Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

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

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56 PRESEASON 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED one capable of playing at both the X and Z positions. However, Stepherson and four other teammates were arrested dur- ing the late evening hours of Aug. 19, which has put his potential impact in doubt. Stepherson's discipline had yet to be announced as of Aug. 23, with Kelly noting a couple days prior that it would be handled internally. The longer he is out, though, the easier it will be for his classmates to pass him by. Javon McKinley was the highest ranked of all the incoming wideouts, and he has shown why during fall camp. McKinley is physical and has the size and strength of a veteran. He is also a savvy route runner that already shows a knack for getting open. McKinley has battled drops in pre- season camp, but if he can be more consistent catching the ball he could see himself on the field a lot this sea- son. The Corona, Calif., native has shown off his versatility in camp, get- ting reps at both the X and W position. If the Notre Dame staff wants a player with a great deal of experi- ence, a natural understanding of how to run routes and refinement at the wide receiver position, then Chase Claypool is not their man. If they want a freakish athlete that at 6-4, 220 pounds can out-run and out-jump defenders for the ball, then they will turn to Claypool. Claypool's fall camp performance is not something wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock is going to use for clinic material on how to play receiver, but Claypool's size- speed-athleticism combination is truly elite. A physical player who revels in contact, he also might turn out to be the best blocker among the receivers, which alone could find him a niche role (a la James Onwualu as a 2013 freshman). Ugly routes do not keep him from outrunning defenders on vertical routes, and they do not keeping him from out-playing defenders for the ball. Those skills too are likely going to force the Notre Dame coaches to find a home for him somewhere this season. The plan for standout offensive lineman Tommy Kraemer was to redshirt him in 2016 and give him an opportunity to compete for a starting job in 2017. Kraemer's talent and the uncertainty at right guard combined with an overall lack of depth at tackle to speed up his football clock a bit. Kraemer 's advanced size (6-4½, 315) and power for his age make him more likely to earn early playing time compared to most freshmen, but there is also a bit more of a need. Senior Colin McGovern and sopho- more Tristen Hoge are the main con- tenders for the starting right guard position, but neither has seized the spot. Should an injury occur at the position, or should their play not meet the standards needed for the Notre Dame ground attack, Kraemer could easily see an opportunity for playing time arise. In a perfect world, the returners stay healthy and play at a high level, allowing Kraemer to save a year of eligibility. But like several of the players already discussed, his talent might just be too good to keep on the sidelines all season. FIGHTING FOR A ROTATION SPOT Cornerback Julian Love is part of a deep group of newcomers in the secondary that arrived at Notre Dame ready to compete. What he lacks in technique, Love makes up for with toughness and instincts, and he quickly earned the backup spot to sophomore Shaun Crawford at the nickel position. On top of his role in the nickel package, Love is pushing sophomore Ashton White for a spot in the two- deep at cornerback. He is also ex- pected to be a contender for a num- ber of special teams roles. Notre Dame's lack of proven pro- duction and depth at defensive end could create an opportunity for Kha- lid Kareem and Julian Okwara to find a role this fall. Kareem is well built at 270 pounds, and he's one of the few defensive ends to get good pressure as a pass rusher. Being an early enrollee gave him time to get acclimated to Notre Dame's strength and conditioning program, and Kareem looks far more ready to play now than he did in April. Javon McKinley has impressed in fall camp and could crack the wide receiver rotation. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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