Tag: Kyle Brindza

Luke Massa, Kyle Brindza

Brindza, Daniels and Riggs sign FA contracts


While Ben Koyack was the only former Irish football player selected in the NFL Draft, the football careers of three other Notre Dame players continue. Kicker/punter Kyle Brindza, wide receiver DaVaris Daniels and cornerback Cody Riggs all signed free agent contracts on Saturday.

For Brindza, he’ll have a shot to win a roster spot for his hometown team, the Detroit Lions. Notre Dame’s all-time leading kicker will compete with veteran Matt Prater for the placekicking job, with his versatility potentially bringing some value as well. Brindza himself tweeted that he worked out for the Lions just a few weeks before the draft—so the team must’ve liked what they saw.

Daniels signed with the Minnesota Vikings, who took a shot on another Notre Dame player, joining a roster filled with John Sullivan, Robert Blanton, Harrison Smith and Kyle Rudolph. He’ll also compete to join a receiving corps that lacks a top-end playmaker for young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, though the Vikings added Mike Wallace via a trade this offseason and drafted former blue-chip recruit and Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs in the fifth round.

The foot injury that derailed Riggs senior season also likely killed his draft hopes. But Riggs signed on with the Tennessee Titans as a free agent, detailing his thought process with Irish 247’s Nick Ironside, who was embedded with Riggs over the weekend.

“I felt like (Tennessee) was the best option for me to play in and I felt comfortable with them on the phone,” Riggs told Irish 247. “They didn’t draft any corners this year so I felt like it would be the best situation for me and they have a great coaching staff.”

Riggs is studying for finals as he finished his one-year Masters of Science and Management after earning his degree at Florida, making the most of the graduate transfer rule.


Irish draft hopefuls audition at ND Pro Day

BYU v Notre Dame

Former Irish football players had their chance to audition for future employers today in South Bend at the Notre Dame Pro Day. It was a reunion of sorts as players from all over worked out inside the Gug under the watchful eyes of NFL scouts.

With Notre Dame only losing starters Ben Koyack, Cody Riggs and Kyle Brindza to the NFL, it’s not expected to be a big year for the Irish in the draft. But also returning to campus to audution were former captain Cam McDaniel, DaVaris Daniels, Jake Golic, Andrew Hendrix, Ethan Johnson, Kendall Moore, Justin Utupo and Alex Welch.

Daniels and Moore are back on campus even after last season’s suspension. They’re joined by Miami RedHawks Hendrix and Welch, who played out their eligibility under former offensive coordinator Chuck Martin.

Golic returned to campus after playing at Cincinnati. Johnson is looking to return to the NFL after being a part of the concussion class action lawsuit and a cup of coffee with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Let’s take to social media to get you some results:

Here’s an update on Cody Riggs, who was a surprise to be not among the invites to the combine in Indianapolis, but certainly helped his draft stock by running as fast as you’d have expected.

It appears that Riggs tweaked a hamstring later in the workout, but not before taking a slo-mo leap in the broad jump:


Ben Koyack, who was invited to Indianapolis, but didn’t run the 40-yard dash there, did so in South Bend. Per SID Michael Bertsch, Koyack ran right around a 4.7, with the fastest time listed at 4.68.

Koyack was at the Senior Bowl and Combine and is likely to be the first former Irish player off the draft board, though maybe not as early as previous Notre Dame tight ends.


Also back on campus is McDaniel, who is days away from becoming a father. A fringe candidate to make a roster, McDaniel showed some versatility—needed if he’s going to be a special teams performer on Sundays.


Kyle Brindza did a nice job updating us on his Pro Day. Here’s the former Irish kicker on his afternoon, where he showed off epic strongman skills in addition to a big leg on kickoffs.


In a parallel universe, DaVaris Daniels was catching passes from Andrew Hendrix. The Elkhart Truth’s Rachel Terlep even has proof.

Daniels spoke with media at the event, doing his best to put his suspension and inability to return to South Bend into context.

