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Monday’s Leftovers: Who should Notre Dame’s fourth captain be? And DeShone Kizer heads to the Green Bay Packers


Last week, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly named three captains for the 2018 season. He also said he would hold a team vote for a fourth captain by the end of spring practice. That naturally leads to some speculation as to who could prevail in that balloting.

Kelly indicated “six or seven” players were in the mix after the first tally this spring, the one that made captains out of fifth-years Drue Tranquill, Sam Mustipher and Tyler Newsome. Considering which seniors stand out as productive playmakers, which fifth-years were invited back to contribute and thus create a roster crunch, and who led the offseason “SWAT” teams, a few frontrunners emerge.

The Irish have long had multiple leaders along the offensive line, and fifth-year right guard Alex Bars could join Mustipher as a team-wide captain. Similarly, fifth-year tight end Nic Weishar returned despite not yet being a vital piece of the passing game — instead, Kelly has often cited Weishar’s influence within the tight end group and the offense as a whole.

Te’von Coney (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The returns of rising seniors Te’von Coney and Jerry Tillery, each opting to forgo the NFL draft, certainly made Notre Dame’s defense a force to be reckoned with as far as paper is concerned. Usually, when a player up the middle comes off a strong junior season and opts to return, a captainship may soon follow, but both Coney and Tillery have faced disciplinary issues during their Irish careers. Such could jeopardize a captainship from an administrative standpoint, no matter how a player vote turns out.

Rising senior cornerback Nick Watkins is leading one of those spring SWAT units. Watkins may otherwise be off the possible captain radar, but that position of leadership has been an indicative piece of data the last two years. Exhibit A: Newsome led a group each of the last two years, bringing him to a more prominent role in the locker room than a punter may usually have.

Rising senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush heads a SWAT team, as well, as a co-leader with Weishar. Naming Wimbush a captain coming out of spring would create some level of expectation of him being the starting quarterback, something Kelly does not intend to establish before August, at the earliest. Of course, Wimbush’s play, or rising junior Ian Book’s subpar play, could force that issue before then.

That makes six candidates. Rising junior cornerback Julian Love (pictured above) could be a seventh. Love has comported himself well both on and off the field in his two years as a starter, and he may not be around to be a captain as a senior.

This is nothing but idle speculation, but it is spring break and the conversation is intriguing, at the least.

Mustipher on new o-line coach Jeff Quinn
The verdict on Quinn’s promotion to fill the void left by Harry Hiestand will not be returned until November, at the earliest. Until then, the opinions of Mustipher and the rest of the offensive line are the best clues to Quinn’s interactions with the offensive line. When asked about Quinn on Tuesday, there was no chance Mustipher would offer anything but praise, but some insight can be gained by what praise Mustipher provided.

“He brings a motivational and inspirational energy to the offensive line room,” Mustipher said. “He understands the way the standard needs to be set.”

That is pretty generic to start. Mustipher then spoke of the “privilege” of being part of the interview process, along with Bars. It would seem the two made it clear to Kelly they wanted not only consistency in message and system, but also some investment in that approach.

“We understand that standard of excellence,” Mustipher said. “We wanted a guy that wanted to be here and wanted to coach, and that it meant a lot to him to be here.”

Former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer completed 53.6 percent of his passes in his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Kizer to the Green Bay Packers
Former Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer was traded to the Green Bay Packers from the Cleveland Browns on Friday for a cornerback, per the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Without a doubt, getting away from the Browns will be good for Kizer, but do not presume he will ever throw many passes on the shores of Lake Michigan.

In trading oft-injured cornerback Damarious Randall, the Packers not only received Kizer, but they also moved up in both the fourth- and fifth- rounds in next month’s NFL draft. That alone may have been enough incentive to move on from a defensive back who publicly feuded with an assistant coach last season.

Securing a contract-controlled backup quarterback solidified the deal, and it is likely Kizer is never more than a backup for the Packers. Starting quarterback and future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers is only 34. He should have another four or five or even more years left in his career. Kizer’s contract, meanwhile, expires after the 2020 season.

If he minds his manners, learns from Rodgers and makes a few cameos in the next three seasons, then perhaps an opportunity elsewhere will await Kizer. Knowing the NFL and its preference for the newest inventory, though, this may be a step toward a career as a backup for the 2017 second-round draft pick.

