We are less than a week away from kick-off to the 2013 season and we are into the single digits of our countdown of the top 25 players on the Notre Dame roster. Yesterday we looked at sophomore Keivarae Russell at #11 and junior George Atkinson at #10. Today we’re back in the sophomore class with one player that has us really excited this year – defensive end Sheldon Day.
As an early commitment and early enrollee last year for Notre Dame, Sheldon Day often got over-looked as fans focused on the late season defections from last year’s class. Day was not overlooked last season though when he made an immediate impact on the field as a reserve defensive end for the Irish.
After an impressive start to the season, and his career, Day started to show some normal freshman wear and tear and his production slowed down the stretch. With that year of experience and another off-season in Paul Longo’s strength and conditioning program though, Day is primed for a big season in 2013 and could very well be one of the surprise players around the country this fall.
Why Sheldon Day could be ranked higher
Sheldon Day is going to be overlooked by a lot of offenses, at least early on, this season because of the Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt. Both defensive line stalwarts will garner double teams early and often this year because if opposing offenses don’t double them, they are inviting in danger. All of that attention is going to put Sheldon Day in plenty of one on one situations and when that happens the Indianapolis native is going to show offenses that he needs to be accounted for at all times as well. In a hurry.
The year in the weight room for Day is going to be a huge plus for Day since his volume of work will expanded greatly this year. Freshman defensive linemen usually have a hard time adjusting to the college game since offensive linemen are so much stronger on the collegiate level and they tend to wear down like Day did last year. Before Day slowed down though, he showed the skill that made him a highly sought after recruit.
At some point, opposing offenses are going to have to pick their poison with the Notre Dame defensive line and Day is going to be the main beneficiary more often than not in 2013.
Why Sheldon Day could be ranked lower
While another full off-season in the strength and conditioning program should allow Day to handle the increased volume, we haven’t seen Day handle the number of snaps that he will be asked to handle this year just yet. Everything we’ve seen from Day since the end of the season suggests that he is more than capable of doing just that, but you never know how a young player will respond to an increased role.
The loss of Tony Springmann could also hurt Day’s impact since his volume may go up even more than it already was going to without the top reserve along the defensive line available for the entire season. One of the main reasons the defensive lines at LSU and Alabama and the like are so strong is because they can continually rotate in fresh players. Losing Springmann for the year takes away a player who could be plugged in throughout the line to spell Day, Tuitt, and Nix.
What would a successful season in 2013 be for Sheldon Day?
Since Day will be stepping in for Kapron Lewis-Moore, Moore’s 2012 output is the first place to look for figuring out what Day will need to replace in the Notre Dame defense. KLM picked up 6 sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 40 tackles last year as a fifth year senior. Asking Day to completely replace that production given KLM was in his 4th season as a starter would be a bit unfair, but considering Day already had 23 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and 2 sacks of his own in 2012, it is really not out of the question for him to pick up right where Lewis-Moore left off.
Brian Kelly has been singing Day’s praises all camp long and if there is one player on the defensive side of the ball that can sneak up on people this year it’s Day. If Day can contribute 40-50 tackles, 5 sacks, and 7-8 tackles for loss this year, his 2013 season will be a success and a great launching off point for 2014 when he will be tasked with being the leader of the Notre Dame defensive line.
#10 – George Atkinson – RB
#11 – Keivarae Russell - CB
#12 – Matthias Farley – S
#13 – Troy Niklas – TE
#14 – Tommy Rees – QB
#15 – Amir Carlisle – RB
#16 - Danny Spond – ILB
#17 - Dan Fox - ILB
#18 – Jarrett Grace – ILB
#19 – Greg Bryant – RB
#20 – Christian Lombard – RT
#21 – Elijah Shumate - S
#22 – Jaylon Smith - OLB
#23 – Ishaq Williams – OLB/DE
#24 - Max Redfield - S
#25 - CJ Prosise - WR