Stanford v Notre Dame

Irish A-to-Z: Kolin Hill

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Freshman Kolin Hill had quite a debut for the Irish, making a major impact against Michigan in the season’s second game as a designated pass rusher. The outside linebacker essentially served as a defensive end, wreaking havoc off the edge against the Wolverines, helping to send away the Michigan rivalry with a 1.5 sack day that included two total tackles for loss.

It was the high point of Hill’s first season in South Bend, who basically served as the poster child for Brian VanGorder’s sub-package heavy defensive scheme. And while he disappeared down the stretch, Hill’s unique ability—getting after the quarterback–should serve him well in 2015 and beyond.

 

KOLIN HILL
6’1.5″, 230 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 43, LB

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

An under the radar prospect until his senior season, Hill entertained mostly regional offers until Texas came calling late in the process—after he had committed to Notre Dame. Hill committed to the Irish in December after visiting Colorado, while his twin brother went to Boise State, one of the final recruiting wins for Kerry Cooks.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Played in nine of Notre Dame’s 13 games, notching four tackles on the season, three coming against Michigan. Did not see action against Rice, Florida State, Arizona State or Northwestern.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

It looks like I was on to something when I called Hill the ideal candidate to be a situational pass rusher. Now we just need to see why the quick start against Michigan turned into nothing more than one big game.

If you were a betting man, Hill seems like a perfect redshirt candidate. But if there’s one type of player that can get on the field quickly for Kelly, it’s a situational pass rusher. With Brian VanGorder’s defense hoping Ishaq Williams and Romeo Okwara can provide the heat off the edge, Hill’s explosiveness could be enough to get him some snaps at defensive end or rush linebacker and just let him loose with one thing on his mind: Getting the quarterback.

Recruits like Hill are intriguing because they show how different players fit different schemes and profiles. Never a guy that would’ve fit in Bob Diaco’s scheme, if Hill comes in and has an impressive career in South Bend, it’ll be a reminder that playmakers come in all shapes and sizes.

When the Irish defense was dominant under Diaco, the size and strength of the front seven could’ve served as an indictment on the speed and athleticism that defines Hill’s profile. But if the Irish defense succeeds with smaller, more athletic players on the edges, it’s not necessarily a black mark on Diaco, but rather an impressive feat by Kelly, a head coach with the ability to play stellar defense in two very different styles.

All that being said, it’s not a black or white issue. Give Hill a few years in a college weight room and he’s Prince Shembo, a four-year contributor in the Irish’s 3-4 defense. Shembo profiled similarly to Darius Fleming, the first Cat linebacker in Kelly’s defense.

The bottom line for Hill is that his talent will take him where he needs to go. And on a roster in need of pass rushers, if he’s got enough of it, this staff will find a job for him.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Finding playing time in Notre Dame’s linebacking depth chart doesn’t look so simple until Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt and Jarrett Grace depart. And even then, Brian VanGorder has quickly restocked the position, with an impressive freshman class coming in right behind Hill.

Right now, the future for Hill still seems to be as a pass rusher, and Notre Dame isn’t exactly flush with weakside pass rushers. So while Hill’s sub-6’2″ height and marginal size don’t scream defensive end, the lack of established options to rush the passer at least guarantee Hill the chance to be a third-down weapon.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

On Signing Day in February, Brian Kelly singled out Bo Wallace as the best pass rusher of the recruiting class. Wallace never ended up coming to South Bend, meaning there’s nobody walking through the door to answer the Irish’s need to find someone who can get after the passer.

That’s where Hill comes in. Without an every down defensive end who can dominate on third down, it’ll be a group approach to chasing down quarterbacks. That might include Jaylon Smith, whose value also comes with his ability to shutdown everybody but the nation’s most elusive wide receivers. But it should also include Hill, who’ll have another year of knowledge in an NFL system that likely limited his effectiveness in 2014.