Kizer finished his rookie season with 2,894 yards, 11 touchdowns and 22 interceptions on 255-of-476 passing in 15 games. He added 419 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 77 attempts with nine fumbles sprinkled in.

(Off-topic, but near to the heart: Quarterback rushing statistics do not need to be adjusted for sacks in the NFL.)

Kudos to Oklahoma
With the Sunday night reveal of the NCAA men’s basketball bracket, Oklahoma continued a rather impressive streak. The Sooners athletic department is the only one in the country that can claim AP Top-10 finishes in football and men’s basketball tournament teams in each of the last two years. For that matter, Oklahoma actually managed the double in 2015, as well.

‘Inside the Irish’ March Madness Pool
Every online community has a bracket pool. On good days, this space is an online community. Thus, applying logic, it should have a bracket pool.

Inside the Irish 2018 Bracket Contest

There is nothing at stake except for bragging rights and a chance to embarrass this scribe by finishing well ahead of him. What more could one possibly need?

For the sake of being different, the group will utilize a Fibonacci scoring sequence (2-3-5-8-13-21) with a seed-difference upset bonus throughout the Tournament.

At least with Notre Dame out of the bracket, the group’s results will not be skewed by unrealistic Irish hopes.

Speaking of Notre Dame not making it …
The Irish did not have much of a résumé, injuries or no injuries. Looking at analytical measurements, though, Notre Dame appeared to have a much better chance than Syracuse, who squeezed in as the last at-large team. The Irish were the first team left out.

The differences between the two? Well, aside from Notre Dame winning at the Carrier Dome while without their two best players? The Irish have the nation’s No. 28 offense when adjusted for efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy. The Orange have the No. 128 offense, offsetting it with the No. 11 adjusted defense.

It was indeed that difference that helped Syracuse to a 55-52 win over Clemson in its March 3 regular-season finale, a credentials-boosting victory the likes of which Notre Dame did not have.

Monday’s Leftovers: Spring begins, a 2019 QB de-commits from Notre Dame & NFL Combine results
Position changes, weight loss and quarterback questions welcome Notre Dame’s spring
Notre Dame names three captains: LB Drue Tranquill, C Sam Mustipher … and punter Tyler Newsome
With two captains gone, only natural another pops up on Notre Dame’s offensive line
Tranquill’s move to linebacker should benefit both him and Notre Dame

— What a hospital stay sparked inside new Notre Dame captain Tyler Newsome
Damonte Ranch’s Cade McNamara de-commits from Notre Dame
AG Lobo probe expands to football rape case

Tranquill’s move to linebacker should benefit both him and Notre Dame

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Drue Tranquill returned to Notre Dame for a fifth season for a few reasons. Being named a two-time captain may have been in-line with the less tangible of them, but it was not necessarily a driving motivation. The vague pieces of Tranquill’s return are the usual platitudes of college football, but when he delivers them, they include such urgency and sincerity, the rote lines come across as genuine, or at least close to it.

“There is just something special about college football, and you can’t necessarily put your finger on it until you’ve actually experienced it and played it,” Tranquill said Tuesday. “In my heart, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this thing for one more year and finish what we started.”

More practically, Tranquill’s return should also serve to enhance his NFL future. The safety-turned-rover with two ACL tears projects as a linebacker in the NFL, if he is to have a professional football career at all. To date, Tranquill has never played as a traditional linebacker. To at least some degree, that inexperience would lower his NFL draft profile.

Both Tranquill and the Irish coaching staff knew as much, so the latter made a position switch part of its pitch to Tranquill in recruiting him to return. Tranquill’s first year under linebackers coach Clark Lea’s tutelage yielded better results than most may have expected, so another season with Lea would certainly help him develop further, especially if 2018 was spent as a linebacker. Right?

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly confirmed the position move Monday, and Tranquill acknowledged it as the on-field logic to his return.

“It was coach Kelly and a general understanding that was what I was going to play in the NFL,” Tranquill said. “… I knew in mind I need development at that position, so it was a general understanding that [the Irish coaches] had gotten feedback from NFL teams, I had obviously gotten feedback from NFL teams, and we all understood this is what I needed to develop at.”

Certainly, Tranquill could take the risk of getting that development in the NFL. In that situation, football would be his only obligation, quite literally his job in every respect. The additional year of earning power could offset the reduced salary of a lower draft spot. Then again, there would be no assurance of getting drafted or landing on a 53-man roster come fall. NFL teams are not often in the business of developing projects with long-term views. Coaches and front offices need to win now.