“It’s a difficult situation,” Daniels acknowledged to The Observer‘s Mike Monaco. “I don’t hold any grudges. I just don’t really like thinking about the situation… it is what it is. At this point, I’m ready for the NFL. That’s my focus.”

Daniels estimates he’s got a little over two semesters left of work to complete before earning his Notre Dame degree. He said all the right things about moving forward and hopefully finishing up his course work, while also taking the high road about the frustrating time where all five suspended athletes waited to hear their fate.

Most importantly for Daniels, at least when it comes to his immediate employment future, is getting his speed and explosiveness back. Various reports had Daniels breaking into the 4.5-range on his 40, a critical threshold for him.


If you’re looking for good news out of South Bend, defensive end Ishaq Williams—currently in football and academic purgatory—was on hand watching the festivities. Williams didn’t speak to any media but sat with his teammates for the festivities, though what to make of that isn’t clear.

While scholarship numbers are tight, Williams could be a great addition to a defensive front that’s looking for more bulk, and it’d allow him to finish his Notre Dame degree after a two semester exile.

Five things we learned: Louisville 31, Notre Dame 28

Austin Collinsworth, Joe Schmidt

Kyle Brindza stared down his spot. Envisioned making the kick. Took a final deep breath before waiting for the snap.

And then he missed it.

Notre Dame’s comeback efforts were left for dead as the Irish’s all-time leader in field goals missed yet another one, pushing a 32-yarder wide right as Louisville escaped South Bend with a 31-28 victory.

[WATCH: Full replay of the game ]

Debate focused on Malik Zaire’s hold. Starting for the second-straight game as the team’s holder, Zaire’s hand was out late as Brindza approached the chip shot. After the game, Kelly backed his record-setting kicker.

“I don’t think it was executed at the level it needed to be,” Kelly said. “I didn’t see it. I’ll have to watch it on film, but in talking to Kyle, it did not appear to be handled cleanly.”

That’s kindly framing a situation for a senior kicker whose late-game failings for the second-straight week threaten to undo a legacy that was built on making clutch kicks, regardless of the slight imperfections from a new holder.

But that’s the type of season we’ve found ourselves in, parceling out smidgeons of blame in a black-or-white, win-or-not situation.

With the Irish limping into their season finale against USC next week, let’s find out what else we learned.



A senior class that did a lot of good for this football program unfortunately doesn’t go out a winner at home. 

There are no consolation prizes in football. And while the Irish deserve credit for giving it their all and responding after a mediocre first half, in the end it wasn’t enough.

For the first time since Brian Kelly took over the Notre Dame football program, the Irish didn’t send their seniors out winners. And frankly, the seniors had plenty to do with that.

Brindza’s missed field goal at the end was the last critical mistake. But just two plays before that seniors Matt Hegarty and Nick Martin failed on a double-team block that led to a painful loss on a second down quarterback draw.

“We ran a quarter draw and we got our butts kicked up front,” Kelly said, when asked about the playcall.

On defense, seniors were few and far between. But when you did notice fifth-year captain Austin Collinsworth, it was on a missed tackles, with Louisville running backs and wide receivers flying by the wounded but game senior safety.

So Saturday’s loss ends the home career of a group of star-crossed football players that battled through quite a few detours to get here. And while this class splintered apart because of injuries and attrition more than any of the other Kelly recruited, the Irish head coach had a message of pride and thanks to his wounded locker room.

“They came in a program that had not had won a bowl game in 20 years,” Kelly said. “Now they have won two and played for a National Championship and obviously are part of developing and building a winning program. I’m proud of them.”




With injuries taking Jarron Jones and Cody Riggs off the field as well, it’s kids, kids and more kids on Brian VanGorder’s beleaguered defense. 

Jarron Jones opened the game up making a big play. Unfortunately he wasn’t healthy for the rest of it. Notre Dame’s starting defensive tackle was the latest key starter to go down, finally tapping out after a hobbling leg injury forced him out of the lineup.

