Keith Arnold

Five things we learned: Notre Dame’s Media Day

103 Comments

It was the standard Media Day dog-and-pony show in South Bend on Tuesday, with national reporters descending on Notre Dame to pay proper respects to the Irish football program, all while likely wondering if this is indeed “the year.” And perhaps it’s because Brian Kelly already delivered a lengthy state of the union address to open camp—or more likely—because he’s already sick of talking about the enhanced expectations for his sixth team, Tuesday afternoon felt like a redundancy that coaches and players alike wanted to put in the rearview mirror.

That’s not to say there was any visible frustrations as coaches and players answered a similar question asked a few dozen different ways. Rather, it’s just beyond plainly clear that this football team is starving for a game.

The win against LSU has long been forgotten. Facing off against your own guys has become stale. This team needs to see an opponent, and to a man appear to be counting the days until Texas, their first opportunity to play as well as they think they can.

To that point, it’s clear that certain messages have taken hold inside the program. You can’t spend sixty seconds talking to a player or coach without a leadership discussion, all but an acknowledging that last seasons failures may have happened because of injuries but were allowed to mount not just because of the body count, but because of a deficiency in culture.

That’s not something that Brian Kelly will allow to happen again. Nor will his assistant coaches, or the players who have emerged as potential captains. It’s a more crowded field of candidates than the Republican party is trotting out there.

With that in mind, let’s do our best to cut through the Crash Davis cliches and coachspeak we heard on Tuesday. Here are five things we learned after a two-hour open practice and interviews with assistant coaches and players.

 

Brian Kelly believes this team is more talented than the one he took to the BCS Championship game. 

Since camp opened, you need to credit Kelly for repeatedly acknowledging that talented components don’t necessarily lead to winning teams. But as we try to get a grasp on what he thinks the ceiling is for this roster, Kelly all but summed it up when Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman asked him to compare this team to the 12-1 team that played for the national title.

“It’s a faster team. It’s a more athletic team. We were deeper at virtually all positions across the board, both on the offensive line and the defensive line,” Kelly said.

That’s certainly not pulling your punches.

Kelly went on to talk about the singularity of a star like Manti Te’o and the unique traits that turned that 2012 team into a group that’s be remembered in school history. But if you’re looking for a main idea from Tuesday, it’s that Kelly is openly acknowledging this team is faster, more athletic and deeper than the one he ran the (regular season) table with, and he’s not afraid to acknowledge it.

 

The competition on this roster is fierce. 

Showtime is scheduled to air their first episode looking inside Notre Dame’s program on September 8th. And if I were a betting man, a large focus of that pilot will be the constant competition that takes place in every facet of a Notre Dame football practice.

I am not a regular on the practice scene. So it took me a while to get adjusted to the number of players running in and out, skill players and front-seven defenders that came and went at the blink of an eye, intermixing between the first and second team.

So while I was doing my best to keep up, here are a few battles worth watching as we move closer to Texas.

*  Don’t assume that Elijah Shumate has been handed the starting strong safety job opposite Max Redfield. (And according to Brian VanGorder, you can’t assume Redfield has won his job, either—even if I don’t believe him.) Cal transfer Avery Sebastian took the majority of first-team reps with the defense, and from talking to people today, this isn’t a motivational ploy. While they’re both going to play, Kelly acknowledged late last week that Sebastian has impressed him. And while it’s hard to say the strong safety play jumped out today, Sebastian is going to take a lot more snaps than many expected.

*  Freshman Josh Adams is taking No. 2 reps at running back with C.J. Prosise on the mend, and he doesn’t look like he’ll be redshirting at this point. Adams’ is a taller back, but runs with much more fluidity than Justin Brent, who looks really stiff and rigid as a runner. Dexter Williams may very well be a better long-term player, but he doesn’t seem to have a great grasp of things just yet, completely fair for a freshman.

