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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 15 Isaiah Rutherford, freshman defensive back, consensus four-star

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-1, 170 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A freshman, Rutherford has all four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.
Depth chart: Rutherford is unlikely to crack the defensive two-deep this season.
Recruiting: The consensus four-star prospect originally left Notre Dame off a summertime list of finalists, instead focusing on Cal, Oregon, Oklahoma and LSU. Nonetheless, the Irish coaches continued to pursue the No. 12 cornerback in the country and No. 110 overall recruit, per rivals.com, and Rutherford eventually visited campus for the season-opening win against Michigan. Apparently he saw enough that evening.

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN RUTHERFORD’S NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
“Rutherford is a bit bigger than most cornerbacks, and that will show especially once he gets some more muscle on his frame. As long as he learns to use that to his advantage, Rutherford could become a real hassle for receivers on the boundary.

“… The recruiting debacle in the class of 2017 creates an opportunity for Rutherford. Between him, classmate K.J. Wallace and three signees from a year ago, the Irish will need to find three starters and four rotation players (in 2020).”

2019 OUTLOOK
Rutherford’s length may well become a long-term asset, but for now it works counterproductively with his light weight. It is hard to envision a world where that lankiness can handle the physicality of college football at the line of scrimmage. With senior Troy Pride established as one starting cornerback and sophomores Houston Griffith and TaRiq Bracy working to become the other while senior Donte Vaughn and fifth-year Shaun Crawford recover from injury, Notre Dame does not much need Rutherford yet, either.

With that in mind, his defensive work will presumably come on the scout team.

If he shows a panache for aggressive tackling in the preseason, Rutherford could work his way onto the special teams units, though even that should not put him over the four-game limit as far as a year of eligibility would be concerned.

DOWN THE ROAD
As first mentioned in December, the Irish will need a few cornerbacks to step forward before they face Navy across the Atlantic to open 2020. Rutherford will be a prime candidate for that, especially if he spends the next 13 months putting on muscle.

Between Griffith, Bracy, Wallace and Rutherford, Notre Dame needs to find three cornerbacks before Rutherford’s junior season. That third cornerback becomes needed next year, as well, if things with Crawford do not work out as well as can justifiably be hoped.

In other times, one might argue Rutherford’s size clearly makes him a safety candidate in the future, but the Irish are well-stocked along the last line of defense, while cornerback has a void in experience barreling toward it.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Isaiah Foskey, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 35: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 31: Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, junior linebacker
No. 29: Ovie Oghoufo, sophomore linebacker-turned-defensive end
No. 27: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 25: Braden Lenzy, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 24: Tommy Tremble, sophomore tight end
No. 24: Jack Kiser, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Mr. Indiana Football
No. 23: Litchfield Ajavon, four-star safety, freshman
No. 23: Kyren Williams, early-enrolled freshman running back
No. 22: Kendall Abdur-Rahman, quarterback-turned-receiver, freshman
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, the only returning starting linebacker
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, three-year starting safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, defensive back returning from yet another injury
No. 20: C’Bo Flemister, sophomore running back
No. 19: Jay Bramblett, freshman punter
No. 19: Justin Ademilola, sophomore defensive end
No. 18: Joe Wilkins, sophomore receiver
No. 18: Nana Osafo-Mensah, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 17: Isaiah Robertson, junior receiver
No. 16: K.J. Wallace, freshman defensive back, three-star

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 16 K.J. Wallace, freshman defensive back, three-star

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Listed Measurements: 5-foot-10, 187 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A freshman, Wallace has all four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.
Depth chart: Wallace could conceivably see time at nickel — if fifth-year Shaun Crawford does not reach full health and if junior Avery Davis’ move to defensive back proves ineffective — but it is more likely Wallace exits preseason practices as third- or fourth-string at field cornerback and spends the fall largely working on scout team.
Recruiting: Wallace committed way back in January of 2018, waiting 10 months before National Signing Day, but never wavering during that time despite Stanford, Penn State and Tennessee pursuing the rivals.com three-star prospect.

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN WALLACE’S NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
“Wallace’s recruiting rankings are a bit up-and-down, which often points to a good amount of raw talent and subsequent questions about fine-tuning that potential. That is too much a reward not to risk.

“… Notre Dame has invested in cornerback recruiting the last two cycles, in part because of a debacle at the position in the 2016 cycle and in part because the Irish do not have immediate answers ready after the 2019 season. That fact alone could put some inexperienced players on the field, a la Houston Griffith and TaRiq Bracy this past season.”

2019 OUTLOOK
Notre Dame has one cornerback it knows it can rely upon this year in senior Troy Pride. Griffith or Bracy is likely to start opposite him, and increasing confidence in that duo lessens Wallace’s chances of playing much this season.

Crawford, Davis and, to some varying extents, Bracy and senior safety Jalen Elliott should be able to handle the nickel back position, even if in piecemeal. It would take quite a preseason from Wallace to emerge in that equation.

If he does, though, it will trace to his solid coverage skills. The necessary conditioning, increased physicality and playbook understanding may take Wallace some time at this level, as they do for just about everybody, but he is already well-suited from a technical standpoint.

No matter how the secondary situation sorts itself out, Wallace could end up on some special teams units, be it for four games or the whole season.

DOWN THE ROAD
When Pride heads to the NFL after this year, Wallace will join a full-fledged position competition along with the sophomore duo and classmate Isaiah Rutherford. Two of the four will start at the traditional cornerback positions, and the other two should be within the two-deep, simply by default.

Wallace will also have a chance at making a quick impact at nickel back, especially if Davis does not catch on quickly. Crawford may be back, but there are so many questions at hand with his career it is best to simply worry about that separately. If he is not, Wallace could have the inside track to starting at a position with increasing importance in college football.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Isaiah Foskey, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 35: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 31: Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, junior linebacker
No. 29: Ovie Oghoufo, sophomore linebacker-turned-defensive end
No. 27: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 25: Braden Lenzy, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 24: Tommy Tremble, sophomore tight end
No. 24: Jack Kiser, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Mr. Indiana Football
No. 23: Litchfield Ajavon, four-star safety, freshman
No. 23: Kyren Williams, early-enrolled freshman running back
No. 22: Kendall Abdur-Rahman, quarterback-turned-receiver, freshman
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, the only returning starting linebacker
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, three-year starting safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, defensive back returning from yet another injury
No. 20: C’Bo Flemister, sophomore running back
No. 19: Jay Bramblett, freshman punter
No. 19: Justin Ademilola, sophomore defensive end
No. 18: Joe Wilkins, sophomore receiver
No. 18: Nana Osafo-Mensah, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 17: Isaiah Robertson, junior receiver

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 17 Isaiah Robertson, junior receiver

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-1 ½, 202 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A junior, Robertson has two seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.
Depth chart: After his first spring as a receiver, Robertson remains fourth among the boundary targets, behind senior Chase Claypool, sophomore Kevin Austin and senior Javon McKinley, presumably in that order.
Recruiting: Sought as a safety, and the No. 18 safety in the class, per rivals.com, the No. 202 overall player chose Notre Dame over Wisconsin, Penn State and Vanderbilt.

CAREER TO DATE
Contrary to his positional-journeying thus far, Robertson looked the part of a multi-year contributor when he arrived and immediately began racking up special teams tackles. Instead of challenging for a two-deep spot at safety, Robertson then moved to Rover last spring and to receiver in August. He still saw action in nearly half the season, though failed to garner a statistic. Consider that both a statistical and a figurative step backward.

2017: 12 games; eight tackles.
2018: Six games.

QUOTE(S)
There was some irony to the supposed reasoning for Robertson flipping sides of the line of scrimmage last preseason. Moving from a position where he was competing for second- or third-string duties to one where he remains behind three more proven options, opportunity hardly seems like it was the first priority spurring the move.

“We just feel like there’s a logjam at [Rover],” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in mid-August. “He’s a really good athlete. He played wide receiver in high school. He’s got some skills. He showed that today.

“He doesn’t know what he’s doing offensively, but in the blue zone (he) showed some soft hands, went up and caught the football with dexterity, didn’t feel like it was clumsy to him. It was natural. He’s a guy that we’ll continue to progress on the offensive side.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“It is hard to believe Robertson ever takes over as the starting Rover. (Jeremiah) Owusu-Koromoah and (Shayne) Simon were recruited with that exact role in mind. Incoming freshman Ovie Oghoufo fits the profile of a Rover and would be described as brought in for that opportunity if Simon were not in the same class. Robertson, meanwhile, came in as a safety at a time when Notre Dame both lacked and struggled to develop safeties.”

2019 OUTLOOK
Robertson may have to focus on special teams for the foreseeable future. Kelly’s logic to the Rover-to-receiver switch was high-quality coach-speak, even if Robertson was joining the new position group at the same time as one of those ahead of him (Austin). Robertson simply has not find a position where he can impact, aside from coverage units two seasons ago.

The route to, excuse the pun here, running routes is a crowded one. Claypool is set for a headline-grabbing season. Austin’s on-field abilities are all-but beyond doubt. And McKinley somehow made progress in the spring, arguably more than Robertson did. To put it bluntly, there is a reason the above quote was pulled from nearly a year ago — Robertson has not forced his name into conversation since the change in position.

One might worry about his special teams chances given his weight loss, but dropping from 215 in August to 202 in March makes since when moving from linebacker to receiver. Robertson should still be able to tackle returners with aplomb. In some respects, a safety-turned-linebacker-turned-receiver checks more boxes than any other progression would as far as it pertains to special teams coverage.

DOWN THE ROAD
The fact that Robertson has not yet preserved a year of eligibility is a mild surprise, and sets him up for a possible transfer sooner than later. If Robertson had sat out a season, he would want to graduate before transferring, so as to be immediately eligible to play. As is, Robertson could transfer and spend the subsequent season on the sideline as traditionally required, yet still have at least a year of action remaining. That could become two if he does not play in more than four games this fall.

It may seem harsh to spend this entire section discussing a completely-hypothetical transfer, but given Robertson’s seeming regression a season ago and lack of a push this spring, it should not be considered out of left field.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Isaiah Foskey, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 35: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 31: Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, junior linebacker
No. 29: Ovie Oghoufo, sophomore linebacker-turned-defensive end
No. 27: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 25: Braden Lenzy, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 24: Tommy Tremble, sophomore tight end
No. 24: Jack Kiser, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Mr. Indiana Football
No. 23: Litchfield Ajavon, four-star safety, freshman
No. 23: Kyren Williams, early-enrolled freshman running back
No. 22: Kendall Abdur-Rahman, quarterback-turned-receiver, freshman
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, the only returning starting linebacker
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, three-year starting safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, defensive back returning from yet another injury
No. 20: C’Bo Flemister, sophomore running back
No. 19: Jay Bramblett, freshman punter
No. 19: Justin Ademilola, sophomore defensive end
No. 18: Joe Wilkins, sophomore receiver
No. 18: Nana Osafo-Mensah, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 18 Nana Osafo-Mensah, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3 ⅛, 235 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: An early-enrolled freshman, Osafo-Mensah has all four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019.
Depth chart: Notre Dame has at least three strongside defensive ends ahead of Osafo-Mensah at this point, no matter how impressive of a preseason he might put together.
Recruiting: The consensus four-star prospect and All-American, Osafo-Mensah chose Notre Dame over his homestate Texas. Rivals.com rated him the No. 9 defensive end in the class and No. 200 recruit overall upon his signing, though a poor showing at the All-American Bowl dropped that positional ranking to No. 23 and the national slotting  off the board. Consider those drastic movements a ripe example of the reactionary nature of recruiting rankings.

QUOTE(S)
That drop in recruiting accolades late in the cycle aside, Osafo-Mensah arrived on campus in January as the type of prospect upon whom many expectations are steeped. In a moment of rational thought, Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea tempered this a bit at the end of spring practices, even though March and April generally went well for Osafo-Mensah.

“Nana being new to college … you’re giving those guys room to make mistakes, room to grow physically,” Lea said.

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN OSAFO-MENSAH’S NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
“Osafo-Mensah looks like an ideal end for defensive coordinator Clark Lea’s system, though if that is at drop or rush may yet need to be determined. He has the agility for the former, the frame to hold the size for the latter.”

2019 OUTLOOK
It would be a relative shock if Osafo-Mensah appears in more than four games this year. No matter how college-ready he may appear, already complete with decent pass-rush moves, there is only so much a freshman can do to overcome a stacked depth chart.

Each side of the Notre Dame line is two-deep in established veterans who can no longer preserve a season of eligibility. On one side, sophomore Justin Ademilola also joins that mix, while on the other, senior Jamir Jones is expected to appear in four, but no more than four, games.

That is all to say, even as a reserve, Osafo-Mensah’s impact will be minimal, at most.

DOWN THE ROAD
That depth will remain in front of Osafo-Mensah at strongside end next season, but it will essentially have vanished at drop end. While he may make more sense on the strongside, any change in the defensive end rotation will lead to more playing time for Osafo-Mensah.

Along with classmate Isaiah Foskey, a contributing role should await Osafo-Mensah in 2020 and he should be set up to start as a junior once Jones and senior Ade Ogundeji use up their eligibility.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Isaiah Foskey, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 35: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 31: Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, junior linebacker
No. 29: Ovie Oghoufo, sophomore linebacker-turned-defensive end
No. 27: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 25: Braden Lenzy, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 24: Tommy Tremble, sophomore tight end
No. 24: Jack Kiser, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Mr. Indiana Football
No. 23: Litchfield Ajavon, four-star safety, freshman
No. 23: Kyren Williams, early-enrolled freshman running back
No. 22: Kendall Abdur-Rahman, quarterback-turned-receiver, freshman
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, the only returning starting linebacker
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, three-year starting safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, defensive back returning from yet another injury
No. 20: C’Bo Flemister, sophomore running back
No. 19: Jay Bramblett, freshman punter
No. 19: Justin Ademilola, sophomore defensive end
No. 18: Joe Wilkins, sophomore receiver

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 18 Joe Wilkins, sophomore receiver

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-1 ½, 190 pounds.
2019-20 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Wilkins has four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2019, after appearing in only two games last year.
Depth chart: Wilkins will spend the preseason working to crack the second unit, be it at field receiver behind junior Michael Young or at boundary behind senior Chase Claypool. In either spot, or even at the slot, Wilkins will be competing with classmates.
Recruiting: Pursued as a cornerback, the consensus three-star prospect chose Notre Dame over offers from Louisville, Washington State and Michigan State, among others, in a wide-spread recruitment.

CAREER TO DATE
Wilkins took snaps in two games last season, not catching a pass or even garnering a target, after making the move to receiver in preseason practices.

He pulled in one pass for 27 yards in this spring’s Blue-Gold Game, turning an in-route back to the sideline for a gain to the 3-yard-line.

QUOTE(S)
A knee cartilage injury slowed Wilkins in the beginning of spring practices. Once back on the field, Wilkins began testing Young for the honors as the third starting receiver.

“Joe Wilkins had a really good day coming off his cartilage,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in mid-March. “He’s a guy that will get a ton of work over the next few days.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
Admittedly, the following was written about Wilkins’ future at cornerback, but it reads quite applicably to the beginning of his tenure at receiver, as well.

“That means a freshman or two will work with the defense all season long, not paying any heed to the scout team. That could be Wilkins. Of the quartet in the class, Wilkins may have the most college-ready body, his length perhaps compensating for some inexperience and time not yet spent in a collegiate strength and conditioning program.

