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Notre Dame Football

Now or Never

August 5, 2020

The beauty of college football is there is a timeclock on a career. There is always new, but it also puts pressure on players to perform when it's their time to step under the bright lights. 

It's different from the NFL as players can get more chances to shine in college, but sometimes they don't. It depends on the situation.

Notre Dame has a few players on its roster where time is running out and 2020 is a big year in more ways than one. 

Senior linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath is the first name that sticks out. The San Diego native arrived a year before the four-game redshirt rule went into place and that would have significantly helped him and the Irish. 

Genmark Heath played in all 13 games as a freshman, but it mainly special teams until the Citrus Bowl win against LSU where he time at safety before moving the linebacker in the spring. In 2018, Genmark Heath saw Drue Tranquill move from Rover to Buck. He made his first career start at Northwestern when Tranquill has battling an ankle injury. 

Most felt his 2018 campaign would open the door for a starting role in 2019, but Asmar Bilal moved from Rover to Buck. 

Now, Genmark Heath had a chance to win the job last year, but as we saw, Bilal played better than anyone thought he would. 

Genmark Heath is in his last year of eligibility as the 2020 season starts and figures to compete with Jack Lamb and potentially others for the starting role. 

Can he make the jump in his last year like Bilal? The athleticism, physical tools and speed are there. It's year three of playing linebacker, so comfort at the position should be there along with a solid knowledge base. 

Tight end Brock Wright was the jewel of the 2017 recruiting class as he was top-ranked prospect to sign with the Irish.

The Texas native has had a good career, but it's primarily been in a blocking role. Wright has just four career catches for 57 yards and one score.

Now, Wright has had Alize Mack and Cole Kmet in front of him and Tommy Tremble emerged in 2019, so it's not as if the position hasn't been productive. 

2020 will be Wright's final season in South Bend and he'll get his chance to shine. Tommy Tremble will still likely be the top target when it comes to balls to the tight end, but Wright can carve out more of role in the passing game.

Wright can't cruise into the season as true freshman Michael Mayer is the prized gem of the 2020 class. However, the five-star prospect didn't early enroll and Wright's experience will be counted on as the pandemic has limited what teams can do. 

The final name I'll mention is defensive back Shaun Crawford, who will be back for his sixth season. 

Crawford has seen it all during his time with the Irish - and probably more than he wanted. 

Injuries have prevented him from taking his game to a point where he could test the NFL waters. It's not a sprained ankle here or a broken wrist, but it's been ACLs, a torn Achilles and a dislocated elbow. 

As a fan of college football, you have to love seeing Crawford keep coming back and returning with more motivation when it would have been easy to throw in the towel. 

2020 should be his last year in South Bend. Granted, if there is no season, would he be eligible for a year seven, or would he want to return? 

Crawford's ability to play cornerback, safety, and the nickel is of extreme value as the Irish lack experience at all three positions heading into 2020. 

Crawford has been productive when on the field as he recorded 60 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries in a 20-game stretch in 2017 and 2019. 

Notre Dame needs Crawford on the field and regardless of what the 2020 season may look like, he deserves to go out on a high note.  

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