*  The 1-on-1s between receivers and defensive backs was a joy to watch. And the best rep I saw wasn’t between KeiVarae Russell and Will Fuller (who did do battle), but between freshmen CJ Sanders and Shaun Crawford. Sanders won, pulling down a really well thrown pass in the corner of the end zone, and it put Crawford in a rotten mood. (And even if he’s only 180 pounds, you don’t want to see him play football in a rotten mood.)

There was great competition taking place around the goal line as the receivers and defensive backs went to war, and it was really fun to hear both Mike Denbrock and Todd Lyght coach up their position groups. For as talented as the receiving corps is, they didn’t dominate the secondary.

 

I don’t care what the recruiting rankings say, this freshman class is an elite group. 

It’s very clear that Notre Dame’s freshman class is a loaded group. While we’ve talked about a transcendent talent like Jerry Tillery, it’s also clear that top-to-bottom this group is going to find a way to help this football team win.

Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown has opened eyes thus far in camp. Listening to Mike Sanford, you’d think he found a new sports car in his garage. He’s got straight-line, vertical speed that’ll show itself this year, especially if defenses are going to focus on some of the Irish’s other weapons. In single coverage going vertical, that’s a 50-50 ball I want my quarterback’s throwing. Fellow freshmen receivers Miles Boykin and Jalen Guyton also looked really smooth, and Sanders might play more than all of them.

Defensively, Nick Coleman was a steal. That the Irish saw a great potential cornerback in a high school running back shows some great scouting. Crawford drew a compliment from Sanford, an offensive coordinator marveling at how a freshman defensive back manages to always find his way to the football. (That’s a good sign.) Ashton White isn’t likely to play, nor is Mykelti Williams ready to fully absorb VanGorder’s defense, but both have nice skill sets. And while Josh Barajas has been limited almost from jump street, Te’von Coney is a guy that this staff thinks the world of. There isn’t a recruit in this group that looks every bit as good as advertised.

And right now, I’m buying the Justin Yoon hype. He kicked a rocket from 46-yards that would’ve been good from the mid-50s, and his accuracy was all that was advertised.

(Lastly, you want to sound smart around your die-hard friends? Get ready for the legend of Chris Finke. The freshman walk-on (and Coleman’s high school teammate) drew some praise from Kelly last week, mostly for his sure hands as a punt-safe return man. But Finke can do a heckuva lot more than that, a lightning bug receiver and a pretty dynamic return man. His high school highlight tape tells you the story, and with a 31 ACT and a 1360 SAT, Finke could be tearing up the Ivy League right now. Instead he’s opening eyes on the LaBar Practice Fields.

 

No, players and coaches weren’t interested in talking about defending the option or hurry-up offenses. But rest assured that this coaching staff has spent a lot of time working on both deficiencies. 

I spent a lot of my day on Tuesday trying to get a feel for how the Irish planned to slow down their two triple option opponents. I might as well have been asking where Jimmy Hoffa was buried. Talking triple option clearly wasn’t a part of the approved talking points on Tuesday, and while I wasn’t asking for any trade secrets, you can’t blame VanGorder or his players from wanting to get to the next question as quickly as possible.

There’s no doubt that this group understands the challenge ahead of them, especially with elite-level triggermen in Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas and Navy’s Keenan Reynolds. And while the details on the recon work Bob Elliott did this summer were left out, Kelly did drop an interesting nugget to Jack Nolan on the UND.com broadcast.

You won’t likely hear Rob Regan‘s name called on a broadcast or see him take the field anytime soon. But Regan will play a critical role for the Irish this season, recruited by Kelly to be the scout team quarterback who’ll pilot the option attack. Regan was a two-year starter for Hinsdale South, an All-Area performer and the quarterback who led his team to their first Illinois state quarterfinal appearance in a decade. So while that’s not necessarily an option quarterback that’s as elite as Thomas or Reynolds, he’s certainly a much better proxy than a fourth-string running back or a converted wideout for the week.

As for up-tempo solutions, there wasn’t much disclosure when asking for an explanation, either. But in one practice period, the Irish offense moved at hyper-speed, and the defense countered. It looked nothing like the fire drill that took place when North Carolina moved up and down the field, nor did it necessitate defensive linemen sprinting to the sidelines to get a subpackage in. So while we’ll need to see that practice pay off come Saturdays this fall, it looks as if this group has done its share of self-scouting.