The jury is still out when it comes to deciding if Hill has three-down talent to play in this system. But in passing situations, Hill might be Notre Dame’s best option to chase down a quarterback, a role he’ll gladly service as a sophomore.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL
Mike Heuerman, TE

 

Irish A-to-Z: Mike Heuerman

Heuerman
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When Notre Dame recruited Mike Heuerman, they were chasing a tight end unlike any other on their roster. Undersized but highly-touted, Heuerman didn’t look like Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert or Ben Koyack, but he certainly came with a similar recruiting pedigree.

Fast-forward to his third year in the program and the Irish are still waiting for Heuerman to break loose. Still undersized and not looking capable of adding weight to a shorter-than-ideal frame for a tight end, Heuerman looks and feels like an H-back in an offense that doesn’t feature one.

With a young depth chart that seems to be passing him by, let’s take a look at where Heuerman stands in the Irish offense.

 

MIKE HEUERMAN
6’3.5″, 225 lbs.
Junior, No. 84, TE

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Notre Dame out-dueled Ohio State for Heuerman’s signature, noteworthy considering his brother was playing for Urban Meyer at the time. There was a long line of suitors for Heuerman, who counted offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Michigan, Oregon and others.

There was a lot of projecting when teams looked at Heuerman, who did most of his work as a defensive end as a senior. His high school switched to a Wing-T system, limiting Heuerman’s ability to do much as a pass catcher.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2013): Did not see action.

Sophomore Season (2014): Underwent hernia surgery prior to the start of the season. Did not see action.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Heuerman’s injury during camp made it impossible for him to get a jump start on freshman Tyler Luatua and sophomore Durham Smythe. But it’s unclear whether even a healthy Heuerman would’ve found a place in Notre Dame’s offense.

Having just committed a few paragraphs to ways the Irish offense could use Heuerman, I’m still skeptical that we’ll see that many new wrinkles in Kelly and Mike Denbrock’s system. And while I don’t think Heuerman’s lack of prototypical size is going to be a death blow, I still think he’s a work in progress that will need to prove he can block before he gets the opportunity to catch the football.

One place I think Heuerman will help immediately is special teams. With the Irish struggling to cover kicks in 2013, Heuerman is the perfect combination of power and speed that can run down the field and make a tackle.

The depth chart at the position certainly works in Heuerman’s favor… for now. Ben Koyack will most likely have every down duties. Smythe has drawn some rave reviews this summer and Kelly spoke highly of him during bowl prep as well. But before freshmen Tyler Luatua (another undersized blocker) and Nic Weishar (still a string bean) begin competing, Heuerman will have a chance to establish a niche in the offense.

So for a redshirt freshman will four years of competition remaining, 2014 could be an important year.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

It’s not necessarily a good sign when your number gets handed over to a freshman. And Heuerman will be wearing No. 84 moving forward, with freshman slot receiver CJ Sanders donning No. 9.

(Of course, numbers aren’t official until the season—and Sanders isn’t guaranteed that jersey, just ask Cole Luke.)

But finding a place for Heuerman in this offense is difficult, even as it likely undergoes some changes as Mike Denbrock, Mike Sanford and Brian Kelly retool things for Malik Zaire. Spring practice came and went, with Heuerman mostly anonymous. And the tight end depth chart will welcome in Alizé Jones, a stretch tight end who already looks like a supersized Heuerman as an incoming freshman.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Not playing in his first two seasons isn’t necessarily a death blow, but Heuerman’s inability to gain weight or stay healthy are two major ingredients when you’re trying to project the football future of a tight end. Heuerman is a very good athlete who has hands and an ability to run well. But so does the rest of Scott Booker’s depth chart.

I won’t be the first one to suggest that Notre Dame’s staff should kick the tires on Heuerman the defensive end, a position he was dominant at as a senior in high school. Without too many natural pass rushers on the roster, a 230-pounder coming flying off the edge could be a complimentary part of the Irish defense—something that’s hard to see if Heuerman stays at either tight end or jumbo receiver.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL

 

 

Mailbag: Part 2 (A-to-Z, Ishaq, CJ and more)

C. J. Prosise
26 Comments

Happy Monday to you all. Hope everybody is enjoying the fireworks at the Old Course, with one of the more interesting leaderboards I can ever remember.

