Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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14 DECEMBER 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI B etween Thanksgiving and the New Year, "roster engineer- ing" is prevalent among col- lege football teams. At Notre Dame that will especially center on how many of the 11 current seniors eligible for a fifth season in 2020 will return. Unless there are an inordinate num- ber of scholarships available — which there are not for the Irish — the ones who return for a fifth season are indi- viduals who have already been starters and are projected for a starting role. The four fifth-year seniors who returned in 2019 — wide receiver Chris Finke, offensive guard Trevor Ruhland, linebacker Asmar Bilal and cornerback Shaun Crawford — all had previous starting or extensive playing experience. Others who did as well but lost their top spots, such as quarterback Brandon Wimbush (Central Florida) and safety Devin Studstill (South Florida) opted to take their chances as graduate transfers at another school, where they were immediately eligible because of receiving their un- dergraduate degree at Notre Dame. The majority of seniors will use the standard "I'll evaluate it after the season" company line when asked about future plans during the course of a football season. Behind closed doors, it's another matter. "We've had conversations with a number of our players regarding what we think and what they think is in their best interests," head coach Brian Kelly said in late November, although he says that too is not for public con- sumption until the appropriate time. The deadline to declare for the NFL Draft among underclassmen is Jan. 20. Here is an overview of the 11 di- vided into three categories: QUARTERBACK IAN BOOK This position stands on its own. Every previous former Notre Dame starter (and even one reserve) under Kelly who had a fifth year of eligibility used it elsewhere: Dayne Crist at Kansas, Andrew Hendrix at Miami (Ohio), Everett Golson at Flor- ida State, Malik Zaire at Florida and Wimbush at Central Florida. Meanwhile, DeShone Kizer turned pro and was a second-round pick in the NFL Draft following his junior season (with two years of eligibility remaining). Book falls in between. Unlike Crist, Hendrix, Golson, Zaire and Wimbush, he would be the clear, undisputed starter returning for a fifth season, and would be the first quarterback at Notre Dame to start three consecutive years since Jimmy Clausen (2007-09). Yet un- like Kizer, Book likely would not be a high draft selection at this point. Prior to this year's regular-season finale at Stanford, Book had com- pleted 463 passes at a 63.4 percent clip for 5,621 yards and a 52-17 touchdown-interception ratio during his career. He also had rushed for 994 yards and eight touchdowns. "I want him back, but that's not my decision," Kelly said after the victory versus Boston College. "But I'll cer- tainly recruit him." Fifth- Or Sixth-Year Candidates Quarterback Ian Book Running back Tony Jones Jr. Receiver Javon McKinley Left tackle Liam Eichenberg Right guard Tommy Kraemer Drop end Daelin Hayes Strong side end Ade Ogundeji Linebacker Jonathan Jones Cornerback/nickel Shaun Crawford Safety Alohi Gilman Long snapper John Shannon ROSTER ENGINEERING Decisions have to be made by or on 11 seniors who are eligible for a fifth season in 2020 If Ian Book returns to the Irish for a fifth-year season in 2020, he would be the first quarterback at Notre Dame to start three consecutive years since Jimmy Clausen (2007-09). PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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