 

This team will not be looking backwards. 

If you thought last year’s swoon served as motivational material during grueling summer workouts, I didn’t get that vibe. VanGorder essentially shook off the question, and Mike Elston was particularly interesting when asked if he thought his young linebackers—Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini—were better for being thrown into the fire last season. Elston wasn’t sure.

That’s not to say that the experience won’t take away some of the growing pains when it’s time for Morgan and Martini to step onto the field. But any Freshman All-American kudos or talk of Morgan being a returning starter or potential impact player isn’t how either of the young, ascending players are viewed—either by their teammates, their coaches or by themselves.

Believe it or not, this team likely sees last season for purely what it was: a young defense forced by injuries to play guys who weren’t ready; and an offense that lost its ability to win games when its quarterback lost his self-confidence and control of the football.

In many ways, this team felt like the one Kelly was asked to compare it to—eerily similar to the 2012 team that entered that season will a large chip on its shoulder. After giving away a bowl game to Florida State and facing a schedule that most thought was unwinnable, this group rallied around stellar leadership and self-belief.

This team has done the same thing, with Kelly rebuilding the psyche of this group brick by brick, not coincidentally focusing on leadership principles derived by the military. That’s why you see a guy like Marcus Lattrell in training camp or you find out that the final two days of summer workouts were military training exercises designed to form cohesive bonds.

So while Notre Dame fans might be quick to flinch the moment things go wrong, don’t expect the team to do the same. That’s not to say a roster that’s essentially unchanged from last year forgot what happened. But they’ve long let it go.

 

Irish A-to-Z: Nic Weishar

Nic Weishar
7 Comments

One of fall camp’s biggest surprises, tight end Nic Weishar has taken off his redshirt and is intent on making up for lost time. In a position battle that lacks a returning starter (or anybody with any significant experience), Weishar is making sure that the coaching staff sees him as a viable option to contribute, especially in the pass game.

A year after coming on campus looking more like a basketball player than somebody on the football team, Weishar still lacks some of the heft you’d want from a starting tight end. But he has made great strides in Paul Longo’s weight room, and it’s opened up opportunities for Weishar to make an impact in a crowded group of offensive skill players.

 

NIC WEISHAR
6’4″, 241 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 82, TE

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A first-team All-State player in Illinois, Weishar was a U.S. Army All-American and a four-star prospect. He had offers from Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma though picked Notre Dame early in the process.

Kelly called him “the finest pass catching tight end we saw” on Signing Day.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Did not see action.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Pretty much exactly what happen.

I don’t see Weishar getting into a game this year. It just doesn’t make sense as long as Koyack, Durham Smythe, Mike Heuerman and Tyler Luatua all stay healthy. A year off will give Weishar a chance to get to know Paul Longo and his staff.

It’ll also give the Irish coaching staff an opportunity to balance their roster. With Smythe, Heuerman and Luatua all locks to play, holding Weishar back makes it easier to manage the roster, especially trying to keep the tight end recruiting even moving forward.

There’s a bright future ahead for Weishar. But it isn’t likely to happen in 2014.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

At this point, it’s hard not to adjust your expectations upwards after hearing early reports on Weishar’s game. While I don’t think he’s the athletic freak that Kyle Rudolph or Tyler Eifert were, Weishar certainly has a knack for catching the football, and even if he isn’t 6-foot-5, a 240-pounder who knows how to use his 6-foot-4 frame certainly isn’t an easy cover.

Finding his way onto the field is the biggest challenge in 2015, especially if he isn’t overly capable as a blocker. As the Irish look for ways to get all of their wide receiving talent onto the field, it looks like Scott Booker’s got a guy who also needs to get into the rotation.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

This might not sound like high praise, but I think we need to set modest expectations for Weishar this season. To that point, I think 10 to 15 catches sounds about right, though the sophomore can feel free to blow right past that number if he feels like it.

