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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 18 Troy Pride, cornerback

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Listed Measurements: 5-foot-11 ½, 183 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Sophomore with three years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season.
Depth chart: Pride’s positioning on the depth chart among the field cornerbacks could largely depend on down-and-distance situations. Most simply, Pride and junior Shaun Crawford are competing for the right to back up starting sophomore Julian Love.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, Pride chose Notre Dame over a list laden with offers from the Southeast, logical given Pride is from South Carolina. Clemson, North Carolina State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech all pursued the nation’s No. 23 cornerback, per rivals.com.

CAREER TO DATE
Pride saw action in all eight games following the dismissal of former Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. He started against the year’s three toughest opponents in Stanford, Miami (season-high five tackles) and USC (four tackles), coming off the bench against the run-heavy attacks interspersed between them.

2016: Eight games, three starts, 12 tackles, one fumble recovered.

Pride also ran track this winter and some of the spring, setting the fastest times for Notre Dame in the indoor 60-meter (6.77 seconds), the indoor 200-meter (21.75 seconds), the outdoor 100-meter (10.47 seconds) and the outdoor 200-meter (21.36 seconds).

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Pride might be too talented to redshirt, capable of competing in the two-deep if he gets a firm grasp on the system. If that’s the case, expect him to get some time covering kicks and running on special teams, a place he should see the field if he’s going to burn the year of eligibility.

“Pride has the physical traits this staff looks for in a cover cornerback. He’s got pedigree and leadership as well, a competitive football player who earned rave reviews from area recruiter Autry Denson as well as position coach Todd Lyght.

“Notre Dame’s secondary is filled with young defensive backs looking to jump the line. I’d be surprised if Pride isn’t one of them.”

2017 OUTLOOK
A year ago, a large part of Pride’s playing time was due to the rash of defensive back injuries the Irish endured, including an Achilles injury suffered by Crawford in the second week. This season, Crawford’s return complicates Pride’s projection, but it certainly will not keep him off the field entirely.

First off, assume Pride continues to contribute on special teams. He brings much more to the football field than just his undeniable speed, but he does have that speed and it is best utilized on coverage units.

When it comes to the secondary, neither Pride nor Crawford will move past Love in the pecking order, but one will establish himself as the primary nickel back while the other readies to fill in for Love whenever the starter moves to the secondary’s back-end as Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has implied will occur in particular passing situations.

With that in mind, Pride could see double digit snaps as the field corner each week. That will be enough to keep the sophomore engaged and ready should an injury befall Love, Crawford or even boundary corner Nick Watkins. Given the nature of the position and recent history, perhaps that should might be better phrased as when.

DOWN THE ROAD
The Irish are rich with cornerbacks right now, but it is a position much like defensive end: A team can never have enough of them. Love, Crawford, Pride and sophomore Donte Vaughn all have three years of eligibility remaining. Watkins has two. Even with Love sometimes working at safety, only very specific situations would see all five on the field at once.

As already mentioned, though, injuries do occur, and Notre Dame is only rich in cornerbacks for the time being. Each of the five will undoubtedly be needed throughout 2017 and 2018. Given current recruiting trends, the sophomore trio and Crawford will be counted on in 2019, as well.


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: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 92)
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 95)
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92: Jonathon MacCollister; defensive end (originally theorized as No. 46)
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver (originally theorized as No. 84)
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end (originally theorized as No. 90)
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. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman (originally theorized as No. 65)
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 73)
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right 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. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Sam Mustipher, center
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, defensive lineman
No. 48: Greer Martini, inside linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, linebacker/defensive lineman
No. 42: Julian Okwara, defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 94)
No. 40: Drew White, linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, kicker (originally theorized as No. 52)
No. 38: Deon McIntosh, running back/receiver
No. 35: David Adams, linebacker
No. 34: Tony Jones, Jr., running back
No. 33: Josh Adams, running back
No. 32: D.J. Morgan, safety
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, rover
No. 29: Kevin Stepherson, receiver
No. 28: Nicco Fertitta, safety
No. 27: Julian Love, cornerback
No. 26: Ashton White, safety
No. 25: Jafar Armstrong, receiver (originally theorized as No. 87)
No. 24: Nick Coleman, safety
No. 23: Drue Tranquill, rover
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, rover
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, safety
No. 19: Justin Yoon, kicker

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 99-to-2: No. 19 Justin Yoon, placekicker

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Listed Measurements: 5-foot-10, 195 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with two years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season.
Depth chart: While Notre Dame did unexpectedly sign kicker Jonathan Doerer to its freshmen class, his specialty is kickoffs. Yoon remains essentially unchallenged as a placekicker for the time being.
Recruiting: Yoon was the consensus top kicker in the class of 2015. An Under Armour All-American, he chose the Irish over Texas A&M, Northwestern and Boston College.