At Notre Dame, Tranquill would be guaranteed that some of development, likely enhancing his draft prospects, although also taking on the risk of injury. Such is the dilemma many such players face every year.

“It was just a decision of do I want to go and get that development in the league, or do I want to come back and develop under coach,” Tranquill said. “I think the best decision for me was to come back and develop under coach Lea.”

There will be no switching back, both for the sake of the Irish and out of respect for Tranquill’s future. Notre Dame has a few possible replacements at rover. There are no such ready possibilities at linebacker.

“Drue’s got to play the Buck, he’s got to play it well, and we’ve got to settle it on him,” Kelly said. “That’s where his reps are going to be this spring.”

The move will create challenges for Tranquill, many of them similar to the lessons he learned in moving from safety to rover. Moving closer to the line of scrimmage and now closer to the center of the action reduces the time he can take to react. His duties become even more specific, but still depend on reads of the offense’s intentions.

An engineering major, Tranquill spends his classroom time moving task-by-task in order to accomplish the larger objective. At linebacker, that broader view will inform his task.

“It’s going to be a challenge in terms of being able to expand my vision and see those other keys,” he said. “It’s something I think is really going to benefit my game and my ability to just see the defense as a whole.”

And, it should aid his NFL dreams.

Now who at rover?
Kelly said rising senior Asmar Bilal will get first crack at rover, an easy assumption anyway. He then referred to Bilal as a “big rover.” Notre Dame lists Bilal at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, which is actually eight pounds lighter than Tranquill on a similarly-sized frame. Perhaps big was not the most precise adjective. Rather, Bilal is even more run-focused than Tranquill. If the Irish face an offense far more reliant on the pass, to the point of using four receivers more often than one tight end, Bilal’s role may need to be minimized.

In such a situation, Kelly mentioned rising sophomores Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah and safety-turned-linebacker Isaiah Robertson as options, along with rising junior safety-turned-linebacker D.J. Morgan. Owusu-Koromoah was recruited by former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko (along with Lea) for the exact purpose of being a rover of the future. Incoming freshman Shayne Simon was sought for similar reasons.

The last option, also included by Kelly, would be to default to a nickel coverage package, turning the rover into another cornerback. Elko actually did that frequently last season, deploying rising senior Shaun Crawford, both physical and speedy, to disrupt offenses.

“There are going to be a number of guys that have the opportunity to be that next guy.”

Compare that array of varied possibilities to the lack of depth behind Tranquill and rising senior Te’von Coney at linebacker. Kelly expects Bilal to cross-train to protect against injury to either Tranquill or Coney, and after that the only name mentioned was rising junior Jonathan Jones.

“Jonathan’s got to do a great job of being a guy there that can give Te’von a blow when he needs one,” Kelly said.

Spring Outlook: Notre Dame’s quarterbacks, a competition between Wimbush and Book … and Davis?

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Notre Dame will hold a quarterback competition this spring. That much is clear, and necessary. Given it is only spring practice, though, the odds are extremely slim any result comes from the competition before August.

Spring Roster:
Rising senior Brandon Wimbush, rising junior Ian Book and rising sophomore Avery Davis.

Summer Arrivals:
Incoming freshman Phil Jurkovec.

Rising senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush’s playmaking abilities or ease in creating with his legs have never been points of concern, but if he does not improve as a passer, he could find himself leading the second-unit by the end of this spring. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Depth Chart Possibilities:
Come Monday, Irish head coach Brian Kelly may indicate it is a three-man spring competition, including Davis, but it is more likely Wimbush and Book get the focus. The depth chart possibilities are rather obvious: One will be the starter and the other will be his backup.

For these concerns, Jurkovec is not factored in much. This is a spring outlook, after all, and he will not join the mix until the summer. Even then, it will remain unlikely a freshman takes the reins by the start of September.

Biggest (Reader) Question(s):
Obviously the QB battle will be the most-watched story of the offseason. Much of the narrative seems to focus on Wimbush, Book and Jurkovec. Where does Avery Davis stand? Can he force his way into the conversation? — Taylor G.

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Kelly praised Davis during bowl preparations, citing his multi-faceted attack making life difficult for the defense.

“He’s efficient with the football, [a] very strong runner,” Kelly said in mid-December. “He’s an athlete that can impact each and every time he has the football in his hands. He’s difficult to defend.”