But golf? That’s not why you guys are here. So let’s finish the mailbag before we get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

 

@AndrewWinn: 29 profiles of #NDFB players complete for Irish A-to-Z series 56+ players to go 50 days untill kickoff. Can he do it?!

I’m plowing away. It’s both suicidal and fun—a great way to get yourself familiarized with a roster that has a ton of talent on it… and enflame your carpal tunnel.

But don’t worry, I’ve got a handful of profiles mostly written, so while it looks like I’m only on Jay Hayes, I’m waaaaay ahead — (who am I kidding?). But we’ve got a lot left to do this summer, finishing up the Offseason Q&As and another Top 25 ranking of the roster.

 

ncdomer: When Kelly talked about the academic challenges our players face, he referred to “playing on the road, playing night games, getting home at 4 o’clock in the morning” Missing a whole night of sleep sounds like an athletic challenge for the next week too. Why doesn’t the team spend the night after a late road game?

I wondered that for a while, too. But I’m guessing it’s a matter of cost—both money and time. It’s not an inconsequential number to pay for another night in a top-flight hotel for 70 players, 20 coaches and staff members, and a contingency of school officials as well.

Plus, for anybody who travels from the West Coast back to South Bend, you loose a ton of day in the air, so while you’d probably get to sleep that night in your hotel, you’ve put yourself back to campus much later on Sunday than you’d want.

Now throw in things like treatment, film review, prep for the following week’s game… and you really don’t have the luxury of giving away that night, just so you can sleep for an extra few hours.

 

domer521: Summer school ends July 24. How soon after that will we learn Ishaq Williams fate ?

As Brian Kelly pointed out, this is an NCAA issue now. So I’m putting the window at roughly 48 hours before opening kickoff against Texas. (I wish I was kidding.)

While the details of this situation are still really hard to pin down, Williams is likely dealing with some retroactive GPA issues, especially if there were multiple courses in question. But the fact that Notre Dame is working (and I’m assuming, on Williams’ behalf) with the folks in Indianapolis about a way to get Williams back on the field is at least promising.

I’m hoping it works out for Williams, who I still think has an NFL future, even if he only spends the season on the scout team.

 

twebb2: Hey Keith, can you talk about the special teams at some point, especially kick returns and punt returns? This seems to be one of those lingering problems of the Kelly era (like, “Is this the year Ishaq finally breaks out?” – hah)… do you think we’ll make some progress on special teams this year?

For as evergreen as this question seems, complaining about Notre Dame’s special teams under BK also seems like a rite of preseason camp.

I actually think Notre Dame’s special teams were vastly improved last year, but after the Brindza/holder meltdown, you tend to forget about the nifty returns Greg Bryant had and the much improved work on coverage units that we saw from Scott Booker’s troops.

I know, you didn’t ask about coverage teams or kickers. (And you really didn’t complain, either.) But I expect someone like CJ Sanders to come in and potentially add some electricity to the return game, and it sure feels like CJ Prosise would be a fun guy to see get an opportunity as a kickoff return man.

I was not a big fan of George Atkinson as a kickoff returner. While he had a few home runs, he lost me with the tip-toeing, the fastest way to take a 10.3 100-meter sprinter and turn him into a slow-poke. But I’d be surprised if Amir Carlisle was back returning kicks again this year, and I’d hope that Kelly and Booker would be open to giving a young player like Sanders a shot at impacting a game in the third phase, especially when snaps look tough to earn.

 

irishsoccerfirst: Keith, it appears that we have more depth than at any time in recent memory. Can we use this depth to our advantage on game day or is it more important as an insurance policy in the case of injuries? I remember reading that one of the keys to the Seattle defense is rotating D line by series. Supposedly, the fresh linemen are more likely to get pressure on the QB without placing so much reliance on blitzing.

