Tag: Depth Chart

Brian Kelly

Opening depth chart released


With the opening game around the corner, Notre Dame released it’s two-deep depth chart for Saturday’s season opener against Temple. There were a few surprises, so let’s go over each unit and give some thoughts:


TJ Jones
Corey Robinson

DaVaris Daniels
Daniel Smith

Zack Martin
Hunter Bivin

Chris Watt
Mark Harrell

Nick Martin
Matt Hegarty

Christian Lombard
Conor Hanratty

Ronnie Stanley
Steve Elmer

Troy Niklas
Ben Koyack
Alex Welch

Chris Brown
James Onwualu

Tommy Rees
Andrew Hendrix

George Atkinson
Amir Carlisle
or Cam McDaniel
or Greg Bryant

Thoughts: If you’re looking for early returns on the freshman recruiting class, the offensive two-deep is a good place to start. Seeing Corey Robinson, Hunter Bivin, Steve Elmer, James Onwualu and Greg Bryant all get mentioned on here is pretty astounding.

While a guy like Hunter Bivin probably isn’t the next guy in at tackle, Kelly did say that he expected Steve Elmer to play early and often.

“We have great confidence that Steve Elmer could go in there and start for us if we needed him to,” Kelly said. “It’s not out of the question that he could be playing there at some time on Saturday, as well.”

Seeing the tight end position go three-deep in the two-deep gives you an idea that Troy Niklas, Ben Koyack and Alex Welch are all going to play quite a bit, often packaged together. Seeing a bunch of “or” listings at running back also let you know that all four of those guys are probably going to get a chance to get some carries on Saturday as well.


Sheldon Day
Isaac Rochelle

Louis Nix
Kona Schwenke

Stephon Tuitt
Jarron Jones

Prince Shembo
Ishaq Williams

Dan Fox
Jarrett Grace

Carlo Calabrese
Kendall Moore

Jaylon Smith
Ben Councell

KeiVarae Russell
Lo Wood

Austin Collinsworth
Elijah Shumate

Matthias Farley
Eilar Hardy

Bennett Jackson
Cole Luke

Thoughts: Perhaps the two biggest notes on here are the starting jobs won by Jaylon Smith and Austin Collinsworth, who must be fully recovered from the physical maladies that robbed him of the ’12 season. We’ll likely see a lot of Ben Councell and Elijah Shumate, but it’s a big deal for both players to have gone into camp and won a starting job.

Kelly talked a little bit about the platoon between Collinsworth and Shumate, and the reality of the situation being that both safeties will spend a lot of time on the field.

“I think it’s a 1A, 1B situation,” Kelly said. “Depending on where we are in the game, down and distance, a lot of those factors will be involved.  I think you’ve got to look at both of those guys playing an equal amount of football.”


Nick Tausch
or Kyle Brindza

Kyle Brindza
or Alex Wulfeck

Scott Daly

Luke Massa

TJ Jones
Amir Carlisle

George Atkinson
Cam McDaniel

Kyle Brindza

Thoughts: One person we haven’t talked about much is redshirt freshman Scott Daly, Notre Dame’s new long-snapper. You’ve got to imagine quite a few butterflies will be churning for Daly in his first start with Jordan Cowart now graduated.

As Kelly discussed earlier at Media Day, the placekicking job is still up in the air, with Tausch and Brindza likely spending Saturday competing for the gig. On paper, this seems fine. But when there’s 100,000 screaming fans at the Big House next weekend, it’ll be interesting to see who Kelly calls on to kick.

It’d be great to see Luke Massa get a chance to use his sneaky athleticism and his throwing arm as the holder on a fake field goal. I’m not sure Notre Dame has attempted one since a Lane Clelland holding call erased a successful fake.

The way too early 2012 starting lineup: Defense

Manti Te'o junior

Two guys expected to push their way into the starting defensive lineup instead pushed their way out of town. With Aaron Lynch and Tee Shepard both leaving the Irish football team before spring practice concluded, Notre Dame will have to win with the players they have on the roster, and see if any incoming freshmen have the ability to come in this June and fight their way onto the field.

After watching the positional battles play out during 15 spring practices, here’s the way too early defensive depth chart, heading into unofficial workouts.


The loss of Lynch will certainly sting, but there’s plenty of depth here and it’s not like the Irish will be piecing things together. Rarely does a four-year starter get overlooked, but expect Kapron Lewis-Moore to step his game up during his final season in South Bend, and hold down one defensive end spot. Stephon Tuitt, who had a promising freshman season held back by some early immaturity and then a bout with mono, looks like a future star across from him.

