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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 55 Jonathan Bonner, nose tackle

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3 ¾, 293 pounds
2018-19 year, eligibility: In his fifth year, Bonner has only 2018’s eligibility remaining, having returned unexpectedly after initialing declaring his Notre Dame career finished following last season.
Depth chart: Bonner will start at nose tackle, flipping from the three-technique position, with sophomore Kurt Hinish providing relief.
Recruiting: Bonner’s recruitment jumped late in the cycle thanks to strong camp performances throughout the summer before his senior year. A rivals.com three-star prospect, the St. Louis product chose the Irish over offers from his homestate Missouri, Michigan State and LSU, among others.

CAREER TO DATE
Bonner’s career entering 2017 was one of the reasons projections of Notre Dame’s defensive front were rather pessimistic. His 14 career tackles in 22 games did not exactly sound like the makings of a starter near the ball every snap, especially for a player who spent his first collegiate season preparing for a role on the end of the line.

But Bonner rose to the occasion, making 13 starts and holding his own throughout last season, despite battling through a wrist injury for much of the season. He finished 2017 as the defense’s No. 11 tackler with 30.

2014: Preserved a year of eligibility.
2015: 10 games; five tackles, one sack.
2016: 12 games; nine tackles.
2017: 13 games, 13 starts; 30 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss with two sacks.

QUOTE(S)
If completely healthy, moving Bonner to nose tackle will not spark the slightest concern. If hampered by the wrist, depending on Bonner at either interior tackle position will be a risk. Following the Blue-Gold Game on April 21, Irish head coach Brian Kelly insisted the only lingering effects of the injury — which kept Bonner out of full-contact sessions throughout all of spring practice — pertained to the strength and conditioning aspects, and Bonner would have all summer to assuage those concerns.

“He’s been [lifting] everything, but at a lighter weight,” Kelly said. “Now he’s only a couple weeks away from being full. He was already physically gifted, so we don’t think that’s going to be a big curve for him, and he’ll be able to start training aggressively when we get back here in June.”

Kelly doubled down on that prognosis Monday morning when The South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen asked at a Kelly Cares Foundation event.

“He should be full go,” Kelly said. “We were very cautious with him. I thought we could have gotten more out of him. We had kind of gone into this idea that you’re not going to get involved much in terms of contact.

“He’s excited. He’s worked really hard to put himself in this position to come back, so we’re excited about him.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“[Bonner] has long been considered a physical freak of nature, displaying unexpected strength and athleticism. That played a part in his late but quick recruitment by nearly every school who saw him the summer before his senior year of high school.

“Finally converting those attributes to on-field successes is the key. In Bonner’s defense, he has spent the last few seasons behind the likes of [Isaac] Rochell and [Jarron] Jones, both now working to make the cut in the NFL. Neither one was a slouch, especially as their careers progressed. Backing them up should not be considered a mark against Bonner, only an inevitability of timing.”

“… If Bonner succeeds in his role this season, he should have an iron grip on the starting spot in 2018. Even if he doesn’t, the Irish coaching staff will likely offer him a fifth year. Veteran defensive linemen with playing experience are not commodities to let slip away. The worst-case scenario would be Bonner could spell … one of the aforementioned freshmen. There would be value in that role.”

2018 OUTLOOK
Last summer’s thoughts on Bonner’s long-term floor would now be a worst-case scenario dictated by his wrist and subsequent diminished conditioning. Even if he becomes Hinish’s backup this season, though, that would indeed still have value. It would also be a testament to Hinish pushing forward, now with incoming freshman Ja’Mion Franklin joining sophomore Darnell Ewell in the mix.

Kelly would assuredly rather be correct about Bonner’s timeline and instead have a solid lineman alongside senior three-technique Jerry Tillery. Flipping the two on the interior is more about putting Tillery in position to use his athleticism to make plays in the backfield, but it would have been nearly inconceivable a year ago to think Bonner could hold the point of attack as necessary at nose. When at full-strength, he genuinely can.