CAREER TO DATE
When Yoon showed up at Notre Dame, he was already the projected starting placekicker following the graduation of Kyle Brindza. Yoon never hesitated, kicking for more points than any Irish freshman ever had, and more points than anyone but Brindza ever had in a single-season.

2015: 13 games, 15-of-17 field goal attempts including a career-long 52-yarder, 50-of-52 extra point attempts, including 30 in a row to conclude the season to go along with 12 consecutive converted field goals.

2016: 12 games; 13-of-17 field goal attempts with a season-long of 40 yards, 44-of-46 extra point attempts; 55 kickoffs with 24 touchbacks.

RECORD ASSAULTS
Yoon is on pace for a number of Notre Dame career records, and when looking at past performances, it is reasonable to think he could have a few more individual or season records.

  • Yoon scored 95 points in 2015. Brindza (2011-14) set the single-season record of 98 in 2013. A strong Irish offense could push Yoon toward that number in either 2017 or 2018.
  • Yoon’s 50 made extra points in 2015 fell two short of D.J. Fitzpatrick’s 2005 record. This mark could fall alongside the preceding one.
  • The 52-yard field goal highlighted above was only one short of the school record, reached twice, by Dave Reeve in 1976 and Brindza against Arizona State in 2013.
  • Brindza holds the career record of field goals made with 57, on 81 attempts. Yoon has already made 28, on 34 attempts.
  • Yoon’s current career field goal percentage is 82.4, far ahead of the record pace set by John Carney (1984-86) of 73.9 percent. To qualify for the mark, Yoon would need a minimum of 50 attempts. If he goes a mere nine for his next 16, he would knock Carney from that perch.
  • Craig Hentrich (1989-92) holds the career record of 177 extra points made, on 180 attempts. Yoon has already made 94, on 98 attempts through two seasons.

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
I expect another rock-solid season for Yoon and more success on his point after attempts. While his field goal accuracy might dip a bit, it’ll likely be because [Irish coach] Brian Kelly has more faith in trotting out his kicker, not because Yoon’s struggling.

“With an active streak that’s the fourth-longest in school history, every field goal Yoon makes will improve upon the impressive start to his career. Getting off to a good start in Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium will go a long way towards making sure this season is a good one.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Yoon’s active streak ended quickly last season, with his first attempt of the year getting blocked. Overall, though, it was another strong season for the placekicker, despite some injury concerns which led to him being held out of practice this spring. Whether or not those troubles derived from an increased workload due to adding kickoff duties to his platter, Yoon will not have to strike that balance this year thanks to the arrival of Doerer.

Focusing entirely on placekicking does not guarantee Yoon’s field goal percentage will rise or even stay at its current impressive mark. For example, if Yoon were to go 15-of-20 but that included a 5-of-10 performance from 50-plus yards, few would disparage his accuracy. In that respect, many of Yoon’s stats are posted at the mercy of the offense as much as his own accomplishments. Hentrich’s career extra points made record is a testament to that era’s offense, as well as Hentrich’s consistency.

DOWN THE ROAD
Barring injury, Yoon will be a four-year starter at Notre Dame and likely be able to lay claim to multiple records. The bigger question will be how does his already-strong leg improve? If he can give Kelly a comfortable chance at three points from 55 yards, that will become quite a weapon for the Irish, especially in late-game situations.


