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Notre Dame’s post-spring depth chart: Offense

Apr 17, 2014, 1:08 PM EDT

Everett Golson

The Blue-Gold game is done and spring’s 15 practices are complete. With Easter break around the corner and summer workouts still a few months away, let’s take a look at the moves and shakes on the Irish offensive depth chart.



1. Everett Golson, Sr.
2. Malik Zaire, Soph.
3. Charlie Fiessenger, Sr.

Trending: It’s a two man race, with all respect to Fiessenger. After seeing Zaire perform admirably during the Blue-Gold game, it’s also a depth chart that’s tightening.

Reading too much into the spring game is a dangerous thing, but if there’s a disappointment it was Golson’s early accuracy. He missed an easy touchdown read and throw when he air-mailed Amir Carlisle. He was slow to diagnose a few pressures and didn’t look overly comfortable in the pocket either.

Zaire wasn’t perfect. In the NBC broadcast, you could hear Brian Kelly coaching up Zaire on maintaining his “fastball” when checking down to running backs. A few times Zaire floated a ball to an underneath throw. That lack of velocity could be the difference in a linebacker closing in or a back getting loose.



1. Tarean Folston, Soph.
2. Greg Bryant, Soph.
3. Cam McDaniel, Sr.

Trending: This might be controversial, but to me it’s a no-brainer. Cam McDaniel is the third most talented back on the roster, and if Folston and Bryant can mentally handle everything in the playbook, McDaniel’s value just isn’t the same to the offense.

We’ve seen Kelly value reliability in his running backs, picking Theo Riddick over Cierre Wood and giving touches to McDaniel over more explosive options last season. But I fully expect Folston to have a breakthrough season, and he and Bryant are just too dynamic to not get the lion’s share of touches.

Incorporating the backs into the passing game will help with McDaniel’s value. But after hearing and seeing glimpses of Bryant’s work as a receiver, and Folston’s five catches in the Blue-Gold game, this is a talented depth chart that’ll be one of the most competitive spots on the roster.



1. Ben Koyack, Sr.
2. Durham Smythe, Soph.
3. Mike Heuerman, Soph.

Trending: Expect Koyack to match or surpass the production Troy Niklas put up last year, easing the pain in the passing game, though incapable of providing the in-line protecting that Niklas brought to the table. From there, it looks like Durham Smythe might be the next best option in two tight end sets, with Heuerman mostly a split wide option.

Tim Prister at Irish Illustrated caught up with Heuerman, who is physically stronger than his 225 pounds indicate. He’ll need to get to around 240 to provide the Irish passing game with a receiving tight end that could be a mismatch against linebackers. But this trio should be good enough to let one and probably both of the incoming freshmen redshirt.



1. Corey Robinson
2. Will Fuller
3. Amir Carlisle

4. Chris Brown
5. CJ Prosise
6. Torii Hunter, Jr.
7. Justin Brent

Trending: Another position that’s going to be highly competitive, especially when DaVaris Daniels returns. While Chris Brown led the team in yardage during the Blue-Gold game, I’m not sure he’s a better outside option than Robinson or Fuller, who look like a pretty good complementary combo.

I’m slotting Amir Carlisle in as the No. 1 receiver at the Z (see what I did there?), but Prosise is too good of an athlete not to play. Behind that group is Hunter and Brent, who I think will end up redshirting next season.

This is the most talented depth chart Kelly has had, and top to bottom as good as I can remember.



LT — Ronnie Stanley, Jr.
LG — Steve Elmer, Soph.
C  — Nick Martin, Sr.
RG — Christian Lombard, Grad Student
RT — Mike McGlinchey, Soph.

LT — Hunter Bivin, Soph.
LG — Mark Harrell, Jr.
C — Matt Hegarty, Sr.
RG — Conor Hanratty, Sr.
RT — Colin McGovern, Soph.

Trending: While things still need sorting, I get the hunch that this is the starting offensive line we’ll see against Rice, assuming no injuries occur over the offseason. If we’re looking for a next man in, it’s probably between Hegarty and Hanratty on the interior of the line, with tackle being a little bit harder to decipher, though likely a shift of Elmer outside.

This has quickly become one of the deepest parts of the Irish roster, with a starting five that should do more than fine, even replacing Chris Watt and four-year MVP Zack Martin. Ronnie Stanley looks at home at left tackle, and an offseason of development in the weight room will only help. McGlinchey is the one wild card of it all, but he looks to be ready to move into the starting lineup as well.

  1. tonyricearoni - Apr 17, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    Conor Hanratty is going to be a senior, correct? Not a sophomore?

  2. jerseyshorendfan1 - Apr 17, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Are the pieces in place to enable Kelly to start running a more up tempo attack? The worst part of watching an ND offense the last couple of years has been watching the QB stand there for 20 seconds to get the play signaled in and then having a delay of game called. Script out 8 or 10 plays, have everybody commit them to memory and come out swinging, no huddle, run your plays and get the opponent tired and off balance from the start of the game.

    • dickasman - Apr 17, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      Depth is good but I think Obama lovers want to know about the girth and the length? So?

    • dickasman - Apr 17, 2014 at 2:02 PM

      The offensive line and TE needs to work like a married couple. Thank god gay marriage is legal and if they get caught, they can smoke pot to get better.

      Where would college football be wo democrats?

      • papadec - Apr 17, 2014 at 5:00 PM

        Notre Dame & South Bend are still located in Indiana – NOT Washington or Colorado!

    • dickasman - Apr 17, 2014 at 2:04 PM

      I think Ronnie Stanley and Ben Koyack would make a great husband and wife, just sayin!

      • danirish - Apr 17, 2014 at 2:17 PM

        Go away

      • mcirish27 - Apr 17, 2014 at 3:43 PM

        I just don’t ever get the jokes…

      • greyhoundirish - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:25 AM

        Seriously Dickasman, go away.

  3. jimbasil - Apr 17, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    MZ and “The Fastball”: If all Zaire knows how to throw is a fastball that would really limit his game or would show he has throwing limitations and limitations in identifying a read while leading a receiver. It means he’s late on the read. Also, the fastball is a low trajectory pass that will be blocked by the D once they figure out that’s all he’s got making him a one dimension player (re: TR and his immobility).

    RB’s: Cam got the ball mainly in spots where the O needed a couple of yds. Folston and Bryant go the ball at other times. I think you’re reading far too much into Cam not being one who can take the ball more than a muscled few yds. And yes, I agree, Folston and Bryant have great ability and will likely be yard gainers or break out type guys.

    WR’s: they look very, very good – all of them. They catch with their eyes and hands – now if only ND’s QB’s could lead them with some touch passes or get the ball to them in stride we’d actually see their abilities shine in games.

    TE’s: I see Smythe as a big receiver. Not that he won’t be a great TE, but he is such a good receiver even though there was not much to see in spring game practice. The others look good, but not much out there to tell.

    The OLine: It’s too early to note good or great. I don’t see them being not good.

    • mtflsmitty - Apr 17, 2014 at 9:34 PM

      Re “fastball”: Using special NBC parabolic listening technology maybe KA correctly heard fastball. The point I heard BK making to MZ was to get the ball to the back crossing the middle sooner, as in earlier, once he’s made his checks.

      • jimbasil - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:20 AM

        But the point remains, MZ throws ropes only, it appears from game and that is a concern.

  4. gtizzo - Apr 17, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    I don’t think we will know who the true starter at QB is until after the Rice game. Golson most likely will start the game, but at some point we see Zaire (second half). I wouldn’t call a starter at running back based on talent. Who doesn’t fumble? Who can pick up the blitz? I like the offensive line depth, best ND has had in a long while.

    • danirish - Apr 17, 2014 at 2:18 PM

      I’m with on the qb situation but I’ll throw this in to stir the pot – Zaire sees action in the first half – at least a series regardless of the score.

      Like I said – to stir the pot.

      GO IRISH!

    • jimbasil - Apr 17, 2014 at 2:19 PM

      At QB for Rice – I do not need to see Kelly pulling a South Florida call once again as he did with Crist. I’m not a big believer Kelly is all that great with QB’s, in fact from what I’ve seen, he’s not all that good, though better than Weis proved to be.

      All RB’s will fumble the ball at sometime. They just don’t want to be the guy who does it with regularity. I agree, these guys better be good at blitz pick-up and who ever is at QB better be able to make the call as well.

      I agree, with the OLine depth.

      • mediocrebob - Apr 17, 2014 at 11:21 PM

        Weis wasn’t good with QBs? I thought that’s all he was good with…

      • gtizzo - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:55 AM

        Wouldn’t be a S. Florida at all. Putting Zaire in the game is something he could tell them as part of the competition. The idea being to get there best out of each player. I really don’t think Kelly wants to give to much away prior to the Michigan game next week. I can say for sure who ever starts the Michigan game will start every game this season. Keep in mind Kelly played a lot of different players in the Temple game last season so the pattern fits. Kelly got Tony Pike drafted…he just hasn’t had the same luck at ND.