If willing to open the quarterback spot up to a competition, even if expecting it to be open to only Book and possibly to Jurkovec, then Kelly has already opened the door for Davis. That first decision was the more difficult one to reach. It mandates change, and as we all know, change is hard. If change is on the table, Davis is a possibility, just not as likely a one as Book considering Davis didn’t get to offer Citrus Bowl heroics.

Avery Davis (

It seems that most people have forgotten about Avery Davis. In most of the articles I’ve read, everyone talks about Wimbush, Book or Jurkovec, but nowhere has there been mention of Davis potentially pushing for the starting job. I seem to remember hearing or reading somewhere that he was tearing it up while running the scout team, which I realize doesn’t mean much, but he received some high praise from coach Kelly during the season. Considering he now as a year in [offensive coordinator] Chip Long’s system under his belt, why do you think he’s been the forgotten one in this situation and do you think he has a realistic shot to push for the starting job? — Ron M in South Bend, Ind.

Davis has been forgotten because it has been so long since he was seen in a competitive environment. Wimbush dazzled throughout September and October. Book proved himself more than competent at North Carolina and in the Citrus Bowl. Even Jurkovec spent the fall putting up gaudy numbers in the WPIAL.

Davis was busy challenging Notre Dame’s starting defense, learning opponents’ offensive schemes and remaining a practical fourth on the depth chart behind former walk-on Montgomery VanGorder due to the goal of eligibility preservation.

“When you’re a quarterback and you have to redshirt, it’s hard for a lot of guys, because when you’re used to being the guy and you have to sit him down for a little bit, it’s tough,” Irish quarterbacks coach Tom Rees said Feb. 7. “He did a great job mentally getting himself reading for those practices in the winter. He was able to go out there and execute the offense and move the team and play at a high level.”

Could that become a contributing role in 2018? It is not impossible, but it seems unlikely. Davis was never considered as a challenge to Book in 2017. If he was, that season on the sidelines would not have been as assured from the outset as it was. Much like outstanding defensive linemen, a quarterback challenging for a spot in the two-deep from the first day of his freshman year is not likely to stay in college for five years anyway, so preserving a year of eligibility is a pointless cause. A quarterback behind two others, however, might end up needing that fifth year.

Davis does some things well: He is another athletic option, possibly the mid-point between Wimbush’s big-play running ability and Book’s knack for getting a first down with his legs when available. Nonetheless, Davis still needs to develop, and unless that occurs much quicker than expected, his role in 2018 will likely be a minimal one.

“When you watch him work out this winter, he’s taking another step in his comfort level,” Rees said. “… I’m really excited to see what he can do when he’s given more reps. I think he does a great job of moving the offense. He understands, here’s my easy throw, I’m going to take it and we’re going to get a completion and keep going. He has a great understanding of how to run the show.

“Now it’s let’s develop these other characteristics. Let’s develop these other traits, this deeper understanding of what we’re trying to do offensively.”

In an effort to get the best athletes on the field, do you start Book, move Wimbush to some sort of jack-of-all-trades offensive player and let Davis be the backup? — Philip Q.


Let’s rephrase the question: In an effort to get the best athletes on the field, do you move the only quarterback with experience to a role he has never played before, risk alienating him as a senior, not to mention more of the locker room, and hand the offense to two players with almost no experience and certainly lower ceilings?

Perhaps that is being dramatic, but it is an attempt to underscore the logical issues with the thought experiment. Arguing to move Wimbush to running back or receiver is something of a lazy approach. He has never played either position. Book has hardly played, and in his time has thrown an interception once every 18.75 attempts. Context: Wimbush threw an interception once every 45.83 attempts last season.

Frustration with Wimbush’s accuracy issues and overall progression as a passer is well-founded, but there has been little evidence Book is a significantly option in those regards. Even in yards per attempt, Book averaged 6.09 yards while Wimbush averaged 6.8 yards.

The only passing statistic in which Book outshines Wimbush is in completion percentage, 61.3 percent compared to 49.5 percent, but a sample size asterisk must be included with that note, as Book attempted only 75 passes last year, a full 200 fewer than Wimbush.

Again, Wimbush needs to improve as a passer, but moving him to a skill position away from center does not necessarily improve Notre Dame’s passing game. Book is not a proven commodity.

Thus, the risk of Wimbush not fitting at running back or receiver, of Wimbush becoming upset over the move, and/or of Book’s inexperience showing itself makes the concept of such a positional move an extremely flawed one.