Weishar’s been a handful during camp, reportedly dominating the second-team defense and linebackers in coverage. As Durham Smythe and Alize Jones have been limited in camp, it’s allowed Weishar to take some first-team reps as well.

The red zone could be the X factor for Weishar, and will obviously be one of the keys to the Irish offense. While you’d expect the Irish to lean heavily on the running game near the goal line, Weishar is one of many great pass options to consider, as long as the staff has faith in the decision-making skills of Malik Zaire.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL
Mike Heuerman, TE
Kolin Hill, DE
Tristen Hoge, C
Corey Holmes, WR
Chase Hounshell, TE
Torii Hunter, Jr. WR
Alizé Jones, TE
Jarron Jones, DL
DeShone Kizer, QB
Tyler Luatua, TE
Cole Luke, CB
Nick Martin, C
Greer Martini, LB
Jacob Matuska, DL
Mike McGlinchey, OT
Colin McGovern, OL
Peter Mokwuah, DL
John Montelus, OL
Nyles Morgan, LB
Sam Mustipher, OL
Quenton Nelson, OL
Tyler Newsome, P
Romeo Okwara, DE
James Onwualu, LB
C.J. Prosise, WR/RB
Doug Randolph, LB/DE
Max Redfield, S
Corey Robinson, WR
Trevor Ruhland, OL
CJ Sanders, WR
Joe Schmidt, LB
Avery Sebastian, S
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, LB
Durham Smythe, TE
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
Ronnie Stanley, LT
Elijah Taylor, DL
Brandon Tiassum, DL
Jerry Tillery, DL
Drue Tranquill, S
Andrew Trumbetti, DE
John Turner, S
Nick Watkins, CB

Irish A-to-Z: Nick Watkins

South Bend Tribune / Robert Franklin
5 Comments

After a freshman season swimming in the proverbial deep end, cornerback Nick Watkins enters his sophomore season with a better understanding of Brian VanGorder’s defense. And he better. Because with KeiVarae Russell and Cole Luke in front of him, Watkins’ path to the field is just as tough as it was in 2014.

The talented Texas native has never been short of physical gifts. And with a depth chart infused by competitive freshmen like Shaun Crawford and Nick Coleman, Watkins may have passed veteran Devin Butler in the depth chart, but faces challengers at every level in a secondary that must be better than last year’s edition.

Let’s take a look at what Watkins can bring to the Irish this season.

 

NICK WATKINS
6’0.5″, 200 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 21, CB

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Watkins was a four-star, Top 200 recruit by every service. But he was likely underrated (if you look at his offer list), mostly because he stayed away from the summer camp circuit.

Watkins had perhaps the most impressive offer sheet in his recruiting class, picking Notre Dame over Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Texas, USC and UCLA. Brian Kelly compared landing Watkins to “getting a No. 1 draft pick” on Signing Day.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Played in 11 games, making most of his appearances on special teams. Didn’t register any statistics.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

He beat out Atkinson and Brown, but the Irish played Devin Butler over Watkins last season. That isn’t likely to be the case this year.

While we heard about the good camp Josh Atkinson had, expect Watkins to make it into the mix before Atkinson or Jalen Brown. With Cody Riggs having the versatility to slide inside and cover slot receivers, Watkins could work into a rotation on the outside with Cole Luke and Devin Butler.

There doesn’t seem to be much room to hide in VanGorder’s scheme, so there could be some growing pains — not just for Watkins, but for all the cornerbacks. But make no mistake, Watkins is a key part of the Irish’s future in the secondary, and he’s still got a very good chance of helping out now as well.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Physically, there’s everything to like about Watkins, who can learn quite a bit from KeiVarae Russell this season. That’s the type of player Watkins needs to force himself to be, and he certainly has the tools to do so.

If competition is what brings the best out in players than the push from some talented young freshman is a very good thing. Watkins has the length to be an outside player, something Crawford doesn’t possess.