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: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 92)
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 95)
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92: Jonathon MacCollister; defensive end (originally theorized as No. 46)
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver (originally theorized as No. 84)
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end (originally theorized as No. 90)
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. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman (originally theorized as No. 65)
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 73)
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right 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. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Sam Mustipher, center
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, defensive lineman
No. 48: Greer Martini, inside linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, linebacker/defensive lineman
No. 42: Julian Okwara, defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 94)
No. 40: Drew White, linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, kicker (originally theorized as No. 52)
No. 38: Deon McIntosh, running back/receiver
No. 35: David Adams, linebacker
No. 34: Tony Jones, Jr., running back
No. 33: Josh Adams, running back
No. 32: D.J. Morgan, safety
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, rover
No. 29: Kevin Stepherson, receiver
No. 28: Nicco Fertitta, safety
No. 27: Julian Love, cornerback
No. 26: Ashton White, safety
No. 25: Jafar Armstrong, receiver (originally theorized as No. 87)
No. 24: Nick Coleman, safety
No. 23: Drue Tranquill, rover
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, rover
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, safety

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 99-to-2: No. 21 Jalen Elliott, safety

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-½, 208 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Sophomore with three years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season.
Depth chart: Following spring practice, Elliott looks to be in prime position to start as the boundary safety against Temple in 53 days alongside junior Nick Coleman at field safety. Early-enrolled freshman Isaiah Robertson is the most likely backup to Elliott before turning to junior Nicco Fertitta.
Recruiting: A rivals.com four-star recruit, different recruiting services and different teams varied their positional projections for Elliott’s career. He shined at both quarterback and defensive back in high school, but it was the possibility of being a receiver that conflicted with a clear-cut vision at safety. The No. 15 safety in the country, per rivals, and the No. 5 prospect in Virginia, Elliott chose Notre Dame over the likes of Georgia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. The last of those is of note considering Irish defensive coordinator Mike Elko was then in that position with the Demon Deacons.

CAREER TO DATE
Elliott saw action in all 12 games his freshman season, making 14 tackles on the year. Thanks in part to the dismissal of Max Redfield just before the season, Elliott contributed in genuine defensive situations in addition to special teams, making four tackles against both Syracuse and Army.

As a first-team safety in this spring’s Blue-Gold Game, Elliott made seven tackles and one interception off a deflection by Coleman.

QUOTE(S)
By the end of spring practice, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly flatly said, “[Elliott is] going to be with the first-team defense. He’s making great progress.”

Before that mid-April declaration, Kelly had typically lumped Elliott in with fellow sophomore safety Devin Studstill, who notched 38 tackles in 12 games with nine starts last season. In time, Studstill appeared to back up Coleman while Elliott established himself as the boundary safety.

“Jalen Elliott and Devin Studstill are still in that programming mode in terms of doing all the little things right for us,” Kelly said in early April. “Fundamentally, I think they’re getting better. I know Mike Elko really like those two kids, likes their toughness and their want to play the game. They’re going to be there for us.

“You’ll see that we’re going to be situationally playing guys that make sense at the time of the game. First, second and third down. We’re going to put guys in position to succeed. It’s not going to be one guy and that’s it in all situations.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
I’m buying the hype on Elliott. I think he’s my leading snap-earner on the defensive side of the ball for the freshman class, out-pacing position-mate Devin Studstill, who had spring practice to work his way into first-team reps with Max Redfield.

“Versatility is a big reason I’m so high on Elliott. He’s a guy who can stay at safety if the Irish need to move [now-senior Drue] Tranquill around — a preference of [former defensive coordinator] Brian VanGorder’s. He’s a potential nickel or dime entry if the Irish want to put more defensive backs on the field. He’s also good enough to get a look as a cornerback. And he’ll certainly be someone who can be counted on as a special teamer.

“Opportunity is the other obvious reason to target Elliott as [a] true freshman contributor. Notre Dame’s safety play needs improvement, and new blood might be the best option.

“I’m hesitant to match stats with snaps, especially knowing that sometimes productive safety play means you failed in the front seven. But I’ve got no hesitation grabbing the reins and kick-starting the Elliott bandwagon.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Elliott’s 2016 makes projecting his 2017 a difficult task. He played last season, but not necessarily enough to garner a legitimate impression. If nothing else, that will not be the case by the end of this September.

The Irish coaching staff has long been high on Elliott for his intangibles as much as his physical gifts. If both of those translate to his starting role, then he should have no difficulty staying on the field throughout the season. Even then, though, estimating a safety’s tackle totals can create misleading expectations. If Elliott exceeds 50 tackles, it could mean he develops a nose for the ball and makes play after play. It could also mean the front seven misses tackles and he is left to make open-field stops to prevent long touchdowns.

Even as a starting safety, it is probable Elliott is asked to provide coverage help on special teams. Special teams coordinator Brian Polian openly hoped for more talent at his disposal this spring. Amid that wishing, he paused to compliment Elliott’s performances to date.

