Recap (Tweetcap?): Day One roundup from Irish training camp

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It’s Friday evening. The Irish have practice one in the books. So let’s try something different.

While I’m not joining you from the Culver Academies, a bunch of great reporters are. And they’re throwing a bunch of good stuff on Twitter, so let’s give you a (semi-curated) look until we can dig into the video and get into it.

First, let’s set the scene at Culver, not a bad looking spot to open training camp:

 

 

And sticking with the official team coverage from Fighting Irish (drop the digital!) Media, The Jac(k) PoundJack Nolan and Jac Collinsworth—kick off the proceedings with their first Notre Dame Countdown videos.

Watch closely and you’ll get a greatest hits of offseason topics: The new running back depth chart, some impressive plays by the wide receivers.  We get a nice look at a healthy Joe Schmidt and the return of KeiVarae Russell.  We also get our first look at Malik Zaire, starting quarterback.

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Sticking with Zaire, a few tweets that add some context to his afternoon.

 

Zaire, the passing quarterback (especially against air), wasn’t as accurate as Everett Golson. But this from star receiver Will Fuller, was more than telling.

 

 

Here’s Kelly on his first-year starter at quarterback, comments that Crash Davis would approve of, no doubt.

“It’s the first day for him,” explained Kelly. “He has got really good management skills. He communicates effectively. You can see for a first day, there was not a whole lot of sloppiness from an offensive standpoint in terms of false starts and things of that nature. He has a good command, a good presence. It was probably what I thought it would be on the first day.”

 

If we’re sticking with the quarterbacks, Tom Loy of Irish 247 shot some great practice video, including some extended looks at Zaire and also a nice collection of young players, including quarterback Brandon Wimbush.

(You also get an early look at Justin Yoon‘s leg. Sure, it’s just the practice range, but he doesn’t seem short on leg.)

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This might encapsulate the many, many words of KeiVarae Russell into one tweet:

 

 

Here’s BK on Russell, his skill set and his return to the field.

 

“He is obviously a talented player and you could see that in one-on-ones,” Kelly. “In and out of his transitions, you can see why he is one of the better players in the country at his position.

“You’re so happy that he’s able to get past all of the things that were in front of him. He had to work hard to get back here. All of the credit goes to him, he has really had to sacrifice a lot to get back to Notre Dame, and that’s why it’s great to see him out here.”

 

 

Finally, some quick comments from Brian Kelly as he praised some of the young skill players today , interestingly mentioning one of my below-the-radar picks to click in Miles Boykin. (He also mentioned CJ Sanders, who more than a few people are understandably high on. And Jalen Guyton, who scored approximately a jillion touchdowns last year for the best high school football program in Texas.)

“I really liked a number of the receivers from Miles Boykin to CJ to Jalen Guyton, Kelly said. “I thought all of the receivers did a very nice job today. Defensive backs, I liked all of the young kids out there. They just all showed up in one-on-one today, for me, the way they competed. Breaking on the ball, it was fast, it was active and it was deep.”

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And finally, here’s your play of the day, per the interwebs:

Counting down the Irish: The Top Five

Rice v Notre Dame
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This ends our annual exercise. To check out past results,  start here. For this season, check out the players who just missed the cut. Our rankings also include No. 25-21, 20-16, and 15-11 and 10-6

 

It’s official. Brian Kelly won yesterday’s press conference. Now we’ll find out the five players who’ll have the largest say in whether the Irish perform up to the lofty standards their head coach set yesterday.

If there’s been anything that’s glaringly stood out about this list, it’s the incredible depth Notre Dame has built up in Kelly’s six years in South Bend. And while most of the focus the past few weeks has been on the players departing—reserve defensive ends and third-string running backs somehow making their way onto the ESPN bottom line—it was pretty clear that those deletions won’t do much to derail Notre Dame’s intentions.

While most agree that this team is Notre Dame’s “best shot” in quite some time, it’s also worth pointing out the balance in this list.

Players in their final season of eligibility: Six.
Players with two years remaining: 12*
Players with three years remaining: Five.
Players with four years remaining: Two.

*This group includes Jaylon Smith, Ronnie Stanley and KeiVarae Russell, all likely candidates to turn professional after this season.

