Notre Dame v Syracuse

Irish A-to-Z: Jarron Jones

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After struggling to find his way in the program as a defensive end, Jarron Jones saw a lightbulb come on after filling in for Louis Nix at nose guard. With no other options available, the Irish defensive staff called on Jones to fill Nix’s sizeable void, and Jones responded—turning the trajectory of his career around in the process.

While his 2014 season was ended early because of injuries, Jones continued to make progress as a defensive tackle, showing dominant moments in Brian VanGorder’s system while still learning to refine his technique. And with NFL hopes for the future, Jones has a chance to parlay one great senior season into a career on Sundays, all while earning his degree in the process.

Early in his career, a fifth-year didn’t seem likely, but because Jones wasn’t fulfilling his obligations to the team. If all goes according to plan in 2015, a fifth-year won’t be necessary.

Let’s take a look at Jarron Jones.

 

JARRON JONES
6’5.5″, 315 lbs.
Senior, No. 94, DL

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Jones had elite offers out of high school, and was viewed as a Top 200 player by Rivals and a US Army All-American. Earlier in the recruiting cycle, Jones was close to a five-star ranking, though his struggles in San Antonio dropped his ceiling.

But offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Auburn, Florida, Michigan and Florida State all point to a very high ceiling.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2012): Did not see action.

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.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Nailed it.

I’m expecting a big season from Jones, who will still be learning on the go, but has all the physical traits you’d want in a front-line defensive line starter. If there’s one thing that has me most excited about Jones is the maturity that seems to have found him. A conversation I had with him after the BYU game had Jones taking responsibility for the lack of impact he’d made so far in his college career.

“Just me being young and not focused,” Jones said last November. “It was all over the place. It was in the classroom, it was also just me in general, I kinda saw myself like, ‘Where’s my life going?’ That’s when I kind of realized I needed to tighten the screw a lot.”

Maturity helps. So does an advantageous scheme. Jones is a better fit playing in the A-gap as opposed to having to play the traditional nose guard position that Nix did. And he’ll have a big responsibility in the Irish defense, wreaking havoc up front and freeing up Joe Schmidt, Nyles Morgan or Jarrett Grace to make tackles from the Mike linebacker spot.

When Kelly and the Irish coaching staff landed Jones as a recruit, he looked like the next in line as the Irish successfully reeled in blue-chip defensive linemen after a decade of struggles. It may have taken a little bit longer for the lightbulb to go on, but Jones seems back on the right track.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

The sky is the limit. Jones would do wise to note the final seasons of Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt if he’s considering this his last year in South Bend. Neither of those two put together solid seasons on tape and they entered the NFL on the wrong foot, leading to draft day slides and largely invisible rookie campaigns.

When Jones is engaged and at his best, he’s blowing up the line of scrimmage and making things tough on opponents. When he’s not? He’s a big body that gets out of position and struggles with fundamentals.

Jones’ recovery from foot surgery is one of the biggest questions of the offseason. Coming back in shape and healthy is critical if the Irish want to be as good as they think they can be, and Jones as dominant as he expects.

The NFL will always be there. And a fifth-year would allow Jones to play a season with his brother. But a great 2015 season needs to come first. And then the hard decisions—neither a bad one—can follow.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

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.

 

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

Irish A-to-Z: Alizé Jones

Alize Jones, Cordell Broadus
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Notre Dame won a long recruiting battle for Alizé Jones, landing one of the best tight ends in the country over UCLA. To the victor goes one of the most ready-made pass catching tight ends in the country, and Notre Dame gets a potential difference maker from the moment Jones takes the field.

Following in a long line of blue-chip prospects, Jones might also win the award for most likely to contribute early, especially with a depth chart in front of him all equally inexperienced. (Only junior Durham Smythe has a catch—exactly one.) But that doesn’t mean the road to the field will be easy, especially if Jones is asked to block and go toe-to-toe with a defensive lineman, a skill Brian Kelly needs to see before he puts his faith in a tight end.

With an NFL body and skill-set, Jones is one of the most intriguing freshmen in college football. We’ll see if that immediately translates to a big season.

Let’s look closer at the Las Vegas native.

 

ALIZÉ JONES
6’5″, 230 lbs.
Freshman, No. 10, TE

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

An elite tight end. U.S. Army All-American, First-team USA Today All-American, No. 1 ranked TE by 247 Sports.