With Studstill and, to a lesser extent, Robertson around to ably fill in on the defense’s backline, spending some of Elliott’s energy on special teams could lead to worthwhile results.

DOWN THE ROAD
The additions of Robertson and freshman Jordan Genmark-Heath to the safeties may aid Notre Dame’s depth there, but they do not solve the even more lacking factor of experience. Enter Navy transfer sophomore Alohi Gilman.

There is a slight chance Gilman is declared eligible this fall. If that is the case, the only thing standing between him and a starting role will be an understanding of the playbook. He made 76 tackles for the Midshipmen last year, as well as five pass breakups. If he has a grasp of Elko’s playbook by early September, he will be the most-experienced Irish safety on the roster.

Presuming Gilman is not eligible until 2018, he will still have as much experience at safety then as anyone will. The most Elliott will be able to claim is one season’s worth of starts.

This may sound like bad news for Elliott, but a challenge in the position grouping is necessary and a bit overdue. He will have 2017 to establish himself as a starter. If told that a year ago, Elliott would have undoubtedly jumped at the chance.


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: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 92)
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 95)
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92: Jonathon MacCollister; defensive end (originally theorized as No. 46)
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver (originally theorized as No. 84)
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end (originally theorized as No. 90)
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. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman (originally theorized as No. 65)
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 73)
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right 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. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Sam Mustipher, center
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, defensive lineman
No. 48: Greer Martini, inside linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, linebacker/defensive lineman
No. 42: Julian Okwara, defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 94)
No. 40: Drew White, linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, kicker (originally theorized as No. 52)
No. 38: Deon McIntosh, running back/receiver
No. 35: David Adams, linebacker
No. 34: Tony Jones, Jr., running back
No. 33: Josh Adams, running back
No. 32: D.J. Morgan, safety
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, rover
No. 29: Kevin Stepherson, receiver
No. 28: Nicco Fertitta, safety
No. 27: Julian Love, cornerback
No. 26: Ashton White, safety
No. 25: Jafar Armstrong, receiver (originally theorized as No. 87)
No. 24: Nick Coleman, safety
No. 23: Drue Tranquill, rover
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, rover

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 99-to-2: No. 22 Asmar Bilal, rover

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2, 229 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Junior with three years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season.
Depth chart: For the time being, Bilal slots in behind senior Drue Tranquill as the second option at the rover position in defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s system. Despite that backup status, Bilal should see plenty of action against run-oriented opponents.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, Bilal chose Notre Dame over Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska, among many other offers. A U.S. Army All-American, rivals.com rated Bilal the No. 17 linebacker in the class of 2015, the No. 4 prospect in Indiana and the No. 246 overall player in the country.

CAREER TO DATE
Bilal preserved a year of eligibility in 2015 before seeing action in all 12 games last season. In the first third of the season, that action was largely, nearly entirely, on special teams, but after defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s dismissal, Bilal earned a more active role on defense, highlighted by making five tackles against Stanford.

2015: Preserved a year of eligibility.
2016: 12 games, 29 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack (v. Miami).

QUOTE(S)
Throughout spring practice, the role of the rover gained more definition, and with that, Bilal’s projection became more clear as the physical counterpart there in a rotation with Tranquill. Specifically, Irish coach Brian Kelly noted the rushing tendencies of Notre Dame’s first four opponents, possibly necessitating an influx of Bilal in September.

“We think Asmar is a guy that physically can run with most detached tight ends or backs coming out in the role we’re going to ask the rover to match up,” Kelly said at the start of spring practice. “We’re not going to ask him to run vertically or play corner routes. We think he’s a physical guy at the point of attack, a guy that is agile enough to play in space, yet not put him in a position where he’d have to play more of a safety in that position right now.”

If the Irish safeties struggle to start the season, it is within the realm of possibility Tranquill could move back to that role to provide some veteran leadership on the defense’s back-end, though that is not Notre Dame’s preference. If that were to happen, Bilal’s skill set should hold up just fine at rover, per Kelly.

“We started top-down teaching because we wanted to get Asmar on the field at the rover position,” Kelly said later in March. “We felt like his skill set was such that he could manage handling the position from a skill standpoint.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
Bilal looks like a four-unit coverage contributor on special teams from game one. He also has the type of speed and skill that could find a role in a sub-package (remember those?) for VanGorder, if the defense is able to keep enough guys healthy to play multiple schemes.

