Khalid Kareem
Rivals / Yahoo Sports

Irish A-to-Z: Khalid Kareem

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Notre Dame looks to have landed a future building block in the trenches in defensive lineman Khalid Kareem. At 270 pounds and just a semester into his relationship with strength coach Paul Longo, Kareem has the chance to have positional versatility while also providing a potentially dominant pass rush option.

A one-time Michigan State and Alabama commitment who ended up picking Notre Dame, Kareem was one of the Midwest’s premier defensive linemen, the kind of player you don’t often see picking the Irish.

 

KHALID KAREEM
6’3.5″, 270 lbs.
Freshman, No. 53, DL

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A Semper Fidelis All-American, Kareem was a consensus Top 250 recruit, the MLive.com’s Detroit Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-State player in Michigan.

He had offers from Michigan State, Ohio State, Stanford and was a one-time Alabama commitment before picking Notre Dame and enrolling early.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

In a weird way, Kareem’s recruitment seemed to have undersold his value. Some of that could’ve been the fact that his separation with Alabama was reported to be mutual, and the fact that he walked away from a commitment from Michigan State before that.

But it’s hard to discount what Kareem did on the football field, exploding as a national prospect with a 19 sack junior season along with 85 tackles. While he didn’t duplicate those insane numbers as a senior (he still put up 36 TFLs and 16 sacks), he arrives in South Bend with some absolutely prolific stats in his high school career and a physical skill-set to back it up.

Whether he stays on the edge or slides inside to three-technique, Kareem has a high football IQ and talent at chasing down quarterbacks. Both of those things are tremendous assets and much needed as Brian VanGorder’s defense continues to look for ways to get pressure on quarterbacks.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

I think Kareem sees the field this year, even if it’s just in a supporting role. He could be some much-needed depth behind Isaac Rochell, who could be used in multiple positions to help maximize his abilities.

There is so much to like about Kareem’s skill-set and his opportunity once Rochell graduates. If he continues to grow he can slide inside and provide a havoc-wreakor in the trenches. If he can keep his speed, he’s got a chance to be a starter as a sophomore when Rochell moves on to the NFL.

Maybe it’s because he enrolled early or because his recruitment had some roller coaster elements. But for all the groaning and grumbling about a lack of defensive ends in recruiting, if all goes according to plan the Irish could’ve landed two elite starters at defensive end for multiple seasons (out of the state of Michigan, no less) with Kareem and Daelin Hayes.

 

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.

 

 

Irish A-to-Z: Tony Jones Jr.

Tony Jones
Rivals / Yahoo Sports!
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One of the key recruiting objectives in the 2016 cycle was to continue to restock the running back depth chart. In Tony Jones Jr., Notre Dame’s staff found a big piece—literally.

At 220 pounds, Jones could be the type of big-bodied power back that gives the Irish offense another runner who can win between the tackles as well as hurt opponents down field.

Even with Josh Adams and Dexter Williams establishing themselves as true freshmen, we’ve seen how quickly a depth chart can empty out at running back. Jones is a key addition at a position that can never have too much talent.

 

TONY JONES JR.
5’10”, 220 lbs.
Freshman, RB

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A four-star prospect, Jones played in the U.S. Army All-American game and was invited to The Opening. Had offers from Florida, Miami, Ole Miss and South Carolina. Also plans to play baseball at Notre Dame.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Searching for a running back who can move the pile (and the chains), Jones was the “thunder” of a two-back class, signing along with fellow Floridian Deon McIntosh. Even with reps during his senior season limited by injury, it’s easy to see what type of powerful, north and south runner the Irish are getting. (Jones’ best run of the season came on a 59-yard touchdown against Rahshaun Gary’s Paramus Catholic squad in a showdown between nationally-ranked teams.)

Brian Kelly hasn’t had a big back since Robert Hughes lumbered through opponents, whose high-water mark included carrying the load against USC as Notre Dame erased a long Trojans winning streak. Jones has more speed than Hughes, reminding me of a more-heralded Cam Roberson, a power back who never got a chance after a major knee injury ended his career in practice.

Jones was an early target and early commitment (he pledged in March, nearly a year before Signing Day). That says quite a bit about what the Irish staff sees in him.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Find me some snaps for Jones and you’ll have a depth chart ravaged by injury. With Tarean Folston, Josh Adams and Dexter Williams, Notre Dame’s three-deep is all but set, making a redshirt the right decision if all goes even somewhat according to plan.