Picked Notre Dame in January after a commitment to UCLA. Had offers from USC, Arizona, ASU, Georgia, Auburn and many others.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Nobody looks more like an NFL football player in the freshman class than Jones. And there’s every reason to believe that he’s the next top draft pick out of South Bend at tight end.

As a pass catcher and athlete, Jones is a human mismatch. But he’ll need to show a commitment to the craft of being a complete tight end if he wants to reach his potential.

Don’t expect a redshirt. Do expect some opportunities to exploit mismatches. And while it’s hard to say that Jones will pass the rest of a young depth chart before he’s ever taken a snap, I do think he’s Notre Dame’s best pass catching tight end before ever officially taking the field.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

All the glowing praise above doesn’t necessarily mean I think Jones is a breakout star. He’ll likely be used situationally, capable of being a jumbo slot receiver (like Troy Niklas and Tyler Eifert were used on occasion), and potentially as a red zone mismatch. (Though we’re still waiting for jump balls to Corey Robinson, so why would Jones hop the line?)

Playing at Bishop Gorman, arguably the top high school program in the country, will work both ways for Jones. He’s played national competition, but he’s also played in an offense that scored points by the bushel. So while he was used mostly as a jumbo receiver during a 41 catch, 900+ yard senior season, that’s not what’ll be needed to be successful at the next level.

Jones will play. But as we’ve seen with Kelly, he wants to trust his tight ends to hold the point of attack, making Smythe the candidate for most snaps. But behind that, I think Jones finds a way to impact the Irish offense, especially if Mike Sanford is as creative as we’re told.

This is a very, very exciting prospect, and perhaps the most readymade offensive player in the freshman class. But before he can be a star, he needs to be able to do everything that makes the tight end position the most versatile in the Irish offense.

 

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

 

Irish A-to-Z: Torii Hunter Jr.

Torii Hunter Jr., Corey Robinson, Ben Koyack
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After a long recovery following a gruesome non-contact injury at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Torii Hunter Jr. fought his way back to the field in 2014. Now comes the hard part—playing up to the potential that had many so excited before the broken femur.

We’ve heard plenty of promising reports on Hunter the past two seasons in South Bend. And while he flashed some of that ability in spurts last season, entering his third year in the program it’s time for Hunter to make his step forward.

While he spent some time this spring with the baseball team, his future is clearly on the gridiron. So amidst a packed depth chart, Hunter enters his junior as a contender to breakout.

Let’s take a closer look at Hunter.

 

TORII HUNTER JR.
6’0″, 190 lbs.
Junior, No. 16, WR

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A four-star recruit and U.S. Army All-American. Hunter chose Notre Dame in late September, picking the Irish over Arizona, Arkansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Hunter was the MVP of The Opening, and would’ve likely been a candidate to contribute early if he didn’t suffer a major injury in All-Star practices in San Antonio.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2013): Did not see action, recovering from injury suffered at U.S. Army All-American game.

Sophomore Season (2014): Named Notre Dame’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year. Played in 10 games, missing the opening three due to a groin injury. Had seven catches for 65 yards and a touchdown, scoring against Syracuse.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

It’s a shame that a groin injury slowed Hunter down to start the season. Pair that with a tough depth chart, and this prediction seems pretty spot on.

This is a wait and see season for Hunter. Could the prep injury hinder him for another season? Quite possibly, as broken femur’s are a tricky healing process that’s rarely associated with football. Then again, injuries are hardly the only thing in the way. So is a depth chart with DaVaris Daniels, Will Fuller, Corey Robinson, Amir Carlisle and C.J. Prosise. Hunter likely starts fall camp behind all of them.

That said, only Daniels seems to have his role in the Irish offense cemented. So if Hunter walks into fall camp ready to roll, there’s not much of a line to work through on the depth chart. The young receiver caught the eye of Kelly during bowl prep, and certainly had the type of skills that lead to productivity when he was slicing and dicing his way through The Opening.

We might not ever know what a full speed Hunter looked like, or if the femur injury took something away from his top end speed. But all reports have him healthy and ready to compete. And with four years of eligibility remaining, the clock only now starts ticking.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

As a third-year sophomore, this is when you’d expect Hunter to turn it on. Of course, the same depth chart that made it so difficult to contribute last season greets him when training camp opens. And finding the footballs to more than double Hunter’s seven catches isn’t the easiest of scenarios.

