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Irish A-to-Z: Tyler Luatua

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With a change of heart, Tyler Luatua decided to stay at Notre Dame after announcing his intention to transfer to BYU before spring practice. Accepted back onto the team after a meeting with Brian Kelly, Luatua now needs to find his place back into a stacked tight end depth chart.

Luatua’s got a unique skill-set compared to the rest of his positional partners. Built more like a guard than a receiver, he could be a key piece of the running attack as an attached blocker, though he’ll need to find consistency and stay healthy.

 

TYLER LUATUA
6’2.5″, 255 lbs.
Junior, No. 13, TE

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Notre Dame beat out Alabama for Luatua’s signature, where his brother played as a reserve offensive lineman. Luatua had an elite offer list that didn’t quite mesh with a modest three-star ranking, likely because of height limitations.

Still, Notre Dame was excited about landing a prospect who may not have been to their usual positional profile, but was someone they targeted early.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Played in 10 games, with the majority of his action coming as a second tight end. His largest contributions came against LSU in the Music City Bowl victory.

Sophomore Season (2015): Played in 10 games, starting three (Virginia, Navy and against Ohio State). Tallied no stats in the passing game, though played 212 offensive snaps in his ten games.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

He didn’t stay healthy and he didn’t catch a pass. Swing and a miss.

Want a potential touchdown vulture in the red zone? Sound smart and consider Luatua one of your dark horse candidates. When Malik Zaire is bootlegging after a nice play fake, Luatua looks like the perfect candidate to haul in a pass in the flats, rumbling for a score.

As mentioned above, Luatua’s work won’t find the stat sheet all the time. But the fact that he shed some bad weight between the fall and the spring, and the fact that he’ll be working in a slightly different offense makes Luatua one of the offense’s more intriguing under-the-radar contributors.

Notre Dame knew what it wanted when it chased hard after Luatua in recruiting. And a thumping tight end who can punish you at the line of scrimmage and also be a very difficult body to tackle in space already looks like the baseline.

While the tight end depth chart is still mostly a mystery, if Luatua is healthy I’ve got him pegged for 13 games and a ton of good blocking. Throw in a few short catches or some damage in the playaction game and it’ll be fun to see how his career progresses.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Notre Dame’s designated blocker needs to prove he can be a better… blocker. There was too much inconsistency at the point of attack for Luatua, who graded out negatively in seven of the ten games he played, per PFF College.

Those stats sometimes skew negative when your job is evaluated on a won-loss record against an offensive lineman or blitzing linebacker, but that’ll be Luatua’s niche if he can have one these next two seasons. With Jacob Matuska transitioned to the position, Luatua will battle a larger body for snaps in two-tight end personnel groupings, with the ability to keep opponents honest if there’s a roll-out or play action.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

With Alizé Jones transitioning to receiver and Durham Smythe having health struggles these past few years, Luatua could very well be one of the team’s snap-leaders at the position. But he’s got to improve his technique and consistency.

Skipping spring ball isn’t the best way to get a jump start on a position battle. But credit Luatua for making the tough decision to come back and to Kelly for welcoming him back with open arms.

Luatua has too much experience not to play a significant supporting role. I don’t suspect he’ll find his way into the passing game with better options at the position, but this offense’s DNA could be that of a power-running team. And that means a significant role for the third-year contributor.

 

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book
Parker Boudreaux
Miles Boykin
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney
Shaun Crawford
Scott Daly
Micah Dew-Treadway
Liam Eichenberg
Jalen Elliott
Nicco Feritta
Tarean Folston
Mark Harrell
Daelin Hayes
Jay Hayes
Tristen Hoge
Corey Holmes
Torii Hunter Jr.
Alizé Jones
Jamir Jones
Jarron Jones
Jonathan Jones
Tony Jones Jr.
Khalid Kareem
DeShone Kizer
Julian Love

 

 

Notre Dame gets commitment from DT Darnell Ewell

Darnell Ewell
Rivals / Yahoo Sports
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Virginia defensive tackle Darnell Ewell committed to Notre Dame on Friday, giving the Irish a future building block in the trenches. The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder is a consensus 4-star prospect, a Top 150 player who picked Notre Dame over finalists Michigan, Ohio State, Clemson and Alabama.  (That’s the first time I’ve ever typed that sentence.)