“The redshirt was the best thing to happen to Bilal in that he’s essentially starting his college career now. We’ve seen too often the difficulties that come with using talented defenders in bit roles, robbing years of eligibility from guys like [former defensive lineman, 2010-13] Kona Schenwke and [former defensive end, 2012-15] Romeo Okwara, removing a fifth-year opportunity that could have really helped all parties involved.

“Positional depth helped save Bilal in 2015. Now he’s going to need to be part of the solution in 2016, when a new cast of characters needs to step forward and lead with captains Joe Schmidt and [Jaylon] Smith long gone.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Bilal has all the physical tools to demand playing time this season, provided a grasp of Elko’s playbook — that disclaimer is not Bilal-specific, simply a reality of bringing in a new coordinator. The biggest reason he may not be a primary contributor on defense in 2017 is the three starting linebackers (when lumping the rover in with the linebackers) are all established senior captains in Tranquill, Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini.

Simply due to the need to understand the rover’s duties, Bilal will not be the first option considered to spell Morgan or Martini. He will, however, step in for Tranquill whenever necessary. That should be the bare minimum of expectations of Bilal this fall.

The opposite end of that spectrum begins with Bilal excelling against the ground attacks of Temple and, even more so, Georgia. If he plays a vital part of shutting down the Bulldogs imposing and heralded duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel while also showing more than competence in the passing game, Bilal could make it imperative he become the top option at rover.

The reality will likely be somewhere between those two extremes, perhaps something along the lines of 45 tackles, highlighted by seven or eight against Georgia and Stanford each.

DOWN THE ROAD
Tranquill has two years of eligibility remaining, including the 2017 season. By the time 2019 rolls around, current freshman Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah should be ready to take over at the position he was recruited specifically for. By no means, though, does that leave Bilal as an odd man out.

Rather, Bilal could use this season’s exposure as a foundation to work his way into the mix at middle or boundary linebacker following the departure of both Morgan and Martini following this season. The Irish currently lack depth at linebacker—aside from Morgan and Martini, only junior Te’von Coney presents much experience before getting to sophomore Jonathan Jones and freshmen David Adams and Drew White.

Provided Morgan’s and Martini’s careers of relative health, that dearth of depth is not an overwhelming concern in the short-term, but it will spark worry moving forward. If Bilal is able to step into Morgan’s role in a year, allowing Coney to fill in for Martini just as he will when necessary this season, that stressor may be readily reduced.


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: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 92)
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 95)
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92: Jonathon MacCollister; defensive end (originally theorized as No. 46)
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver (originally theorized as No. 84)
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end (originally theorized as No. 90)
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. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman (originally theorized as No. 65)
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 73)
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right 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. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Sam Mustipher, center
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, defensive lineman
No. 48: Greer Martini, inside linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, linebacker/defensive lineman
No. 42: Julian Okwara, defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 94)
No. 40: Drew White, linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, kicker (originally theorized as No. 52)
No. 38: Deon McIntosh, running back/receiver
No. 35: David Adams, linebacker
No. 34: Tony Jones, Jr., running back
No. 33: Josh Adams, running back
No. 32: D.J. Morgan, safety
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, rover
No. 29: Kevin Stepherson, receiver
No. 28: Nicco Fertitta, safety
No. 27: Julian Love, cornerback
No. 26: Ashton White, safety
No. 25: Jafar Armstrong, receiver (originally theorized as No. 87)
No. 24: Nick Coleman, safety
No. 23: Drue Tranquill, rover

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 99-to-2: No. 23 Drue Tranquill, rover

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2, 230 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with two years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season. Tranquill is eligible for a fifth year because his season-ending injury in 2015 occurred in only the third game of the year, making that season eligible for a medical redshirt by NCAA standards.
Depth chart: Tranquill will take the majority of the snaps at the rover position, the preferred wrinkle of new defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s scheme. Despite that status, it is possible Tranquill does not start against Temple in 55 days. Irish coach Brian Kelly has indicated the defense may utilize junior Asmar Bilal’s size against the Owls and other run-dominant opponents in the season’s first month.
Recruiting: Tranquill flipped his commitment from Purdue to Notre Dame after Kelly assured him the rivals.com three-star prospect would have a chance at playing safety in South Bend. The No. 32 safety in the country and No. 6 recruit in Indiana, per Rivals, Tranquill also held offers from the likes of Penn State, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

CAREER TO DATE
Two season-ending ACL tears may be the most notable moments of Tranquill’s career, but he did make it through 2016 unscathed, starting all 12 games while making 79 tackles, good for second on the team behind now-senior linebacker Nyles Morgan.

