you avoid the inane and relentless ND haters.

      • nudeman - Jul 20, 2013 at 1:49 PM

        Absolutely will only have two left. Basic rule is every kid gets 5 yrs to play 4.

        Bleacher Report is pure garbage. The Kardashian of sources for sports news. Can’t believe CNN went to them. Total crap.

    • bernhtp - Jul 20, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      Two. You have five years to play four. Golson has burned his redshirt year. You can beg the NCAA for a sixth if both years off were involuntary (e.g., injury), but Golson’s freshman year was a voluntary redshirt.

  19. viktory2013 - Jul 20, 2013 at 7:13 PM

    Been rooting for ND football since 1965 as a child (I remember crying when Joe Azzaro missed the field goal at the end of the ’66 MSU game). Unfortunately, can speak with some assurance that Tommy Rees will always be a barely mediocre qb good for 8 or 9 wins. Nothing to do with attitude or eliminating mistakes, he simply hasn’t the physical ability to lead a team to BCS game, and no amount of time or experience will change it. (Which is why Kelly gambled with an untested Golson last year). He’s great for a series or two until a defense adjusts, or against a Temple or a Wake Forest, but there is no way he can cope with a top flight defense week in and week out. A dynamic, unpredictable qb is needed to reach the upper tier regardless of how solid is the team, and it will eventually bog down with a plodding, uninspiring leader (which, let’s face it, is Rees in a nutshell). He reminds me of past plodders that always served as sort of a temporary bridge between elite qb’s for ND: Bill Zloch was helpless in a 3rd and 9 situation in ’65, a very forgettable blob between John Huarte in ’64 and Terry Hanratty in ’66; Pat Steenberge in ’71 was Joe Theismann’s backup the previous year and had no talent whatsoever, serving as a bandaid until Tom Clements arrived in ’72; Rick Slager in ’75 was terrific at 10 yard passes and getting sacked until he was mercifully replaced by Joe Montana; and Terry Andrysiak took more beatings than a rug in ’87 until Tony Rice stepped in. I suspect Kelly will go with Rees through the Temple game and maybe until halftime of Michigan, depending on how gruesome it’s gotten. Unfortunately, Hendrix is about as marginal and serves no real purpose inserting, so I imagine he’ll roll the dice with Zaire who actually seems to possess some of the fire necessary to throw a defense into disarray, regardless of his lack of experience.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jul 20, 2013 at 7:54 PM

      I’m not here to bash Rees but I kind of agree and think we’ll see Zaire early and often. At first I was going to comment that your suggestion that we’d see Zaire against UM was crazy. However, if we take a cue from UM, they played DRob often as a true freshman and I believe he scored on his first collegiate snap. With big risk comes big rewards.

      • mayo1010 - Jul 22, 2013 at 11:17 AM

        I assume you are comparing to Denard Robinson? If so, he was a red shirt freshman when he started his 1st game under Rich Rod. Big difference than a true freshman!!!

    • NotreDan - Jul 21, 2013 at 7:40 AM

      Your long “history” only serves to color your lenses, as opposed to lending you credibility as you hoped it would.

      Perhaps you’d have better luck finding parallels on other teams that had great “team men” with mediocre athletic ability that led the TEAM to victory, instead of hanging the albatross of all those bad teams around Tommy’s neck.

      Just sayin’

    • 1historian - Jul 21, 2013 at 5:14 PM

      Tony Rice’s arrival as the starting QB for the 1988 season was not greeted with much enthusiasm at all, but he led the team to the NC that year – our last one as you all know – and we did ok the next year. Granted he wasn’t the greatest QB in our history but Lou built an offense around his talents and we did ok – 23 straight wins in those 2 seasons.

      BK has known TR both personally and athletically for 3+ years and has had 3 months in which to build an offense around Rees’ talents. Granted TR is not the most talented QB but he is smart and has the respect of his teammates, which means they’ll bust their butts for him just that little bit extra.

      And – he’s had 2 years to work on his weaknesses which I would wager he knows better than any of we esteemed members of the (royal) peanut gallery which translated means he can in all probability GET BETTER.

      Remember 1993 when Ron Pawlus was going to be the starting for the team that year as a FRESHMAN but he got hurt in training and – QUICKIE QUIZ – how many of you can name the guy who took his place and almost led us to a NC? NOBODY expected much of that team and look what they did.

      I keep saying this and will continue to do so – we’ll be fine

      • nudeman - Jul 25, 2013 at 12:51 PM

        Kevin McDougal

        Supposedly the seniors on the team were royally pissed off that Lou was going to give the job to Powlus and bypass McDougal. He had a hell of a year.

  20. dermmite - Jul 21, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    I got one complaint about the top 25. No Tony S.

  21. viktory2013 - Jul 21, 2013 at 8:38 PM

    It always seems certain fans have blind spots for their boys. Believe what you want to believe, just calling a spade a spade. “Tommy” was replaced and warmed the bench last year because in Kelly’s estimation, he wasn’t good enough to start. Defenses aren’t worried when he’s in the game because he hasn’t the arm to beat you long, or the feet to improvise. The entire dynamic of team shifts when an explosive, fearless qb is playing (history lesson young man: Huarte, Hanratty, Theismann, Clements, Montana, Rice), but even a stellar defense sags and teams lose interest when its leader is pretty much clueless. (More history: Zloch, Steenberge, Etter, Brown, Slager, Lisch, Courey, Koegel, Andrysiak, Battle….need I go on?) Rees is a known quantity: he’s been on the team for years and has lost the starting job or been replaced a number of times for a reason. The fact he backed into the job again by default does not portend some miraculous turnaround. Longevity isn’t a substitute for talent. Mediocre quarterbacks do win games, just not enough of them. Teams can win championships with a lame fullback, or a clutzy linebacker, but not an inept quarterback. 12 wins last year with a green but dangerous qb speaks volumes. Telling it like it is boys and girls.

    • mayo1010 - Jul 22, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      “12 wins last year with a green but dangerous qb speaks volumes”. Without Rees doubtful we win 4 of those 12 you are talking about–Purdue, Michigan, Stanford and BYU. I know he didn’t play great against Michigan or BYU but Golson certainly wasn’t winning them and definitely Hendrix wouldn’t have. Just saying. I agree with some of your commentary but I for one am thankful we have some one like Tommy to step in this year! Not many teams have the luxary of having a proven winner as their back-up.

  22. getsome99 - Jul 22, 2013 at 2:02 AM

    Just a total guess, but I’m predicting Heuerman to be the surprise newcomer to step up and contribute early. This year’s Keivari Russell. The defense looks stacked. With Rees at QB, expect to see 50-60 rushes per game and a conservative passing game mostly using the TE’s and sure hands like TJ Jones. If they get up early on their opponents and continue to shut things down on D, I don’t see why we wouldn’t work in a few series for Zaire and the 1st team.

  23. cpfirish - Jul 22, 2013 at 10:19 PM

    I am sorry to say this but don’t expect our offense to do much. We are going to see a lot of low scoring games. 10-3 13-10. We just don’t have the right QB that can put up numbers. Now if Golson was returning then it would be a different story. I would be surprised if Kelly doesn’t turn to Zaire. They are saying that he has a good grasp on the offensive play book and he can only get better with experience. I just do want to see Rees back there cause defenses drop into coverage and he is done! Cause we all know he can’t scramble! Malik Zaire will be our man. Go Irish!!

  24. viktory2013 - Jul 24, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    Absolutely!!! That sums up the situation completely

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