The same happened to Cody Riggs. The senior cornerback was making progress as he battled to return from a stress-reaction in his foot, but he was spotted gingerly walking off the field to the locker room, leaving the secondary for Collinsworth and the kids.

“We played the whole game pretty much without Jarron Jones,” Kelly said afterwards. “They battled as best they could. We’re getting everything out of them. I mean, they played with great effort, just made some mistakes.”

Those mistakes came early, as Louisville’s first two drives turned into touchdowns. And both times, the Irish defense let the Cardinals out of their clutches.

A back-breaking 3rd-and-14 conversion allowed a 10-play, 75 yard drive to end in a touchdown run by freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon. Louisville’s next possession, the Cardinals connected on a 3rd-and-16 for 52 yards, allowing Bonnafon to run for another zone-read touchdown to cap off a second-straight touchdown drive.

It wasn’t all bad. We saw Jay Hayes hold his own on the defensive line in his first collegiate action. We watched Jacob Matuska and Greer Martini earn their first sacks. And while Nyles Morgan’s clear-cut personal foul got him ejected from the game, he made 10 tackles, a step forward after a few difficult weeks.

But after getting some critical stops to help build some momentum, the Irish defense couldn’t slow down Louisville’s run game, even when they committed just about all their resources to doing so.


After nearly playing his way out of the quarterback job, Everett Golson swatted away the vultures and played a much better second half. 

Another football game, another crisis surrounding Notre Dame’s quarterback. After starting the game sharp, Golson threw a critical interception deep in Irish territory, staring down Will Fuller as cornerback Charles Gaines squatted on a comeback route. The Irish defense actually picked up their quarterback, making Golson’s errant throw just a three-point mistake by holding Louisville to a field goal. But it was more gift-wrapped points, three that just so happened to be the final difference in the game.

But Golson very nearly lost his job after another maddening fumble. The senior quarterback peeled back, trying to tuck the football away late before the ball skidded out, back towards the Irish end zone. Senior Nick Martin threw some gas on the fire, with the ball popping out from beneath him as he tried to recover the fumble.

Golson finally showed some urgency, getting to the ball as it slid out of bounds 32-yards behind where it started.

From 2nd-and-6 to 3rd-and-38. From grumbles asking for Malik Zaire to see the field to full-throated screams. NBC’s Mike Mayock thought it was time to make a change. Doug Flutie looked at Golson’s body language and didn’t like what he saw.

But Brian Kelly went to the half and came back out with Golson behind center. And the senior quarterback responded, helping the Irish score touchdowns on their first two possessions to pull ahead.

Golson’s heroics didn’t come without some magic, and a little luck. A jump-ball to Corey Robinson ended up in Will Fuller’s arms for his 14th touchdown. And while Golson’s two-point scramble pulled the Irish within three, he couldn’t get a touchdown to finish the game when the Irish needed it.

“I think he did some good things. There are some things that we want to do better, but he made some great plays with his feet,” Kelly said.

Golson’s 16 of 24 for 236 and two touchdowns against one of the best defense’s in the country wasn’t bad. And after rallying in the second half after a blundering first half, the senior quarterback deserves some credit for bringing the team back and avoiding a full-fledged quarterback controversy.


While most will talk about another missed field goal, the Irish special teams provided a few big plays, too. 

Kelly probably said it best after the game, summarizing the frustrations of a two-game home losing streak that not many people saw coming in October.

“We’ve lost back-to-back games because we couldn’t put down a ball and kick it 32 yards,” Kelly said.

A special teams unit that’s once again taking the blame for the loss very nearly was a key factor in winning the football game. Greg Bryant sparked Notre Dame with an explosive punt return that he nearly took into the end zone. Amir Carlisle set up the Irish multiple times with good field position on kickoff returns.

And with the cover teams doing an excellent job slowing down Louisville’s return men, the Irish had set themselves up quite well in a game that required winning the field position battle, too.

But all of that doesn’t matter if you can’t make the plays when they count.