“That would position Wilkins for early mop-up duties and late-season situational work. He does already have a grasp on route-running from both sides of the equation.

“If absolutely nothing else, Wilkins projects as an immediate special teams contributor on coverage units.”

2019 OUTLOOK
At least two sophomore receivers will be needed in the two-deep, a number that rises to three depending on one’s pessimism related to senior Javon McKinley. If Wilkins can beat out Braden Lenzy, he should be right behind Young. Some receiver depth will be vital this year, simply to avoid running the starters into the ground as was the case by November last season.

Wilkins has shown the raw skills wanted at the position in practice reps: a comfort receiving passes, good speed, ranginess. Amid a grouping of receivers with specifically-excellent skills (Lenzy, speed; Lawrence Keys, shiftiness; Kevin Austin, downfield size), Wilkins may be the most well-rounded, albeit with each of those skills in only good supply, not great.

In the spring, Wilkins also took some turns as the punt returner. Until seen otherwise, that would seem to be fifth-year receiver Chris Finke’s domain, but Wilkins could emerge there with a strong preseason.

DOWN THE ROAD
Notre Dame will need two new starting receivers come 2020. How Wilkins fares in this preseason’s position competition will be predictive of if he can move into such a prominent role next year. If that sounds simple, that’s because it is. The under-the-radar challenges for backup positions in one preseason can lay the groundwork for starting gigs the following fall.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
Introduction
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle
No. 94: Isaiah Foskey, freshman defensive end, consensus four-star
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 90: Hunter Spears, defensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver
No. 85: George Takacs, tight end
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 80: Micah Jones, receiver
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right guard, three-year starter
No. 77: Quinn Carroll, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive guard
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, left tackle, two-year starter
No. 73: Andrew Kristofic, offensive tackle, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle, three-year starter
No. 71: John Olmstead, offensive lineman, early-enrolled consensus four-star
No. 69: Aaron Banks, left guard
No. 60: Cole Mabry, offensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, veteran backup offensive lineman
No. 57: Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle
No. 56: John Dirksen, offensive lineman
No. 56: Howard Cross, incoming freshman defensive lineman, consensus four-star
No. 55: Jarrett Patterson, starting center
No. 55: Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle returning from injury
No. 54: Jacob Lacey, consensus four-star defensive tackle, early enrollee
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, senior defensive end
No. 52: Zeke Correll, consensus four-star center, early enrollee
No. 52: Bo Bauer, linebacker, sophomore
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, junior defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, senior inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, senior defensive end
No. 42: Julian Okwara, senior defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, junior defensive tackle
No. 40: Drew White, junior inside linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, junior kicker
No. 35: TaRiq Bracy, sophomore cornerback
No. 35: Marist Liufau, Hawaiian freshman linebacker
No. 34: Jahmir Smith, sophomore running back
No. 34: Osita Ekwonu, inside linebacker, consensus four-star
No. 33: Shayne Simon, sophomore linebacker
No. 31: Jack Lamb, sophomore linebacker
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, junior linebacker
No. 29: Ovie Oghoufo, sophomore linebacker-turned-defensive end
No. 27: J.D. Bertrand, consensus four-star linebacker
No. 25: Braden Lenzy, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 24: Tommy Tremble, sophomore tight end
No. 24: Jack Kiser, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Mr. Indiana Football
No. 23: Litchfield Ajavon, four-star safety, freshman
No. 23: Kyren Williams, early-enrolled freshman running back
No. 22: Kendall Abdur-Rahman, quarterback-turned-receiver, freshman
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, the only returning starting linebacker
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, three-year starting safety
No. 20: Shaun Crawford, defensive back returning from yet another injury
No. 20: C’Bo Flemister, sophomore running back
No. 19: Jay Bramblett, freshman punter
No. 19: Justin Ademilola, sophomore defensive end