But Jones has all the skills Notre Dame’s staff wanted in a back in this recruiting cycle. He’s capable of running with power between the tackles and has enough speed to attack the outside and break big plays down field. Throw in a nice set of hands and a willingness to block and Jones has a nice future ahead of him.

 

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

 

Irish A-to-Z: Jonathan Jones

os-varsity-media-day-jonathan-jones-20150812
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Notre Dame’s coaching staff landed a linebacker they have high hopes for when Jonathan Jones picked the Irish on Signing Day. A battle with Michigan and several other heavy-hitting programs, the Florida native is a middle linebacker who’ll step into an unknown depth chart behind Nyles Morgan, and the staff believes he’s capable of contributing from day one.

Undersized at six-foot, Jones’ instincts and athleticism will need to carry the day. But the Irish staff believes they will, and they’re counting on Jones to be an heir apparent behind Morgan—and learn Brian VanGorder’s system—quickly.

 

JONATHAN JONES
6’0″, 220 lbs.
Freshman, LB

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Participated in The Opening. Played on Team USA U-19 team in the International Bowl. Was All-State Class 8A second team, No. 3 player in Orlando Sentinel’s Central Florida Super 60, and a consensus 3-star recruit.

Picked Notre Dame over Michigan, Stanford, Florida State, Ole Miss, LSU and Oklahoma.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

It’ll be intangibles and Football IQ that turn Jones into a high-end player. Because his physical limitations certainly kept him from being a highly-rated recruit. Brian Kelly acknowledged that on Signing Day.

“Physically maybe his lack of height scared some people away, but [Jones has] just great instincts as a linebacker,” Kelly said. “Great leadership quality, physically strong, fit, athletic, and has a great awareness in the pass game, as well. For us, just looked like the consummate linebacker, he had all that innate ability and football recognition that you don’t have to teach.”

At this point, it’s hard to go against the evaluation skills of an Irish coaching staff that’s taken several three-star recruits and turned them into front-line players. But Jones will have to battle his size for the rest of his career.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Unless there’s an injury to Morgan or Greer Martini, I don’t see the need to play Jones. He may very well be an ultra-productive linebacker. But even with “likeable and learnable” being the new buzzwords for VanGorder’s defense, we’ve seen the challenges this system poses to first-year middle linebackers.

Jones might be too good to keep on the sidelines all season. But if he’s a contributor, it’s likely as a special teams weapon or if things go really haywire at linebacker. That doesn’t limit his future, as there aren’t too many true middle linebackers in the program right now. But for 2016, I’ll have modest goals for Jones.

 

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

 

Irish land IMG Academy OL Robert Hainsey

Hainsey247
Irish 247
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Notre Dame landed their second commitment at The Opening, with IMG Academy’s Robert Hainsey picking the Irish. The offensive lineman chose the Irish over national offers from Michigan, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Penn State and plenty of others, with Harry Hiestand once again landing one of his priority targets, snapping up a player who profiles as a Top 100 prospect.

Hainsey announced on Sunday evening from Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon and also on social media.

“I have been extremely blessed throughout this process,” Hainsey said in a statement. “I truly appreciate all of the coaches who have believed in me and offered me a scholarship. However, I believe I have made the best decision for my future, and I want to thank the staff at this University for this opportunity to better myself. That being said, I will be committing to the University of Notre Dame. Go Irish.”

Hainsey profiles as an interior lineman, though he impressed those in attendance at The Opening by playing up to his listed size at 6-foot-4.5 and 275 pounds while looking athletic. That gives him a chance to stay outside if the Irish need him at tackle. Hainsey is the left tackle for one of the nation’s most talented teams at IMG Academy, where he transferred before his junior season from Pittsburgh.

Reloading the offensive line is a priority in this recruiting cycle and the Irish are on pace. They’ve added Hainsey to Josh Lugg and Dilan Gibbons. Hiestand has also stayed in pursuit of five-star tackle Foster Sarell, who played up to his grade in Oregon.

Hainsey is the 15th commitment in the 2017 class.

 

Irish A-to-Z: Jarron Jones

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 11: Jarron Jones #94 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes against Jon Heck #71 of the North Carolina Tar Heels at Notre Dame Stadium on October 11, 2014 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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A fifth year is essentially an all-or-nothing proposition for Jarron Jones. It’s also the silver lining after a training camp injury robbed Jones of his senior season.

