Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2018

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

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Page 6 of 47 FEBRUARY 2018 7 UNDER THE DOME With 21 freshmen inked during the early sign‑ ing period Dec. 20‑22 and a 22nd verbally com‑ mitting the following week (Arkansas offensive lineman Luke Jones), Notre Dame exceeded the NCAA limit of 85 scholarships, unofficially get‑ ting up to 90. It was over the limit the past two Februarys as well, but transfers, players entering the NFL Draft early, academic casualties, disciplinary matters, medical situations, etc., are inevitable between now and August. Head coach Brian Kelly acknowledges that saving for those rainy days by overstocking the cupboard now is a necessary path. "Our situation here at Notre Dame is we have not been at that 85, so we've been more ag‑ gressive this year with that," Kelly said. "I never feel really comfortable with it, but I've had to get over that. … We've consciously been more aggressive in that fashion." Here is the current potential breakdown of 90 as Blue & Gold Illustrated sees it, with fluidity possibilities added in: • At most, seven fifth‑year seniors are pro‑ jected to return in 2018. Three already made it public: tight end Nic Weishar, center Sam Mustipher and rover/team captain Drue Tranquill. The other four most likely are guard Alex Bars, defensive end Jay Hayes, cornerback Nick Wat‑ kins and punter Tyler Newsome. Defensive tackle Jonathan Bonner told the Notre Dame student newspaper The Observer that returning was not in his plans. Watkins coyly indicated to the media in December he is not certain about his future. • 18 Fourth‑year seniors X‑factors include whether running back Josh Adams, wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, nose tackle Jerry Tillery and linebacker Te'von Coney opt to turn pro early. • 22 juniors, including Navy transfer Alohi Gil‑ man. The safety sat out this season per NCAA rules, and Kelly indicated Gilman would have been a starter. No one's future on the team looks more tenu‑ ous than wideout Kevin Stepherson after a third suspension this December. • 21 sophomores, a group led by co‑starting right tackle Robert Hainsey. • 21 freshmen officially signed so far, plus Jones' commitment. One way or another, Notre Dame will be at or under 85 by August. — Lou Somogyi liott at Whip safety, Robertson played in 11 of the 12 games, mostly on special teams, and was credited with eight stops. 7. S Jordan Genmark Heath — 39 snaps He started on three of the four special teams units, where his 220-pound frame packed a potent punch and featured fearlessness. Six of his 11 stops were solo, primarily in the kicking game. Thirty-six of his 39 snaps on de- fense occurred through the first six games before the tougher second half of the schedule kicked in. 8. TE Brock Wright — 30 snaps During spring drills the highly touted Wright easily passed the eye test, especially in one-on-one block- ing. That resulted in his niche as a lead blocker in the traditional full- back set in short-yardage or goal-line situations for the Irish. He also blocked on the field goal kicking and extra point units. 9. RB C.J. Holmes — 9 snaps A shoulder separation in spring drills for the early enrollee had him earmarked for a redshirt campaign. However, as the injuries piled up at running back, Holmes was inserted as a contingency option at North Car- olina Oct. 7, and he had eight carries for 32 yards. Like Genmark Heath, he was a mainstay on special teams, starting on three of the four units and getting credited with two stops. However, prior to the Citrus Bowl, he was sus- pended indefinitely due to off-the- field actions. 10. Jonathan Doerer — 28 kickoffs Recruited to handle kickoff chores, Doerer was slowed by leg weariness in the first half of the season before taking over in that role for good be- ginning with the Wake Forest game Nov. 4. His 28 kickoffs traveled an average of 61.8 yards (approximately to the 3-yard line), with seven touchbacks and one out of bounds. 11 REDSHIRTED The breakdown is five on offense and six on defense: Quarterback (1) — Avery Davis Wide Receiver (1) — Jafar Arm- strong Offensive Linemen (3) — Aaron Banks, Dillan Gibbons and Joshua Lugg During the first week of bowl workouts in which the younger players received the bulk of work, head coach Brian Kelly lauded Davis' playmaking abilities. "He's efficient with the football and a very strong runner. He's an athlete that can impact every time he has the football in his hands," Kelly noted. Gibbons received the Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year Award at the Irish Echoes Award Dec. 8, and Kelly has cited Lugg as a prospect who could be in the mix for action in 2018. Defensive Linemen (3): Darnell Ewell, Kofi Wardlow and Jonathan MacCollister Linebackers/Rovers: David Ad- ams, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Drew White Ewell arrived with heavy fanfare as a projected nose guard, but like predecessor Louis Nix (2010-13) he needed the freshman year to redefine his body and hone his technique. Owusu-Koramoah was compet- ing for special teams work last Au- gust, but because he is the young- est member of the class — he didn't turn 18 until Nov. 4 — eligibility was preserved. Shoulder issues slowed Adams. ✦ Roster Management And Scholarship Breakdown Senior defensive end Jay Hayes is expected to be one of seven fifth-year seniors on Notre Dame's 2018 roster, though he had not made it official as of Jan. 2. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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