That may not result in many more than 30 tackles, but it would free up Tillery to rack up an influx on his 56 of a year ago.

DOWN THE ROAD
Starting for two seasons at defensive tackle, be it as a three-technique or as a nose, for a program like Notre Dame will essentially guarantee Bonner a mini-camp chance at the next level. Just like in college football, the NFL relies on defensive linemen too much to ignore such a résumé.

A bit undersized, that path may not result in a long-term gig for Bonner, but it is more than nothing.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle, senior
No. 97 Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle, senior
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 94 Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 93 (theoretically) Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 91 Ade Ogundeji, defensive end, junior
No. 90 (theoretically) Tommy Tremble, tight end, incoming freshman
No. 89 Brock Wright, tight end, sophomore
No. 88 Javon McKinley, receiver, junior
No. 87 Michael Young, receiver, sophomore
No. 86 Alizé Mack, tight end, senior
No. 85 George Takacs, tight end, early-enrolled freshman
No. 85 Tyler Newsome, punter and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 84 Cole Kmet, tight end, sophomore
No. 83 Chase Claypool, receiver, junior
No. 82 Nic Weishar, tight end, fifth-year senior
No. 81 Miles Boykin, receiver, senior
No. 80 Micah Jones, receiver, early-enrolled freshman
No. 79 (theoretically) Cole Mabry, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 78 Tommy Kraemer, right guard, junior
No. 77 (theoretically) Jarrett Patterson, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 76 Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 75 Josh Lugg, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 74 Liam Eichenberg, starting left tackle, junior
No. 73 (theoretically) Luke Jones, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 72 Robert Hainsey, right tackle, sophomore
No. 71 Alex Bars, left guard and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 70 (theoretically) John Dirksen, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 69 Aaron Banks, offensive tackle, sophomore
No. 57 Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman, senior
No. 57 (theoretically), Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 11 Freddy Canteen, receiver, outgoing transfer

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle, consensus four-star incoming freshman

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3, 290 pounds
2018-19 year, eligibility: Incoming freshman with four years of eligibility remaining, including the 2018 season.
Depth chart: Ademilola became something of a luxury this season when senior Jerry Tillery not only returned but also switched to the three-technique tackle position. Behind Tillery, sophomore Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa will handle most of the reserve duties while senior Micah Dew-Treadway figures to get a chance, as well. Then comes Ademilola.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star, the U.S. Army All-American chose Notre Dame over Michigan and Alabama while also holding offers from Georgia, Auburn and Ohio State. Rivals.com rated Ademilola the No. 13 defensive tackle in the country and No. 219 prospect overall. He committed in lockstep with his twin brother, defensive end Justin.

QUOTE(S)
By bringing in both Jayson Ademilola and Ja’Mion Franklin, the Irish coaching staff covered both fronts of the defensive interior. The former can focus on breaking through the line to make plays while the latter holds the point of attack. That is, once they earn their playing time.

“Jayson has a little bit more of the length and athletic ability, if you will, to play the three [-technique],” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said during December’s early signing period. “They were a great complement in terms of a [nose] and a three that we saw out there early on. We thought they complemented each other very well.”

WHAT WAS SAID WHEN ADEMILOLA’S NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT ARRIVED
“Ademilola may not be ready for the physical demands of a full collegiate game, but he should already be able to make his presence felt on a series-by-series basis. He can both absorb blocks and provide some pressure on the opposing quarterback.”

2018 OUTLOOK
Rarely do top-flight defensive linemen take a fifth year of collegiate development. The return of fifth-year nose tackle Jonathan Bonner only underscores that sentiment; as well as Bonner played last season, he is not as stellar of a talent as Ademilola’s recruitment suggests he could be.

Thus, Ademilola will not likely preserve a year of eligibility this season, even if he begins preseason practice fourth on the depth chart. Dew-Treadway did receive some praise in the spring, but that was the furthest thing from a surprise considering the very nature of spring practice. If Ademilola can supplant Dew-Treadway, he will be in prime position for 5-15 competitive snaps per game, keeping Tagovailoa-Amosa fresh while Tillery handles at least half the overall workload.