Sometimes the night is darkest just before the dawn. 

Football has a funny way of revealing your most crippling weaknesses. The past month has done that.

Notre Dame’s depth on defense has been decimated, turning a group that seemed ahead of schedule in October into one searching badly for answers in November. An Irish offense blessed with better weapons than they’ve had in years only now understands that those weapons don’t mean much if you aren’t properly equipped to handle them.

So while there’s much doom and gloom as we watch Notre Dame stumble in ways they haven’t seen since the Weis era, when fans wipe the tears out of their eyes, they’ll see some of the groundwork being laid for a quicker rebound.

The kids that stood their ground and held up more than respectably against Louisville’s offense? They’ll develop some scar tissue that’ll pay dividends in the future. And while outsiders and followers will wonder if Notre Dame’s head coach and leader has lost his team, it’s not hard to see the energy and emotion on the sidelines as proof positive that this team understands how to fight, even if it’s taking one too many shots to the jaw right now.

“I mean, I can say some cliché things, but I think everybody just has to keep their head up. We’ve got a lot of young guys that have a lot of potential,” Golson said after the game. “It’s kind of one of those things where it’s kind of heartbreaking for us to lose, but you can’t stay down because we do have so much talent. We’ve got to still play with confidence. We’ve got to still play aggressive. I think if we do that, like I said, the talent is there, so I think that will kind of show itself.”

Right now, that talent might not be enough to stop a fade that could extend into a less-than-desirable bowl game. But the pieces are there for a recovery, even if we had to watch them crumble to the ground first.



The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Northwestern

Will Fuller, Nick VanHoose

A little less than 48 hours after Notre Dame’s loss to Northwestern, it doesn’t seem like too many people are over it. So let’s dispense with the introductions and pull the band-aid.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly from Saturday’s disastrous 43-40 loss to the Wildcats.



Will Fuller. Right now, Notre Dame’s sophomore wide receiver has 13 touchdowns, tied for the lead in the NCAA, and on pace to break Golden Tate’s record of 15 scores in his Biletnikoff Award-winning junior season.

Once again, Fuller had a monster day, scoring three times on his nine catches for 159 yards. He beat a good Northwestern secondary on deep routes, screen routes and everything in between. He also dropped two or three balls, reminding you that Fuller is still a work-in-progress, an exciting proposition as we look to the future.


Tarean Folston. The sophomore running back bounced back, running for 106 yards on 20 carries Saturday. He scored a nifty touchdown on a spin move at the goal line, and also showed the type of vision and patience that’s become a staple of his game.

While it feels like we saw too much of Cam McDaniel or grumbled every time Folston wasn’t in the backfield, he had five times as many rushing opportunities as McDaniel, who gained 12 yards on his four runs — including the game-turning fumble when the Irish were trying to run out the clock.


Matthias Farley. Another game, another really big play for Farley, who is turning into one of the lone bright spots on a defense that’ll be discussed for much of the “Bad” section. The senior (with a fifth-year available) stepped in front of a pass near the Irish goal line and returned it 39 yards.

Farley is tied for the team lead with three interceptions. His 6.5 tackles-for-loss are also tied for the team lead. It’s been a nice bounce-back season for the veteran who struggled last year at safety.


Forcing Turnovers. Notre Dame forced four of them. (And nearly a fifth that would’ve iced the game if it didn’t bounce from the arms of two diving defenders and squirt out of bounds.)

And Austin Collinsworth’s scoop and score was the defense’s first touchdown after Max Redfield’s block on Devin Gardner nullified Elijah Shumate’s pick six.



The Defense. So it’s gotten ugly. Really ugly. Just how ugly? Historically ugly.

This five-game run is the worst in the history of Notre Dame football for allowing points. Per BlueandGold’s Lou Somogyi, the doldrums of 2007 saw the Irish give up 166 points to open the 2007 season. This five-game streak has seen the Irish give up 211.

To keep everything under this one stench-filled lid, let’s go through the bullet points.

