Junior safety Ashton White announced he is leaving the Notre Dame football team via a Twitter post Wednesday evening. White will finish the year at the University with the intention of graduating in the spring in order to qualify as a graduate transfer for the 2018 season.
“I would first like to thank [Irish] Coach [Brian] Kelly for the opportunity to play the game I love at such a wonderful institution such as Notre Dame,” White wrote. “However, I will not be with the team this fall as I focus on some ambitious academic goals of mine.”
If White does indeed graduate and transfer to an FBS-level program in the spring, he would have two years of eligibility remaining. Because he preserved a year of eligibility already in 2015, the former cornerback does not actually save a year of playing time by not playing this season. That said, if he sees little playing time on the horizon and intends to transfer, doing so as a graduate student would make the most sense. Spending the time he would be using on football instead on his studies very well could behoove that process.
White’s departure leaves the Irish with even less depth on the defensive back-line, but he was not likely to play much this season even with that being the case. Junior cornerback-turned-safety Nick Coleman joins sophomores Jalen Elliott and Devin Studstill firmly ahead of White on the depth chart. Junior Nicco Fertitta has consistently seen more playing time than White each of the last two seasons, and freshman Jordan Genmark Heath could have quickly moved up the depth chart, as well.
That does not even mention senior Drue Tranquill, who could conceivably move back to safety from rover if injuries necessitated it, or sophomore cornerback Julian Love, who Kelly has indicated was already being considered for some safety duty in passing-specific situations.
Notre Dame will prefer to keep Tranquill at rover, to only bring in Fertitta in short-yardage scenarios and to ease Genmark Heath into the program, but altering those plans all may have been options before White saw much playing time.
“[I] can’t wait to watch & support my former teammates and best friends chase that ring they’ve worked so hard for!” White closed. “Thank you ND Nation.. [sic] it’s been an awesome couple years!”
White finishes his Irish career with two tackles in six games. He played in the first five games last year before seeing time in only one of the final seven.
For a 99-to-2 refresher: “White did not exactly impress last season at cornerback, and the same can largely be said for his spring at safety. Admittedly, that latter half is partly due to Coleman’s surge at safety, repeatedly earning Kelly’s praise — in fact, whenever a question was asked about the two cornerbacks who made the switch, Kelly would spend so much time discussing Coleman’s success, the White portion of the query would be forgotten. It is also partly due to White’s own struggles.
The obvious piece for him this fall would be to aid special teams coordinator Brian Polian’s units. Other than that and a litany of injuries, though, it is hard to see him finding much playing time. If Notre Dame desperately needs a rover against a pass-heavy attack, it will likely switch to a pseudo-nickel or –dime package, allowing sophomore cornerback Julian Love to roam the middle of the field and perhaps Coleman or boundary safety sophomore Jalen Elliott the chance to man the middle at rover. In that hypothetical, White remains the odd man out.”