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Counting down the Irish: 10-6

Aug 8, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

Michigan State v Notre Dame Getty Images

One thing that’s been very clear since taking part in this annual ranking is that it’s a much more difficult exercise than in years past. That much should be obvious when you look at our list.

Starter Joe Schmidt is listed behind Jarrett Grace, who might not contribute much this season as he works his way back from a badly broken fibula. Sophomore Corey Robinson is ranked well ahead of Chris Brown, who appears to be the starter opposite DaVaris Daniels. And for every high ranking one panelist gives a player, someone else has likely left him off their list all together.

But as we get inside the Top 10, we’re finally starting to see some consensus. Of the five players rolling out today, only one was left off a single ballot. Four of the five are multi-year starters, and the fifth is a redshirt freshman with the greatest expectations heaped on his shoulders.

We’ll save our Top Five for Monday, but in the comments below, feel free to share your rankings, as I suspect you’ll have the same difficulties this group did making things work.



25. Will Fuller (WR, Soph.)
24. Joe Schmidt (LB, Sr.)
23. Chris Brown (WR, Jr.)
22. Jarrett Grace (LB, Sr.)
21. Malik Zaire (QB, Soph.)
20. Ishaq Williams (DE, Sr.)
19. Cole Luke (CB, Soph.)
18. Cam McDaniel (RB, Sr.)
17. Jarron Jones (DT, Jr.)
16. Corey Robinson (WR, Soph.)
15. Christian Lombard (RG, GS)
14. Cody Riggs (DB, GS)
13. Kyle Brindza (K/P, Sr.)
12. Max Redfield (S, Soph.)
11. Steve Elmer, (OL, Soph.)


source: Getty Images

Koyack in the Pinstripe Bowl

10. Ben Koyack (TE, Sr.): If there was one winner in Troy Niklas’ decision to head to the NFL early, it was Koyack. After getting lost in the shuffle for the better part of three seasons, Koyack has found his role in the football program this summer, ready to take charge as one of the unit’s leaders.

Koyack has elite pedigree as a recruit. After battling a case of the drops in 2012, he came on strong late in the 2013 season, productive as the No. 2 tight end behind Niklas. With youth everywhere else on the offense, the passing game could come to rely on Koyack, a big body who might not have the nickname Hercules, but presents matchup problems of his own.

It feels like the base level of expectations for Koyack is a Mackey Award semi-finalist season. With the opportunity to get plenty of favorable matchups down the field, Koyack is primed for a big final season in South Bend.

Highest Ranking: 8th. Lowest Ranking: 12th.


9. Greg Bryant (RB, Soph.): In retrospect, maybe the knee injury was the best thing to happen to Greg Bryant. Sure, it robbed him of playing time after seeing the field sparingly to open the season, but sitting out the 2013 season rebooted Bryant, turning him back into a young football player, no longer the five-star recruit with sky high expectations.

Rumors and whispers flew around message boards that Bryant was unhappy in South Bend. But he stayed put, quietly going about his work, rehabilitating his knee and preparing for spring practice, when the redshirt freshman would essentially hit the restart button on his college career and make his presence noticed.

Healthy, powerful and part of a three-headed depth chart at running back, Bryant is expected to be the breakout player of the Irish offense. That he’ll need to share carries with Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel isn’t a worry for August.

Highest Ranking: 7th. Lowest Ranking: 12th.

8. Nick Martin (C, Sr.): No longer in his brother’s shadow, Nick Martin has emerged as the leader of the offensive line. The returning starter at center, we’ll see if Martin is the elite prospect his brother was, now that he’s healthy after an MCL repair and minor patella injury.

Judging a center is tricky business, but at his best Martin can anchor the offensive line, both at the point of attack and making the presnap reads for his fellow linemates. At almost 6-foot-5, Martin has similar size to Zack, making him the perfect size for an NFL prospect on the interior of the offensive line.

source: Getty Images

USC v Notre Dame

If the Irish ground game takes the leap we expect, Martin will be a big part of that success, and likely will reap the rewards as well. Another below-the-radar recruit from Indianapolis, the Martin brothers look to have the potential to both be multi-year captains, quite a legacy to leave behind at Notre Dame.

Highest Ranking: 4th. Lowest Ranking: 22nd.


7. DaVaris Daniels (WR, Sr.): At his best, Daniels has all the skill and talent needed to play on Sundays. But after three seasons of being coached hard by Brian Kelly, we’ll have to wait until August 30 to see if the light has finally come on for Notre Dame’s top receiver.

Daniels put up respectable numbers in 2013, all while battling nagging injuries. But Daniels fails the eyeball test too often, a solid player who puts a lot of bad habits on tape. For every dominant game, there’s something inexplicable — like losing a one-on-one battle with a Navy DB for an interception or running an incorrect route.