2014: 11 games, three starts, 33 tackles, one tackle for loss, ½ sack, one forced fumble, one blocked punt, one interception v. Louisville, one interception celebration resulting in a fluke knee injury.
2015: three games, nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one knee injury following an end zone pass breakup against Georgia Tech.
2016: 12 games, 12 starts, 79 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception.

QUOTE(S)
As the spring progressed and a better understanding of Elko’s rover was gained, it was clear Tranquill both fits the position and enjoys it.

“I love the rover position,” he said following the Blue-Gold Game. “It’s a versatile position that allows you to come off the edge, allows you to play the run, play the pass and do a lot of different things.”

Kelly had a similar sentiment following Tranquill’s four-tackle, two-tackles for loss performance.

“It’s been a good fit all spring,” Kelly said. “He’s a plus player there for us. He can really impact what’s happening from snap to snap. He’s a physical player and playing low to the ball is really where he can do a lot of really good things for us.”

WHAT KEITH ARNOLD PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
If he can stay healthy, I expect Tranquill to be one of the most productive players on the Irish defense Think of him as a super-sized version of Matthias Farley from 2014. He will fill up the stat sheet.

“Knock on wood that he stays healthy, because if he does I expect Tranquill to be the most productive safety of [former defensive coordinator Brian] VanGorder era at Notre Dame. He’s going to be one of the team’s leading tackler[s] in front of and behind the line of scrimmage.

“Does that mean he’ll be great in coverage? No. But if he’s able to wreak havoc as a guy running the alley and crashing towards the line of scrimmage, he’s got a chance to be a real difference maker.”

It is worth noting a piece of what Keith predicted for Tranquill’s career back in the 2014 A-to-Z entry, a very prescient prediction: “… the Irish landed a unique athlete that’ll start his career at safety but looks to have the ability to grow into a linebacker.”

2017 OUTLOOK
Tranquill’s greatest struggles as a safety came in covering deep. For all his athletic traits — strong, solidly built, quick first step — he is not exceptionally fleet of foot. At rover, that should not be as much of a concern, at least not in theory.

The rover won’t be covering deep. It should be as simple as that. Sure, an occasional unexpected go route here or there is always possible, but by and large, Tranquill will have two safeties behind him providing both support and speed, rather than him being one of those two safeties.

One has to wonder what consequence follows removing that concern from Tranquill’s mind. Already an instinctual player, he should have no encumbrance remaining as he flies to the ball. Lining him up next to Morgan will put two physical, proven tacklers in the middle of the defense. If nothing else, it will be intriguing to see which finishes the season as the Irish leading tackler, a title without reward but a notable one, nonetheless.

DOWN THE ROAD
Tranquill is in position to be a two-time captain for Notre Dame, with him one of six already for this coming season. That will presumably be true whether the rover position fits him as well as expected or not. The Indiana native has worked through two season-ending knee injuries/surgeries without ever complaining, remaining a valued locker room presence throughout. Some may write that off as mindless praises, but it is more than that, and it is certainly viable claim to a captainship.

On the field, 2018 should bring more of 2017 from Tranquill, presuming health, as one always has to when looking at a player with Tranquill’s injury past.


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: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 92)
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 95)
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92: Jonathon MacCollister; defensive end (originally theorized as No. 46)
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver (originally theorized as No. 84)
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end (originally theorized as No. 90)
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. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman (originally theorized as No. 65)
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 73)
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right 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. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Sam Mustipher, center
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, defensive lineman
No. 48: Greer Martini, inside linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, linebacker/defensive lineman
No. 42: Julian Okwara, defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 94)
No. 40: Drew White, linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, kicker (originally theorized as No. 52)
No. 38: Deon McIntosh, running back/receiver
No. 35: David Adams, linebacker
No. 34: Tony Jones, Jr., running back
No. 33: Josh Adams, running back
No. 32: D.J. Morgan, safety
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, rover
No. 29: Kevin Stepherson, receiver
No. 28: Nicco Fertitta, safety
No. 27: Julian Love, cornerback
No. 26: Ashton White, safety
No. 25: Jafar Armstrong, receiver (originally theorized as No. 87)
No. 24: Nick Coleman, safety

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