Counting down the Irish: 20-16

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Working off of yesterday’s kick-off to the Top 25 players on the Irish roster, we’re ready to roll out the next five members of the Irish Top-25.

But first, a few observations:

* 2/3s of us put Nick Tausch in the top-fifth of the roster, which makes sense when you consider that a football team has 11 starters on offense and defense and a few key reserves. That said, I’m not just giving the job to Tausch after the season that David Ruffer had. For all the wonderful walk-on to hero stories in ND lore, Ruffer’s heroics got lost in the wash while the season went down hill.

* Mike Ragone was another popular name, with three people putting him at 22. While it looks like ResLife isn’t going to take a chunk out of Ragone’s season, I’m hesitant to rely on him as an offensive playmaker until I start hearing good news out of preseason camp on Ragone. While most of us realize that Ragone has gotten a tremendous opportunity, what he makes of it will determine his impact this season.

* Shaq Evans only made one Top-25 list (unless he’s ranked higher than 16 on somebody’s board), which puts into perspective the hype vs. impact conundrum that occurs with high-ranking wide receiver prospects. For every Michael Floyd that walks in the door and makes a difference there are guys like Shaq and Deion Walker, two highly-touted prospects that aren’t quite ready for primetime.

Without further ado…

IRISH TOP 25: 20-16

Frank of UHND.com

20. Darrin Walls, CB: Expected a lot more out of Walls last year. Hopefully Chuck Martin can help Walls fulfill some of his potential in 2010.
19. Gary Gray, CB: Gray was the most consistent Irish corner in 2009. Why he didn’t play more I have no idea.
18. Harrison Smith, DB: Toughest player on the team to rank. Talent is clearly there — production hasn’t been.
17. Zach Martin, LT: Hasn’t played much but was a fast riser in spring ball and could be the starting LT. If he is, let’s hope this ranking is too low.
16. Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE: Was a training camp star last year, but was inconsistent in the fall.

Anthony of ClashmoreMike.com

20. Robert Blanton, CB: Good one-on-one cover skills and strong in run support.
19. Theo Riddick, WR: Speed and quickness should prove valuable in the slot.
18. Ian Williams, NT: Interior defensive lineman has shown flashes of great play, needs improved consistency.
17. Cierre Wood, RB: Excellent straight-line speed, great in the open field.
16. Jamoris Slaughter, DB: Hard hitting safety brings plenty of athleticism to the position.

Matt of HerLoyalSons.com

20. Nick Tausch, K: Consistency at the kicker position at Notre Dame? Sign me up!
19. Ian Williams, NT: Former 1st team All-Freshman after 40 tackles, followed up with a 2009 with 39 tackles.
18. Chris Stewart, LG: Once the size of a planet, the man can do a split and about 20 more pull-ups than I can manage. But can he block?
17. Braxston Cave, C: Enjoys pain, suffering, and long walks on the beach — for other people.
16. Jonas Gray, RB: Quick, shifty, versatile. Perhaps ideal one-back type for a Kelly offense.

Chris and Matt of RakesofMallow.com

20. Cierre Wood, RB: What the speedster from Oxnard, CA lacks in experience he more than makes up for with confidence.
19. Theo Riddick, WR: Riddick showed flashes of dynamism last season, but also looked like a true frosh at times (Opening play fumble vs. Stanford). Look for him to show his explosiveness in the kick return game this season.
18. Darrin Walls, CB: Last chance for the speedy, but inconsistent corner.
17. Jonas Gray, RB: Fumbling issues have bugged Gray in his first two years, but his size, speed, and toughness are frequently lauded by fans.
16. Brian Smith, LB: I may catch some grief for having “Puppy” this high, but I think the switch back to the outside, and to the 3-4 defense, will keep Smith out of the doghouse.

Pat, man of the people:

20. Brian Smith, LB: It really is now or never for Smith, and while he made a lot of mistakes, he did have 71 tackles last season, 5.5 TFL, and 1.5 sacks along with 2 INTs.
19. Darrin Walls, CB: Seemed to regress last season, but he did miss a year and hopefully can duplicate his early performances.
18. Cierre Wood, RB: The first recipient of my “Really Looking Forward to Seeing Him in a Real Game” award based on his Blue-Gold Game performance.
17. Trevor Robinson, OL: While he may have underperformed to some people so far, he has been a two-year starter and should be a lineman-to-watch next season.
16. TJ Jones, WR: His performance in the spring game co-earned him my “Really Looking Forward to Seeing Him in a Real Game” award.

Keith:

20. Zack Martin, LT: From redshirt to blind side, it’s clear that the coaching staff must be pretty high on Martin. Spread offense or not, that’s high praise for the Indy native.
19. Duval Kamara, WR: While his career trajectory hasn’t been what anyone wanted, he’s still got a nice set of tools. In his senior year, it’ll be up to Duval to prove he’s also got a rock-solid tool-box to carry them in. I think the coaching change will be a big help.
18. Steve Filer, OLB: Ultimate wild-card. Hopefully Bob Diaco’s 3-4 defense will be the key to turning one of the Irish’s best athletes into a front-line defender.
17. Jamoris Slaughter, DB: I’m high on this jack-of-all-trades defensive back, who I think will bring better cover skills to safety than Kyle McCarthy, who he’ll be replacing.
16. Robert Hughes, RB: Hughes very well might be the man lost in the shuffle, but he’s a big body that can catch the ball out of the backfield, something BK will hopefully utilize.