Notre Dame has five early enrollees participating in spring practice this year and so far there have been positive reviews of all five. All five, however, will likely not see the field in the fall. Based on their progress so far though, this year’s crop of early enrollees looks like it has the possibility of being one of the best to come through Notre Dame since the University began accepting mid-year recruits in 2006.
Corey Robinson – So far both Brian Kelly and wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock have been very, very complimentary of the Texas native and son of NBA legend David Robinson. He reported to Notre Dame raw given that he had a late start to his football career, but so far in camp he has been impressing the coaching staff with his ability to catch anything that is thrown in his general vicinity.
Given Notre Dame’s depth at wide receiver right now, it is not far fetched to think that Robinson will see the field as a freshman in 2013. He might be raw, but he is by far the biggest wide receiver on the Notre Dame roster and is a nightmare matchup for almost any corner. It will be interesting to watch his blocking in the run game next weekend in the Blue Gold Game since that is an area where a lot of young wide receivers struggle – even ones who have played football longer than Robinson.
James Onwaulu – Another player who has earned positive remarks from both his head coach and position coach already in camp. Like Robinson, Onwaulu is also getting a lot fo reps this spring due to the depth and injuries at wide receiver for Notre Dame. Onwaulu has been getting a look at the slot receiver position even though long term he is probably more of an outside receiver with his size and toughness. Short term though, Onwaulu will most likely line up quite a bit in the slot next weekend.
At a minimum, we should see Onwaulu on special teams in the fall, but given the work he has gotten so far this spring and the depth at wide receiver it is also possible we see him on the offensive side of the ball as well. Kelly’s remarks on Onwaulu’s chances of lining up at receiver in the fall, however, were not quite as glowing as his remarks about his chances of playing special teams.
Malik Zaire – Over the weekend Kelly praised Zaire’s mental development at the quarterback position at this point in his career. “From the mental end of things, he’s in the top group of guys that I’ve coached. (He) really understand the nuances of the position. He can understand coverages, rotations, pressures, and movement keys. He’s really at a high level there.” That is high praise from Kelly at this point.
Even with the high praise from Kelly, we most likely won’t see the freshman line up under center this fall. “We have to tighten him up. Quicker release. We have to work on his foot work. Things we had to work on with Everett (Golson),” Kelly added on Saturday. Similarly to Golson’s freshman year, a trip to the scout team is a logical destination for Zaire as he works on the physical components of his game before likely moving into the backup role next year if Andrew Hendrix does not come back for a 5th year.
Steve Elmer – Elmer has been getting work on the offensive line and has looked good in the limited practice video that is available day to day from practice. He has also gotten strong reviews from both the coaching staff so far in camp. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, however, has also stated this spring that ideally Elmer would redshirt this year given some of the losses Notre Dame has had at tackle over the last few years with injuries and transfers.
We don’t live in an ideal world though and it’s very possible that Elmer could be forced into action this fall. It will be fun to watch him in the Blue Gold Game if nothing else. Elmer has held his own in the practice videos we’ve seen so far, but we also haven’t seen him line up against a Stephon Tuitt in a live action situation either.
Mike Heuerman – There hasn’t been too much buzz around Heuerman to this point in spring ball which should not be too much of a surprise since he was listed at just 220 lbs on the Signing Day release from Notre Dame. He has packed on some weight since arriving at Notre Dame in January though and he has a very bright future at Notre Dame. In an ideal world, he Heuerman would not be pressed into action this year and given time to hit the weight room with Paul Longo. In order for that to happen, the Irish will need to stay healthy at tight end – something that they haven’t been able to do in recent years – and see some strong development out of Ben Koyack.