Of course, those stay-or-go decisions will be worries for another day. But even if nine players return from this talented group, it’ll form a core that’ll be more than supplemented by young and emerging personnel.

The message? The future is bright. But today, none of that means more than the present. Here are the final rankings for our annual Top 25.

 

 

2015 IRISH TOP 25 RANKINGS

25. Jerry Tillery, DL
24. Greg Bryant, RB
23. Durham Smythe, TE
22. Matthias Farley, DB
21. Quenton Nelson, LG
20. Nyles Morgan, LB

19. Chris Brown, WR
18. Elijah Shumate, S
17. Corey Robinson, WR
16. Mike McGlinchey, OT
15. Steve Elmer, RG
14. Isaac Rochell, DE
13. Max Redfield, S
12. Joe Schmidt, LB
11. Jarron Jones, DT
10. Malik Zaire, QB
9. C.J. Prosise, WR/RB
8. Nick Martin, C
7. Cole Luke, CB
6. Tarean Folston, RB

 

Notre Dame v Arizona State
Notre Dame v Arizona StateChristian Petersen/Getty Images

5. Sheldon Day (DL, Senior): We’ve spent years hearing Notre Dame’s coaches rave about Day’s abilities. Now it’s finally time to see him put together a season up to the standard set for him. Yesterday, Brian Kelly talked about different ways the Irish can utilize Day, perhaps shifting him outside on passing downs while moving someone else (Isaac Rochell, maybe?) to the three-technique. But Day’s pass rushing clout is more theoretical than anything we’ve actually seen proven. His career total is 3.5, just a shade more than a single sack a season.

That’s not to say that Day hasn’t been productive. But an elite player’s stat-line can’t include near-misses and almost disruptions.

Health has been a major barrier for Day. Only as a part-time freshman did he play every game. Entering his final season is South Bend, Day is healthy and ready to play to his potential. If he does, Notre Dame believes they have one of the country’s best and most versatile defensive linemen. Now Day needs to go out and prove it.

Highest Ranking: 3rd. Lowest Ranking: 7th.

 

Oklahoma v Notre Dame
Oklahoma v Notre DameJackson Laizure/Getty Images

4. KeiVarae Russell (CB, Senior): The long road back to the playing field is almost complete for Russell. And once he steps on the field, we’ll be done getting our updates on Notre Dame’s most impressive defensive back from his Instagram account, and instead we will see if Russell is able to pick up where he left off in the Pinstripe Bowl, dominating the game as a cover corner.

Russell has elite athletic traits. He’s fast, explosive, long-enough to cover tall receivers and quick enough to hang with the smaller ones. Perhaps best of all is his self-belief, a non-stop ball of energy and positivity who will infect this defense, unwilling to allow a swoon to hit like the one that ruined the 2014 season.

Heading into fall camp last year, the coaching staff expected Russell to emerge as one of the nation’s best cornerbacks. Paired with Cole Luke, Notre Dame should—and should is the operative word—have one of the best tandems in the country. But it’ll depend not just on Luke making the leap as an upperclassmen, but Russell shaking off the rust that comes with spending a year working against pylons and boxes, not wide receivers.

Highest Ranking: 3rd. Lowest Ranking: 6th.

 

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Franklin American Mortgage Music City BowlAndy Lyons/Getty Images

3. Will Fuller (WR, Junior): No player gets less credit for a record-setting season than Will Fuller. While Irish fans—and usually the national media—jump at the chance to talk about Notre Dame’s next great playmaker, Fuller managed to stay mostly anonymous on the national level after putting together the finest sophomore season of any wide receiver in school history.

Fuller’s versatility belies his modest measurables. He’s a deep threat who can get behind any defense. But he’s also one of the elite screen-game receivers in football, a dynamic threat who can break a quick throw into a touchdown.

There’s probably not much of an argument to push Fuller any higher up this list. But for all the complaints about Fuller’s mental lapses—he had too many drops and disappeared at times—the second-year receiver had a better overall season than Jaylon Smith, who currently graces the cover of Sports Illustrated and sits atop this list.