  • Tackling. Boy, it got comical for a bit out there. For as nice of a season as Cole Luke has had, I think he’s still trying to drag down a receiver while futilely punching at the football. That’s not to say Luke was alone, as it was a group fail out there, as the Irish turned the least explosive offense in power-five football into a group of worldbeaters.
  • The First Half. Lord only knows how many more points Northwestern would’ve scored had they not gotten hit with a rash of the drops. But the Irish’s first-half effort against the Wildcats’ version of hurry-up was likely (hopefully) rock bottom for this group.Having rewatched the game twice over the weekend, I’ll spare the gory details. But the ground game had major breaches, the pass defense allowed the chains to move early and often (Northwestern converted just 8 of 20 third downs, but it sure felt like a lot more), and the situational awareness of this group continues to be really distressing.
  •  Injuries. I’m listing this third for those of you who like to take to the comments and accuse me of being too kind. But at this point, it’s difficult to call this defense Notre Dame’s, when in a perfect world half of this group would be watching and learning still.We’ll find out more about Sheldon Day’s future this season on Tuesday, as the junior defensive tackle had an MRI yesterday to take a look at his knee. The same with freshman tackle Daniel Cage, who has played some impressive snaps this season. But the front seven of this football team — a group that had no margin for error from a depth perspective during training camp — has hit a critical state.The secondary isn’t much better. Getting Austin Collinsworth back was a nice boost, but the captain isn’t a great fit as an “in space” defender. But when you’re counting on a guy with a shoulder harness and a cornerback with a broken foot to be two key components, it’s going to result in 10-catch days for Kyle Prater.


Kyle Brindza. Notre Dame’s senior specialist had a horrific day at the office. He missed two key field goals that ended up being critical points. He also struggled punting the football, with two big misses setting up the Wildcats with great field position.

Brindza had help — a botched hold by Malik Zaire set up Brindza’s blocked extra point. But the senior kicker hooked a 38-yard field goal as the first half ended that could’ve extended Notre Dame’s halftime lead to a touchdown. The senior kicker also missed a crucial field goal in overtime, hooking another ball left to gift wrap the Wildcats’ victory in their first possession of overtime.

Punting the football was also a struggle. Brindza’s first bad punt — a 27-yarder — gave Northwestern the ball near midfield. It didn’t bite the Irish, with the defense stopping the Wildcats on a missed pass on 4th-and-3 in the second quarter.

But on 4th-and-9 from the Northwestern 44, Brindza took the field with an 11-point lead and the opportunity to pin the Wildcats deep with six minutes left in the game. Instead, he shanked a 17-yarder that jump-started Northwestern, with the Wildcats going nine plays and 73-yards in just 1:58.

Notre Dame’s all-time leading field goal kicker is making just 57 percent of his kicks this year, dropping his career average down to a musty 72 percent. With the center exchange and holder problems the Irish have had, it’s certainly not all on him. But a key veteran on the Irish roster is struggling… a recurring theme that we’ll get to later.


Drue Tranquill. Brian Kelly and Brian VanGorder tried to get a good football game out of Tranquill this weekend at safety, starting the freshman in place of Max Redfield. The move backfired in a big way, with Tranquill near or around many of the big Northwestern plays that went the Wildcats way.

On Sunday, Kelly explained his rationale for starting Tranquill.

“We thought that Drue gave us a better chance at that position,” Kelly said, a few questions before explaining the logic. “The game comes a little bit easier at times. Max is learning the game still. Drue has a little bit better feel for the game. It doesn’t mean he’s there. He certainly made a lot of mistakes in his first start. But we just felt like tackling and football knowledge, he may have been a guy that we wanted to give a shot, and we gave him a shot at starting, and now we’ll evaluate where we are at that position today and tomorrow.”

In defense of the decision, Kelly and VanGorder likely figured that a heavy dose of run plays and short passes would allow Tranquill to thrive in tight spaces, as he’s shown that ability through the earlier part of the season. But as a true, half-field safety, the freshman struggled mightily, showing a frustrating lack of success when it came to the basics of the position.

