Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2017

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

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Page 17 of 55

18 FEBRUARY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI F or all the talk always pres- ent about the importance of preserving a fifth season of eligibility among freshmen or sophomores — such as quarterback Brandon Wimbush in 2016 — Notre Dame will likely again have a sparse number of redshirt seniors on the roster in 2017. In 2016, Notre Dame had only four: former walk-on running back Josh Anderson, long snapper Scott Daly, offensive lineman Mark Harrell and nose guard Jarron Jones. The Irish will likely have no more than that in 2017 as well, and maybe even less. Ten players were eligible for a fifth season in 2017, nine of them on of- fense: quarterback Malik Zaire, running back Tarean Folston, wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr., tight ends Durham Smythe and Jacob Matuska, and offensive linemen Hunter Bivin, Mike McGlinchey, Colin McGovern and John Montelus. The lone player on defense was cornerback Devin Butler. • Zaire, who graduated in Decem- ber, will use his fifth season else- where, a la predecessors such as Ev- erett Golson at Florida State, Andrew Hendrix at Miami (Ohio) and Dayne Crist at Kansas. Wisconsin and North Carolina (where Notre Dame plays Oct. 7) have been mentioned most, with Virginia Tech also entering the mix when starter Jerod Evans announced for the NFL Draft. • Hunter, the second-leading re- ceiver in 2016 with 38 catches for 521 yards and three touchdowns, opted to pursue a professional baseball career. • Montelus, who played only 20 snaps in 2016 (18 versus Nevada), will use his fifth season at the Uni- versity of Virginia. • Butler, suspended prior to the 2016 season while also recovering from a broken foot, will use his fifth season at Syracuse. That leaves six. Starting left tackle and team captain McGlinchey and No. 1 tight end Smythe are both expected to return, although Mc- Glinchey still did fill out paper work to receive NFL feedback. Smythe's nine catches for 112 yards and four touchdowns led the tight end crew in 2016. He had 633 snaps this past season, while juniors Nic Weishar and Tyler Luatua had only 262 and 38, respectively. That leaves four others, but no more than two are expected to return. Matuska took only 10 snaps at tight end last year, and that position remains well stocked this spring with Smythe, Weishar, Luatua, early enrollee Brock Wright — maybe the top prospect in this year's Irish freshman class — plus Alizé Jones hopefully will be eligible to play this season after academics sidelined him in 2016 (but he still prac- ticed with the scout team). Jones led the tight ends in receiving as a 2015 freshman with 13 catches for 190 yards. Folston admitted the 2016 cam- paign wasn't anything he expected, especially carrying only 59 times the final 11 games for 246 yards. He took only 209 snaps compared to sopho- more Josh Adams' 495, while another sophomore, Dexter Williams, had 126 and could be trending upwards, Fifth-year senior tackle Mike McGlinchey and senior guard Quenton Nelson (above, right) are expected to return and once again anchor the left side of Notre Dame's offensive line. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA Fifth Dimension The number of players in other classes limit the options for Notre Dame's potential fifth-years

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