I don’t think there’s anybody inside the Gug who wants to create depth for an insurance policy. I suspect they agree with you, and hope that Notre Dame is able to play as many bodies as possible, especially up front on defense. While there’s been growing grumbling about the Irish staff’s inability to land impact defensive linemen, I’m looking at a front seven that has the most depth we’ve seen in the last 10-15 years.

Now we have to see if that depth is good depth, and if last year’s experience for guys like Jay Hayes, Jacob Matuska, Daniel Cage, Andrew Trumbetti and Grant Blankenship will help in 2015.

I’m not sure we’ll find many similarities between Pete Carroll’s Seahawk defense and the group of guys Notre Dame runs out there. And while depth is helpful for Seattle, so is elite personnel. The Irish have two guys that most think can be elite on the defensive line (Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones). They have a great linebacking corps that can supplement if the pass rush needs it.

But the key to depth is to be able to use it on your own terms. If Notre Dame can do that, it’ll mean Brian VanGorder’s defense looks a lot like the group that started the season, not the one that ended it.

 

smsetnor: Can we just give some love to AJ Pollock? The is an MVP candidate who plays an excellent centerfield and is hitting at a solid clip. I get irritated whenever I see the D-backs sit the guy because he should play every day.

You said it! All-Star game appearance, hitting .300 and filling out the stat sheet. I don’t play fantasy baseball anymore, but those stolen bases and runs scored sure look mighty nice.

Irish A-to-Z: Jay Hayes

via Twitter
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The emergency removal of Jay Hayes‘ redshirt gives you an idea that Notre Dame’s coaching staff believes in the young defensive lineman. But burning Hayes’ redshirt was also immediately followed by a significant ankle injury against USC, making it difficult to get a season’s worth of work in the year’s final three games and bowl practices.

Nonetheless, Hayes moves forward better for the experience, even if he’s started his eligibility clock sooner than expected. And with Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day back, not to mention the emergence of Jerry Tillery this spring, Hayes is fighting for his spot in the interior rotation, suddenly a position of strength after being gutted last November.

For Hayes, it’s time to play like a sophomore, even if he’s essentially a first-year player. But the New York native has never been short on confidence, and we’ll see if that helps him make his move in 2015.

 

JAY HAYES
6’3″, 285 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 93, DL

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A four-star prospect that was a Top 250 type recruit, Hayes had the offers of an elite defensive lineman out of Brooklyn’s Poly Prep, with Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Oregon and USC all offering scholarships.

Hayes looked like a tweener between defensive tackle and end, but that works just fine as a three-technique in Brian VanGorder’s system, allowing Hayes to be disruptive at the line of scrimmage.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Saw action in the season’s three final games, playing against Louisville, USC and LSU. Suffered an ankle sprain early against the Trojans, though fought back to play against LSU. Made one tackle against Louisville.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Well, it’s pretty clear that neither Tony Springmann nor Chase Hounshell did much along the defensive line. And then—as mentioned—questionable depth behind Day and Jones all but led Hayes onto the field.

Hayes’ 2014 season is likely going to be dictated by the health and productivity of guys like Chase Hounshell and Tony Springmann, veterans who will get the first crack at supplying depth on the interior of the defensive line. In a perfect world, Hayes can spend the season learning the system and getting bigger and stronger.

But with depth a question mark behind Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones, Hayes could be called into action sooner than later. And while it’s hard to learn too much from a YouTube highlight reel, Hayes does some things on the football field that are freakishly good. Watch him block an extra point, steam-rolling his blocker. Get upfield and deflect a pass that turns into a defensive touchdown. He’s a blocker on punt return and an offensive lineman collecting pancakes. All signs that the Irish inked a very productive athlete in a really big body.

The transition from New York high school football to Notre Dame is a pretty rude awakening. But Hayes has a good head on his shoulders — not to mention the boulder-sized chip needed to be a great football player — and it’ll be fun to see him evolve. He could be the type of profile prospect that does a serviceable job throughout his career. Or he’s an early target that the Irish coaching staff unearthed early.