  5. irish4006 - Apr 17, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    @Keith, why do you think your RB comments are controversial? They will all get carries, but Bryant and Folston “should” get 90% of them. This is as black and white as they come.

    Spreading touches among the WRs, that will likely be a whole different story.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:39 PM

      We’re not getting into that whole RB race issue again are we?

      • yogihilt - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:51 AM

        Nice play on words… sometimes light humor overrides all else

    • onward2victory - Apr 17, 2014 at 6:03 PM

      Since you did bring up the black and white thing, it’s worth mentioning that I think we under-rate Cam’s athelticism because he’s a white RB. I mean the coaching staff saw enough athleticism in him to try him at defensive back, and he’s got really nice quickness and lateral cutting ability. Arguably the best move from one of our RBs last year was when Cam juked the socks off of a USC defender in the backfield and turned it for a long run.

      With that said, Folston and Bryant are more athletic without a doubt. But I think the gap between them isn’t as great as a lot of fans seem to indicate.

      • shaunodame - Apr 17, 2014 at 7:32 PM

        Couldn’t agree with you more Onward. Cam McDaniel is the “People’s Champ” as he’s been called, but he only gets that designation because people didn’t expect a typical white kid to be a stud RB. His success is always viewed through that microscope. Cam is always viewed as good “despite” not just as a standard good player.

      • c4evr - Apr 17, 2014 at 8:41 PM

        Cam McDaniel = Rocky Bleier

      • mtflsmitty - Apr 17, 2014 at 9:46 PM

        I’m one of the guilty ones who has probably undervalued Cam. The move you’re referring to vs USC was very strong. I also agree TF and GB are more athletic. Further I agree while there is a gap, it’s not so wide. That said, I expect the experience gap (and not dropping the rock) is probably the only thing that will keep CM on the field this year. Good luck to ’em all.

      • ndgoldandblue - Apr 17, 2014 at 11:14 PM

        You guys are right. Cam’s not the athletic freak we’d like to see in a running back, but man, he runs hard. Smitty’s right. The one thing keeping McDaniel on the field this year is going to be his reliability. He doesn’t fumble and he’ll get three yards (or do whatever he can to get three yards) when you need him to.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Apr 17, 2014 at 11:22 PM

        That was a five star safety cam juked out of his jock by the way, sua craves.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Apr 17, 2014 at 11:27 PM

        I love everything about rocky bleier but cmc is waaaaay more athletic than bleier. But boy, I still love me some rocky bleier.

      • papadec - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:07 AM

        I don’t care what color he is, or isn’t, Cam is my smash mouth choice on 3rd and short! That picture of him, having lost his helmet, last year is classic Irish poster material.

      • 04domergrad - Apr 19, 2014 at 4:35 AM

        Let’s not forget Cam’s huge 4th quarter fumble in that very same game vs USC that almost cost us. We hear all the time how reliable he is, but somehow this never gets mentioned.

        By comparison, Folston also had 1 fumble on the season and even Atkinson never fumbled. Of all the problems we had last year, fumbles were not one of them.

    • irish4006 - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:51 PM

      Oh, crap! The so-called word on play was not intentional. But, it is funny how it can interpreted that way.

    • standingdomer - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:25 PM

      I thought the controversial aspect came from ranking Folston ahead of Bryant.

  6. nudeman - Apr 17, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Not sure why, but even before the BG game, I’ve found myself wondering if Golson will pan out to be the stud we’ve always thought he can be.
    Maybe it was having ~12 months to think of the stupidity he exhibited by getting the boot.
    Maybe it was seeing him look “just OK” Saturday.
    You’d think he’d make sure he’d come out and light it up after a year off.

    But despite the immense talent level, I think he still lacks focus and maturity.

    • jimbasil - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:08 PM

      I think Golson didn’t have a set plan on offense as in they were trying new or different plays that might not be what should be called against the defense he was up against. He seemed unsure of some of the plays being called. Also, I think he was trying to show off his arm when all he needed to do was be accurate and make the play.

      MZ has quite a fastball and that can be intimidating for another competitor – watch pitchers pitch. Every pitcher wants to throw like Nolan Ryan.

    • c4evr - Apr 17, 2014 at 8:49 PM

      Kelly has a problem on his hands. If he pulls Golson in favor of Zaire, how long before rumors of EG’s transfer? And, if he leaves mid-season – a la Demetrius Jones, then the pooch is screwed. I think BK has to go with EG until he absolutely has to yank him. Kiel’s flip flop and no Rees/Sharpley senior relief pitching are big holes in the dam.