The talk of spring practice was Kona Schwenke. Named the most improved defensive player of the spring, Schwenke pushed Louis Nix at nose guard, running with the first team while Nix battled his fitness and the coaching staff motivated him.

With Chase Hounshell limited and Tony Springmann out for the spring, early-enrollee Sheldon Day impressed during his first work with the team. If the season started tomorrow, Day would likely be in the rotation, though that might not be the case next fall. Tyler Stockton, undersized for the Irish system, but an effort player during spring drills, will also try to work his way into the rotation.

Early projections for opening day:

Kapron Lewis-Moore
Louis Nix
Stephon Tuitt

Chase Hounshell
Kona Schwenke
Tony Springmann
Sheldon Day
Tyler Stockton
Jarron Jones

Thoughts: Dropping Nix back to the second-team was motivation 101 for a defensive tackle that looked to add a few unwanted pounds in the months between the season and spring ball. While the pass rush undoubtedly is hurt with the loss of Lynch, the Irish still feel like the front seven of this team is its strength, and it’ll be interesting to see the step forward made by guys like Hounshell, who played last year, and Springmann, who didn’t, but has a ton of promise.


This group is the strength of the defense. Headlined by All-American candidate Manti Te’o, who took off 10 pounds in the offseason and looks better than ever, there’s a ton of versatile talent across the line. While Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese split time next to Te’o last season, expect to hear from guys like Jarrett Grace and Kendall Moore. Both Anthony Rabasa and Justin Utupo impressed during spring drills, and walk-on Joe Schmidt is a guy that’s going to help the team win as well.

On the outside, Prince Shembo suffered a turf toe injury that required surgery. The injury pushed Ishaq Williams to the forefront, and the rising sophomore took command of the position. Danny Spond and Ben Councell will battle for the dog linebacker job, with Councell looking to gain the edge by the end of spring practice. There’s not a ton of depth here, especially with Troy Niklas switching to tight end, though Romeo Okwara will enter the outside linebacking group come summer.

Early projections for opening day:

Prince Shembo, OLB
Manti Te’o, ILB
Dan Fox, ILB
Ben Councell, OLB

Ishaq Williams
Carlo Calabrese
Danny Spond
Kendall Moore
Jarrett Grace
Anthony Rabasa
Joe Schmidt
Romeo Okwara

Thoughts: I think Williams and Shembo will be on the field together plenty, so saying Prince beats out Ishaq for the job isn’t truly reality. Last season, we saw Fox and Calabrese split time and they’ll likely do the same again this year, with Jarrett Grace fighting to get in the mix as well. You can’t call the season Manti Te’o put together last year disappointing, but I expect to see a man on fire next season. Visibly lighter and moving quicker, he’ll be among the best defenders in college football. I also think the future behind him is bright with Kendall Moore. All he seems to do is make plays when given the chance. The dog linebacker position is one to watch. Ben Councell’s physicality was impressive, but he’ll be taking his first real snaps next season. The strengths of this defense could put the unit in more three-linebacker sets, with Shembo putting a hand on the ground in pass rushing situations.


This might as well be an open casting call, after regulars Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton and Gary Gray depart after holding down jobs for multiple seasons. There’s no question that cornerback is a question mark on this roster. But don’t think Bennett Jackson is part of that conversation. Privately, the coaching staff thinks they might have a first round talent playing the boundary corner, where Jackson’s size, physicality and speed make an intriguing player.

Lo Wood and Josh Atkinson will likely battle for the field corner job. The winner will be the guy who can do the least wrong, as nobody wants to field a defense that gives up the play over the top. Wood doesn’t have the upside of Atkinson, but he’s put in workmanlike hours, and if he keeps things in front of him, he’ll be okay. Jalen Brown looks the part of a starting cornerback, but he’s got to do a better job covering receivers if the staff is going to feel like they can count on him. (When the UND.com videos even show you getting beat, that’s not good…) New addition to the mix Cam McDaniel proved to the staff that he’s a good football player, moving to corner after Tee Shepard left South Bend, and impressing with his ability to get up to speed.