There was talk that Daniels contemplated heading the NFL after being temporarily booted from the university for academic issues. That would’ve been a huge mistake, especially for a talent that should work his way into a solid draft pick after the season, or decide to play his way up draft boards by returning for a fifth year.

Talent is not the issue. Maturity might be. And while we’ve heard Daniels say all the right things since returning from academic exile, the proof will be divied up across thirteen Saturdays.

Highest Ranking: 4th. Lowest Ranking: Unranked (One ballot).


6. Ronnie Stanley (OT, Jr.): The fact that Stanley slid seamlessly into Zack Martin’s left tackle spot had some taken by surprise. But very quietly, Stanley is turning himself into an elite offensive tackle, and his ranking at No. 6 shows that this panel noticed.

At just shy of 6-foot-6 and 315-pounds, Stanley has the size and length you covet at left tackle. He’s also coming off a really impressive debut season (Stanley received a medical redshirt in 2012, even though he briefly saw the field). But still, most expected Steve Elmer to have the first shot at the blind side, forgetting that Stanley was no slouch of a recruit when he chose Notre Dame out of Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman.

2014 will be a very interesting season for Stanley. A strong season at left tackle and he’ll be the type of lineman that’s in consideration for postseason awards — the perfect hybrid of pro potential and productivity that earns that type of respect.

After four seasons of Martin at left tackle, the Irish could have three more with Stanley. That’s quite a seven-year run.

Highest Ranking: 4th. Lowest Ranking: 13th.



The selection committee for the 2014 ND Top 25:

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)


  1. audiguy - Aug 8, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    That leaves Day Russell Golson Foster and Smith. Pretty Strong Top 5

    • irishinmich - Aug 8, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      Is Foster Australian for Folston? Just razzing you. Honest mistake.

      • tsombanj - Aug 9, 2014 at 12:26 PM

        Funny. And I was scratching my head trying to figure out how come I had no clue who Fsoter was!!

  2. andy44teg - Aug 8, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    5. Russell
    4. Folston
    3. Gouhlston
    2. Day
    1. Jaylon

    • irishinmich - Aug 8, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      Gouhlston?! Am I going to have to crack on every comment today?

      • andy44teg - Aug 8, 2014 at 12:22 PM

        It’s an ongoing joke here, bud.

      • seadomer - Aug 8, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        I was going to say the same thing, my version is goldstonsan, there are many versions as ppl keep misspelling but since he is the ND QB, nobody would mistake whom we r referring to.

      • irishinmich - Aug 8, 2014 at 4:56 PM

        Sorry, Andy…..should have known. I retract. Ha

  3. irishinmich - Aug 8, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    I’m going:

    • longliveautrydenson - Aug 8, 2014 at 12:19 PM

      I’m with you except for one slight alteration:

      5. Folston
      4. Day
      3. Russell
      2. Smith
      1. Bongiovi

  4. danirish - Aug 8, 2014 at 11:40 AM





    • runners00 - Aug 9, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      Isn’t this the truth? I mean, Bryant is a five star back. He needs to get the ball this season. If we can’t run the ball, we can’t win. And he’s the best horse in the stable.

  5. fnc111 - Aug 8, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    Seriously, someone doesn’t follow ND football very closely in this panel. DD unranked on one ballot. Who would honestly leave Bryant out of the top ten? Demotion time.

    • domerboyirish - Aug 8, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      Agreed. Who leaves DD off their ballot? You could make an argument that he is fringe top 10 but to leave him off completely is just wrong.

      Bryant will be a beast this year. With the size and strength of our OL we should be able to turn the big uglies into road graters and just let Bryant and Folston rack up huge yards. This is especially true when you can’t load the box because of a talented group of receivers. Honestly, this offense talent is a play callers dream. There is no excuse for Kelly if he can’t average 35 per game. This team should score at least 30 in every game, including FSU and Stanford.

  6. onward2victory - Aug 8, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Who left DD unranked? He has the potential to be in the top 3 on this team!

  7. irishinmich - Aug 8, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    All these guys ride the pine in the SEC


    • standingdomer - Aug 8, 2014 at 12:45 PM

      funniest post of the summer

  8. irishmob89 - Aug 8, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Greg Bryant looks like a physical specimen out there. I know Kelly has a tendency to be loyal to upperclassmen, but if we want to score at a high rate, he has to limit McDaniel’s touches and give the bulk of the carries to Bryant and Folston. They are too damn good to be wasted. Kelly has to maximize their potential. From all the depth charts I’ve read online, Folston and Bryant are 1 and 2, so maybe the writing is already on the wall.

  9. johngaltsmom - Aug 8, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    Please take it easy on my Johnny. I’m sure you all realize by now that he is “special”.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Aug 8, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      I can’t believe he hasn’t posted responses yet today. he must be grounded. no Nintendo, no computer and no cartoons. pretty serious punishment.