We’ll find out what turning the offense over to Malik Zaire does to Fuller’s productivity. A more prolific running game could take touches away from the Irish’s top receiver. But even if defenses turn their attention to slowing down Notre Dame’s next great receiver, that doesn’t mean Fuller needs to let them.

Highest Ranking: 2nd. Lowest Ranking: 8th.

 

Notre Dame v Syracuse
Notre Dame v SyracuseChris Chambers/Getty Images

2. Ronnie Stanley (LT, Senior): Getting Ronnie Stanley to stick around South Bend for another season was the biggest recruiting win of the offseason. As draftnik’s broke down 2014 film, Stanley’s outstanding play kept jumping off the screen, with many believing that Notre Dame’s left tackle was the best prospect at his position in the draft class.

Stanley took a big step during bowl preparations, stepping forward as a leader and marking his territory against an LSU defense that was among the best statistical units in the SEC. Now the charge will be to do it every game, anchoring the edge of the Irish offensive line and making sure that both pass protection and run blocking are dominant parts of his portfolio.

There is little chance that Stanley plays out his eligibility. But if he has a good season in 2015 he’s a candidate to be the draft’s first-overall selection… and that likely means the Irish offense was the most dynamic of the Kelly era.

Highest Ranking: 1st. Lowest Ranking: 3rd.

 

Jaylon Smith
Jaylon SmithAP Photo/Michael Conroy, File

1. Jaylon Smith (LB, Junior): There’s no doubting Smith’s elite athletic traits. Nor that he’s still learning how to properly utilize them. A superhero in training, Smith’s sophomore season was filled with impressive moments, but not without a few humbling ones as well. But ultimately this group couldn’t get beyond the talent and versatility of Notre Dame’s third-year standout, almost a perfect linebacker in today’s game.

This is Smith’s second season atop our rankings. That’s lofty territory, and makes sense when you see Smith’s name on multiple preseason All-American lists. But as a junior who also has high first-round evaluations floating around, it’s up to Smith to prove he can do more than just the exceptional, but rather that he can do what’s expected of him, and do it at a level of mastery.

The stage is set for Smith to absolutely fill the stat-sheet. With proper depth at the inside linebacker positions, Smith can utilize his speed as a pass rusher, playing on the edge if needed. He’ll be able to help in coverage, erasing all but the most talented of tight ends, backs and receivers. But he’ll need to lose the freelancing from his game, somewhere he lapsed later in the season, especially after Joe Schmidt went down.

Put simply, Notre Dame’s most talented player wasn’t always its best and most responsible. But that should change in 2015.

Highest Ranking: 1st. Lowest Ranking: 2nd.

 

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Our 2015 Irish Top 25 panel
Keith Arnold, Inside the Irish
Bryan DriskellBlue & Gold
Matt Freeman, Irish Sports Daily
Nick Ironside, Irish 247
Tyler James, South Bend Tribune
Michael Bryan, One Foot Down
Pete Sampson, Irish Illustrated
Jude Seymour, Her Loyal Sons
JJ Stankevitz, CSN Chicago
John Vannie, NDNation
John Walters, Newsweek 

Five things we learned: Brian Kelly’s opening press conference

Brian Kelly podium
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No more reading the tea leaves. No more educated guesses. Finally, a real opportunity to hear from Notre Dame’s head coach as Brian Kelly discussed his expectations for the 2015 season.

On Thursday morning, Kelly strolled to the podium running a few minutes behind his scheduled start time. But he made up for it by owning the microphone for over an hour, including a lengthy, Charlie Weisian opening statement that took many questions away from a waiting group of local media.

 

There’s plenty to cover, especially as camp gets started tomorrow at the Culver Academies. But here are five things I learned as the Irish head into a season with great expectations.

 

Make no mistake, Notre Dame’s head coach believes he’s got a team capable of winning a national title. 

The optimism relayed in Kelly’s press conference was striking. And more than just the two College Football Playoff games included on the auditorium’s schedule or the newly hung Sports Illustrated cover featuring Jaylon Smith and Ronnie Stanley. Put simply, there’s no ducking the expectations.

“Our team knows where they are. They read the clippings. They know that preseason that a lot of teams are getting accolades. They know that they are,” Kelly said. “They also know it’s not going to help them beat Texas.”