Realistically, 2016 is when you’d expect Watkins to make his move into the starting lineup, paired with Luke as another veteran, talented duo. But if he’s going to be ready to do that, he’ll need to make progress this season, even if it’s mostly on the practice field and in nickel or dime situations.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Right now, Watkins is the third cornerback in a defense with a high-ceiling starting pair. I can’t think of a Notre Dame defense that hasn’t relied on their third cornerback, and think back to when we all worried how the Irish were going to get Darrin Walls, Gary Gray and Robert Blanton onto the field. It’ll work itself out.

So Watkins will get the reps this season. Or at least the first shot at the reps, with Devin Butler and a trio of freshmen all right behind him. And if he’s going to stay on the field, he’ll need to fully embrace the mental side of the game. I expect Watkins to make major progress here, especially after the harsh realization that elite physical tools may make it easy to lock down receivers in high school, but in VanGorder’s system, knowledge is almost more important.

Watkins is still every bit the prospect he was when he signed with the Irish. After a freshman season spent on special teams, he’ll be asked to take on more as a sophomore.

While he’s a key piece of the Irish future, Watkins can help Notre Dame win this year as well.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL
Mike Heuerman, TE
Kolin Hill, DE
Tristen Hoge, C
Corey Holmes, WR
Chase Hounshell, TE
Torii Hunter, Jr. WR
Alizé Jones, TE
Jarron Jones, DL
DeShone Kizer, QB
Tyler Luatua, TE
Cole Luke, CB
Nick Martin, C
Greer Martini, LB
Jacob Matuska, DL
Mike McGlinchey, OT
Colin McGovern, OL
Peter Mokwuah, DL
John Montelus, OL
Nyles Morgan, LB
Sam Mustipher, OL
Quenton Nelson, OL
Tyler Newsome, P
Romeo Okwara, DE
James Onwualu, LB
C.J. Prosise, WR/RB
Doug Randolph, LB/DE
Max Redfield, S
Corey Robinson, WR
Trevor Ruhland, OL
CJ Sanders, WR
Joe Schmidt, LB
Avery Sebastian, S
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, LB
Durham Smythe, TE
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
Ronnie Stanley, LT
Elijah Taylor, DL
Brandon Tiassum, DL
Jerry Tillery, DL
Drue Tranquill, S
Andrew Trumbetti, DE
John Turner, S

Irish A-to-Z: John Turner

Rice v Notre Dame
2 Comments

John Turner went from the bottom of the safety depth chart to the top of the outside linebackers in a spring, one of the primary beneficiaries of the transition to defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. And while Turner was surpassed by converted wide receiver James Onwualu, the Indianapolis native supplied key support in special teams while providing some athleticism at a position that desperately needed it.

Back for what could be his final season in South Bend, Turner has a chance to make a name for himself doing some dirty work on special teams, while also providing top notch leadership as the Irish try to take a step forward.

Let’s take a closer look at what Turner can do during 2015.

 

JOHN TURNER
6’0.5″, 220 lbs.
Senior, No. 31, S

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

He earned a scholarship offer from Notre Dame after performing well at the school’s summer camp. Turner had a mostly regional offer list, but chose the Irish almost immediately after the offer, turning down in-state Indiana, Minnesota and a group of MAC programs.

Far from an elite recruit, Notre Dame’s staff got a look at the Indianapolis safety, a recruit who was one of the staff’s first blocks as they began rebuilding their efforts in the Hoosier state’s capital city.
PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2012): Did not see action.

Sophomore Season (2013): Played in 13 games, mostly on special teams. Made four tackles on the season, including two against Navy.

Junior Season (2014): Played in all 13 games, mostly on special teams. Converted to outside linebacker during spring football but moved back to safety during the season.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Turner didn’t managed to spend much time on the field, with VanGorder and the staff utilizing Onwualu when they needed an outside linebacker.

Kelly and his staff evaluate players by a variety of metrics. Championship player, winning player, replacement-level player and down the line. Turner likely slots in at that winning player level, capable of helping the Irish win, but still a rung or two short of being a starter on a playoff contending team.

But as the Irish begin to recruit to VanGorder’s profile, being on the radar isn’t enough. Turner needs to step his game up or risk being passed by a younger generation hand-picked by his defensive coordinator’s evaluation tools.