Ewell visited Notre Dame in June, a family trip that really paid dividends in the Irish’s pursuit of the future defensive tackle. He talked about what made Notre Dame right for him, taking a quote out of the RKG playbook, with a tip of the cap to White Castle. (Again, the first time I’ve ever typed that sentence.)

Irish 247’s Tom Loy had the money quote, when Ewell decided it was going to be Notre Dame after a Midwestern swing through South Bend, Columbus and Ann Arbor:

“It was really exciting. The coaches were really, really excited,” Ewell told Irish 247. “Believe it or not, after the visits I went on, I went to White Castle. We talked it over and thought about it.

“That’s when I knew I found the best school for me and the one I really, really fit in at. Trust me, I really fit in there. This decision was really good for me. They have the academics and football. It was just a really good opportunity that I couldn’t pass on. So, I took it.”

Ewell’s commitment pushes Notre Dame’s 2017 recruiting class to 16. It also puts the Irish among the top groups in the country, with just about every recruiting service viewing Notre Dame’s class in the Top 5, with Scout putting the Irish at No. 2.

The defensive front now has Ewell along side Kurt Hinish. Jonathan MacCollister also likely could grow into a three-technique, with the Irish in pursuit of several edge rushers with over six months to go until Signing Day.

Ewell is an honor student, National Honor Society Member and in the Junior ROTC at Lake Taylor High School.

PFF ranks Notre Dame’s OL best in the nation

McGlinchey
Getty
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The loss of Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin, picks No. 6 and 50 respectively, is the most impactful talent drain from the Irish offensive line in recent years. But that hasn’t lowered the expectations for Harry Hiestand’s front five.

While watch lists and media days are taking up most of the attention, PFF College released their ranking of the ten best offensive lines in college football. And even without Stanley and Martin (and multi-year starter Steve Elmer) the Irish are ranked as the best in the land.

Here’s PFF College’s Top Ten Offensive Lines:

10. Florida State
9. West Virginia
8. Auburn
7. Indiana
6. Washington State
5. LSU
4. USC
3. Appalachian State
2. Stanford
1. Notre Dame

There are a few head-scratchers on the list, including the FBS newcomer Appalachian State and Big Ten doormat Indiana. But based on PFF’s analytic approach—and the fact that they grade every snap of every game—this is likely a more worthwhile list than any of the preseason lists finding their way into publication.

Leading the way for the Irish are left tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Quenton Nelson. Both come into the season with high expectations, as PFF has ranked both in college football’s top 100 players.

Here’s PFF’s analysis on why Notre Dame sits at No. 1:

Despite the losses of Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin to the NFL draft, I believe the Irish will have the premier college offensive line in 2016. Led by Mike McGlinchey  and Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame has the talent to be a dominant group.

I recently took a trip to South Bend to watch practice and workouts and was amazed by offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s efforts to use the “KISS” formula. Keeping it short and simple is what the Irish o-line looks to do, and they do it well. Using an old-school style of running off the ball blended with a modern style zone blocking allows the Notre Dame line to utilize their talent up front to create seams for their talented ball carriers.

Their favorite play — the “outside zone” — is a prime example. The offensive line looks to reach the defenders and if unable, they use the defense’s momentum against them and continue to run the defender creating those seams for the backs. Notre Dame had +61.6 run block rating and +18.1 pass block rating in 2015 and I have no doubt they will be among the top in both categories this season.

Notre Dame will battle two of the other top five offensive lines this season when they take on traditional foes USC and Stanford.

 

Irish A-to-Z: Julian Love

Julian Love
Rivals / Yahoo Sports
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Julian Love arrives on campus after a prolific high school career and in possession of a very diverse skill-set. An RKG if there ever was one, Love’s character and pedigree went a long way towards the Irish jumping on the Chicagoland product and making him an early target, before any of the Midwest’s elite programs came calling.

Projected to play defensive back, Love’s athleticism is what got the coaching staff excited—a true football player who did just about everything for a two-time state champion.

 

JULIAN LOVE
5’11”, 175 lbs.
Freshman, DB

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Consensus 3-star prospect, Back-to-back 5A State Champions in Illinois, first-team MaxPreps All-American, All-Illinois first team per Chicago Tribune and Champaign News. Had early offers from Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois and Boston College before picking Notre Dame at an early Junior Day.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

There’s nothing that profiles “elite” about Love, but he reminds me of the same type of football player that the Irish recruited out of Cretin-Derham Hall in James Onwualu. There’s no chance that Love grows into a linebacker, but he’s a born leader who’ll start his career at one position and then the staff will see what makes the most sense after getting their hands on him.