But as Kelly rattled through his opening statements, confidently talking about the many strengths on this team’s roster, he made it clear that nobody inside The Gug was ducking the ultimate goal.

“Everybody knows the mission, and the fact is we don’t play for conference championships,” Kelly said. “They know how difficult it is to complete the mission. And the only way to complete that mission is to stay focused and stay on task and stay incredibly disciplined day to day or they can’t accomplish that.”

 

An offseason dedicated to establishing better leadership and internal motivation seems to have taken hold. 

Last offseason, you wondered who would be worthy of being named a captain. This summer, it’s hard not to come up with ten names.

Returning captains Nick Martin and Sheldon Day will once again lead their respective units. Kelly called Joe Schmidt one of the best leaders he’s had, and he appears to be the singular leader of the defense. Kelly ticked off name after name after name, players you’d expect—Jarrett Grace, KeiVarae Russell, Ronnie Stanley and Matthias Farley—and some you wouldn’t.

Among that second group is safety Max Redfield. While Kelly acknowledged that just about everybody has a great offseason, he sounded genuine when he talked about the leap forward that his junior safety took.

“I think Max has realized how important football is to him,” Kelly said. “Academics is very important to him. It’s always been important to him. I think he’s seeing how important football is to him as well.”

Kelly praised Redfield for his ability to lead from the front as a vocal communicator, shown these past few days as the Irish completed some unorthodox workouts, including some military training exercises aimed at team building and leadership training.

“He has a gift,” Kelly said of Redfield. “That gift is he’s a great communicator, if given the chance. We gave him a chance the last couple of days to lead and get in front of his peers, and it was well received.”

 

It’s nothing but great news on the medical front, including clean bills of health for both Jarron Jones and Joe Schmidt. 

While we found out earlier this week about the retirements of Mike Heuerman and Michael Deeb, the rest of the medical news was really upbeat. Almost to a man, Kelly reported good news on the rehabilitations of several players.

Nicky Baratti’s shoulder has healed and he’ll be a full participant in camp. Jonathan Bonner, after ending his spring because of a turf toe injury, will be 100 percent as well. Drue Tranquill continues to amaze coming off a late-season ACL tear.

“He’s attacked rehab like no other player that we’ve had here in quite some time,” Kelly said.

Jarrett Grace continues to make progress, looking capable of impacting this defense come Texas. James Onwualu has fully recovered from a January wrist surgery as well.

But the two best pieces of news came when Kelly gave rave reviews to the health of Joe Schmidt and Jarron Jones. Both critical pieces of the defense underwent major surgical procedures, and both will open camp working with the first team.

Credit goes to a hardworking group of players, along with Rob Hunt and Notre Dame’s medical team.

 

 

For KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams, the plight of the Frozen Five isn’t quite finished.

There is still work to be done with the NCAA before KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams are fully eligible to play. Perhaps telling, Russell will practice with the Irish from the get go. Williams will await word from the NCAA, likely awaiting an appeal decision.

“They’re separate and different and distinctly different cases. So KeiVarae will practice, Ishaq will not, because the cases are different and both of them are going through the process right now,” Kelly explained.

It’s never the most comfortable situation when you’re dealing with the bureaucratic wheels of justice in Indianapolis, but Kelly seems confident that Russell’s time in purgatory is nearly complete.

“We feel confident in the information that we have submitted to the NCAA, and we feel very strong about his eligibility,” Kelly said. “We certainly were guided through this process in terms of what he needed to do. He went out and did that, but it’s now out of our hands. But we feel strong about we feel strongly about checking the boxes and doing the things that we were required to do along the way.”

Williams situation is a different one. And while Kelly is confident that the timeline won’t be drawn out, regardless of his fate with the NCAA, Kelly sounds committed to assisting Williams in any way possible, especially as he continues to pursue a career in football and earning his degree at Notre Dame.

 

C.J. Prosise’s move to running back is a permanent one. And Justin Brent will be joining him in the backfield. 

