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Counting down the Irish: Others receiving votes

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As we roll out this year’s rankings, it’s worth putting up a special post just for the players who just missed being ranked in our final composite ranking. With depth on this roster significant, and several unknown quantities expected to play big roles, quite a few players left off the Top 25 list will likely be a big contributor this season.

Let’s roll through the dreaded “others receiving votes” tally from this year’s proceedings.

 

2014 Irish Top 25 — Others Receiving Votes

 

Will Fuller, WR (Soph.): The sophomore receiver technically finished in a tie for 25th, but lost in a tiebreaker. Fuller has big-time potential as we saw last season when he led the Irish receiving corps with a beefy 26.7 yards per catch. He’s in the mix to start at wide receiver opposite DaVaris Daniels and will likely be more than just a human go route in 2014.

Highest Ranking: 14th. Lowest Ranking: Unranked (Six ballots).

— RECOUNT UPDATE — 

Fuller joins the Top 25 with the hard luck No. 26 spot now going to…

Romeo Okwara, DE (Jr.): Listed on every ballot but one, Okwara slid outside the Top 25 because he lacked any single voter projecting a high-upside season for the converted defensive end. I think that season is possible, but Okwara will need to show a nose for getting after the quarterback, something we haven’t seen in his two seasons at outside linebacker.

Highest Ranking: 20th. Lowest Ranking: Unranked (One ballot).

Elijah Shumate, S (Jr.): After an injury plagued sophomore season, Shumate fell outside the Top 25 after finishing at No. 24 last year. Physically, he’s arguably Notre Dame’s second most impressive safety, behind only Max Redfield. But Shumate enters training camp behind grad student Austin Collinsworth, and in need of recapturing the swagger he showed as a slot cornerback in 2012.

Highest Ranking: 15th. Lowest Ranking: Unranked (Five ballots).

 

Amir Carlisle, WR (Sr.): Carlisle fell out of the rankings after finishing No. 19 last season, the product of a disappointing 2013 season that saw him start the year as the team’s No. 1 running back but finish the season out of a job — and a position. After a good spring at slot receiver, we’ll see how Carlisle rebounds at a new position.

Highest Ranking: 15th. Lowest Ranking: Unranked (Six ballots).

 

Austin Collinsworth, S (GS): Even though Collinsworth has a starting job heading into training camp, there’s some skepticism surrounding his overall ability. (Hence a lower rating than Shumate.) His athletic deficiencies showed when C.J. Prosise blew around him during the Blue-Gold game for a big touchdown, but Collinsworth finished the 2013 season strong, and showed an early ability to adapt in Brian VanGorder’s defense.

Highest Ranking: 16th. Lowest Ranking: Unranked (Seven ballots).

 

Nyles Morgan, LB (Frosh): The freshman linebacker had the most votes from our panelists of those missing the Top 25, but they weren’t enough to slide inside the composite ranking. Morgan will battle Joe Schmidt and Jarrett Grace for time at middle linebacker, and is expected to see the field from the start this year. The Chicago native was one of the top linebacker recruits in the country.

Highest Ranking: 20th. Lowest Ranking: Unranked (Four ballots).

 

Mike McGlinchey, OT (Soph.): Currently penciled in at right tackle, all eyes will be on McGlinchey during fall camp, as he’s the current leader for the fifth spot on the offensive line, with four other starter jobs seemingly spoken for. At almost six-foot-8, McGlinchey has the length, size and athleticism you covet at tackle. With an upside that’s nearly unmatched, we’ll see if he’s ready to contribute in 2014.

Highest Ranking: 19th. Lowest Ranking: Unranked (Seven ballots).

 

Honorable Mention: WR C.J. Prosise (two votes), OT Quenton Nelson (two votes), LB Ben Councell (one vote), Eilar Hardy (one vote), LB Kendall Moore (one vote), WR Torii Hunter Jr. (one vote), S Matthias Farley (one vote), LB Jonathan Bonner (one vote), DE Jhonny Williams (one vote).

 

Our 2014 selection committee:

Pete Sampson, Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals)
Tyler James, South Bend Tribune (@TJamesNDI)
Chris Hine, Chicago Tribune (@ChristopherHine)
Team OFD, One Foot Down (@OneFootDown)
Ryan Ritter, Her Loyal Sons (@HLS_NDTex)
JJ Stankevitz, CSN Chicago (@JJStankevitz)
John Walters, Medium Happy (@JDubs88)
John Vannie, ND Nation
Keith Arnold, NBC Sports (@KeithArnold)

Restocking the roster: Wide Receivers

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Some believe that the best way to look at recruiting is in two-year increments. As programs rebuild and rosters turn over, covering the needs of a football team over two recruiting cycles  allows a coaching staff to balance its roster.

That balance is critical to the health of a program. And it’s not just the work of a rebuilding coach. As we saw in Brian Kelly’s sixth season, injuries, attrition and scheme change impacted the defense, especially in the secondary.

Another position set to deal with major change is wide receiver. Gone is All-American Will Fuller, departing South Bend after three years, scoring 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He’ll look to run his way into the first round of the NFL Draft. Also gone are veterans Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, putting the Irish in an unenviable position, needing to replace the team’s three leading receivers.

