Brian Kelly plays freshmen. Last year 10 frosh saw significant minutes and some were key contributors-on both sides of the ball. the 10 were Elmer, Folston, Fuller, Robinson, Onwualu, Rochell, Redfield, Luke, Butler.and some guy named Jaylon Smith.
Here are ten frosh likely to play in 2014:
Tyler Newsome – Okay, so punting doesn’t excite you. But letting Newsome punt as a frosh would free up the undervalued but lion-hearted Kyle Brindza to focus on kickoffs and placekicking. Different muscle groups, skills, rhythms and techniques are used for punting and placekicking, and reducing and focusing Brindza’s role could strengthen both areas. Special teams, special teams.
Nyles Morgan – Freshman most likely to start with the relative vacuum at ILB. He is a June arrival and may need September to acclimate to college football but young Mr. Morgan has the size, speed and tackling ability to start at the key ILB position. We offer no comparison between Morgan and Smith. That is grossly unfair to both players. Let’s let Morgan be Morgan.
Nick Watkins – An accomplished high school cornerback who comes in with acclaim and rating similar to or slightly better than those of Cole Luke. The cornerback depth chart is strong but not particularly deep, and Watkins might not just play, but could nose out Kinlaw for the fourth cornerback position. Luke and Butler acquitted themselves well in 2013. Watking shouLd be able to have similar productivity. Nick played cornerback in high school like Butler and Luke and different from Russell and Bennett Jackson who had to learn the position anew.
Andrew Trumbetti – Jumpstarted his career as an early entry, gets a Longo winter and coaching in the spring, Plenty of opportunity on the DL and he should easily make the three deep. We have yet to see his true measurements, but looked strong and fit in winning his competition at the Under-Armour game. Plays with the requisite darkness in his heart.
Peter Mokwuah – Three star or not, he has the size to eat space and opposing ball-carriers on the DL. On a deeper depth chart he would redshirt, but Elston will need to get some of his frosh ready, both to fortify the ramparts in 2014 and to split up the class so they all don’t leave together. Mokwuah is listed at 6’5″ 305 pounds. Judging from his pictures of him standing next to Courtney Garnett it has been a fortnight or two since Mokwuah has seen 305. Needs much work in the weight room, but could penetrate the third string DL.
Jonathan Bonner – Recruited as an OLB/DL swing player, he dazzled the staff with his performance at Notre Dame’s Summer Camp, including some impressive performances against some name OL studs. The coaching staff jumped to offer him and Bonner jumped to commit. Bonner could be this year’s Danny Spond, a football player, a gamer, who flew under the radar of the recruiting services. Already 6’3″ 260 he should be able to deliver what new-to-the position Troy Niklas did in 2011 and what Chase Hounshell did in 2011 at DL.
(Note: if these three play, that would leave Blankenship, Hayes, Jhonathan Williams and Cage to redshirt and have their eligibility expire after the 2018 season.)
Quenton Nelson – A June arrival, he will arrive with the size and nastiness that is useful on the OL. Sure, Bivin, McGovern and Montelus will try to keep him buried, but Nelson may be useful in a Joshua Garnett (Stanford) type role on the goal line and short yardage and may be too good to stay around for five years. More college ready than his classmate Bars.
Justin Brent – In for Spring, and already has the length and muscle mass to play college football. Will get a lot of work with Jones and Daniel Smith departed and Daniels absent for the Spring. Denbrock plays a lot of receivers and Brent should be able to get some reps and a half a dozen catches or so. Not speedy, but sure handed.
Tyler Luatua – With Koyack, Smythe and Heuermann ahead of him, Luatua should benefit from the Niklas’ departure, as Kelly will not want to start the season with only three TES. Already at 230 he’s strong enough to block some, and let Weishar, who might have Eifertian receiving skills, redshirt and add weight to his 215 pound frame. Koyack and Durham Smythe should get most of the receptions for the TES. Luatua struggled with injury his senior year, but a fresh start in South Bend could show why he was considered a phenom as a junior.
Drue Tranquill – Already at 6’2 1/2″, 220 lbs and claiming a 4.45 forty, he has a reputation as a tackler and a hitter, and can be an immediate insert on special teams. There is opportunity at ILB and Tranquill could find himself on the field in passing downs. Like Bonner, his camp play compelled the staff to recruit him. Might have a career arc like Harrison Smith and might have similar physique and speed.
Remember be patient with the frosh. They may need September’s four games to adjust to the speed, pace and physicality of college football. But it is a new era. Players leave after three years, and frosh play a lot.