If there was a domino to fall after Greg Bryant’s ineligibility, it was that the receiving career of C.J. Prosise is now put on hold. After an impressive spring in the backfield, Prosise will now be the team’s No. 2 running back, no longer cross-training with the wide receivers.

Joining him at running back will be Justin Brent. Up to 220 pounds, Brent is a logical move, after an impressive senior season in high school running the football and a stacked wide receiver depth chart.

Kelly made the decision recently, talking candidly about his conversation with Brent.

“I told him is if he takes the ball and runs downhill north and south, doesn’t bounce it outside—because I’m sure I’ve got two freshmen who are going to want to bounce it outside every time they touch it—if he takes it and he goes downhill and he plays physical, I’ll find some carries for him and I’ll get him on every special team,” Kelly said. “If he wants to do that, then I think I can get him some playing time.”

If you’re reading between the lines, it’s still clear that Brent’s role on this team still feels a bit on edge. That’s to be expected after the off-field headlines the Indianapolis native made last year, with Kelly pulling off any filter when discussing him.

“I think it’s going to be hard for him to get on the field because we have such great depth at the wide receiver position,” Kelly said. “Will it work? I don’t know. But he is a very gifted athlete. He’s big, he’s strong, so we’ll give it a shot and see if it does anything for us

 

Counting down the Irish: 10-6

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers v Notre Dame
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For those getting caught up, start here. Then, check out the players who just missed the cut. Our rankings include No. 25-21, 20-16, and 15-11

 

As Brian Kelly prepares to kickoff fall camp this morning, our rankings get down to the ten best players who’ll likely decide whether or not the Irish achieve their lofty goals in 2015.

The first 15 players we’ve profiled each will play a significant role in determining that future. (Or at least 14 of them.) But as we enter the Top 10, each player listed has the ability to be a game-changer. And each is a critical piece of the puzzle in 2015.

Of our next five players, four are key pieces to the Irish offense. The Irish’s leading returning rusher. The spring’s most intriguing offensive weapon. A finally healthy returning captain, and the man in charge of running the whole unit. Joined by a rising junior who put together a really underrated sophomore season, let’s keep the train rolling as we break into the top ten.

 

2015 IRISH TOP 25 RANKINGS

25. Jerry Tillery, DL
24. Greg Bryant, RB
23. Durham Smythe, TE
22. Matthias Farley, DB
21. Quenton Nelson, LG
20. Nyles Morgan, LB

19. Chris Brown, WR
18. Elijah Shumate, S
17. Corey Robinson, WR
16. Mike McGlinchey, OT
15. Steve Elmer, RG
14. Isaac Rochell, DE
13. Max Redfield, S
12. Joe Schmidt, LB
11. Jarron Jones, DT

 

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Franklin American Mortgage Music City BowlAndy Lyons/Getty Images

10. Malik Zaire (QB, Junior): It’s probably an obvious statement, but no player in these rankings is more important to Notre Dame than Zaire. With the weight of the offense on his shoulders and no safety net at backup, Brian Kelly is all-in with a quarterback who has only played six quarters.

Of course, in those six quarters he managed to beat LSU and unseat Everett Golson, with the two-year starter fleeing for Tallahassee. So while the sample size is small, this certainly feels like the right place for a quarterback to slot in, especially one who beat-out (at this point, whatever rationale Golson used, that’s the only way you can really look at it) our No. 4 player on the last season’s list.

We saw Zaire as a dynamic run threat last season. We saw him make a handful of very nice passes, albeit in limited opportunities. But with an offense filled with high-end skill talent and a very good offensive line, it’s on Zaire to make sure the unit is running at optimal levels.

Highest Ranking: 6th. Lowest Ranking: 22nd.

 

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Franklin American Mortgage Music City BowlAndy Lyons/Getty Images

9. C.J. Prosise (WR/RB, Senior): The loss of Greg Bryant for the season was neutralized this spring when Prosise emerged as an intriguing option at running back. And while we won’t know until the games start counting how well Prosise will do at his third position in South Bend, the coaching staff deserves credit for having the foresight to move Prosise this spring, especially when most thought Amir Carlisle’s return to his original position would’ve been an easy move.