If Hayes is the latter, he’s a much needed building block in the future.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Brian Kelly said it best when he noted that Notre Dame has had a tough time keeping talented defensive linemen on campus for more than four seasons. That’s the type of compliment you want to hear about a young player, and the only shame is that we really didn’t get to see if Hayes was capable of holding his own because he went down against USC with an ankle injury.

Yet with Sheldon Day taking it easy this spring and Jarron Jones out with a healing foot, Hayes took starter reps next to Jerry Tillery, a role both likely relished. That’s a combo that could be in the starting lineup as soon as 2016, with Hayes needing to be the smaller, more disruptive player while Tillery anchors and destroys the line of scrimmage.

Right now, the best thing Hayes has going for him is a coaching staff that believes in him. And we’ll see how prepared he is to make an impact come September.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Hayes will be one of Keith Gilmore’s test cases. The veteran defensive line coach was brought in to get the next wave of players ready along the defensive line, and Hayes certainly fits in that first tier.

At this point, you can’t feel 100-percent positive about Day or Jones until you see them running and fully healthy in fall camp. (That’s the pessimist that doesn’t naturally come out in me.) So if there’s any issue with either of those two, you’ve got to assume that Hayes is going to be the beneficiary—ready or not.

Notre Dame could use a disruptive force along the defensive line, especially with a pass rush all but missing in action last season. Is Hayes that player? I don’t get the feeling he is, though it’s certainly not a prerequisite for a defensive tackle.

Either way, Hayes has the makings of a good one. We’ll find out how good come September.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL

Irish A-to-Z: Jalen Guyton

Dallas Morning News
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(Editor’s note: Our first five-yard penalty for alphabetizing mistake. Carry on.) 

 

Notre Dame’s wide receiving depth chart is fast becoming one of the toughest two-deeps to crack. And that was before the freshman class stepped on campus. Among that new group is Jalen Guyton, the most electric playmaker on the top team in the state of Texas.

Guyton comes to South Bend from Allen, Texas, where he put up video game numbers as a high school senior. So while the road to the field might be backed up with guys like Will Fuller, Corey Robinson and Chris Brown, Guyton will be given every opportunity to fight for his chance.

Let’s take a look at the native Texan.

 

JALEN GUYTON
6’0″, 180 lbs.
Freshman, No. 83, WR

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Three-star recruit who was No. 39 on the Dallas Morning News’ Top 100. USA Football U-18 participant. State Champion at Allen.

Guyton had offers from Arizona State, Baylor, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford and Texas A&M.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Without getting a look at him with the Irish, Guyton reminds me of a prep-version of Will Fuller, the type of high school player who just explodes off the highlight reel. Sure, Guyton was buoyed by playing with 5-star QB prospect Kyler Murray. But Guyton made Murray look good, too.

Guyton won’t jump off the screen by his sheer physicality, but if he can run—and it sure looks like he can—he’ll be able to get behind defenses and make them pay vertically. Brian Kelly praised his versatility on Signing Day, talking about the ability to move Guyton around to all three positions, just like Allen did during a senior season where Guyton scored a ridiculous 22 touchdowns and had 1,700 receiving yards.

A statistically dominant incoming freshman who just did so at the highest level of high school football in the country? Not a bad place to start.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

While I think Guyton might be one of Notre Dame’s most under-the-radar recruits, I also wonder how he’s going to find his way onto the field. On the outside, Guyton needs to find snaps behind Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Corey Robinson. In the slot, there’s Amir Carlisle, C.J. Prosise (he’s still going to play some receiver) and guys like Torii Hunter, Corey Holmes and Justin Brent that’ll likely be in front of him.

That said, if Guyton is good enough to see the field, he’ll likely do so. Possibly in a “designated deep threat” role that we saw from Fuller and Brown as freshmen, if only to get his feet wet. He also could be a candidate for a late-start redshirt, seeing the field in the first few weeks before shutting it down for the season, just for a taste.

There’s no obvious fit for Guyton, who has nice size but hardly is a human mismatch. But that doesn’t mean the future’s not bright for a well-developed high school player who enters Notre Dame with probably the most impressive senior season of any recruit.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB