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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Position Battles | Cornerback

June 15, 2020

Having players return with experience at cornerback is always important. Notre Dame has two who check that box returning from last year’s team and they added one transfer who has played a lot of football as well.

That doesn’t make the cornerback situation any less murky, though. Things should be wide open in camp with no starters set in stone.

Mike Mickens is taking over a cornerback room that has some intriguing options to choose from, but the most talented players may be the ones with the least experience.

Shaun Crawford is back for a sixth year and it was great news for the cornerback room. He brings veteran leadership and versatility. He is a very good playing the nickel and was the starter at field corner last season before injuring his elbow.

That’s always been the issue. It’s difficult to count on him because of his injury history. If healthy, though, he could very well be the starter at field corner if he’s not playing safety for the Irish.

TaRiq Bracy should be in the mix to play field corner and could be the starter as well. He isn’t a natural fit on the boundary because of his size.

There’s a lot to like about Bracy’s game and he has done well breaking on short and intermediate routes. His play stood out in the Georgia and Iowa State games. Consistency is the biggest thing with him. He has bit on double moves in the past and been beat because of it.

At the very least he should be a solid third corner and if he takes a step this season, could be an effective starter.

Nick McCloud comes in as a graduate transfer from NC State where he started playing the boundary. That’s where he projects at Notre Dame and his ability to play physical in press and support the run makes him a favorite to win the job.

He is not as comfortable in off coverage as he is playing tight and may struggle against elite speed. He will help in certain matchups and is a similar player to Nick Watkins.

The spring would have been a great time to see where things stood with KJ Wallace and Isaiah Rutherford. Both were 4-star recruits who weren’t forced to play last season, but they could be big factors in 2020.

Wallace could be the next guy at nickel and despite not being the biggest option, he has the skill set to succeed at boundary. He was a very instinctive player in high school.

Rutherford is the kind of athlete who should be playing on Sundays after he’s done at Notre Dame. He could blossom under Mickens because Rutherford’s raw tools are as good as anyone on the roster.

Cam Hart is the forgotten man because he moved from wide receiver during the season, but his body type makes him an intriguing ball of clay to mold. He did play corner in high school and when he practiced at receiver in fall camp, flashed the kind of speed that showed he fit at this level.

The reports we heard about him during the season were positive and he should compete on the boundary.

It’s difficult to say how freshmen Ramon Henderson, Clarence Lewis, and Caleb Offord will fit in the depth chart this fall. Henderson and Offord would have had the spring to impress as early enrollees, but chances are that both are headed for a redshirt.

Offord has some physical development to do and Henderson needs more reps as a corner. It will be interesting to see what happens with Lewis because he could end up at safety with the Irish not taking one in the 2020 cycle.

It’s fair to assume that Crawford, McCloud, Bracy, Wallace, Rutherford, and Hart will be the top six corners for Notre Dame next year. How the order will shake out is up in the air at this point in time.

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