With an updated roster coming sooner than later, we’ll see how much weight Prosise added to his already muscular frame. But even if he’s pushing 230 pounds like his head coach said earlier this summer, Prosise is an explosive player with the football, capable of taking it the distance any time he gets a chance.

In Notre Dame’s never-ending question for a hybrid runner/receiver, Prosise might be the best fit we’ve seen in a long time. After leading the team in yards per carry and catch, we’ll maybe even get to see what he can do if he gets a chance to touch the ball ten times a game in 2015.

Highest Ranking: 7th. Lowest Ranking: 15th.

 

Rice v Notre Dame
Rice v Notre DameJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

8. Nick Martin (C, Grad Student): Martin may have been named a team captain and the undoubted leader of the offensive line last season, but he struggled through an injury plagued 2014, slow to return to full strength after a significant late-season knee injury in 2013.

Martin moved out of the center position after three games, but returned there this spring, leading to the departure of Matt Hegarty. And while Martin may have been surpassed by Ronnie Stanley, who emerged as a national prospect, Martin’s name is still among the elite at the position.

The younger brother will never be the older brother, and putting All-Pro expectations on Nick isn’t fair. But it’s clear he’s no slouch either, and he’ll compete to be one of the top centers in college football. Getting back to that level will be key for the offensive line.

Highest Ranking: 6th. Lowest Ranking: 13th.

 

Notre Dame v Arizona State
Notre Dame v Arizona StateChristian Petersen/Getty Images

7. Cole Luke (CB, Junior): Forced to face a murderer’s row of wide receivers, Luke moved into the starting lineup after KeiVarae Russell’s suspension and stayed there all season, thriving along the way. While there was a rough game in there at the end (USC), he played wonderful football against a long list of receivers who’ll be playing on Sundays.

Luke started all 13 games, tying for the team lead in interceptions with four. He also broke up an astounding 11 passes, chipping in 15 passes defended as well.  Moving into his third season, Luke will stay in the starting lineup, now opposite Russell. And while he needs to show that his work last season wasn’t a fluke, he’s got the opportunity to form the best 1-2 corner combo in South Bend since Shane Walton was a consensus All-American starting across from Vontez Duff.

Highest Ranking: 5th. Lowest Ranking: 16th.

 

Tarean Folston
Tarean FolstonAP Photo/Alex Brandon

6. Tarean Folston (RB, Junior): While most of the talk this offseason has been about Prosise or the now ineligble Greg Bryant, Notre Dame’s best running back has been hiding in plain sight. Tarean Folston didn’t rush for 1,000 yards last season. But he rebounded after a slow start to become the lead back wanted to see from the season opener.

Versatile, smooth, quick but possessing power, Folston has all the ingredients to be the best running back of the Kelly era. And with little proven depth behind him, he’ll finally have an open pathway to take charge as a feature back, no longer stuck behind someone like Cam McDaniel.

Folston has had dominant games. But he’s also disappeared. Entering his third season, there’s a need for consistency in his game, and if he’s running behind a talented offensive line, it’ll be demanded.

Highest Ranking: 4th. Lowest Ranking: 7th.

 

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Our 2015 Irish Top 25 panel
Keith Arnold, Inside the Irish
Bryan DriskellBlue & Gold
Matt Freeman, Irish Sports Daily
Nick Ironside, Irish 247
Tyler James, South Bend Tribune
Michael Bryan, One Foot Down
Pete Sampson, Irish Illustrated
Jude Seymour, Her Loyal Sons
JJ Stankevitz, CSN Chicago
John Vannie, NDNation
John Walters, Newsweek 

Irish A-to-Z: Elijah Shumate

Notre Dame v Arizona State
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Entering his senior season, safety Elijah Shumate has the opportunity to put all the pieces together. After a quick start to his career, Shumate’s struggled with the transition to a full-time starter, failing to build off a scrappy freshman campaign where he blanketed slot receivers in a one-dimensional job.

Since then, even as a prototype strong safety, Shumate has struggled once he ascended into the starting job. He was robbed of a full season as a sophomore when injuries and a late-season suspension short-circuited 2013. Then a quick start in 2014 turned ugly when the back-end of the defense had the same growing pains as the injury-ravaged front seven.

