The countdown towards Notre Dame’s top player continues today with the latest set of Notre Dame blogger player rankings. As I’ve done the past couple days, I’ll post some comments on my rankings as well as my thoughts on the other bloggers’ rankings.
Today we’re looking at players ranked #15-11. Inside the Irish has everyone’s rankings posted over on NBCSports.com.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s the next set of five players.
15. Steve Filer, OLB: The Irish coaches are going to have to find a way to get Filer on the field more this fall.
14. Jonas Gray, RB: Has the talent to be ranked much higher. Needs to hold on to the football consistently to move up.
13. Cierre Wood, RB: Like Theo Riddick, he’s a playmaker and needs to have the ball in his hands more.
12. Brian Smith, OLB: He looked his best as a freshman in the 3-4 defense. A move back to OLB should improve his stock in 2010.
11. Theo Riddick, WR: Riddick’s a difference maker. Notre Dame needs more players like him. His position switch knocks him down a few spots.
Coming in at the 15 spot is junior linebacker Steve Filer. Over the past two seasons Filer has had a tough time finding consistent playing time, but with Notre Dame switching back to the 3-4 defense, Filer has a chance to make a big impact for the Irish in the fall. Filer was all over the field during the Blue-Gold game and has long been considered one of the best athletes on the team. Filer might have a tough time cracking the starting lineup with Brian Smith (our #12) and Darius Fleming (who will make an appearance towards the top of the rankings), but I suspect we’ll see a lot of Filer in passing situations. I suspect opposing quarterbacks will be seeing a lot of Filer too.
The first running back on my list comes in next at #14 in Jonas Gray. Like Filer, Gray has had a tough time finding consistent playing. He’s had his chances, but unfortunately he hasn’t shown the ability to consistently hold onto the football in those chances. He looked great in the Blue-Gold game with 54 yards on 8 carries highlighted by a 38 yard touchdown run in the second half. Gray has a nice burst and a second gear that Armando Allen hasn’t shown to this point. If he can become as good of an all-around back as Allen he’ll be a very dangerous weapon for this team with his speed.
Cierre Wood follows Gray on the list and to be honest, this is a ranking based purely on potential since Wood didn’t play a down as a freshman. Wood was even more impressive than Gray in the Blue-Gold game with 110 yards on 10 carries topped off with two touchdowns. He showed an impressive burst on his 44 yard touchdown run and is the kind of game-breaking threat Notre Dame’s largely lacked out of the backfield. Wood’s playmaking ability caused Kelly to move fellow sophomore Theo Riddick to wide receiver in order to get both of the speedy sophomores on the field as much as possible.
Senior linebacker Brian Smith makes an appearance on our list at #12. Smith made an instant impact at Notre Dame as a freshman in 2007, but has since bounced around from outside to inside linebacker and then back to outside this year. Smith has a chance to thrive at his more natural position this season and could very well deserve to be much higher on this list by the end of the season.
Rounding out today’s set of rankings is sophomore wide receiver Theo Riddick. It’s tough to project where Riddick ranks among the realm of Notre Dame players because he switched positions to wide receiver in the spring. Riddick should be a factor in the return game as well though so he gets bumped up in the rankings a little bit. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry as a freshman and could still see some carries out of the slot position on reverses and end arounds in Brian Kelly’s spread offense.
In looking at my fellow bloggers’ rankings, it appears as though I have Riddick and Wood ranked higher than anyone else. I may have them ranked a bit too high, but both are legit playermakers who have the ability to be big time players in this offense.
It was nice to see someone else listing Shaquelle Evans (Her Loyal Sons ranked Evans 15th) since it looked like I was going to be the only one to have Evans in my top 25. Evans is a special talent who has a lot of time left to develop into the star receiver everyone thought he would be coming out of high school.
I was a little surprised to see Ethan Johnson ranked as low as 12th on Keith Arnold’s rankings, but I have to give him props for ranking Harrison Smith 15th. I thought I was going to have Smith ranked the highest, but can’t argue with Smith’s spot on Keith’s rankings. Smith has all the talent in the world – he just needs to put it into practice.
It’s been interesting to see where Tai-ler Jones has been ranked by the Irish bloggers. I had Jones just outside by my top 25, but the spring standout has been ranked as high as 11th. He was certainly impressive in the Blue-Gold game, but I had a hard time ranking him over fellow wide receivers John Goodman, Shaq Evans, and Riddick.
The next set of rankings will be available on Friday on Inside the Irish with more comments on my selections on UHND later in the afternoon.