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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 55 Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3 ½, 284 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with two years of eligibility remaining including 2017
Depth chart: Bonner entered spring practice atop the depth chart at defensive tackle alongside junior Jerry Tillery. When junior Elijah Taylor suffered a LisFranc fracture in March, Bonner’s status was solidified unless junior Micah Dew-Treadway makes unexpected progress.
Recruiting: Bonner’s recruitment jumped late in the cycle thanks to strong camp performances throughout the summer before his senior year. A rivals.com three-star prospect, the St. Louis product chose Notre Dame over offers from his homestate Missouri, Michigan State and LSU, among others.

CAREER TO DATE
Bonner preserved a year of eligibility in 2014 before debuting as a defensive end in former Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s system in 2015, even though a turf toe injury cut short his previous spring. Last year Bonner moved inside, but there he remained behind Jarron Jones, just like he was stuck behind Isaac Rochell at end.

2014: Preserved a year of eligibility
2015: 10 games, five tackles, one sack, one quarterback hurry
2016: 12 games, nine tackles, three quarterback hurries — started against Army and recorded four tackles

QUOTE(S)
From the beginning of spring practice, the three-technique tackle position was an unknown rotation, but Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly always included Bonner among the grouping challenging for the starting slot, and Kelly held Bonner’s style up as the ideal fit for new defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s version of the position.

“You’ll see him move around a little bit,” Kelly said the first week of March. “Bonner would be a guy that you’re looking at the three. … A bigger guy that can hold if you move him to the four. He’s got to be able to hold that shade position. … In terms of the body types, that’s the kind of guy we’re looking at.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
I think Bonner will find a niche on the inside or third downs, considering neither Jerry Tillery nor Jarron Jones look like pass rush threats. That could kick open a spot for Bonner on the inside, or it could allow him to play at the strong side if Rochell slides inside.

“Of course, that’s mostly determined by Bonner, who has flashed talent and athleticism, but hasn’t translated that to the field yet. Some think Bonner is one of the most intriguing athletes on the roster, and he’s certainly one of the team’s better workout warriors. But that needs to transition to the football field with some productivity, a key development piece for Keith Gilmore and [an] uncertain front four.

“Bonner spoke with confidence this spring that his knowledge base was now matching his skill-set. If he’s able to put everything together, he could be a very nice complementary piece to the front four.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Later this summer, this space will rekindle its annual “Counting Down the Irish,” a ranking of the expected biggest contributors heading into 2017. It will be curious to see where Bonner lands in that polling. If Bonner makes an impact this season, that bodes very well for the Notre Dame defense. If he does not, the presumed defensive line deficiencies will be quickly realized.

Especially with Taylor’s injury, Bonner will be counted on to hold the point of attack in the middle, if not also provide some push to pressure opposing passers. If he cannot provide it, Elko does not have many other options unless Taylor’s recovery goes absolutely perfectly — and it has already been delayed by about a week — or one of the incoming freshmen proves himself surprisingly adept and ready for the physicality of the interior position at the collegiate level. (Those freshmen being Darnell Ewell, Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa. Ewell, if not also Hinish, projects to fit into more of a Tillery role in the long-term.)

Bonner could be up to it. He has long been considered a physical freak of nature, displaying unexpected strength and athleticism. That played a part in his late but quick recruitment by nearly every school who saw him the summer before his senior year of high school.

Finally converting those attributes to on-field successes is the key. In Bonner’s defense, he has spent the last few seasons behind the likes of Rochell and Jones, both now working to make the cut in the NFL. Neither one was a slouch, especially as their careers progressed. Backing them up should not be considered a mark against Bonner, only an inevitability of timing.

DOWN THE ROAD
If Bonner succeeds in his role this season, he should have an iron grip on the starting spot in 2018. Even if he doesn’t, the Irish coaching staff will likely offer him a fifth year. Veteran defensive linemen with playing experience are not commodities to let slip away. The worst-case scenario would be Bonner could spell an ascending Taylor or one of the aforementioned freshmen. There would be value in that role.