That may not result in more than a handful of tackles, but the effects further up the depth chart will be the real boon to the Irish defense.

DOWN THE ROAD
Tillery will be gone after this season, and no matter how 2018 goes, it should be only a matter of time before Ademilola moves past Dew-Treadway for good. For the following two seasons, Ademilola and Tagovailoa-Amosa should provide Notre Dame with an excellent rotation in the defensive middle. Arguably the most important position on a modern era football field, fresh legs at defensive tackle create a genuine chance for game-changing impacts.

The Irish, however, have struggled to develop defensive linemen consistently, only producing one first- or second-round draft pick in the last half dozen NFL drafts (Stephon Tuitt, 2014). For Ademilola to become the type of player his recruitment suggests he could, that will need to change in a big way very soon.

WHY NO. 57?
Not only does it in keep in line with the above image, but it can serve as an homage to Bonner’s two-year starting role as a defensive tackle while wearing a mid-50s jersey.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle, senior
No. 97 Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle, senior
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 94 Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 93 (theoretically) Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 91 Ade Ogundeji, defensive end, junior
No. 90 (theoretically) Tommy Tremble, tight end, incoming freshman
No. 89 Brock Wright, tight end, sophomore
No. 88 Javon McKinley, receiver, junior
No. 87 Michael Young, receiver, sophomore
No. 86 Alizé Mack, tight end, senior
No. 85 George Takacs, tight end, early-enrolled freshman
No. 85 Tyler Newsome, punter and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 84 Cole Kmet, tight end, sophomore
No. 83 Chase Claypool, receiver, junior
No. 82 Nic Weishar, tight end, fifth-year senior
No. 81 Miles Boykin, receiver, senior
No. 80 Micah Jones, receiver, early-enrolled freshman
No. 79 (theoretically) Cole Mabry, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 78 Tommy Kraemer, right guard, junior
No. 77 (theoretically) Jarrett Patterson, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 76 Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 75 Josh Lugg, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 74 Liam Eichenberg, starting left tackle, junior
No. 73 (theoretically) Luke Jones, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 72 Robert Hainsey, right tackle, sophomore
No. 71 Alex Bars, left guard and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 70 (theoretically) John Dirksen, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 69 Aaron Banks, offensive tackle, sophomore
No. 57 Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman, senior
No. 11 Freddy Canteen, receiver, outgoing transfer

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 57 Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3 5/8, 295 pounds
2018-19 year, eligibility: Senior with two seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2018.
Depth chart: Ruhland will likely be listed as Notre Dame’s backup center, behind three-year starter and captain Sam Mustipher. The Irish have only Mustipher as a true center, so finding a veteran who can handle the duties in case of emergency is a paramount necessity.
Recruiting: A rivals.com three-star prospect, Ruhland shut down his recruitment 10 months before National Signing Day even though he had interest from Big Ten schools such as Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota. Rivals rated Ruhland as the No. 6 player in Illinois in 2015 and the No. 30 recruit in the country at his position.

CAREER TO DATE
Ruhland has yet to be called upon in a competitive situation. After preserving a year of eligibility as a freshman, he saw action in nine games in 2016 and five blowouts in 2017.

QUOTE(S)
One of this spring’s alignments considered to replace the left-sided duo of Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey included Ruhland at left guard. For a portion of spring practice, he appeared to be under consideration as the starter.

“He’s got a good sense of the position, body awareness in terms of how to leverage,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said in late March. “He just has a lot of the traits that allow him to make up for maybe some of the things that some of the other guys have in terms of size and strength. Not that he’s not strong and not that he’s not a big kid, he’s 295 pounds, but he’s a really good technician and he’s really smart, so he makes up for some of those things as an offensive lineman.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Don’t take this the wrong way: The Irish hope Ruhland does not see much action in 2017. If he does see significant playing time, that is a sign of equally-significant injuries along Notre Dame’s offensive line.