At safety, the staff feels good about Jamoris Slaughter, Zeke Motta and Austin Collinsworth. Slaughter has the ability to make “the leap” this year, building on a season that saw him turn into one of the Irish’s true impact defenders. It’s also the end of the road for Motta, who certainly passes the eyeball test as an athlete and safety. Former walk-on Chris Salvi was brought back on scholarship and will headline the special teams, and Matthias Farley and Eilar Hardy found their footing this spring. The Irish will also welcome reinforcements this summer with Nick Baratti, CJ Prosise, Elijah Shumate, and John Turner. (Thanks to the readers that reminded me that Chris Badger will return to the Irish after missing two years after his Mormon Mission. Depth chart adjusted)

Early projections for opening day:

Bennett Jackson
Zeke Motta
Jamoris Slaughter
Josh Atkinson

Austin Collinsworth
Lo Wood
Cam McDaniel
Eilar Hardy
Jalen Brown
Matthias Farley
Chris Badger
CJ Prosise
Elijah Shumate
Nick Baratti
John Turner

Thoughts: We’ll likely see a lot of the top six guys in the secondary, and it’ll be up to Kerry Cooks and Bob Elliott to get the guys up to speed. This defense will be as good as the secondary lets them be, and Elliott has made a great impact wherever he’s been. You’ve got to wonder if any of the safeties recruited can slide into the cornerback mix. My guess? CJ Prosise will get a chance, which helps explain why we’ve heard some rumblings about Prosise trying to cut weight.

All hands on deck for Stanford

manti-teo getty images

At this time of year, no football team is entirely healthy. (Just ask the guys in Palo Alto.) But as the Irish head into their final — and most important — game of the year, let’s take a look at the positional depth chart and see just how well the Irish are hanging on.

Brian Kelly called this Saturday a “one-game season,” and his Tuesday press conference this afternoon will give us a better idea of where the Irish stand from a health perspective. But let’s run down the position grouping and see how well the Irish have kept things together.


Tommy Rees, Soph.
Dayne Crist, Sr.
Andrew Hendrix, Soph.
Everett Golson, Fr.
Matthew Mulvey, Sr.

Everybody’s healthy for the Irish, though you have to wonder if the knee injury Tommy Rees suffered against USC is still limiting his mobility. (His mobility was never a strong suit, but he’s still wearing a knee brace.) Behind Rees, Crist seems ready for action, and I fully expect to see a package with Andrew Hendrix on Saturday as well. There’s a better chance you’ll see Mulvey than Golson, as the freshman has saved a year of eligibility this fall.


Cierre Wood, Jr.
Jonas Gray, Sr.
George Atkinson, Fr.
Cam McDaniel, Fr.
Theo Riddick, Jr.

The Irish depth chart took a big hit with Jonas Gray going down on Saturday. The Irish will miss his power, explosiveness, and ability to get in the end zone on Saturday. Bryan Driskell of IrishSportsDaily.com wrote a nice piece on the Irish’s running attack without Jonas and he points to several reasons to be optimistic.

Of course, we’ll probably find out more today on the status of Theo Riddick joining the running back depth chart for Saturday. The first step in that process will be making sure he’s healthy enough to play, especially on a rain-ravaged playing surface that makes the grass at Notre Dame Stadium look like Augusta National.

If Riddick is unable to go, expect to see a ton of Cierre Wood. The junior is coming off his least prolific game of the season against Boston College, but will need to carry the workload. Looking for more optimism? In the five games Wood has carried the ball over 20 times, he’s averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

As for Atkinson and McDaniel, it’ll be interesting if they’ll be used truly as the “next man in,” or if the offensive game plan will be tailored to their strong suits. I don’t know if there’s any reason to think Atkinson has the comfort, vision, or size to successfully run the ball between the tackles, but we’ll find out on Saturday.


Michael Floyd, Sr.
TJ Jones, Soph.
Theo Riddick, Jr.
Robby Toma, Jr.
John Goodman, Sr.

As we just mentioned, this group may or may not be missing Riddick, either because of injury or because of a shift to running back. Either way, it’s going to depend on utilizing Michael Floyd both in the short possession game, and also springing him vertically. We’ve hit on it multiple times, but Rees is going to need to have an accurate day down field to take advantage of a Stanford defense that’s banged up.

Robby Toma has shown himself a capable fill-in at slot and a quick friend of the quarterback, but if the Irish passing game is going to get on track, they’ll need some consistency out of TJ Jones, who looked better on Saturday, logging the most catches he’s had in a game since Purdue.


Tyler Eifert, Jr.
Mike Ragone, Sr.
Alex Welch, Soph.
Ben Koyack, Fr.
Jake Golic, Jr.

A week after making eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, Tyler Eifert had one of his quieter games of the year, making only two catches against Boston College. The Mackey Award finalist is one of the best tight ends in the country, and against a team that utilizes its tight ends proficiently, the Irish will need to target Eifert consistently on Saturday night.

Obviously the loss of Mike Ragone isn’t a new one, but his in-line blocking is severely missed. Sophomore Alex Welch and freshman Ben Koyack are doing admirable jobs and the future looks bright even if Eifert decides to look at the NFL after this season.

