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Notre Dame Football

Spring Football: Three Intriguing Position Battles

February 27, 2017
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Irish Sports Daily’s Jamie Uyeyama has been taking a look at positions heading into the spring ball, but it got me thinking about some interesting position battles. There will be competition at a lot of spots this spring and jobs won’t be settled until fall camp but the level of competition should be raised to new levels in the coming weeks.

Running Back
Josh Adams and Dexter Williams have proven they can carry the load and be playmakers. Adams was hampered last year by a hamstring injury and he didn’t truly show the explosive playmaking ability until late in the year. Williams seemed to do positive things every time he got the rock, yet he didn’t get as many carries as one would have liked, especially with Adams banged up.

Now, this spring, Tony Jones Jr. enters the mix and the 5-foot-10, 215-pounder should be hungry after sitting out last fall. For Jones, there is a buzz around him as some have said he might have been the most complete back on the roster at the end of last season while he worked on the scout team.

The good news for Notre Dame is all three backs add different skill sets to the unit and you can play them all in various situations, but someone needs to carry the ball in crunch time.

This spring will be about showing health for Adams, consistency for Williams and then the ability to compete for Jones. All three backs are close so there aren’t going to be heated fights, but all three want to be the man and it should add some great moments during the spring.

When it comes to CJ Holmes, I think it’s probably too much to ask four backs to get carries this year. This spring should be about learning the offense and working on his pass pro. The staff will likely see what he can do on the perimeter as he could be a weapon in the passing game or jet sweeps, but the competition for carrying the rock will be between Adams, Jones, and Williams.

Career Stats
Josh Adams: 275 carries, 1,768 yards and 11 touchdowns
Dexter Williams: 60 carries, 281 yards and four touchdowns

Three-Tech
You can make a case every position on the defensive line is open to competition this year under as the Irish transition to Mike Elko’s scheme but the three-tech position will be an interesting one to watch.

It starts with Jerry Tillery, who might be the biggest wildcard on the team heading into the fall. Everyone knows his potential but outside of the first game of his career, the Louisiana native just hasn’t had things click. Whether it’s effort or not a focus 100 percent on football, something just hasn’t gone off in his head. When you combine that with his late-game stunts against USC, it wouldn’t shock me if he had to work his way back in the coaches good graces. Good news for Tillery, it’s a new staff and a staff that needs to impress. If he can have a big spring, then that will go a long way in solving the question marks on the defensive line.

Speaking of wildcards, Micah Dew-Treadway is a player Notre Dame would love to see on the field. The former early enrollee needed to reshape his body his freshman season and the Irish had depth at the position in 2015. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder was starting to get a buzz during fall camp in 2016 but then broke his foot before week one and wasn’t able to go in year two.

The Illinois native should have more than a fair shot to impress Mike Elston and Elko this spring and a good first impression should go a long way. The staff needs to see a player who can handle the defense mentally and perform physically. In year three, Dew-Treadway should be able to do that.

Elijah Taylor started to get reps at the end of 2016 and even made a few plays against USC. The Cincinnati native is listed at 6-foot-3, 285 but sources said Taylor dropped under 270 at some points in 2016. Not ideal for an interior lineman, but that’s what Matt Balis is for. Ideally, you want Taylor and Dew-Treadway battling it out for reps behind Tillery this spring, but it could turn into battling for bigger reps.

Two other names to watch this spring are Khalid Kareem and Jon Bonner. Kareem is entering his second spring in the program but where does he fit best? Elko could use someone with Kareem’s athletic ability on the inside but they also need bodies at strongside defensive end. The same goes for Bonner in terms of athleticism and he has played the position in games before. I would imagine one will get a look at inside and the other will get a look outside, but both are intriguing options inside with their ability to shoot gaps.

Cornerback
Three-tech will be fun to watch but cornerback could be a pleasure to watch. Notre Dame was forced to play Donte Vaughn, Troy Pride Jr. and Julian Love as freshmen last fall with injuries to Shaun Crawford and Nick Watkins, which wasn’t ideal at the time but now the Irish can reap the benefits.

All three showed flashes of the being very good players and showed the ability to compete against some good receivers. Now Nick Watkins could re-enter the mix this spring and there is always Ashton White lurking in the wings. White has shown the competitive nature you want to see, but never the consistency the Todd Lyght is looking for.

Then you have Nick Coleman, who was the starter at the start of the 2016 season before they went a different way. Coleman had trouble at times guarding faster receivers but there were also things Notre Dame staff could have done to help him out a little more.

Rumors have White moving to safety this spring so it could be a battle between Coleman, Watkins, Pride, Vaughn and Love this spring. Crawford likely won’t go this spring as he comes back from an Achilles injury in the fall.

I would look for Lyght to really push the cornerbacks this spring as they don’t have reinforcements coming in June with Notre Dame not landing a cornerback in the 2017 recruiting class.
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Spring Football: Three Intriguing Position Battles

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