But there’s reason to believe that this year will be better than the last. And with a 215-pound sledgehammer more comfortable in Brian VanGorder’s system, the smart money is on a big senior campaign by a defender who already looks the part.

 

ELIJAH SHUMATE
6’0″, 213 lbs.
Senior, No. 22, S

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

An Army All-American, Shumate was a national prospect and a Top 150 player before he picked Notre Dame in San Antonio.

The Don Bosco Prep product out of New Jersey, Shumate chose Notre Dame after taking official visits to Rutgers and South Carolina and over other offers from Michigan, UCLA, Oklahoma, Miami and Georgia.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2012): Played in all 13 games, serving as a nickel cornerback on Notre Dame’s historic 2012 defense. Made nine total tackles while breaking up three passes.

Sophomore Season (2013): Started four games but saw action in just nine games. Tallied 23 tackles on the season, including one TFL.

Junior Season (2014): Played in all 13 games, starting 11 at safety. He made 66 tackles from the secondary, trailing only Max Redfield. He had 2.5 TFLs including one sack. Had an interception against Michigan and recovered a fumble against North Carolina.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Shumate’s ascent into the starting lineup took place 48 hours before opening kickoff, after Austin Collinsworth went down with an injury. But there were struggles in a new system, not entirely unpredictable.

It’s hard to predict Shumate’s season without knowing how well Collinsworth plays. But in a defense that has multiple packages, you’d be hard pressed to think Shumate doesn’t have a role in there somewhere. A better athlete than Collinsworth, Shumate showed skill in coverage as a freshman, though playing a role the Irish have pushed to Matthias Farley.

That Shumate hasn’t moved to that hybrid spot likely says that he’s still a great option at safety, merely one not quite as reliable as the fifth-year Collinsworth. But with two seasons under his belt and a year away from the nagging injuries that kept him off the field, Shumate is another unproven quantity that needs to play well this season for the Irish to have a chance.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

You want to see an NFL safety? Just look at Shumate. Physically, there’s nothing not to like about a guy who appears chiseled from granite and has all the tangible traits you’d want in a professional secondary.

Now Shumate needs to show the mental aptitude that great safeties possess. There is no room for broken snaps or blown assignments, especially not for one of the veteran players on the Irish defense.

Working with new secondary coach Todd Lyght will help. So will having some urgency added to the situation, there’s no more time to show promise, not as a senior with no eligibility left.

On paper, Notre Dame’s secondary looks elite. But it’ll only be as good as Shumate and fellow safety Max Redfield allow.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

I’m bullish on Shumate, who I think will play much more fundamentally sound football in his final season in South Bend. Part of that is maturity, the other part of that is comfort in a system that demands far more than Bob Diaco’s did.

Last season, bodies dropping left and right nearly necessitated Shumate to be on the field and learning from his mistakes. That opportunity won’t be afforded to him—or anybody—this season, especially with Drue Tranquill recovered from ACL surgery and young reinforcements who can learn through their mistakes rather than a guy gone come January.

But I’m betting on Shumate, who’ll likely have his nose around the line of scrimmage, especially with great cover corners in KeiVarae Russell and Cole Luke. I’m expecting 80 total tackles and a half-dozen TFLs, with the hopes that Shumate might also force a few turnovers between dropping the hammer and stepping in front of a pass or two.

 

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
Kolin Hill, DE
Tristen Hoge, C
Corey Holmes, WR
Chase Hounshell, TE
Torii Hunter, Jr. WR
Alizé Jones, TE
Jarron Jones, DL
DeShone Kizer, QB
Tyler Luatua, TE
Cole Luke, CB
Nick Martin, C
Greer Martini, LB
Jacob Matuska, DL
Mike McGlinchey, OT
Colin McGovern, OL
Peter Mokwuah, DL
John Montelus, OL
Nyles Morgan, LB
Sam Mustipher, OL
Quenton Nelson, OL
Tyler Newsome, P
Romeo Okwara, DE
James Onwualu, LB
C.J. Prosise, WR/RB
Doug Randolph, LB/DE
Max Redfield, S
Corey Robinson, WR
Trevor Ruhland, OL
CJ Sanders, WR
Joe Schmidt, LB