One more note:
Again, today’s thinking does not much include Jurkovec. This space will likely maintain skepticism a freshman will take the reins on day one of Kelly’s ninth season, but if both Wimbush and Book fail to complete 50 percent of their passes in the Blue-Gold Game on April 21, perhaps that thinking will change.

2017 Statistically Speaking:
Wimbush: 1,870 yards on 136-for-275 passing with 16 touchdowns; 944 yards on 112 rushes with 14 touchdowns (sacks adjusted).
Book: 456 yards on 46-of-75 passing with four touchdowns; 207 yards on 37 rushes.

Notre Dame gets the letter: Phil Jurkovec

Spring Outlook: Notre Dame’s running backs, as few of them as there are
Linebackers, a proven two and then many questions
Tight ends, a surplus of depth, unproven talent
Defensive line, a returning strength
Receivers, now without both St. Brown & Stepherson
Defensive backs, stellar cornerbacks and concerning safeties
Offensive line, a search for a fifth starter

As always, further reader questions are welcomed at

Spring Outlook: Notre Dame’s offensive line, a search for a fifth starter


Despite inheriting a line coming off a Joe Moore Award-winning season as the best offensive line unit in the country and returning four starters, the questions still abound for new Notre Dame offensive line coach Jeff Quinn. More than who, Quinn must ponder a few versions of where.

Spring Roster:
— Fifth-year center Sam Mustipher, the only certain matching of who to where.
— Fifth-year Alex Bars, who spent 2016 starting at right tackle and 2017 starting at right guard. The latter seems most likely in 2018, but he could conceivably line up anywhere along the line aside from center.
— Rising junior Tommy Kraemer and rising sophomore Robert Hainsey, who split duties at right tackle in 2017.
— Rising junior Liam Eichenberg, long considered half of the pair of heirs apparent at tackle along with Kraemer. That is, until Hainsey’s rapid ascension.
— Rising senior Trevor Ruhland, a career backup thus far who would seem to have the capabilities to start at either guard position.
— Three rising sophomores, none yet committed to a specific position: Josh Lugg, Aaron Banks, Dillan Gibbons.

Summer Arrivals:
Incoming freshmen Luke Jones, Jarrett Patterson, John Dirksen and Cole Mabry.

Depth Chart Possibilities:
Quinn must decipher who lines up where among Bars, Kraemer, Hainsey, Eichenberg and Ruhland. Furthermore, any of the three other sophomores could force their way into the conversation, especially when considering the highly-recruited Banks.

For the sake of this positional preview not stretching on interminably, let’s confine an example of possible permutations to only the upperclassmen and Hainsey, while acknowledging both/either Banks and/or Lugg could show up as a starter at guard in the Blue-Gold Game on April 21.

From left-to-right:
Hainsey — Ruhland — Mustipher — Bars — Kraemer
Hainsey — Kraemer — Mustipher — Bars — Eichenberg
Hainsey — Kraemer — Mustipher — Ruhland — Bars
Kraemer — Ruhland — Mustipher — Bars — Hainsey
Eichenberg —Kraemer — Mustipher — Bars — Hainsey
The list goes on and on and on …

Even when confining the options to five players for four positions, the various arrangements become too many to list. The above five samples have no more than three player-to-position matches overlapping, even including Mustipher always showing up at center.

Biggest (Reader) Question(s):
Will Kraemer spend 2018 at guard or at tackle? He may be personally better suited at guard, but the Irish could be best served with him at tackle, just like they were last season. That determination will be the first step to narrowing the above options.

Ideally, the answer may be guard. Kraemer excels at run blocking, while needing to get every step perfect to be in functional position for handling pass-rushers on the edge. If he can move to guard, Notre Dame can better utilize his strength which is, well, his strength.

But that is only possible if Eichenberg is ready to step in at tackle, or if Kraemer has closed the gap between himself and Bars at guard.

Besides quarterback, what is the next most important position battle to watch? — Taylor G.

Wherever Kraemer lines up in 2018, he would seem a likely starter. His skill set warrants that benefit of the doubt. For that matter, his time on the field in 2017 made it clear he was ahead of Eichenberg, whereas the two were alternating series throughout last spring. With that in mind, the four returning starters should all remain starters.

Thus, who is the fifth offensive line starter? It would be a shock if it came from outside Eichenberg, Ruhland, Lugg and Banks, but it could be any one of the four, or perhaps another year of a combination thereof.