As a wake-up call to Redfield, this might work. We saw the sophomore make a big play on special teams and eventually work into the rotation at safety. But Tranquill sure isn’t a free safety — something Kelly said openly last month — and you have to wonder if Eilar Hardy will get some work against Louisville, even though he spent two months collecting dust away from the program while the academic investigation played out.



The Guys in the Headsets. It was not a banner day for the guys in charge of the Irish football program. While thousands of angry diatribes have already beaten the decision to go for two points to death, it’s still a head-scratching decision by Brian Kelly that allowed the Wildcats to stay in the game and ultimately win it.

Pinning this defeat on one mistake is completely unfair though. It was a team loss, with the players on the field and the coaches on the sideline and in the box all sharing the blame.

But after 10 games, it’s clear that this coaching staff needs to protect the team from itself. Offensively, that means putting some shackles back on the unit, even if it takes away from the productivity. While the box score will show complete play-calling balance with both 40 runs and 40 passes, the red zone play-calling had some people scratching their heads and allowing this offense to continue to turn the ball over has people shockingly asking for a return to the vanilla days of yesteryear.

Defensively, it’s very difficult to put all of this on Brian VanGorder. Especially when the first-year coordinator has more first-year contributors on the field than players who actually know what they’re doing. But too often we saw a defensive front with just Nyles Morgan behind it, the type of alignment that everybody in the stadium knows won’t work. Epecially as the freshman still sees things for the first time.

Any talk of firing coaches or hypothetical hot seats is silly. I repeat. Any talk of firing coaches or hot seats is silly.

After all, the game plan was there for Notre Dame to win if the guys on the field even competently did their jobs. But sometimes you win by not putting yourself in a position to lose.

That might need to be the strategy moving forward.


Leadership. If this team is missing anything, it’s a strong leadership presence in the locker room. And if this team is crying out for one thing more obvious than anything else, it’s a leader among men on the field.

Yes, I know the Irish have Cam McDaniel, Austin Collinsworth, Sheldon Day and Nick Martin wearing the “C” on their chests. But there is a gulf between the guys leading the team on the field and the ones supposed to be leading it off of it, and that was apparent in a game like this one.

I am not in the locker room. And this isn’t a “call out” or some hand grenade meant to indict a team that by all reports is doing everything their coaching staff asks. But the best players on this roster aren’t the team’s best leaders, and that’s incredibly apparent in games where you need veteran leaders to lead by example on the field.

That didn’t happen on Saturday, with Cam McDaniel fumbling the game away in a kill-the-clock situation. Or kicker Kyle Brindza, a four-year veteran, and not just a specialist, punting and kicking Northwestern back into the football game. (The Irish field goal/PAT unit was on the field seven times. They scored four points and gave up two. That’s not good.)

It’s not all the captains fault. Austin Collinsworth scored a key touchdown, in his only true action this season after being injured in the days before the opener. Sheldon Day may be Notre Dame’s most unblockable defensive lineman, but his first sack of the season came not long before suffering an injury. Nick Martin’s leadership skills don’t likely extend beyond the offensive line, a product of starting just 10 games before this season and being in the shadow of his older brother for three seasons.

There was a lot of discussion about naming captains this preseason. Ultimately, Kelly decided on veteran leaders, naming four guys who have “been there” in McDaniel, Collinsworth, Martin and Day. But the “loyal soldiers” approach hasn’t exactly paid off. And you’re fair to wonder if not having Everett Golson and Joe Schmidt wearing Cs is hurting this program.

Golson has been the face of this team, wearing the struggles of the offense on a weekly basis. That ownership is recognized by his teammates. Schmidt was the MVP of the defense before his injury. A force of nature on and off the field, he’s far removed from any walk-on label that still sticks to him in the media.