Yet if you want an optimistic take on Turner’s ability to help the Irish, consider his pedigree. That RKG background, developed as a state champion at a Catholic school in state, will help him become the type of program player that Kelly can feel safe building around.

In 2014, Turner will be an important piece of the puzzle, especially as Onwualu learns on the fly and Councell returns from an ACL injury. Moving forward, he’ll be challenged, and we’ll ultimately see if Turner thrives or moves to the background.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

At this point, Turner looks like a special teams contributor unless something drastic happens at safety. With an infusion of really young talent and Jaylon Smith’s ability to cross train, outside linebacker isn’t even Turner’s position, he’s back to being a safety, even if he’s not necessarily capable of being a half-field player.

All that being said, Turner will prove his contributions to the team on cover teams, serving as a key tackler on Scott Booker’s special teams units. While Turner seems on track to play out his collegiate career very close to his recruiting ranking, he has a fifth year of eligibility remaining if he and the Irish staff believe there’s something to be gained from returning in 2016. Otherwise, he could find his way onto another program and utilize the graduate transfer program or just graduate from Notre Dame and go pro in something other than sports.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Not everybody can be a starter, and Turner will prove his value if he’s a consistent special teams performer. He’s got nice size at 220 pounds and will be a weapon on cover teams.

If the Irish get anything from Turner on defense, it’s likely a product of a really difficult depth chart situation, meaning injuries took over. But he’ll be ready for the opportunity and filled some holes at safety this spring when injuries took over.

If I’m guessing, the senior will be asked to do his job, mostly making tackles on 4th down.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL
Mike Heuerman, TE
Kolin Hill, DE
Tristen Hoge, C
Corey Holmes, WR
Chase Hounshell, TE
Torii Hunter, Jr. WR
Alizé Jones, TE
Jarron Jones, DL
DeShone Kizer, QB
Tyler Luatua, TE
Cole Luke, CB
Nick Martin, C
Greer Martini, LB
Jacob Matuska, DL
Mike McGlinchey, OT
Colin McGovern, OL
Peter Mokwuah, DL
John Montelus, OL
Nyles Morgan, LB
Sam Mustipher, OL
Quenton Nelson, OL
Tyler Newsome, P
Romeo Okwara, DE
James Onwualu, LB
C.J. Prosise, WR/RB
Doug Randolph, LB/DE
Max Redfield, S
Corey Robinson, WR
Trevor Ruhland, OL
CJ Sanders, WR
Joe Schmidt, LB
Avery Sebastian, S
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, LB
Durham Smythe, TE
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
Ronnie Stanley, LT
Elijah Taylor, DL
Brandon Tiassum, DL
Jerry Tillery, DL
Drue Tranquill, S
Andrew Trumbetti, DE

 

Irish A-to-Z: Andrew Trumbetti

Jarron Jones, Andrew Trumbetti, Devin Gardner
9 Comments

After enrolling early for the spring, defensive end Andrew Trumbetti nearly became Notre Dame’s first ever true freshman starter at the position. He didn’t do it, with the Irish defensive staff choosing junior Romeo Okwara to run with the first team. But it’s worth putting that quick ascent into context, the young defensive lineman both quick out of the gate and one of the only options at a position that needed reloading.

Trumbetti’s solid performance as a freshman has some believing he’ll be ready to make a jump in 2015. While the depth chart remains virtually untouched, Trumbetti will likely team again with Okwara, both necessary pieces to a pass rushing puzzle that still needs to be solved.

 

Let’s take a look at the New Jersey native and see what we can expect in 2015.

 

ANDREW TRUMBETTI
6’3.5″, 260 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 98, DL

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

With offers from Florida, Florida State, Miami and Michigan State, Trumbetti was an Under Armour All-American and a four-star prospect. He chose Notre Dame fairly early in the recruiting process and enrolled early.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Played in 12 of 13 games, missing Purdue after suffering a concussion a week earlier. Trumbetti notched one sack on the year but managed a more-than-respectable 5.5. TFLs.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

All in all, Trumbetti had a successful freshman season, one of five freshmen to notch more than 10 tackles and he finished sixth on the team in tackles for loss. He showed he was a well-rounded football player, though the pass rush numbers didn’t necessarily come.