“… This is not an indictment of Ruhland. Depth is needed. This is football, after all. Injuries occur. But Notre Dame would certainly rather escape the season without much more than a turned ankle along the offensive front line.”

2018 OUTLOOK
To some degree, the story remains the same regarding Ruhland. If he is playing this fall, it is because someone else got hurt. Once junior Liam Eichenberg stepped forward this spring as a viable left tackle, that allowed junior Tommy Kraemer to slide to guard, and suddenly the open starting spot had been filled by a returning starter, leaving Ruhland as a reserve yet again.

At center, though, that reserve is needed. If Mustipher suffered a minor injury, perhaps a sprained ankle, Ruhland would likely handle that day’s remaining snapping duties, allowing the offensive line to otherwise remain intact. If Mustipher was sidelined for multiple weeks, fifth-year left guard Alex Bars would likely take over snapping duties, and Ruhland would be one of a few options considered to fill in at left guard.

DOWN THE ROAD
Trusted backups are needed, and Kelly has a bit of a track record of welcoming back fifth-year offensive linemen who are little more than utility knifes in the second-unit (see: Bivin, Hunter). Kelly will likely extend that offer to Ruhland next offseason, whether or not he sees Ruhland as a possible starter in 2019.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle, senior
No. 97 Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle, senior
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 94 Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 93 (theoretically) Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 91 Ade Ogundeji, defensive end, junior
No. 90 (theoretically) Tommy Tremble, tight end, incoming freshman
No. 89 Brock Wright, tight end, sophomore
No. 88 Javon McKinley, receiver, junior
No. 87 Michael Young, receiver, sophomore
No. 86 Alizé Mack, tight end, senior
No. 85 George Takacs, tight end, early-enrolled freshman
No. 85 Tyler Newsome, punter and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 84 Cole Kmet, tight end, sophomore
No. 83 Chase Claypool, receiver, junior
No. 82 Nic Weishar, tight end, fifth-year senior
No. 81 Miles Boykin, receiver, senior
No. 80 Micah Jones, receiver, early-enrolled freshman
No. 79 (theoretically) Cole Mabry, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 78 Tommy Kraemer, right guard, junior
No. 77 (theoretically) Jarrett Patterson, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 76 Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 75 Josh Lugg, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 74 Liam Eichenberg, starting left tackle, junior
No. 73 (theoretically) Luke Jones, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 72 Robert Hainsey, right tackle, sophomore
No. 71 Alex Bars, left guard and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 70 (theoretically) John Dirksen, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 69 Aaron Banks, offensive tackle, sophomore
No. 11 Freddy Canteen, receiver, outgoing transfer

Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 69 Aaron Banks, offensive tackle

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-5 ¾, 320 pounds
2018-19 year, eligibility: Sophomore with four seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2018.
Depth chart: Banks projects as a tackle and, thus, serves as the backup to sophomore Robert Hainsey at right tackle.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star recruit, Banks enrolled early after choosing Notre Dame over Michigan, Oregon and UCLA, among a litany of other notable offers. Rated the No. 13 tackle in the class, per rivals.com, and the No. 121 recruit in the country, Banks committed less than a month after an official visit to Michigan.

CAREER TO DATE
Banks saw no action his freshman season, preserving a season of eligibility.

QUOTE(S)
If one is to believe the Irish coaching staff and the offensive line truly does have nearly two full units of starter-quality options, then it is the likes of Banks that tips those numbers from typical to an abundance of talent.

“We have about eight guys right now that we can play winning football, and Aaron Banks had his best week,” offensive coordinator Chip Long said with two weeks of spring practice remaining. “Most places I’ve been, you might have six or 5.5 guys. It’s nice to have this depth. We just have to get them more mature up front, and that just comes with time. There’s good talent there.”

Offensive line coach Jeff Quinn pointed to Banks and classmate Dillan Gibbons as the types of players who would fill in if needed, but also still need a bit of development.