Now Jones has to deliver. On the mountain of talent he possesses, and as a critical piece at the point of attack for an Irish defense that needs to get tough against the run.

At his best, Jones is one of the elite talents in the country. But we’ve seen that only in flashes—mostly on one impressive Saturday evening in Tallahassee two falls ago. With an offseason plan to limit Jones’ snap count to pick and choose his spots, the veteran has a chance to dominate in the trenches during a season that’s sure to be an audition for NFL scouts.

 

JARRON JONES
6’5.5″, 315 lbs.
Grad Student, No. 94, DT

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Flirted with a five-star ranking before falling to four stars after a disappointing US Army All-American game, Jones was still an elite recruit out of high school. The Top 150 prospect had offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Michigan before picking Notre Dame.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Sophomore Season (2013): Appeared in 12 games, making one start against Stanford. Had 20 total tackles on the season, including a sack against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. Played his best game against BYU, where he made seven tackles and blocked a fourth quarter field goal, one of two kicks Jones blocked in 2013.

Junior Season (2014): Played and started in Notre Dame’s first 11 games before a foot injury ended his season. His 40 tackles tied Sheldon Day for most tackles from a defensive lineman. He finished tied for second on the team with 7.5 TFLs.

Senior Season (2015): Missed the entire regular season after injuring his MCL during fall camp. Played 14 snaps against Ohio State, registering no official stats but earning a +1.2 ranking per PFF College with a QB hit.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

This went out the window the moment Jones got rolled up in preseason camp.

Keith Gilmore has a very moldable piece of clay in Jones, and he’s likely spent a lot of this summer getting to know one of his star pupils. I think there’s more Notre Dame can get out of Jones as a pass rusher, and hopefully Gilmore does a good job of unlocking that.

Jones has an interesting first seven weeks, including two dates against option, cut-blocking offenses. At nearly 6-foot-6, if he’s capable of keeping his lower body healthy, he’s also primed to put up very big numbers, with a double-digit TFL season on the horizon.

That’s the baseline of my expectations, and I think Jones will also make an impact with another blocked kick (or two) in 2015, adding to the four career blocks he already has. But the duo of Jones and Sheldon Day has the potential to be one of the most dominant tackle pairings in college football, and could bring the Irish back to the glory days of the Holtz era when you think about wreaking havoc on the inside.

I’m all in on Jones, but he’s got to prove that he’s healthy to unlock the potential just about everybody sees.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

We saw a final season in South Bend turn Sheldon Day into an every-down machine after showing flashes of brilliance in moments over three seasons. I don’t think that’s a fair comparison for Jones, but finding some type of consistency and motor is crucial to Jones’ final phase of development at the college level.

It hasn’t always been easy for Jones. A freshman season was one spent frustrating coaches with immaturity and an inability to grasp his role as a defensive end. His sophomore year was salvaged when he was the only remaining option to slide to nose guard—a lightbulb that went on just when the Irish needed it. Now he’s an elder statesman on a young team and an even younger defense, a desperately needed piece of the puzzle who has all the talent in the world when he’s engaged—and healthy.

That last point can’t be over-stated. Jones has some wear on his tires. Foot and knee injuries don’t make it easy on a guy who is likely carrying 20 to 25 more pounds than what’s listed.

Jones sure looks like an elite defensive lineman. He even plays like it sometimes. To reach his ceiling he needs to stay healthy and make sure his dominant spurts aren’t the exception.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

This is the hardest prediction of the series thus far, and it really comes down to Jones’ health and ability to contribute from game one. With Daniel Cage capable of playing major snaps at nose guard, Jones won’t be asked to play 60 snaps a game—Kelly tagged the magic number around 35 this summer.

Does that make Jones a part time player? Or someone whose skill-set limits him? I’m not sure exactly. He’s a gifted athlete—expect a blocked kick or two this season—and has the ability to wreak havoc in the backfield. Perhaps the diminished play count allows Jones to spend more time at full throttle, throwing away work volume for a sprinter’s mentality.

If he’s healthy, I don’t know how you limit Jones to 35 snaps. Especially because he has all the ability to make double-digit TFLs this season and detonate the interior of opposing offensive lines.

I’ll predict a monster season if his health lets him, a dozen TFLs and some postseason accolades. But he needs to survive option attacks from Army and Navy and some other run-heavy opponents as well.

 

 

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