How well Trumbetti produces on the stat sheet likely says a little bit about Brian VanGorder as well as the freshman. If he’s capable of racking up a half-dozen sacks, then it’s a successful season, but also means that the Irish were able to manufacture a pass rush and put Trumbetti in a position to succeed.

Trumbetti needs to show he’s capable of doing more than just rushing the passer. He’ll be responsible for setting the edge of the defense and needs to hold up against the run as well. That makes his relationship with defensive line coach Mike Elston absolutely crucial, and he’ll need to be able to keep on (or build upon) the 251 pounds he’s playing at, a number probably lighter than optimal as he grows in the program.

Those that have seen Trumbetti play, either in high school or down at the Under Armour All-American game, tend to be believers in his ability to be an elite talent. If he’s at all capable of it, VanGorder and Elston will get it out of him, especially with the lack of pass rushers joining the 2015 recruiting class.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Some people are incredibly high on Trumbetti, and see him as a future answer for the pass rush woes at the position. He’s got the motor, he’s plenty athletic and he has a full season under his belt so he has the type of experience you want. Supporting that is the fact that Trumbetti managed nearly half a dozen TFLs as a learn-as-you-go freshman.

Then again, the flip of that is Trumbetti’s single sack in 12 games. That doesn’t jump off the stat sheet nor give you confidence that he’ll transform into a quick-twitch, edge burner who can close on quarterbacks.

Ultimately, I’m not sure what his ceiling is yet. I think Trumbetti is going to be a productive college defensive end. Will he be a dominant player? He’ll need to capitalize on his opportunities to prove he has that ability in 2015.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

As we look at the ripple effects of Jarron Jones’ injury, you’ve got to think there are going to be more snaps for Trumbetti on the field this fall. Whether that means Isaac Rochell shifting inside and putting Okwara and Trumbetti as bookends or just making sure your four best defensive linemen get on the field, Trumbetti is very close to fitting that distinction.

But we need to see results in 2015. As Keith Gilmore continues his work with a depth chart that’s got decent talent but needs to maximize its ability, Trumbetti feels like a test case. He’s not big enough to succeed as a thumper in a 3-4. He’s not long and quick enough to be a true 4-3 weakside defensive end.But he’s got plenty of skills that should make him productive.

I’m skeptical, but still feel confident buying that Trumbetti takes a step forward and ultimately think he’s going to be more productive than his veteran teammate Okwara. While last season was mostly learn on the fly, if the Irish defense is going to be a Top 25 unit, they’ll need players like Trumbetti to make more than incremental progress.

I think five sacks and ten TFLs would be a great sophomore campaign.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL
Mike Heuerman, TE
Kolin Hill, DE
Tristen Hoge, C
Corey Holmes, WR
Chase Hounshell, TE
Torii Hunter, Jr. WR
Alizé Jones, TE
Jarron Jones, DL
DeShone Kizer, QB
Tyler Luatua, TE
Cole Luke, CB
Nick Martin, C
Greer Martini, LB
Jacob Matuska, DL
Mike McGlinchey, OT
Colin McGovern, OL
Peter Mokwuah, DL
John Montelus, OL
Nyles Morgan, LB
Sam Mustipher, OL
Quenton Nelson, OL
Tyler Newsome, P
Romeo Okwara, DE
James Onwualu, LB
C.J. Prosise, WR/RB
Doug Randolph, LB/DE
Max Redfield, S
Corey Robinson, WR
Trevor Ruhland, OL
CJ Sanders, WR
Joe Schmidt, LB
Avery Sebastian, S
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, LB
Durham Smythe, TE
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
Ronnie Stanley, LT
Elijah Taylor, DL
Brandon Tiassum, DL
Jerry Tillery, DL
Drue Tranquill, S