It hasn’t been publicly talked about by Kelly, but it sounds like Jake Golic has a serious back injury. The news comes via an IrishIllustrated.com interview with blue-chip recruit Tyler McNamara, who explained where the Irish sit at the position.

“It all depends on if Eifert leaves for the draft this year, which is very possible, and then (Jake) Golic has a back injury, a real severe one, so if those two don’t play they don’t have too much tight end depth,” McNamara said. “If Eifert comes back playing early isn’t an option, but if he elects to go in the draft then it’s a pretty distinct possibility.”

Losing Eifert would be a big loss to the Irish, but they have solid depth behind him and are obviously planning for the future.


Zack Martin, Jr.
Chris Watt, Jr.
Braxston Cave, Sr.
Trevor Robinson, Sr.
Taylor Dever, Sr.
Mike Golic, Sr.
Andrew Nuss, Sr.
Christian Lombard, Soph.

The offensive line had done a very good job of staying healthy until Cave went down against Wake Forest, pushing little used Mike Golic into the lineup at center. Golic has filled in admirably, but the offensive line hasn’t played to the level that it did in October, when it didn’t allow a sack and put together several impressive rushing performances.

Against Stanford, the focus should be on the Irish front five, who will absolutely need to win the line of scrimmage and get the Irish in favorable down and distances if they’re going to have a chance at beating the Cardinal.


Kapron Lewis-Moore, Sr.
Sean Cwynar, Sr.
Louis Nix, Soph.
Ethan Johnson, Sr.
Aaron Lynch, Fr.
Stephon Tuitt, Fr.
Hafis Williams, Sr.
Kona Schwenke, Soph.
Brandon Newman, Sr.

The most impressive thing about the performance of Mike Elston’s defensive line is just how good they’ve played with how many injuries they’ve suffered. There have been lines through names like Cwynar, Johnson, and potentially Tuitt, but the front line hasn’t missed a beat thanks to great play by youngsters Nix, Lynch and Tuitt.

We’ll likely find out more on the status of Tuitt this afternoon when Kelly gives the press a health update.


Darius Fleming, Sr.
Dan Fox, Jr.
Manti Te’o, Jr.
Prince Shembo, Soph.
Steve Filer, Sr.
Carlo Calabrese, Jr.
Kendall Moore, Soph.
Danny Spond, Soph.
Troy Niklas, Fr.
Ishaq Williams, Fr.

The loss of Steve Filer robbed the Irish of a potential pass-rush specialist, but for the most part the Irish linebackers are intact. If the Irish have a weakness in the linebacking corps, it’s at the drop linebacker position, where the Irish will be tested this week with Stanford possessing a strong running game, but an even stronger quarterback that’ll test the Irish linebackers in their drops and put Prince Shembo in a position where he’ll need to quickly identify run or pass, often times in play-action.

The Irish have gotten steady but uneven play from the combination of Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese opposite Manti Te’o, and Darius Fleming hasn’t put together the kind of numbers people had hoped for this season. That said, this group is getting better at this time of year, aided by the ascent of Troy Niklas.


Robert Blanton
Jamoris Slaughter
Harrison Smith
Gary Gray
Zeke Motta
Lo Wood
Austin Collinsworth
Bennett Jackson
Dan McCarthy

After getting bitten by injury last season, the Irish secondary has stayed relatively healthy this year, allowing Jamoris Slaughter to play like the difference-maker the coaching staff thought they had last year. Robert Blanton and Gary Gray both have had their moments of weakness this year (with Gray’s a bit more visible), but both corners will likely be asked to match-up one-on-one with a wide receiving corps that lacks game-breakers, especially after injuries have taken their toll on the Cardinal depth chart.

If you’re looking for someone that’s made their move up the charts, look at Austin Collinsworth. The sophomore was a dynamic special teams player last year, but has found his way into the nickel and dime package, giving the Irish another safety that’s capable of playing in coverage, allowing Jamoris Slaughter to slide down into the drop linebacker spot to make plays close to the line of scrimmage.

Kelly names Tommy Rees starter against Michigan

Tommy Rees USF

Just a few days after relieving Dayne Crist at halftime and throwing for 296 yards in the second half, sophomore Tommy Rees was named starting quarterback against Michigan by head coach Brian Kelly.

“We’re going to start Tommy Rees against Michigan,” Kelly said. “As we had talked about relative to Dayne, we talked about production. Tommy was very productive in the second half and he’ll get the chance to start against Michigan.”

The decision isn’t really a shock after the Irish offense sprung to life under Rees after he came in after a two hour, ten minute halftime. Most notably, Rees and wide receiver Michael Floyd drove the offense, with the sophomore connecting with Floyd ten times for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

Rees also threw two interceptions, the first in the red zone after a football bounced off sophomore receiver TJ Jones’ helmet. The second came after the second weather delay, with Rees trying to force a throw to a double-covered Floyd.

