(UHND.com) – It’s one of the harsh realities of college football. Loving one player, and just as you get attached to him, they are graduating from college, or making themselves eligible for the NFL draft, preventing you from ever seeing them wear your favorite teams’ uniform again.
It happens at every college, and at Notre Dame it is no different. Some very popular Fighting Irish players have played their last games in the blue and gold. Even though some young, talented players are expected to step up and fill the seniors’ roles nicely, watching the Irish will not be the same without players such as: Maurice Stovall, Anthony Fasano, Brandon Hoyte, and Corey Mays, among others.
Maurice Stovall’s big play ability down field, as well as his blocking ability is almost irreplaceable next season. Stovall was a guy who would bring down any and every pass thrown his way, using his 6’5 frame to go up and catch the ball over defenders. Mo caught 69 passes this past season for 1149 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 19 touchdown passes over his career in South Bend, 2nd best in school history. Stovall is expected to go anywhere from the late 1st round to the middle 2nd round in this April’s draft. Luckily for the Irish, they will have Rhema McKnight coming back from injury, and will be healthy for next season. Pair him with senior Jeff Samardjiza, who had a breakout season last year, and the receiving crops are for the most part, solid. But nobody in my mind however, will replace Stovall’s mean streak, and ability to put opposing linebackers and corners on their backs. You can’t teach that.
Anthony Fasano, the former Notre Dame Tight End, had a chance to come back to South Bend for a final year, but instead decided that he was ready to play on Sundays, and entered the pro draft weeks after the season ended. Fasano was not only a great play maker whom caught 47 catches for over 500 yards this season, but is known as a top Tight End in the country because of his superb run and pass blocking. Anthony was a finalist for the John Mackey award, given to the Nation’s top Tight End. Fasano is expected to be the 3rd Tight End taken in this year’s draft. Many professional mock drafts have him going in the 2nd round.
Corey Mays, the Notre Dame middle linebacker, is also leaving college this year. In his final year as a senior at Notre Dame, Mays was 2nd on the team in tackles with 68 of them, and also recorded 4 sacks. Mays was not important to Notre Dame because of his stats though; it was the intensity and leadership he brought to the defense that really made him valuable. Mays is not expected to be drafted, but the fact that the young boy from Morgan Park high school came into Notre Dame, with his thick dreadlocks, and became a leader for the team, is remarkable all by itself.
The last senior leaving that I will be talking about is a fan favorite amongst the Notre Dame faithful. He is Brandon Hoyte, the leader of the Irish defense, and one of two captains for the Irish. Hoyte led the Irish in tackles this season with 82, and also had 6 sacks. He proved very durable, starting his final 26 straight starts for the Irish. In this season alone, he changed the flow of the game on multiple occasions. This includes for example, his hit on Tyler Palko, the quarterback for the University of Pittsburgh, which made Palko noticeably shaky throughout the whole game and allowed Notre Dame’s defense to play very well in a 42-21 win. Hoyte was the unquestioned number one leader in the Notre Dame locker room, and set a precedence for how football players should be nowadays – a nice man off the field, an intense leader on the field, and a great student in the classroom. The future, while it doesn’t look like it will be in the NFL, looks bright for Brandon.
I think I speak for all Notre Dame football fans when I wish these players the best of luck in the future, be it in the NFL or elsewhere. Those players I mentioned as well as others I did not will be missed, but not forgotten by the Notre Dame football family.
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