Blue and Gold Illustrated

June July 2018

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

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8 JUNE/JULY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI F ive days after the April 21 Blue- Gold Game, Notre Dame lost its second projected fifth-year player for the 2018 season when cornerback Nick Watkins announced his decision to be a graduate transfer elsewhere. Earlier this spring, former Notre Dame defensive end Jay Hayes also opted to leave the team and use his fifth season of eligibility at Georgia after originally publicly pledging to Oklahoma. A nine-game starter last year who finished second on the team in passes broken up with eight — which was more than the six that 2016 team leaders Cole Luke and Donte Vaughn had — Watkins was slowed by an injury late in the year, while sopho- more Troy Pride Jr. took over and thrived in his starts the final four games. Pride, the fastest player on the team who also qualified for the ACC Outdoor Track & Field Champion- ship in the 60-meter dash, continued to have a productive spring and re- mained the starter at field corner- back. He played opposite classmate Julian Love, who finished second in the country last year in passes broken up (20) and passes defended (23), both school records en route to earn- ing second-team All-America honors from Sports Illustrated. "I want to thank the University of Notre Dame for everything they've done in my career," Watkins wrote on his Twitter account. "When I de- cided to attend Notre Dame, my pri- mary goal was to earn a degree from this prestigious university, and I'm proud to say that I'll achieve that goal. … I've grown so much here and I appreciate all the valuable lessons I've learned. "Notre Dame will always hold a special place in my heart." A native of DeSoto, Texas, a sub- urb of Dallas, Watkins could head to a number of nearby schools such as TCU or SMU, or even Houston, although his first official visit was to West Virginia. He planned to have a decision made by June 1. Because he has graduated, he does not have to sit out the 2018 campaign. Watkins' transfer is a testament to the growth and development at cornerback, even though the Irish did not sign anyone there in the 2017 class. In addition to Love and Pride, the Irish also return senior Shaun Crawford — the starting nickel last season — and Vaughn, who was slowed by a back problem last year before returning to form this spring. Crawford played more at corner- back this spring, while safety Nick Coleman worked extensively as the nickel. Coleman started all 13 games at safety last season, but Navy trans- fer Alohi Gilman appeared to take over the starting role there this sea- son with junior Jalen Elliott, who also started all 13 games last season. Meanwhile, four more cornerbacks will join the 2018 roster when the freshmen enroll for the start of sum- mer school June 18: Noah Boykin, TaRiq Bracy, D.J. Brown and Joe Wilkins Jr. That could give Notre Dame four full scholarship units to work with this fall at cornerback — with none out of eligibility after the season. FREDDY, WE HARDLY KNEW YE Yet another projected fifth-year player in wideout Freddy Canteen also announced May 25 that he will not use his fifth season at Notre Dame. "I will be transferring to another university to obtain a graduate de- gree that unfortunately Notre Dame does not offer," Canteen wrote in a tweet. "I will also utilize my remain- ing two years of eligibility to play UNDER THE DOME NOT TAKING THE FIFTH Nick Watkins and Freddy Canteen will not return to Notre Dame in 2018 Watkins started nine games at cornerback for the Irish in 2017 and ranked second on the team with eight passes broken up. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA Canteen played in two games last fall at Notre Dame, catching one pass for seven yards, but will finish his career at another school. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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