“All those guys are in the mix,” Quinn said in mid-April. “As their development continues to improve, their opportunities will come.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“In 2018, Notre Dame will need to fill at least two starting positions — left tackle and left guard — and will be without its current offensive line utility knife in fifth-year Hunter Bivin. One of the [then-] sophomore duo of Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg is likely to fill that tackle position, though Banks and Hainsey will undoubtedly be given fair shots at it. The left guard slot, though, is a better possibility for Banks.

“If he shows the necessary aggressiveness, he could slot in there until a day comes when the Irish need a tackle. At that point, as a veteran, Banks very well may be the ideal choice. For that matter, if he were to excel for a season at guard and, as an example, Kraemer struggled at tackle, a swap could occur be it midseason or in the subsequent offseason.

“One way or another, opportunity will be there for Banks entering the 2018 season. Even if Hainsey beats him out for that chance …”

2018 OUTLOOK
The inaccuracies to that year-old projection come from not anticipating Hainsey’s rise to multiple-game starter as a freshman. That reduced the openings this offseason to just one. In the end, both Kraemer and Eichenberg made the cut, leaving Banks as an odd-man out.

Backing up Hainsey, though, could prove crucial. If Hainsey were to suffer so much as a sprained ankle, Notre Dame would very much hope a capable substitute could allow Kraemer to remain at right guard rather than move back to his position of a year ago. Kraemer is simply that much more of a natural fit at guard.

It is difficult to envision any other scenario in which Banks sees competitive action this season, but that is the natural effect of returning four offensive line starters.

DOWN THE ROAD
The obvious, and true, summary of these possibilities is Banks will be at least considered to fill the hole left by fifth-year left guard Alex Bars following this season. Banks will have some competition in that pursuit from Gibbons, classmate Josh Lugg and a few of the incoming freshmen.

Banks could make things interesting by excelling in all regards in 2018 while Eichenberg perhaps struggles as a first-time starter. That would create a chance for a position competition next spring at tackle, where Banks is one of the clearer likelihoods on the Irish roster.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle, senior
No. 97 Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle, senior
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 94 Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 93 (theoretically) Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 91 Ade Ogundeji, defensive end, junior
No. 90 (theoretically) Tommy Tremble, tight end, incoming freshman
No. 89 Brock Wright, tight end, sophomore
No. 88 Javon McKinley, receiver, junior
No. 87 Michael Young, receiver, sophomore
No. 86 Alizé Mack, tight end, senior
No. 85 George Takacs, tight end, early-enrolled freshman
No. 85 Tyler Newsome, punter and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 84 Cole Kmet, tight end, sophomore
No. 83 Chase Claypool, receiver, junior
No. 82 Nic Weishar, tight end, fifth-year senior
No. 81 Miles Boykin, receiver, senior
No. 80 Micah Jones, receiver, early-enrolled freshman
No. 79 (theoretically) Cole Mabry, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 78 Tommy Kraemer, right guard, junior
No. 77 (theoretically) Jarrett Patterson, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 76 Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 75 Josh Lugg, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 74 Liam Eichenberg, starting left tackle, junior
No. 73 (theoretically) Luke Jones, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 72 Robert Hainsey, right tackle, sophomore
No. 71 Alex Bars, left guard and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 70 (theoretically) John Dirksen, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 11 Freddy Canteen, receiver, outgoing transfer

Monday’s Leftovers and Links: Notre Dame lands a punter; adds (another) late kickoff

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Notre Dame has its punter for 2018 in fifth-year captain Tyler Newsome. The Irish now also have their punter for the following four years with the Wednesday commitment from Jay Bramblett (Tuscaloosa Hillcrest High School; Tuscaloosa, Ala.). Bramblett became the 11th commitment in Notre Dame’s class of 2019 with an announcement on Twitter.

Recruiting punters can be tricky. The Irish coaching staff rarely wants to devote more than one scholarship to the position at a time, so a new punter is sought only every four or five years. This just happens to be that spot in the cycle.

