We are a little over a full week into fall camp and we are starting to see a little clarity at a few positions that were up for grabs when the Irish kicked off camp at Culver Academy last week. With two and a half weeks remaining until the Irish kick off the season though, Brian Kelly still has some questions to answer before he fills out his official depth chart.
Here’s a quick update on where the Irish stand at several positions midway through the second week of fall camp 2014.
Defensive End – The biggest news of this week came at defensive end when Kelly announced that true freshman Andrew Trumbetti is now the starting weakside defensive end passing junior Romeo Okwara in the process. Ishaq Williams is still solid as the starting strong side end at this time. Trumbetti enrolled early and looks poised to start his collegiate career in the starting lineup.
Cornerback – Kelly announced this week that Cody Riggs will be the starting cornerback opposite Keivarae Russell. Riggs beat out Cole Luke for the position. Having two corners like Cole Luke and Cody Riggs battling it out for a starting position is a wonderful position to be in for the Notre Dame defense. Riggs has 26 career starts between corner and safety under his belt in the SEC. The fact that Luke, a true sophomore, is neck and neck with him says everything you need to know about his talent level.
Kelly has said that Riggs will need to know multiple positions for Notre Dame this year suggesting he could play some nickel position as well.
Offensive Line – Notre Dame still hasn’t settled in on a rotation along the offensive line as Kelly and Harry Hiestand look for the best combination of starting linemen. Right tackle is still the position that is going to settle the lineup. If Steve Elmer ends up as the starting right tackle, then Matt Hegarty, who has missed some time with a concussion, will likely get the nod at left guard. If Mike McGlinchey, however, steps in at guard, Elmer will be the left guard.
Over the weekend Kelly said that Elmer is still playing tackle like a guard which sounds a little like he may be leaning towards McGlinchey at tackle if the sophomore is up for the task. If not, Elmer is going to need to start playing tackle like a tackle in a hurry. Kelly said that the staff wants to make settling on a lineup up front a priority for this week so we should have a good idea of where Elmer falls into place and how the rest of the line shakes out. On Wednesday though, Kelly mentioned that the lineup along the offensive line is still up in the air due some missed time by a few linemen.
Running Back – So far in camp, Brian Kelly has been more than complimentary of all three of his backs. Over the weekend Kelly gave some insight into what he’d specifically like to see out of Folston and Bryant though. For Bryant, Kelly said that the sophomore needs to be more patient and not solely rely on his athletic skill. Right now Bryant isn’t always waiting for the hole to develop, but if you have watched any of the video clips from camp, including the highlight of the running back position, it’s very easy to see just how fluid and smooth a runner he is.
For Folston, Kelly has stated that he wants to see him play with more of an attitude – the kind of attitude that says he doesn’t want to share the ball with anyone.
Outside Wide Receiver – If there is a position where Notre Dame has collected more talent than running back, it’s wide receiver. Davaris Daniels has one outside receiver position on lock down even though Kelly has refrained from anointing him as such after the senior missed all of the spring due to academic reasons. Daniels has also been a bit banged up
The real competition will come at the other outside position and it looks like junior Chris Brown is beginning to emerge. Kelly has been very complimentary of Brown since fall camp began last week lauding the junior for the leadership he displayed throughout spring and carried into OTAs. That doesn’t mean that either Will Fuller or Corey Robinson is out of the running by any means though.
Safety – It looks like there is not much of a competition at safety right now. It was believed that Elijah Shumate would be able to challenge Austin Collinsworth, but Kelly didn’t make it sound like that was the case at all over the weekend. Kelly proclaimed that Collinsworth is quarterbacking the defense and if anything were to happen to him, Matthias Farley would take over those roles. No mention at all of Shumate. Kelly went on to add that Farley is still cross training between safety and corner. Sounds to me like that means Collinsworth has started to separate himself.
Linebacker – Not much waas said about the starting linebackers through the first week of fall camp. For the most part the first team unit had been converted safety John Turner, former walkon Joe Schmidt, and All-American candidate Jaylon Smith, but Kelly said on Wednesday that James Onwaulu is currently the starting SAM linebacker right.
Kelly was asked specifically about Nyles Morgan over the weekend and it didn’t sound like the freshmen many pegged as a potential day one starter is too close to cracking the starting lineup at this point. This week Kelly also mentioned that Morgan is still overwhelmed but that he makes up for it by running all over the field. Right now Joe Schmidt is still the starting MIKE and Kelly has lauded the senior for his leadership throughout camp.
Ben Councell has been limited due to a concussion, but was back at practice today. Kelly said that Councell’s impact on the defense in 2014 could not be understated when he kicked off fall camp which makes Councell’s absence worrisome.
Jarrett Grace has still been limited in camp as comes back from his broken leg. Grace has been dressed every day but hasn’t been a full participant and is still a couple weeks away according to Kelly on Wednesday.
A lot can change between now and August 30 though and there figures to be a lot of competition throughout this group over the next two and a half weeks. The one thing that is absolutely certain is that Jaylon Smith is going to line up over the field and is going to make plays – a lot of them – for the Notre Dame defense in 2014.
Tight End – There isn’t any competition for the starting tight end spot, but there is a good battle for the second tight end in. Brian Kelly has said that true freshman Tyler Luatua will play and gives Notre Dame a type of physical presence Notre Dame just hasn’t had at the position since he’s been there. Then there’s sophomore Durham Smythe who UHND has pegged as a potential breakout player in 2014. Both will likely play this year, but it will be interesting to see how Kelly and the offensive staff utilize both in addition to Mackey Award candidate Ben Koyack.
Slot Wide Receiver – Kelly hasn’t said much about the slot position so far in camp, but from most of the practice videos, it looks like CJ Prosise is running with the first team the most. Torii Hunter, Jr. has suffered a groin injury that will sideline him for 4-6 weeks which has removed him from the competition, at least for now, leaving just Amir Carlisle to challenge Prosise. Carlisle has looked good in the practice videos so far but Kelly’s been surprisingly mum on this position so far.
Quarterback – Oh yeah, there was a quarterback competition, right? Brian Kelly swore there was one, butno one really believed him? Even ESPN said as much during their recent trip to Notre Dame for their Bus Blitz. Kelly confirmed earlier today that Everett Golson will be the starting quarterback in two and a half weeks when Rice comes to town for the season opener. This “quarterbac competition” was very reminiscent of the Dayne Crist/Tommy Rees battle in 2011. Hopefully for Golson’s sake he does not suffer the same fate as Crist.