      • 1historian - Aug 10, 2014 at 11:05 PM

        Right now he’s probably laughing his a$$ off because he seems to have you guys trained well enough so that you go on line and make inane comments for him – sparing him all that work.

        I don’t understand.

        • 4horsemenrideagain - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:06 AM

          he comes to this site to get insulted, so I indulge him and insult him from time to time.

          if it weren’t for spending time on this site eliciting insults, this guy would be on a street corner yelling at pigeons so i’m actually doing a public service here by keeping him off the streets.

  10. getsome99 - Aug 8, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    Koyack and Martin seem to be ranked a little too high.

    1. Jaylon
    2. Golson
    3. Bryant
    4. Russell
    5. Folston
    6. Daniels
    7. Day
    8. Stanley
    9. Riggs
    10. McDaniel

    • johngaltisspeaking - Aug 8, 2014 at 2:26 PM

      Number 9 should be number 2 right behind Jaylon…

      • getsome99 - Aug 8, 2014 at 2:29 PM

        I can’t put Riggs that high on the list yet until he wins the starting job first against Cole Luke.

      • johngaltisspeaking - Aug 8, 2014 at 3:59 PM

        yeah but he is legit SEC and we have already debated and come to the conclusion that the SEC is TOP DAWG…

      • papadec - Aug 8, 2014 at 7:52 PM

        jg – you, and the other idiots at espn, are the only ones to come to that conclusion.

  11. nudeman - Aug 8, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    So of the 22 expected starters, who didn’t make the top 25? Anyone?
    I believe all 3 running backs are in, Malik Zaire (backup QB) is in, Collinsworth too (nickel back, right?)

    I suppose I could go back and check, but am looking for someone else to do the heavy lifting.
    Thanks in advance

    • Keith Arnold - Aug 8, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      Don’t break your finger scrolling up, Nude! No Collinsworth, who is a starter not on the list. As is McGlinchey/Hegarty/Hanratty, whoever wins that job.

      • bernhtp - Aug 8, 2014 at 3:31 PM

        Collinsworth is underrated and underappreciated. I expect him to have a very good year and his leadership will be important to Redfield. Ditto for Schmidt.

        As I said before, Grace and Zaire should not have made the top 25. I don’t expect Grace to be fully healthy before late fall and don’t know if he’ll ever make it back to previous form. Zaire only contributes if Golson gets hurt of massively fails.

    • rockmcd - Aug 8, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      The 4th defensive lineman (presumably Okwara) is also not on the list.

  12. newmexicoirish - Aug 8, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    The light has to go on for Davaris Daniels and Ishaq Williams – our schedule won’t allow for anything less. These guys have to contribute in a big way and on a consistent basis. I know this sounds self evident, but it has to happen. I still believe Day, Jones, and a Williams can be one of the most elite defensive lines in the country.
    August 30 can’t get here fast enough!

    Go Irish!

    • jommy995 - Aug 9, 2014 at 1:30 AM

      Nah. Rochelle and a whole bevy of wideouts are in line to step up if they fail. Deep team. Someone will take the bit and run with it.

  13. dudeacow - Aug 8, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    5. Plantz
    4. Centlivre
    3. Cavalaris
    2. Smith
    1. VanGorder

    Montgomery lived in Georgia, which makes him SEC talent. That’s why he’s no. 1.

  14. bernhtp - Aug 8, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    1. Golson
    2. Smith
    3. Day
    4. Russell
    5. Folston

    Golson gets the top spot because he’s the QB. If the QB doesn’t suck (like, well, never mind), he will be at or near the top, and I expect Golson to be very good.

    I wouldn’t have put Folston in the top 5. He will split reps with Bryant (and McDaniel) and Bryant appears to be the best receiver in the group, which will be important in the multi-dimensional, fast-tempo offense I am expecting to see.

    • johngaltisspeaking - Aug 9, 2014 at 12:51 PM

      Deer in headlights look as golson waits for the play.

  15. degosavage23 - Aug 8, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    5. Russell
    4. Golson
    3. Folston
    2. Day
    1. Smith

  16. johngaltsassisspeaking - Aug 8, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    These five clowns would be washing jock straps for any SEC team instead of playing.

    • papadec - Aug 8, 2014 at 7:59 PM

      I think any sec coach would be glad to have & play any of “These five clowns”.

      • johngaltsassisspeaking - Aug 9, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        The SEC would have them spraying water thru the facemasks of the starters.

  17. rayguy14 - Aug 8, 2014 at 8:03 PM

    Has anyone else seen a scared Davaris Daniels when it comes to going over the middle? To me, that’s the most troubling thing about the him as a receiver. That will be what I look for this season…I don’t want to see the alligator arms anymore Davaris!

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