Bramblett receives quite strong praise from Chris Sailer of Chris Sailer Kicking, the preeminent specialists training group in the country.

“Jay is a big-time high school punting prospect,” Sailer said to Blue & Gold Illustrated. “A great looking athlete with an explosive leg. He has an ideal frame for a D1 college punter. Jay punts for outstanding distance and big hang time.”

5 p.m. PT … meaning a very early return to Notre Dame
CBS announced the Notre Dame vs. Navy game in San Diego on Oct. 27 will kick off at 8 p.m. ET and be broadcast on CBS. That sounds great: On national broadcast television at evening local time, the sun will set as the game ends.

And the Irish will not get home until 5 or 6 a.m. ET. Figuring the game ends shortly before midnight ET, Notre Dame will be in the air no earlier than 1 a.m. and the direct flight takes at least four hours. By the time the Irish make the 20-minute drive to campus from the South Bend International Airport, it will be pushing 5:30 a.m. ET in a best-case scenario.

The CBS decision guarantees Notre Dame has a minimum of four primetime games this season, with 7:30 p.m. ET kicks set for the three home games against Michigan (Sept. 1), Stanford (Sept. 29) and Florida State (Nov. 10). It is overwhelmingly likely at least one of the trips to Virginia Tech (Oct. 6) and USC (Nov. 24) adds another late kickoff, if not both.

Kelly remains vague re: running backs
The South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen spoke with Irish head coach Brian Kelly on Monday before a round of golf at the Kelly Cares Foundation Golf Invitational in southwestern Michigan. In discussing rumors regarding the eligibility of senior Dexter Williams, junior Deon McIntosh and sophomore C.J. Holmes, Kelly did not offer much clarity.

Summary: Williams may or may not miss much of September. McIntosh and Holmes remain off the team, but the figurative door might be open a crack, although it is not open wide enough for both to get through it.

On the need for a balanced roster
In a mailbag last week, The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel pondered why USC has been blown out consistently against top-flight opponents during head coach Clay Helton’s two years at the helm, including last season’s 49-14 loss to Notre Dame.

Irish fans could quickly ask a similar question of Kelly’s last few seasons. In a logical manner, Notre Dame’s shortcoming may be the exact inverse of what Mandel diagnoses as the Trojans’ issue.

“USC is not lacking for skill-position talent, but against those elite intersectional opponents, it’s often been exposed on the line of scrimmage,” Mandel wrote. “… USC, a program we generally think of as teeming with NFL talent, has produced 10 first- or second-round draft picks since 2013. Of those, six were offensive players. Another was all-purpose weapon Adoree’ Jackson. The only guy on the list who played on either line of scrimmage was star DT Leonard Williams.”

In that same time span, a dozen Irish players have been drafted in the first two rounds. Five of those were offensive linemen and two more were tight ends. Only one was a defensive lineman (Stephon Tuitt, 2014). The list also includes two generational linebackers (Jaylon Smith, 2016; Manti Te’o, 2013), but it lacks any other defensive presence.

While the Trojans manage to trot out the speedy receivers, a couple linebackers and the likes of Jackson, they don’t find success in recruiting and/or developing offensive linemen. Notre Dame, meanwhile, can only count Will Fuller as that type of a high-end receiver and struggles to come across impact defensive linemen. Those types of holes keep both programs from finishing the season in the top-five more than once apiece in the decade.

INSIDE THE IRISH READING
The Heisman odds of Brandon Wimbush & Notre Dame’s opponents
No. 76 Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, offensive lineman
No. 74 Liam Eichenberg, starting left tackle
No. 73 Luke Jones, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 72 Robert Hainsey, starting right tackle
No. 71 Alex Bars, left guard and captain
No. 70 John Dirksen, incoming freshman, offensive lineman

OUTSIDE READING
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How West Virginia is preparing its stars for the biggest year of their lives
While waiting for football, how about a little hockey?
A father-son rivalry disguised by a never-ending trip across the country