If Kraemer lines up at guard, a tackle position would possibly be available, giving Eichenberg an advantage. Of course, Kraemer might be moving to guard simply as Bars moves back to tackle. If Kraemer or Bars is at tackle, then a guard will be needed, and that competition would likely stretch well into August.

While the Irish desperately need to find a safety or two, that fight for starting time may conclude much quicker, especially if Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was sincere when he said Navy transfer and rising junior Alohi Gilman would have started in 2017 if eligible.

The fifth offensive lineman, however, could take longer to sort out, partly because it will not be answered until the Kraemer quandary is deciphered.

Notre Dame gets the letter: Luke Jones
Notre Dame gets the letter: Jarrett Patterson
Notre Dame gets the letters: John Dirksen and Cole Mabry

Spring Outlook: Notre Dame’s running backs, as few of them as there are
Linebackers, a proven two and then many questions
Tight ends, a surplus of depth, unproven talent
Defensive line, a returning strength
Receivers, now without both St. Brown & Stepherson
Defensive backs, stellar cornerbacks and concerning safeties

As always, further reader questions are welcomed at

A second four-star defensive lineman, Hunter Spears, joins the Notre Dame class of 2019

When Notre Dame got five heralded defensive line recruits on campus together in January, it turned heads. When Irish defensive line coach Mike Elston offered public optimism about the possible 2019 commitments, it raised expectations.

Notre Dame has now secured a second of those five with the Tuesday commitment of consensus four-star defensive end Hunter Spears (Sachse High School; Texas). He joins consensus four-star defensive tackle Jacob Lacey (South Warren H.S.; Bowling Green, Ky.) as the early foundation to the recruiting class, now with four prospects pledged.

“Honestly, just talking with the guys today — Jacob Lacey, Mazi Smith, Joseph Anderson, Nana Osafo-Mensah, and myself — if Notre Dame can land all of us, that would be the dream d-line class for Notre Dame,” Spears told Irish Illustrated. “I could see another pass-rusher or two, also.”

The other three names Spears mentioned all joined Lacey and him on Jan. 27 at an on-campus Junior Day. All five qualify as consensus four-stars, with Smith (East Kentwood; Kentwood, Mich.) a tackle, Anderson (Siegel; Murfreesboro, Tenn.) an end, and Osafo-Mensah (Nolan Catholic; Fort Worth, Texas) a possible end/linebacker hybrid.

From left to right: Osafo-Mensah, Anderson, Elston, Smith, Lacey and Spears. (Twitter: @JacobLacey6)

Landing all five may be ambitious, but it would also be the envy of most of the country.

Spears already held offers from the likes of Alabama and Michigan State, despite missing his junior season with a knee injury. The Irish extended a scholarship offer to him in June, prompting an unofficial visit to watch a 49-14 Notre Dame victory over USC in October. In a video released by, Spears cited that experience as one of the three primary reasons he committed, along with the educational opportunity and the “overall tradition and culture.”

Editor’s Note: That video has since been removed from this post due to its incessant auto-play function, but it can still be viewed here.

Spears shows quickness for a defensive lineman, but not such that he would ever be considered an outside linebacker in any form. His size makes him an ideal candidate to set the edge against the run or possibly move inside when the Irish need a quicker defensive line to handle certain opponents. His agility, though, will make him a three-down threat, both a pass-rusher and an edge-setter.

Notre Dame currently has depth at defensive end, but with only one signed in the class of 2018 (Justin Ademilola) and one remaining from the class of 2017 (Kofi Wardlow), an influx will be a priority this recruiting cycle. Spears will theoretically have one season to adjust to collegiate competition before the quartet of rising juniors Daelin Hayes, Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara and Ade Ogundeji run out of eligibility. (The first three have two seasons remaining, while Ogundeji has the possibility of three more years.)

Hence, that Junior Day emphasis and Elston’s confidence on National Signing Day.

“I’ve been at Notre Dame now going on for nine years, and I haven’t had a stronger group of underclassmen that I’m recruiting than I have this year in 2019,” Elston said. “This could be the best defensive line haul we’ve ever had here.”

Expect to read that quote again and again (and possibly again) if any of the remaining three in the above photo follow Spears’ and Lacey’s lead.

RELATED READING: ‘Accelerated’ start creates bright outlook for Notre Dame’s 2019 recruiting cycle