“I’ve got to be careful we’re not trying to feed the ball to Mike when he’s being doubled,” Kelly said of Rees. “But those other guys, Theo (Riddick), TJ (Jones), Tyler Eifert, need to step up.”

Kelly was quick to support Crist, his senior quarterback that was only given a half to prove he deserved to be the starting quarterback. Yet he also hinted at the main reason why he’s confident that Rees should be the starter going forward.

“The difference between good and great is being decisive,” Kelly said.


Offensive depth chart breakdown

John Goodman

In anticipation of today’s press conference with Brian Kelly (more on that later), Notre Dame released their two-deep depth chart for Saturday’s game.

There weren’t any complete surprises, but rather some very reassuring developments for Irish fans looking for continued improvement.

Freshman Davaris Daniels, Nick Martin and Conor Hanratty found their way into the mix, as the Irish prepare to get their best eleven on the field against USF this Saturday.

Here’s the offensive depth chart:


WR: DaVaris Daniels, Fr.

WR: Robby Toma, Jr.

LT: Nick Martin, Fr.

LG: Chris Watt, Jr.
LG: Andrew Nuss, Sr.

C: Mike Golic Jr., Sr.

RG: Conor Hanratty, Fr.

RT: Christian Lombard, So.

TE: Mike Ragone, Sr.

WR: John Goodman, Sr.

QB: Tommy Rees, So.

RB: Cierre Wood, Jr.
RB: Jonas Gray, Sr.

Some thoughts:

While it was impressive to see DaVaris Daniels on the two-deep,  it appears Davaris is still on the outside looking in for playing time.

“We’re working off a five-man rotation, and six and seven would be Daniel Smith and DaVaris Daniels,” Kelly said, before focusing on his talented freshman. “We’re going to sneak him in there when it’s a time and place where he doesn’t have to be counted on to make a big play as he continues to grow.

With Smith’s name not showing up on the two-deep behind Michael Floyd, it shows that John Goodman has done what Brian Kelly has repeatedly asked him to do this preseason.

“The last week I got what I wanted out of John Goodman, and he will be a valuable guy when we need him,” Kelly said.


On Signing Day last year, if you gave Irish fans odds on freshman finding their way into the two-deep, it’s safe to say that offensive linemen Nick Martin and Conor Hanratty would’ve been long shots. But with a few injuries along the offensive line, both find themselves with the No. 2s.

With Hanratty, it’s clear that his scholarship didn’t have anything to do with who his father is.

“You always hope in the recruiting process that you get what you think you’re going to get,” Kelly said. “We knew Hanratty was a tough kid, we knew he had to physically develop. What we liked on film was his toughness. He will hit you. He’s done that.”

Martin has worked at a variety of positions since coming to the Irish, but he finds himself behind someone familiar, backing up his big brother at left tackle. It’s clear, the Irish have got another great athlete in the younger Martin.

“As it relates to Nick Martin, when I saw him play basketball, that’s what did it for me. When I saw him move his feet I said, this is a guy that would be a great fit for us,” Kelly said. “He’s not only done that, but he’s shown that he can play the game of football. He has a natural awareness of his position.”


With Chris Watt named starter, Andrew Nuss and Mike Ragone are two fifth-year players that won’t be starting, but will be called on to play a significant role on the offensive depth chart. As the decision making process gets harder and harder on fifth year players going forward, Kelly gave a few hints as to what he’s looking for if a guy isn’t necessarily a starter when discussing Nuss.

“Great guy in the locker room,” Kelly said of Nuss. “He’s well respected by everybody, the coaches in particular, great leadership qualities. We want the right guys on the team, too, coupled with the fact that he has great versatility. He can play tackle, center, guard. As you stack up decisions that have to be made as a head coach as to who you’re inviting back, that was a pretty easy one.”

While Ragone has been hampered with a leg injury the past few weeks of camp, it appears that he’s back and healthy for Saturday. But how the Irish use their tight ends will be a question, as Tyler Eifert, Ragone, Alex Welch and Ben Koyack are all in the running for playing time.

“I think it’s been about Tyler Eifert being the starting tight end, and that’s been clear since day one,” Kelly said. “It’s, as you mentioned who is No. 2, who is No. 3, who is No. 4, because they’re all very equal. I think what put Welch and Koyack in the mix is that Mike has been slowed in camp with a quad injury. He ran yesterday well for the first time.

“I think you will see all four of them play, though, as the season progresses, all four will be on the field.”