Will it be easy for Love to beat out some of the talented athletes that the Irish staff has recruited at the skill positions? No. But he’ll likely find a niche early, and it feels like it’s been forever—maybe Robert Blanton— since the Irish have had an overachiever roaming the secondary. Maybe Love is the guy that breaks through.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

The limited ceiling that comes with modest offers and a three-star ranking likely serves as fuel for a player like Love. That’s a big reason why I don’t think he’ll redshirt. Like Onwualu, who found a way into the starting lineup at receiver, Love will carve out some role on this team.

The logical one is special teams. Even if he’s a kick-cover guy now instead of a returner, Brian Kelly’s small-school DNA makes him love all-around football players, and while Love certainly isn’t the freakiest athlete of the recruiting cycle, but he might be one of the best football players.

 

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book
Parker Boudreaux
Miles Boykin
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney
Shaun Crawford
Scott Daly
Micah Dew-Treadway
Liam Eichenberg
Jalen Elliott
Nicco Feritta
Tarean Folston
Mark Harrell
Daelin Hayes
Jay Hayes
Tristen Hoge
Corey Holmes
Torii Hunter Jr.
Alizé Jones
Jamir Jones
Jarron Jones
Jonathan Jones
Tony Jones Jr.
Khalid Kareem
DeShone Kizer

Irish A-to-Z: Tommy Kraemer

Tommy Kraemer
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It may sound like a broken record at this point, but Notre Dame may have their next great offensive lineman on campus in Tommy Kraemer. The state’s player of the year in Ohio, Kraemer was a nationally recruited tackle prospect that Harry Hiestand targeted and landed early.

With a chance to contribute at right guard and a likely serve as a back-up at both tackle positions, Kraemer could jump the line in a depth chart that’s had some of the finest recruiting in the country over the past five seasons. But that’s a testament to Kraemer’s abilities and the staff’s belief in his football acumen as well.

 

TOMMY KRAEMER
6’5″, 310 lbs.
Freshman, OL

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A Top-50, elite level recruit. Finished at No. 27 on 247 Sports’ composite ranking. The Gatorade State Player of the Year for Ohio, a 2015 Army All-American, MaxPreps first-team All-American, All-Ohio D-I first team, and the 2015 Enquirer Media Ohio All-State first team.

Turned down Ohio State and Michigan before committing to Notre Dame very early in the process.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Comparing anybody to Zack Martin isn’t fair, but Kraemer shares many of Martin’s attributes. He’s not the biggest or most physically imposing, but Kraemer’s Football IQ has the staff comfortable with inserting him into a position battle for a starting job and from being one snap away at a tackle position.

How long will it take Kraemer to find a starting job? What position will he end up at? And can he really be Notre Dame’s lineman of the year for four-straight seasons? (Probably not.) But it would surprise nobody if Kraemer played from jump street and spent four years excelling before a career in the NFL.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

If Notre Dame can redshirt Kraemer, they’d be wise to do so. That’d mean they survived at tackle with Mike McGlinchey and Alex Bars, and also found a starter at right guard from a collection of talent that range from young (Tristen Hoge) to old (Hunter Bivin).

But Kraemer may be too good not to redshirt. If that’s the case, he’ll likely start out on the inside while backing up both tackle spots, knowing that the depth chart on the outside is shakier than it should be after the early departure of Ronnie Stanley.

The value of a redshirt (Martin, Stanley, McGlinchey, Nelson) shouldn’t be lost. Especially if someone else can ascend and play good football at right guard. But Kraemer is a building block for the future. The timing is still just TBD.

 

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book
Parker Boudreaux
Miles Boykin
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney
Shaun Crawford
Scott Daly
Micah Dew-Treadway
Liam Eichenberg
Jalen Elliott
Nicco Feritta
Tarean Folston
Mark Harrell
Daelin Hayes
Jay Hayes
Tristen Hoge
Corey Holmes
Torii Hunter Jr.
Alizé Jones
Jamir Jones
Jarron Jones
Jonathan Jones
Tony Jones Jr.
Khalid Kareem
DeShone Kizer