      • ndgoldandblue - Apr 17, 2014 at 11:32 PM

        I think you make a good point, c4evr. Instead of transferring after he was dismissed (which is what most college football players do), he decided to work his way back into Notre Dame. On top of that, he spent a great deal of time working with Whitfield. After taking the long route to get back to playing football, if he gets yanked after one mediocre half and ultimately loses his starting job to Zaire, he’s probably going to regret coming back.

        He wouldn’t transfer, though. His redshirt’s already been burned. He’d just finish the season, load up on classes so he can graduate this year, and then find a graduate program someplace where he can play out his eligibility. It may sound cynical, but I just think that if Zaire takes Everett’s starting job this year, Golson’s not going to be at Notre Dame next year.

      • bernhtp - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:48 AM

        There is no problem. Both QBs will see time this year. Golson isn’t going anywhere even if he spends more time on the bench than he would want. He could only leave for his fifth year if he first graduates in four. That would make him stay around for next spring (without football) given that he’s missed a spring and summer and presumably flunked a few classes (at least two incidents of cheating for the suspension likely leading to an F in each).

    • mtflsmitty - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:13 AM

      One has to appreciate the irony of a 60+ yo man questioning the maturity of college players; only to finish his own comments with, “whatever”.

  7. shaunodame - Apr 17, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    Keith, you should have broken the WR’s down into their actual positions, X , Z and Slot (though for reasons I don’t fully understand we call our Slot receiver a Z?). Guys like Amir Carlisle and CJ Prosise are pretty much strictly slot guys and have very little chance of seeing time as an true #1 or #2 Outside receiver ala Corey Robinson and Davaris Daniels, etc.

    Also, I still think Tyler Luatua has a really solid chance of surpassing Mike Heuerman for TE reps. We always talk about the TE’s being physically prepared and Luatua is already a more physical player than Heuerman (and Weisher).

  8. onward2victory - Apr 17, 2014 at 6:14 PM

    I also would have liked to see a little more rationale behind the WR rankings. Pretty bold to put a guy at the top of the list that has only learned to work the sidelines so far.

    While I would also rank Chris Brown around #4, I’m curious why you did, considering he “should” be #1 based on experience.

    I also agree with putting Amir above Prosise at this time, despite all of Prosise’s momentum from the B&G game. Amir had that one touchdown on the bullet from Zaire (great catch), and he should have had 2 more. One where Golson overthrew him by a bus length, and the other where Zaire was late to throw it and it gave Shumate time to come molest Carlisle before making a play on the ball.

  9. mediocrebob - Apr 17, 2014 at 11:25 PM

    We really have nothing to talk about. This is gonna be a long few months.

    My guess…Golson will be the QB and Zaire will get mop up time unless Golson is injured. I think BKand co. know this already. Not a fan of the 2 QB system. Golson has proved himself already, so until he proves otherwise I’m on the EG bandwagon.

    • onward2victory - Apr 18, 2014 at 1:05 AM

      We could talk about an undiscussed topic like ‘When will the light turn on for Ishaq?’

      • mediocrebob - Apr 18, 2014 at 6:17 AM

        Yes. Or other undiscussed topics such as Tommy Rees or jumbotrons/fieldturf…

  10. irishdog80 - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:10 AM

    The ND offense clearly has a lot of options and I hope they spread it around all year. Keep everyone fresh and the defenses guessing instead of having them gear up for a one dimensional game plan.

    Here’s to pounding Michigan into submission and sending them off with a defeat ringing in their ears. That said, it is weird to look at the 2015 schedule and not see Michigan, Michigan State or Purdue on the docket. No Big Ten teams at all. Why didn’t Purdue and Michigan State make a fuss over not scheduling either of them in 2015? I guess they have too much class.

    • onward2victory - Apr 18, 2014 at 1:06 AM

      Seriously, Michigan sucks.

  11. 25kgold - Apr 18, 2014 at 3:05 AM


  12. ndrocks2 - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:06 AM

    Offense looking good and deep. Now let’s see what your thinking on defense and where you think special teams is going.

  13. yaketyyacc - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    Keith, the article is on the mark. good assessment of player ability and starting position. of course all this is conjecture, depending on unforeseen mitigating circumstances, I,e,. injuries, etc.
    If all holds as you have written, how does that song go, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”.

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