Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2019

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

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Page 18 of 47 DECEMBER 2019 19 Rivals top-50 player Tommy Krae- mer at Michigan Oct. 26, needed to be filled by an unheralded fifth-year senior with a history of injuries in Trevor Ruhland. He's made his mis- takes, but he also understands his limitations and plays within himself. There's a similar situation at the drop end position, where Okwara and senior Daelin Hayes are both out. They've been replaced by senior Jamir Jones, a former linebacker and high school quarterback, and sophomore Ovie Oghoufo, who enrolled at Notre Dame as a linebacker. Both have been productive players and have combined for 4.5 sacks since their roles expanded. If you ask the players why these former reserve players have been so successful, they'll often cite the "next-man-in" cliche. "You always have to stay ready and be ready to make the most of your opportunities when they're given, and that's what I try to do each and every day," Jones said. Kelly acknowledges that it takes more than a certain player mentality to properly develop inexperienced players. "It's not just about next man in," Kelly said. "It's about building a cham- pionship defense. And you just don't do that in August. You're building rela- tionships and trust and accountability, and you're doing that after this sea- son's over, and you're doing it when you get back in the weight room in January. This is a year-round process. It takes an army to build it — an army in the sense of not one person. "A lot of people have to put in a lot of time: the support staff, strength and conditioning and nutrition. There are a lot of people that have hands in helping build a champion- ship program. And I'm very lucky to have a great staff." In their own way, injuries also help build depth for the future. Oghoufo was not going to play this season if it weren't for multiple injuries at defensive end, but it was al- ways expected that he'd play next year when Okwara and senior Khalid Kareem move on to the NFL. Now when 2020 rolls around, Og- houfo will be a seasoned player, as opposed to someone who has never taken a meaningful snap. Another piece that isn't discussed as much is the emotional aspect of re- placing one of your teammates, who is out for the season or maybe even the rest of his collegiate career. The new starter may relish the oppor- tunity while also feeling sadness or remorse for his teammate. "I was talking with Tommy [Krae- mer] about this the other day," Ruh- land said. "He said, 'Your parents probably had weird emotions dur- ing the Michigan game.' I was like, 'Imagine what I was going through.' I would trade playing right now for Tommy and Rob to be healthy. "They're our best players. It's heartbreaking seeing them on crutches on the sidelines." If Notre Dame wants to take the next step and seriously vie for a national championship — or return to the Col- lege Football Playoff in the near future — developing quality depth as it has this season will be essential. This was shown in the Cotton Bowl against Clemson last season when All-American corner Julian Love went out of the game for a brief pe- riod of time in the second quarter. The Tigers quickly exploited his ab- sence with three touchdowns, and the Fighting Irish never recovered. Championship-level teams need depth at every position, and Notre Dame is finally showing that this is achievable. ✦ "I think we've built better depth from one through 85 in our scholarships." HEAD COACH BRIAN KELLY Senior right guard Tommy Kraemer, a former top-50 prospect according to Rivals, suffered a knee injury at Michigan Oct. 26 that sidelined him for the remain- der of the 2019 campaign. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL HIGHLY RECRUITED NOTRE DAME PLAYERS SIDELINED BY INJURY VERSUS BOSTON COLLEGE Name Position Class Rivals National Ranking Daelin Hayes DE 2016 31 Tommy Kraemer OG 2016 41 Javon McKinley WR 2016 59 Quinn Carroll OT 2019 68 Jack Lamb LB 2018 77 Kevin Austin* WR 2018 88 Robert Hainsey OT 2017 108 Shayne Simon LB 2018 168 Jayson Ademilola DT 2018 169 Julian Okwara DE 2016 Unranked^ * Player out due to suspension; ^ rated as a four-star recruit

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