That said, there’s a reason why Hunter is routinely mentioned as one of Notre Dame’s best athletes and a candidate to breakout. He showed a nice knack for making plays when he got the opportunity last season. Add another year removed from the broken femur and another season in the system, and there’s still a chance Hunter turns into a very productive college receiver.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

I’m high on Hunter, though I still put his ceiling at 20 catches. In reality, unless the Irish are an insanely productive offense, I’m just struggling to find the footballs to make Hunter happy, especially when he’s probably the fifth-best option as a pass catcher.

(That’s no insult, Will Fuller, Corey Robinson, Chris Brown and C.J. Prosise are all really good players.)

A redshirt season was a great thing for him. He’s basically a sophomore at this point, meaning there’s plenty of time for him to work his way up a depth chart that is pretty top-heavy right now.

We’ve heard about Hunter’s ability to make plays in space and be a versatile receiver. And he’s got the versatility to play inside and out, something that always helps when you’re looking for ways to get a player noticed.

New offensive coordinator Mike Sanford will likely see some of the same things this August that had Kelly and Mike Denbrock excited. It’d be even better if we saw those things happen on Saturdays this fall, instead of making most of his noise on the practice field.

 

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

Irish A-to-Z: Chase Hounshell

Hounshell
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The fact that Chase Hounshell is still a part of Notre Dame’s football program is noteworthy. After shoulder surgeries essentially derailed the defensive lineman’s career, Hounshell was given the opportunity to reinvent himself this spring, serving as a tight end when many expected him to be done with the program.

That opportunity came after a one-on-one with head coach Brian Kelly, where Hounshell sold Kelly on giving him a chance to help the program in any way he could. It’s clear that won’t be along the defensive line any longer, though a blocking tight end looks like a nice fit.

While scholarship numbers and the Irish’s path to 85 scholarships make his inclusion on the roster one that’s far from straightforward, Hounshell has earned a degree and is still playing football—a victory even if he never sees the field again.

Let’s look closer at Chase Hounsell.

 

CHASE HOUNSHELL
6’4.5″, 255 lbs.
Grad Student, No. 18, TE

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Committed to Urban Meyer until the coach’s “retirement,” opening the door for a pledge to Notre Dame. Hounshell was a three-star prospect, though had some intriguing offers as a 3-4 defensive end with a nice motor.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2011): Played in seven games along the defensive line, making four tackles—all against Air Force.

Sophomore Season (2012): Played in the season opener before injuring his shoulder and missing the rest of the season.

Junior Season (2013): Another should injury cost Hounshell the season. Did not see action.

Senior Season (2014): Played in three games (Rice, Louisville and USC), moving into the rotation at defensive line after injuries to Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones. Made two tackles against the Trojans, his total for the season.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

The bonus Notre Dame got out of Hounshell came after the depth chart was basically nuked. So while he made it through an entire season healthy, he wasn’t a viable option on the field.

At this point, anything the Irish get out of Hounshell should be considered a bonus. Every live rep he takes will give Sheldon Day a much needed breather and help the Irish play with some mature bodies at the point of attack. Hounshell’s reputation as a workout warrior will be of great help — and if he’s able to find a spot in the Irish rotation, it’ll be music to the ears of Kelly, Brian VanGorder and line coach Mike Elston.

Still, it’s hard not to wonder how his shoulder will hold up in the trenches. His last surgery required more than just a simple labrum repair, and shoulder reconstruction had both Kelly and Hounshell wondering if it was time to retire from the game. He didn’t, and it’s allowed him to come into his senior season and be ready to contribute. But until he proves he can make it through a season, it’s hard not to see it as a ticking bomb.

Hounshell is the type of player you should root for. Even if he’s unable to produce at the highest of levels, getting him back on the field and healthy is only fair after spending the past two years watching.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

That Hounshell is trying to reboot his career as a tight end gives you an idea that the upside just wasn’t there as a 271-pound defensive tackle with a really bad shoulder. So while you’ve got to give him credit for trying to find a way to help the team, it’s hard to say there’s much of a shot for Hounshell to contribute as anything more than an extra blocking tight end, and if he does that, it’d be a surprise (to me).

But after seeming like a lost scholarship, something awoke it Hounshell’s head. So after it looked like shoulder injuries all but wrecked his career, that Hounshell was able to stay in this program is a plus. And if Hounshell is able to get anything out of this season—and he’ll be an ideal sixth-year candidate, too—then there might be a place for him somewhere else, even if it isn’t Notre Dame.

 

 

CRYSTAL BALL

If we’re looking at Notre Dame’s 85 scholarships, you’ve got to think that Hounshell is currently holding the final golden ticket. So if the Irish staff get good news on Ishaq Williams from the NCAA, it’ll be interesting to see if there’s still room for Hounshell as one of the 85 scholarship athletes playing for free.

Hounshell’s inclusion on the spring roster was telling. So was Kelly’s candor, talking about the leap of faith both took as Hounshell committed to learning a new position with no promise of a future there.

“Nothing has been decided. He’s willing to go through spring and give it a shot and we’ll see where it goes from there,” Kelly said. “He’s been a great teammate, great in the locker room. The guys really enjoy having him. We like his team-first mentality, so we’re going to give him a chance to earn a roster spot playing tight end.”

 

If you’d have told me last August that Hounshell was still on this team, I’d have told you that you were crazy. But after major shoulder surgeries and some difficult rehabilitations, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.

 

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

 

Irish A-to-Z: Corey Holmes

Irish Illustrated / Matt Cashore
13 Comments

Notre Dame finally got back into Florida high school powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas when they landed Corey Holmes. After establishing in roads with Sam Young and holding court with specialists Ben Turk and Jordan Cowart, landing an elite receiver out of one of the country’s best programs was the handy work of Tony Alford.

Holmes’ freshman season was what was expected—a redshirt and a year working with strength coach Paul Longo. And while the depth chart in front of him hasn’t changed, Holmes’ brief taste of the field early last season likely fueled his work this spring and summer, knowing his road to playing time means passing others on the depth chart.

With his eligibility clock starting this fall, let’s see what’s in store for the promising young receiver from Florida.

 

COREY HOLMES
6’0.5″, 184 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 15, WR

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

While his on-field stats were limited due to injuries, the four-star receiver certainly had the look of a blue-chipper when you consider the programs chasing him.

Holmes committed to Notre Dame after a summer visit, turning down offers from Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Oklahoma and a few dozen others. Also an Under Armour All-American.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Saw action against Rice and Michigan before sitting out the remainder of the season, saving a year of eligibility.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

In the longest way possible, this is pretty much accurate—though it was tough to see DaVaris Daniels and the Frozen Five coming.

I think the comparison to TJ Jones is a great one, with one very important caveat: If Jones were a freshman coming into Notre Dame in 2014, he probably wouldn’t play much either.

If possible, a redshirt could be a great thing for Holmes. It’d allow him to put on an additional coat of armor in a college strength and conditioning program. It would also let him follow a mold similar to DaVaris Daniels, potentially even replacing him (as Daniels did Michael Floyd) after he heads to the NFL, leaving a year of eligibility on the table.

At this point, it’s hard to know what the Irish have in Holmes. A big time player at a big time Florida program? One with length, great speed and good route-running ability? It sure sounds like Holmes has star potential.

But then again, it wasn’t too long ago that Notre Dame signed Justin Ferguson out of Florida. Armed with an NFL body and an Alabama offer, Ferguson is now learning how to play safety at Western Michigan, trying to find his way onto the field.

My gut says that Holmes will be a very productive football player for the Irish, but it won’t necessarily happen in 2014. With a depth chart already loaded, sitting out might be the best thing for him.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

I still like the TJ Jones comp for Holmes, who looks like the same type of smooth operator that Jones was for the Irish. But finding a way into the two-deep isn’t any easier than it was last year, without a receiver departing and with Holmes battling personnel far more accomplished than what Jones faced.

The fact Holmes saw action during the first two games of 2014 is telling. The staff had to have reason to believe he was good enough to compete at a very strong position early in the season. But the real barometer for success will likely come after 2015, when Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle’s departure opens up some breathing room at the position.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Too many receivers, not enough footballs. I’m putting Holmes into the group that might be able to serve as the “designated deep threat,” and pretty much think 10 catches on the season would make a productive year.

That number could go up if he’s capable of serving as a Z receiver. The slot seems to be the only place—unless injuries strike—where Holmes could carve out a niche, but that would mean that CJ Prosise made a full transition to running back and Carlisle lets injuries get in the way of his final season in South Bend.

While no player wants to hear it, last season’s redshirt was the best thing to happen to Holmes, especially considering the logjam. Because if both Will Fuller and Corey Robinson stick around, it might be 2016 until Holmes has a chance to step forward.

 

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