One of the challenges of a young team is straddling the line between the present and the future. Nine of the top 10 leading tacklers on defense have eligibility remaining. Same with the offense, where only McDaniel, Ben Koyack and Christian Lombard exhaust their eligibility from the two-deep.

If the Irish want to find a way to be successful in these final two regular season games, they’re going to need to find leadership both on the field and in the locker room from an emerging cast of characters. Schmidt can’t do it, not with a cast on his leg.

But the opportunity is there for Everett Golson, Tarean Folston or Will Fuller to seize those reins on offense, demanding accountability from a group that hasn’t played with it. And after looking lost without Schmidt by his side, Jaylon Smith is the obvious answer on a defense searching desperately for one.

In times like these, a bunker mentality is needed. We’ll see who takes charge moving forward in a critical juncture for the program.

Counting down the Irish: 15-11

Oklahoma v Notre Dame

When Brian Kelly was hired to take over Notre Dame’s football program, he developed a reputation not just as an offensive mastermind or spread offense guru, but rather that of a “program builder.” For all the traits Jack Swarbrick was looking for, an architect to tear down and rebuild the university’s most prized asset was a critical find.

Over the past few years, we’ve heard bits and pieces of the methodology Kelly has used. We’ve run through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and developing unconscious competence. We’ve seen Kelly’s recruiting philosophy, trending away from positions, but moving to types: Skill, Power, Big Skill. And we’ve heard him talking about the difference between playing winning football and championship football.

At this point in our rankings, every player on the list needs to be capable of playing Championship Football. (Caps for intent.) And as we roll into Year Five of the Kelly era, the players ranked 15-11 on the list seem to fit that criteria.

Let’s continue our run down the rankings.


25. Will Fuller (WR, Soph.)
24. Joe Schmidt (LB, Sr.)
23. Chris Brown (WR, Jr.)
22. Jarrett Grace (LB, Sr.)
21. Malik Zaire (QB, Soph.)
20. Ishaq Williams (DE, Sr.)
19. Cole Luke (CB, Soph.)
18. Cam McDaniel (RB, Sr.)
17. Jarron Jones (DT, Jr.)
16. Corey Robinson (WR, Soph.)

15. Christian Lombard (OL, GS): A big reason why Lombard sits at No. 15 was one panelist giving the fifth-year senior an eye-opening vote as the team’s second-best player. While I’ll let him explain that logic, you can make the argument that Lombard — if healthy — is one of the team’s best players.source:

Entering his third season as a starter, Lombard’s versatility allowed Ronnie Stanley into the lineup in 2013, when Lombard shifted from right tackle to guard to make room for the talented youngster. And if Lombard’s healthy enough to hold down a starting job on the inside, he’s the type of player that provides a talented, veteran safety net who is capable of playing multiple positions.

After making it back from a back injury that ended his season early in 2013 for spring drills, only to suffer a fluke wrist dislocation suffered in March, Lombard needs to shake the injury bug and put together a dominant final season in South Bend.

He’s capable: A big, strong, veteran guy with the talent to play just about anywhere on the line. And while Nick Martin seems to have assumed the leadership role up front, Lombard’s got a lot of experience to pass along, and a future playing on Sundays if this year goes according to plan.

Highest Ranking: 2nd. Lowest Ranking: Unranked (Three ballots).


14. Cody Riggs (DB, GS): For all the banter that’s turned “SEC” into an adjective, Riggs gives Notre Dame a football player that’s started 26 games over his three years playing in Gainesville. But beyond the affirmation of being a multi-year starter in the best conference in all the land, Riggs has come into South Bend and meshed incredibly well on a Notre Dame team that’ll only have his services for a few months.

Notre Dame missed out on Riggs as a top-shelf high school prospect. But he’ll have 13 games to play for the Irish, filling a key role in the Irish secondary as a versatile defender that can play as a cover corner or a safety in the box.

Cody Riggs

Riggs’ ceiling remains to be seen. While challenging himself academically was a big reason he came to Notre Dame, so was an opportunity to prove himself at cornerback, with former five-star talents Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Tabor projected as starters in Gainesville.

