Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

5 Redshirts to Watch this Spring

February 7, 2017
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There aren't many things as disheartening to a football player as learning he will redshirt.

Anyone who is a competitor absolutely hates it. No one plays football just to practice, so there isn't much that feels worse than knowing you are in for a season of practicing without any chance of playing in a game. It's not very fun, even if it's necessary for the development of many players.

Notre Dame had 13 true freshman play last season, but had 10 players redshirt. For those 10, this spring will be their first chance to truly compete without restriction.

There is no scout team anymore. There is no sitting back while the ones and twos take all the reps. Finally, they get a chance to earn a spot in the two deep or even possibly compete for a starting job in spring ball. All of those 10 have a chance to do that now.

I'm interested in watching all in that group to see where they are at this spring, but 5 of them in particular intrigue me the most for different reasons.

Liam Eichenberg

Out of three offensive linemen who redshirted last fall, the one everyone seems to be focusing on is Tommy Kraemer. He was the one who was closest to playing last season and he is expected to compete for a starting job this fall. Many feel it's almost a foregone conclusion that he will start somewhere on the line.

While I feel strongly that Kraemer can live up to that hype, it's Eichenberg who is the most intriguing to me. Notre Dame has some depth issues at tackle and Eichenberg could help solve that. Is he good enough to be the third tackle for the Irish this season? Does that free up Kraemer to play at guard? Could Eichenberg show enough that they consider moving Alex Bars back inside to right guard? It's all on the table in my opinion.

I really liked Eichenberg as a prospect before he signed with Notre Dame and think he has a shot at being the heir apparent at left tackle. That needs to happen based on what they have at tackle currently because I don't see many other obvious contenders to replace Mike McGlinchey that are currently on the roster.

This is going to be a big spring for Eichenberg and a massive one for Harry Hiestand to find out where things are falling into place after McGlinchey and other veterans leave for the NFL.

Deon McIntosh

I haven't heard much about McIntosh this offseason. I think that's primarily because we have no idea where he is going to fit.

Is he a slot receiver?

He certainly showed the ball skills and short area quickness to thrive there based on the brief glimpses we saw in camp last fall. The slot receiver position (Z) is wide open at this time with CJ Sanders, Chris Finke, and potentially McIntosh as contenders.

Is he a running back?

It's going to be a crowded backfield in the spring with Josh Adams, Dexter Williams, Tony Jones Jr., and CJ Holmes all fighting for carries. McIntosh offers something different than most of them, but it's possible that Holmes' ability as a receiver make a move more likely for McIntosh. And if he does stay put, McIntosh is going to have prove he is better than Holmes and different enough from the other backs to be in the mix for playing time.

All doors are open for him this spring. Where he gets placed and if he can make a move on the depth chart will be interesting because he may be in danger of getting passed by if he doesn't make some plays.

Ian Book

I'm going to dub Book "The Sandwich Man". Not because he loves eating at Subway, but because he is the in-between quarterback right now. He is DeShone Kizer before he became DeShone Kizer. He is the quarterback stuck behind the guy who is supposed to win the job (Brandon Wimbush) and in front of whoever may be next to win the job (Avery Davis or Phil Jurkovec).

Let's be honest: no one is expecting Book to win the starting quarterback job and beat out Wimbush. I think there are plenty who feel he is going to get beat out by Avery Davis for the backup job this fall too. This is Book's chance to show that no one should be counting him out just yet.

It's only him and Wimbush this spring in terms of scholarship quarterbacks. Book is going to get a ton of reps to show what he can do. Much more than Wimbush himself received last spring behind Kizer and Malik Zaire. If he performs well, then everyone will feel a lot better about his future. He may secure the backup job and have Davis in line for a redshirt this season.

If he doesn't perform well, then things open up quite a bit. It may be that he may even look to somewhere else to play if he gets leapfrogged by an incoming freshman. It is a critical spring for Book.

Ade Ogundeji

Notre Dame picked up three 4 star defensive ends in the 2016 recruiting class. Ogundeji was the fourth defensive end, the only one who redshirted last season. He was the raw 3 star prospect that missed a good chunk of his senior season and earned an offer by impressing Notre Dame at Sound Mind Sound Body in Detroit before working out for them at a camp.

I'm excited to see where he is at physically because he has the most growth potential out of any defender on the roster. He was skinny when he came in and it will be interesting to see how big he is and how that affects his movement. He is a good athlete that has the physical tools to be a player, but is he ready to compete with his technique?

High upside kids like him have emerged in Mike Elko's defense before, but defensive line coach Mike Elston never had a 3 star rise up to be a high level player when he coached the position in the first five years under Brian Kelly. We'll see what Elston can do with Ogundeji in Elston's return to the line.

DJ Morgan

I was not super high on Morgan as a prospect and honestly didn't get to see much of him last year in fall camp. He never flashed in any way so I had zero expectations that he would be someone to watch this spring. At least I had zero expectations until Todd Lyght mentioned that he wanted to take the redshirt off of him to play last season and that he was a nuisance for the offense on scout team.

There have been plenty of guys who have done well on scout team that have that as the highlight of their time in college football, so I'm not marking him down as a big time player yet. But there is going to be an opportunity at strong safety and Morgan should have a chance to compete there depending on what happens with some others who may move to Rover.

Morgan could end up moving to Rover too. I felt his best future position was going to be as a Sam linebacker in the previous scheme so it makes sense that he could end up moving there. As of right now, it is a wide open job too. We don't know who will even start out competing there or if those players who do will still be there competing for it in the fall.

I would have never picked Morgan as one to watch before hearing Lyght say that, but now he is definitely someone to keep an eye on.
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