2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
No. 95 (theoretically): Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 94 (theoretically): Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92 (theoretically): Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90 (theoretically): Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87 (theoretically): Jafar Armstrong, receiver
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84 (theoretically): Michael Young, receiver
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
No. 73: (theoretically) Josh Lugg, offensive tackle
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
No. 68: Mike McGlinchey, left tackle
No. 67: Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman
No. 65: (theoretically) Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman
No. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard

TRANSFERS
No. 66: Tristen Hoge, offensive lineman, transfers to BYU
No. 50: Parker Boudreaux, offensive lineman
No. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State

INJURIES
No. 13: Tyler Luatua, tight end, career ended by medical hardship

Friday at 4: Only a Poll Regarding Twitter

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I have been sitting on this one for a while. It was like the $20 my mother gave me when I first went to college. She asked me to fold it into the deepest corner of my wallet and use it only in an emergency when I had no other recourse whatsoever.

This “Friday at 4” topic was to be used only on a week where I had no other idea whatsoever. Any suggestions for next week would be appreciated — this empties the reserves.

The question at hand is intended to educate and inform how to best proceed in populating this space. It may not be a democracy around here, but having a better idea how to cater to you few readers does not seem like a bad strategy.

(Editor’s Note regarding the poll: Though it will not seem like the poll registered your click before you hit “Vote”, if you click on one of the options, and then click “Vote”, it will register.)

After the past two weeks, this seems a particularly-pertinent query. Five different Notre Dame roster moves came to the world’s attention largely through Twitter: the outgoing transfers of junior offensive lineman Tristen Hoge and sophomore offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux, the incoming transfers of fifth-year senior receiver Cameron Smith from Arizona State and sophomore safety Alohi Gilman from Navy, and the injury-forced ending of senior tight end Tyler Luatua’s career. (more…)

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 56 Quenton Nelson, left guard

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-5, 329 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with two seasons of eligibility remaining including 2017
Depth chart: Nelson starts at left guard and will start on the Irish line until the day he heads to the NFL Draft.
Recruiting: A rivals.com five-star recruit, Nelson chose Notre Dame over offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford and many others. The No. 2 prospect in New Jersey, No. 3 tackle and No. 29 player overall in the class of 2014, Nelson committed to Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand in May of his junior year of high school, robbing recruitniks of any drama in the high-profile lineman’s process.

CAREER TO DATE
Nelson preserved a year of eligibility in 2014 before starting 23 of the 25 games in the following two seasons, only missing two starts in 2015 due to an ankle injury, though he still appeared in one of those two games.

QUOTE(S)
Spring conversations tend to rotate around question marks, and Nelson at left guard is anything but a question. As a captain, Irish coach Brian Kelly indicated Nelson is a point of reliance for the team as a whole.

“Guys with a lot of experience you’re going to continue to count on,” Kelly said the week of the Blue-Gold Game. “… You look at the captains first, because you know you’re going to count on them off the field, and that means you can probably count on them on the field, as well. Take those guys. Quenton Nelson, [fifth-year senior left tackle] Mike McGlinchey … guys you can count on right out of the gate.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
Notre Dame could have two All-Americans lined up next to each other. That’s my bold prediction heading into the season, with both Nelson and McGlinchey earning those honors. In seasons past, we saw the Irish become left-handed in the running game, with Chris Watt and Zack Martin the trusted preference of Brian Kelly in critical running situations. It’s hard to think that won’t be the case in 2016.

“Nelson’s strength has turned him into an elite run blocker. Expect to see his game round out this season, with his improved fitness helping bring the physical traits of a tackle into play as well. A special season is possible.”

2017 OUTLOOK
While Notre Dame does have some questions about the right side of its offensive line, and about the overall offensive line depth, not having to worry about half of those protection possibilities is quite a luxury. Nelson, combined with McGlinchey, provides that luxury.

Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long preaches a scheme more focused on field/boundary designs than on left/right patterns, so there may not be the development of an over-reliance on the left-side combination a la Keith’s example of Watt and Martin. Nonetheless, in short-yardage or goal-line situations, expect Nelson to be the lead blocker as often as not. He is strong in pass protection, as well, but run blocking is his specialty.

DOWN THE ROAD
Nelson’s returning despite a second-round NFL Draft grade makes sense. He can get his degree and most likely improve his draft positioning drastically. Some rated Nelson the top guard in the 2017 draft, but that simply meant he would hear his name called early the second day, as Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp did, going No. 38 overall as the first guard off the board and the fourth offensive lineman.

It is simply less likely for a guard to go high in the draft than it is a tackle unless the guard has truly established himself as a step above the rest. That will be Nelson’s task this year, one he is presumably up to given his career trends thus far. At that point, look for McGlinchey to be the first tackle drafted, and Nelson to be grabbed shortly thereafter as the first guard.

It is possible Nelson returns in 2018, and Hiestand would jump at that chance, but — barring injury — it will most likely be in Nelson’s best interests to head to the NFL after his third season as a Notre Dame starter. One wrinkle to a possible return would be if Hiestand offered Nelson the chance to succeed McGlinchey at left tackle. While Nelson has thoroughly established himself as a guard, displaying potential at tackle could pique the NFL’s interests.


2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
No. 95 (theoretically): Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 94 (theoretically): Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92 (theoretically): Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90 (theoretically): Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87 (theoretically): Jafar Armstrong, receiver
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84 (theoretically): Michael Young, receiver
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
No. 73: (theoretically) Josh Lugg, offensive tackle
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
No. 68: Mike McGlinchey, left tackle
No. 67: Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman
No. 65: (theoretically) Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman
No. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman

TRANSFERS
No. 66: Tristen Hoge, offensive lineman, transfers to BYU
No. 50: Parker Boudreaux, offensive lineman
No. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State

INJURIES
No. 13: Tyler Luatua, tight end, career ended by medical hardship

Notre Dame adds four-star TE, loses four-star WR

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Win some. Lose some. Such as recruiting goes.

Hours after Notre Dame lost the commitment of a speedy receiver Wednesday afternoon, the Irish gained the verbal pledge of consensus four-star tight end George Takacs (Gulf Coast High School; Naples, Fla.).

The subtraction of consensus four-star receiver Braden Lenzy (Tigard H.S.; Portland, Ore.) and subsequent — though, it should be specifically noted, unrelated — addition of Takacs keeps the Notre Dame class of 2018 at 12 commitments currently, with Takacs the first tight end.

The No. 10 tight end in his class, per rivals.com — the No. 48 prospect in Florida and the No. 234 in the country — Takacs will join a depth chart in flux at tight end. Current fifth-year senior Durham Smythe will be gone come 2018. That much is certain. Senior Nic Weishar will have another year of eligibility after 2017 should the Irish coaches offer him a fifth year, and junior Alizé Mack will have a possible decision to make regarding early entry into the NFL Draft.

Early-enrolled freshman Brock Wright and incoming classmate Cole Kmet, both consensus four-stars themselves, will welcome Takacs, with or without Weishar and Mack.

That tight end depth may have played a part in Takacs’ commitment. Notre Dame’s offense is expected to feature tight ends, often in two tight end sets, under the direction of offensive coordinator Chip Long. Those theories obviously necessitate both quality and quantity at the position in order to become realities.

“Coach Long is a big tight end guy, so talking to him about the offense has been fun,” Takacs told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “The fact that he’s the offensive coordinator and the tight ends coach really excites me.”

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Takacs chose Long and the Irish over the likes of Wisconsin, Florida and Georgia.

LENZY TO OREGON
In switching his commitment to his homestate Ducks, Lenzy left the Notre Dame class of 2018 with only one receiver currently, rivals.com four-star Micah Jones (Warren Township H.S.; Gurnee, Ill.).

