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Notre Dame Football

Instant Impact?

August 21, 2018
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When Notre Dame lets us into fall camp to watch a few practices each year, how the freshmen look is usually near the top of what people want to know about. Mostly because they are the new faces and the most unknown.

Can a hyped prospect help the Irish this season? Who looks like a future star? Sometimes those questions can be difficult to ascertain in only a few practices and sometimes the answer is obvious. When it comes to knowing which of them will play at all this season, it’s far closer to obvious.

That’s because we at least get to see who is getting significant reps in practice with the first or second team and who barely gets a chance to compete outside of individual drills. Based on what we saw during our time watching camp, these are the freshman who will, could, or won’t see the field this season.

Sure Bets

He might have been limited in camp by an injury, but he’s back and should be ready for Michigan. Expect safety Houston Griffith to see the field a lot this season and he probably has the best chance out of any freshman on the team of starting. He already has a knowledge of the defense is fundamentally advanced for his age.

On offense it’s wide receiver Kevin Austin that showed he is going to be too good to keep off the field. He already jumped Javon McKinley on the depth chart at W and if not for other big options like Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin, Austin might have also been a contender to start later in the year.

He might not have everything down with the scheme right now, but they need to get him the ball and utilize his skill set in every way possible.

The surprise of spring out of the early enrollees was Bo Bauer. He carried that over to the summer and is right there with Jonathan Jones competing as the second team Mike linebacker. If Bauer ends up winning that spot, then he is going find some time in the base defense because they need to at least prepare him in case something were to happen to Te’von Coney.

Even if he is the third Mike linebacker, Bauer is still likely to play on special teams and in garbage time. He is the furthest along of any freshman on the team not named Houston Griffith.

You'll Likely See Them on Saturdays

We didn’t get to watch him run the ball in camp, but running back Jahmir Smith will very likely be in the mix to play in games this fall. If he wasn’t on campus for the spring, that might mean a redshirt was coming his way.

His grasp of the offense, his ability to succeed in several areas, and that extra bit of physical preparation means he still has a chance to be a regular part of the offense behind Tony Jones.

Rover Shayne Simon was being talked about as a potential starter by some. I always felt that was a bit unfair to him because it was not likely he would meet those expectations. Manti Te’o and Jaylon Smith weren’t ready to start from day one, so for Simon to do so, it would have been surprising to me.

An injury to Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah gave Simon plenty of reps at Rover behind Asmar Bilal in camp and Simon now has a much better chance of being the second team Rover that plays in certain situations. Even if that isn’t the case, a role on special teams seems very likely and he would be an injury away from a regular role in the defense.

On the 4-game Bubble

With the new 4-game rule for redshirting, it opens up plenty of possibilities for the Notre Dame coaching staff to use their freshmen smartly with a chance at preserving a year of eligibility. These are the guys who I think are going to either play 4-games or less (redshirt) or potentially play a part that sees them on the field for most Saturdays.

Three wide receivers in addition to Austin showed exciting potential in camp. Lawrence Keys, Joe Wilkins, and Braden Lenzy all had really nice flashes that made me think they are going to push some older players on the team.

Can Keys do enough to earn playing time over Chris Finke or Michael Young in the slot? I wouldn’t bet on it, but he has dynamic agility and that could be useful in spurts for the offense.

Wilkins might be too buried behind other players, but his compete level and athletic ability shined through in limited opportunities. The fact that he played defensive back in high school as well makes me think he can make a splash on kick coverage teams too.

Lenzy needs a lot of work in the weight room before he is an every down factor, but he is a prime candidate for them to sneak in after tiring out a corner and having Lenzy come in and run a 9 route. Maybe he only plays at the end of year and has a handful of catches, but they may end up being big plays.

The other freshman running back is C’Bo Flemister and with Avery Davis and Jafar Armstrong having strong showings in August, everything is pointing to Flemister not travelling with the team over the next few months. We’ve seen injuries at running back frequently in recent years so an end of the season run for him in November isn’t out of the question.

Both defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola and defensive end Justin Ademilola would have been locks to play on other Notre Dame teams. The good news is that the depth on the defensive line is better than it has ever been so they won’t be forced onto the field if they are not ready.

They might be and still not play more than the 4 games because it’s going to be difficult for Mike Elston to expand his rotation past eight or nine guys. If the Irish are banged up, I can see both playing and helping the team. If everyone stays healthy, they need to be lights out in practice to earn snaps in games.

Cornerbacks Noah Boykin and DJ Brown showed the potential be future starters for Notre Dame. The players in front of them just may not allow them to get any time in the actual defense.

Todd Lyght mentioned that Brown is more physically ready to compete as a tackler and that probably gives him an edge as the fifth corner. That may mean that Brown plays on special teams all season and Boykin is more of a “break in case of emergency” type of option.

As of today, I don’t think safety Derrik Allen is in the mix at safety this season. So unless he does enough to turn some heads over the next couple of months, it’s probably special teams if anything for him this fall. Like the Ademilola brothers, he would have probably been playing on other Notre Dame teams.

The one offensive lineman that is probably going to travel, but not likely play in the regular offense, is Jarrett Patterson. He had a nice camp and definitely grabbed the attention of Brian Kelly. He may be listed as the second team left tackle for Michigan and beyond, but in reality he may be the third or even fourth choice to play if there are injuries. If it’s a blowout, they may as well get him some reps. I don’t think they will push it with him in other scenarios, though.

Will Be Shocked if They Don’t Redshirt

It would take injuries to both veteran quarterbacks for Phil Jurkovec to burn his redshirt in my opinion. I’m not even sure he’ll get into 4 games or less like Kelly suggested prior to camp. I’m excited about what he can do in the future, but the future isn’t now for him.

After Patterson, the other three freshman on the offensive line are John Dirksen, Cole Mabry, and Luke Jones. None of these guys are going play this season and will benefit from a redshirt.

One receiver we didn’t talk about very much in camp was Micah Jones. He enrolled early so the thinking would be that he would be ahead of someone like Wilkins. That’s not the case, though. Jones is a big body, but needs time in the strength and conditioning program to become more explosive in a short area in order to compete with Wilkins and Austin in the future.

Defensive tackle Ja’mion Franklin is buried on the depth chart behind three others at one-tech/nose tackle. He flashed a bit when we watched him in drills, but I think the depth will be too much to overcome.

Linebackers Jack Lamb and Ovie Oghoufo were both on campus early, but I would be surprised if they played this season. Lamb was hurt for most of the practices we watched and couldn’t do contact drills. That didn’t help his cause and he needs some time to put on the proper weight to play inside linebacker at the college level.

Oghoufo played multiple positions in high school and needs time to settle in and learn to play linebacker at Notre Dame. His ceiling is high, but he is not close to the player I would expect him to be even a year from now.

The depth at tight end is going to relegate George Takacs and Tommy Tremble to redshirting, but if there is a pinch at the position, Takacs would be the closest one to playing this season in my opinion.

I was excited about some things I saw from cornerback TaRiq Bracy in camp, but think his size and strength will keep him out for this season. He needs to get bigger and stronger to win contested plays and be able to tackle consistently at the college level. From a talent perspective, he could play. I just don’t see him as being physically ready yet.

Paul Moala is going to be in a battle for playing time in the future with the numbers they have at safety and the amount of juniors and seniors that are on the team at safety means he is going to redshirt this fall. He’ll get a season on the scout team in the weight room before he gets to jump back into the competition in the spring.

 
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