Right now, it looks like Cole Luke is the “starter” at corner. But in Brian VanGorder’s system, Riggs will get all the opportunities he could hope for, earning a graduate degree off the field and utilizing the year in South Bend to prove to NFL talent evaluators he has the ability to play cornerback at the next level.

Highest Ranking: 5th. Lowest Ranking: Unranked (Two ballots).


13. Kyle Brindza (K/P, Sr.): If ever there was a specialist who deserved an elite grade, Kyle Brindza’s the man. Serving as the team’s kickoff man, punter and place-kicker, Brindza has moved well past the role of specialist into being one of the team’s more respected football players. source: AP

That comes with his propensity to nail clutch field goals. And his ability to boom long, hanging punts. But entering his final year of eligibility, Brindza needs to refine his skills, upping the consistency to a level where he’s in consideration for postseason awards.

The beauty of Brindza’s value to Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame football program is his singular ability to get the scholarship count back under control. Brian Kelly entered the Gug with a handful of scholarships committed to kickers and punters — and that was before walk-on David Ruffer won the placekicking job and a scholarship of his own. Brindza took over an entire position room, helped stabilize the roster, and leaves Notre Dame in a better place than he found it.

A big senior season will further solidify Brindza’s spot in the Irish record books.

Highest Ranking: 8th. Lowest Ranking: Unranked (One ballot).

source: AP

12. Max Redfield (S, Soph.): That Redfield finds himself at No. 12 means a whole lot of panelists are believing the hype when it comes to the former five-star recruit.

And while his freshman season was essentially washed away on special teams as he tried his best to learn Bob Diaco’s system (and more importantly, earn his trust), Kelly pushed his chips behind Redfield before the Pinstripe Bowl, giving him a starting job and a ton of reps in December’s bowl preparations.

That confidence seemed to have paid off this spring, when Redfield earned the ultimate respect by being one of the earliest defenders pulled from the field in the Blue-Gold game. While we’ve only seen bits and pieces of Redfield in our three days of practice footage, he looks every bit the back line centerfielder (with an ability to play enforcer as well) that’s essential in VanGorder’s man scheme.

After missing the play of Harrison Smith and Zeke Motta to solidify the safety position, it looks like Redfield is the next very good one (at least) anchoring the back end of the defense.

Highest Ranking: 7th. Lowest Ranking: 20th.


11. Steve Elmer (OL, Soph.): Elmer played his way into the starting lineup last season as a true freshman, capitalizing on early enrollment and Lombard’s injury. While he was recruited as a player who could be Zack Martin’s heir apparent at left tackle, Elmer spent spring playing left guard, a jumbo-sized Chris Watt next to Ronnie Stanley, a jumbo version of Martin at left tackle.

But Elmer opened up fall camp at right tackle, with Matt Hegarty getting the first opportunity at left guard and Mike McGlinchey the odd man out, for now. That type of versatility, especially in a second-year offensive lineman, is rare, and speaks to the high IQ and top-shelf physical ability that Elmer possesses. source: AP

At his best, Elmer projects to be a high draft pick and a versatile lineman with the size and ability to play at either guard or tackle. Right now, he’s a no-brainer starter for Kelly, giving he and Harry Hiestand the ability to mix and match assets around Elmer, Stanley, Nick Martin and Lombard, four really impressive starting pieces.

Highest Ranking: 6th. Lowest Ranking: 17th.


The selection committee for the 2014 ND Top 25:

Pete Sampson, Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals)
Tyler James, South Bend Tribune (@TJamesNDI)
Chris Hine, Chicago Tribune (@ChristopherHine)
Team OFD, One Foot Down (@OneFootDown)
Ryan Ritter, Her Loyal Sons (@HLS_NDTex)
JJ Stankevitz, CSN Chicago (@JJStankevitz)
John Walters, Medium Happy (@JDubs88)
John Vannie, ND Nation
Keith Arnold, NBC Sports (@KeithArnold)