Reinforcements aren’t just on the way, they’re already on campus. While there’s not a ton of production to see, the recruiting stockpile has created a chance to reload for Mike Denbrock’s troop. So let’s take a look at the additions and subtractions on the roster, analyzing the two-year recruiting run as we restock the receiving corps.

DEPARTURES
Will Fuller
, Jr. (62 catches, 1,258 yards, 14 TDs)
Chris Brown, Sr. (48 catches, 597 yards, 4 TDs)
Amir Carlisle, GS (32 catches, 355 yards, 1 TD)
Jalen Guyton, Fr. (transfer)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Equanimeous St. Brown

Miles Boykin*
CJ Sanders
Jalen Guyton
Chase Claypool*
Javon McKinley*
Kevin Stepherson*

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Corey Robinson, Sr.
Torii Hunter, Sr.*
Justin Brent, Jr.*
Corey Holmes, Jr.*
CJ Sanders, Soph.
Miles Boykin, Soph.*
Equanimeous St. Brown, Soph.
Kevin Stepherson, Fr.*

 

ANALYSIS
Brian Kelly expects St. Brown to step into Will Fuller’s shoes. If the Irish are able to pluck another sophomore from obscurity to the national spotlight, it’ll say quite a bit about the depth and productivity the Irish staff has built at the position. At 6-foot-5, St. Brown has a more tantalizing skill-set than Fuller—and he was a national recruit out of a Southern California powerhouse. But until we see St. Brown burn past defenders and make big plays, assuming the Irish won’t miss Fuller is a big leap of faith.

The next objective of the spring is getting Corey Robinson back on track. The rising senior had a forgettable junior season, ruined by injuries and some bruised confidence. A player who has shown flashes of brilliance during his three seasons in South Bend, the time is now for Robinson, not just as a performer but as an on-field leader.

Torii Hunter Jr. is also poised for a big season. After finding reps at slot receiver and possessing the versatility to see the field from multiple spots, Hunter needs to prove in 2016 that he’s not just a utility man but an everyday starter. His hands, smooth athleticism and speed should have him primed for a breakout. But Hunter might not want to stay in the slot if CJ Sanders is ready to take over. After a big freshman season on special teams, Sanders looks ready to make his move into the lineup, perhaps the purest slot receiver Brian Kelly has had since he arrived in South Bend.

The rest of the spring depth chart should have modest goals, though all face rather critical offseasons. Justin Brent is three years into his college career and the biggest headlines he’s made have been off the field. Whether he sticks at receiver or continues to work as a reserve running back remains to be seen. Corey Holmes is another upperclassman who we still can’t figure out. Will he ascend into the rotation with the top three veterans gone, or will he give way to some talented youngsters?

Miles Boykin earned praise last August, but it didn’t get him time on the field. He’ll enter spring with four years of eligibility, same as early-enrollee Kevin Stepherson. The Irish staff thinks Stepherson has the type of deep speed that they covet, capable of running past cornerbacks and stretching a defense. Boykin has size and physicality that could present intriguing options for an offense that’ll be less reliant on one man now that Fuller is gone.

Live Video Mailbag: 40-year decision, more BVG, freshmen and more

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We’ve done plenty of mailbags, but this is our first shot at a Live Video Mailbag. This should be a better way to answer more questions and hopefully interact with a few of you as we try to work off some of yesterday’s Super Bowl snacks.

Topics on the list: The 40-year decision, more Brian VanGorder talk, the incoming (and redshirt) freshmen and a whole lot more.

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Kelly and Swarbrick turn attention to science of injury prevention

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Amidst the chaos of their live Signing Day show, UND.com ran had a far-reaching interview with head coach Brian Kelly. It was conducted by his boss, athletic director Jack Swarbrick, and his former team captain, Joe Schmidt.

So while there was a little bit of talk about the 23 recruits who signed their national letters-of-intent, there was also a very illuminating exchange on an issue that’s really plagued the Irish the past few seasons: Injuries.

Football is a dangerous game. And for as long as people play it, there’ll be impactful injuries that take players off the field. But as Notre Dame settles into what looks like their longest run of stability since the Holtz era, the focus of Kelly and Swarbrick has moved past modernizing the team’s medical services, strength program and nutrition and onto the science of injury prevention.

Here’s what Kelly said about the efforts currently taking shape:

“I think the science piece is very important, because no longer is it just about strength and conditioning,  it’s about durability. It’s the ability to continue to play at an optimal level but also with the rigors of a college schedule, and particularly here at Notre Dame, how do we maximize the time but maximizing getting the most out of our student-athletes and not lose them?

“As you know, we’ve had a couple years here in a rough stretch of injuries. And how do we have an injury prevention protocol that brings in the very best science? You’ve done a great job of reaching out in getting us those kind of resources. so I think tapping into that is probably the next piece. As well as providing the resources for our student-athletes. Continuing to look at facilities. Continuing to give our student-athletes maybe that little edge. Because everybody’s got 85 scholarships.”

It’s clear that the issue is one that’s on the radar for not just Kelly, but the athletic administration. So it’ll be interesting to see some of the steps taken as the program begins investing time and additional resources to an issue that’s really hit the Irish hard the past few seasons.

There’s plenty of other good stuff in the 13-minute interview, so give it a watch.