Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2020

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

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Page 9 of 47

10 FEBRUARY 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME ALOHI GILMAN AND TONY JONES JR. WILL ENTER THE NFL DRAFT After senior quarterback Ian Book announced on Dec. 29 that he will return for his fifth season of eligibility in 2020 (see page 26), safety Alohi Gilman on Dec. 30 and then running back Tony Jones Jr. on Dec. 31 both revealed they will pursue their NFL dreams, even though they had one more year of college eligibility remaining. Gilman attended the Naval Prep School in 2015 before enrolling at the Naval Academy in 2016 as a fresh- man. He sat out the 2017 season following his transfer to Notre Dame, but then became one of the team's most prominent leaders, vocally and through performance, during the 23-3 run the past two seasons that included an appearance in the College Football Playoff in 2018. Pro Football Focus graded out Gilman as the top safety in 2018 when he finished second on the team in tackles with 95 to go with seven passes broken up, three forced fumbles and two interceptions. This year as a team captain Gilman finished fourth in tackles with 74 and forced three more fumbles, the last setting up Notre Dame's first score in the 33-9 Camping World Bowl victory versus Iowa State. Jones also starred in the bowl victory with 135 rushing yards, highlighted by a career-long 84-yard scoring jaunt on Notre Dame's first play on offense in the second half. Redshirted as a freshman in 2016, Jones' rushing output increased each season from 232 to 392 and ultimately a team-high 857 this year. He romped for a career-high 176 yards in the 30-27 victory versus USC Oct. 12 and was also a valued blocker in pass protection. Meanwhile, fifth-year senior cornerback Shaun Crawford has indicated an interest in returning for a sixth season of eligibility in 2020. He was sidelined all of 2015 and 2018 with a torn ACL, and missed all but one full game in 2016 with a torn Achilles. Back in September, Crawford declared he had no plans to apply for a sixth season because five was plenty. However, upon further review and a campaign in which he played 11 games and nearly 400 snaps … "Throughout the season, just the memories we've created, the opportunities that were presented — it's something you just can't move on from," said Crawford, who is working on his master's in the Mendoza College of Business. "I love this university, I love everything they have to offer. Just the opportunity to fur- ther my education here … If there's an opportunity for me to get back on the field, or if there's opportunity for me to help and impact this team any way, then I'm going to take full advantage of it." In addition to Book, the core group of players expected to return for a fifth season in 2020 are two offensive linemen — left tackle Liam Eichenberg and right guard Tommy Kraemer — and two defensive linemen: ends Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji. Also having until Jan. 20 to make a decision on whether to return for his senior season in 2020 is junior tight end Cole Kmet, who reportedly received a second-round draft grade and could conceivably be the top tight end in the 2020 NFL Draft. — Lou Somogyi WALK-ONS MICK ASSAF AND COLIN GRUNHARD REWARDED WITH SCHOLARSHIPS During the Notre Dame football team's gift-giving on Christmas Eve in Orlando, Fla., while pre- paring for the Camping World Bowl, senior running back and special teams regular Mick Assaf and junior center Colin Grunhard were the last two called up. Both were rewarded with scholarships to pay their tuition through at least the 2020 summer. "Two guys that have worked really hard in our program," Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly said of the duo. "We have a period here where we have a couple of scholarships for the semester and the summer, so we'll put them on aid for the rest of the academic year." A roommate of starting senior quarterback Ian Book, Assaf has been on the kick return and punt return units while playing all 12 regular-season games, and added nine carries for 37 yards. Highly popular with his own comedy-themed "Mick's MixTape" videos on social media, which has included Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., as a guest, Assaf is likely to move on to other endeavors, although he could return for a fifth season in 2020. "[Assaf] is going to be very successful," Kelly said. "He has his own start-up company right now, and he can do some other things. But he's very valuable to us too. "He performs a lot of roles for us, from special teams to scout [team] … [to] Ian Book's private Uber driver." Grunhard, the son of 1986-89 Notre Dame guard and 10-year NFL veteran Tim Grunhard, has established him as the No. 2 center behind Jarrett Patterson, and has two more years of eligibility in 2020-21. Both were celebrated loudly by teammates after the announcement. "The response that we got from their teammates was obviously appropriate, that they in fact have the respect of their teammates," Kelly said. "If you just do this to do it, to get a rise out of the team, then you're just doing it for social media hits. This was really about two players that have earned their opportunity, and because we had some flexibility in this period of time, it just worked the right way. "And then when you throw Christmas in there, they're all kind of timed up the right way." — Lou Somogyi Grunhard, the son of 1986-89 Irish guard and 10-year NFL veteran Tim Grunhard, has established himself as Notre Dame's No. 2 center and has two years of eligibility remaining. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA Safety Alohi Gilman had one more year of college eligibility remaining in 2020, but after two pro- ductive years with the Irish he opted to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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