Taking Lenzy’s track intentions at face value, and he has certainly shown the speed for a possible future in the pursuit, Oregon makes sense as a landing spot. Eugene, Ore., is known as TrackTown, U.S.A., for a reason.

In many respects, Wednesday may be the epitome of the recruiting aspects Irish coach Brian Kelly referenced on National Signing Day (Feb. 1) when discussing the pros and cons of an early signing day this December.

“Our mindset is we’re going into it business as usual,” Kelly said. “We’re all going to have to fight until February.”

RELATED READING: Four-star WR Micah Jones chooses Irish

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 57 Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3 ½, 303 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with three years of eligibility remaining including 2017
Depth chart: Ruhland provides a crucial piece of depth along the interior of the offensive line. Along with fifth-year senior Hunter Bivin, Ruhland could spell either guard.
Recruiting: A rivals.com three-star prospect, Ruhland shut down his recruitment 10 months before National Signing Day even though he had interest from Big Ten schools such as Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota. Rivals rated Ruhland as the No. 6 player in Illinois in 2015 and the No. 30 in the country at his position.

CAREER TO DATE
Ruhland preserved a year of eligibility in 2015 and saw action in nine games last season.

2015 NATIONAL SIGNING DAY HIGHLIGHT REEL

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
With John Montelus back on the offensive line and shifting outside to right tackle in fall camp, Ruhland will be among the depth battling to get into the two-deep at guard. What looks like a three-man race at right guard likely means Colin McGovern could slide over to the left side behind Nelson, keeping Ruhland as a third-stringer, nothing to be upset about at this point.

“There are opportunities coming — especially with Nelson capable of heading to the NFL after this season and other pieces coming and going. So I’m capping my expectations for Ruhland’s 2016 at a few mop-up time snaps, and maybe securing some special teams work.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Don’t take this the wrong way: The Irish hope Ruhland does not see much action in 2017. If he does see significant playing time, that is a sign of equally-significant injuries along Notre Dame’s offensive line.

Bivin will be the first backup to see action if fifth-year senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey, senior left guard Quenton Nelson or senior right guard Alex Bars were to suffer an injury. Bivin would also see imminent playing time if senior center Sam Mustipher went down, as Irish coach Brian Kelly has indicated Bars would slide to the middle. If Bivin is already filling in for one of those spots and another injury were to occur, Ruhland would be the likely next man in. (At right tackle, whoever finishes second in the competition between sophomores Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg will naturally back up the winner.)

This is not an indictment of Ruhland. Depth is needed. This is football, after all. Injuries occur. But Notre Dame would certainly rather escape the season without much more than a turned ankle along the offensive front line.

DOWN THE ROAD
Still largely an unknown, Ruhland will have his chance to make an impression when Nelson heads to the NFL following this season. Along with some of the incoming freshmen — namely Dillan Gibbons and early enrollee Robert Hainsey — Ruhland will be in the mix to fill that starting role. In both last year’s and 2015’s A-to-Z entries regarding Ruhland, Keith preached patience, and rightfully so. The opportunity presented by Nelson’s moving on will be the moment Keith was looking toward for Ruhland’s future.


2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
No. 95 (theoretically): Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 94 (theoretically): Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92 (theoretically): Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90 (theoretically): Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87 (theoretically): Jafar Armstrong, receiver
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84 (theoretically): Michael Young, receiver
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
No. 73: (theoretically) Josh Lugg, offensive tackle
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
No. 68: Mike McGlinchey, left tackle
No. 67: Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman
No. 65: (theoretically) Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman
No. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle

TRANSFERS
No. 66: Tristen Hoge, offensive lineman, transfers to BYU
No. 50: Parker Boudreaux, offensive lineman
No. 30: Josh Barajas, linebacker, to transfer to Illinois State

INJURIES
No. 13: Tyler Luatua, tight end, career ended by medical hardship