6 Notre Dame Freshmen to Watch This Off-Season

Greg Bryant - Notre Dame RB
(Photo: Robin Alam / IconSMI)

With the 2013 in the books, it is officially time to look ahead to 2014 as the Irish look to move back into the national spotlight following this year’s 9-4 campaign.  With an eye on 2014, here is a look at six freshmen who either played sparingly or hardly at all this season to keep an eye on this off-season.

Malik Zaire (QB) – This one is obvious, but with Tommy Rees out of eligibility and Andrew Hendrix looking to transfer for his 5th year, Zaire heads into the off-season as at worst the backup quarterback.  Everett Golson will need to win the starting quarterback position back officially, but it would be a shocker if he didn’t do just that.  Many Notre Dame fans were clamoring for Zaire’s redshirt to be burned throughout the season and will finally get their chance to see Zaire in some extended action this spring.  Even if Zaire can’t wrestle away the starting quarterback position, it is imperative for Notre Dame that Zaire develops this spring to the point that he can play meaningful downs for the Irish. It has been far too long since Notre Dame has had depth at the quarterback position.  Zaire has the talent and ability to provide that if he develops this spring.

Greg Bryant (RB) – Bryant ended up taking a back-burner to fellow freshman running back Tarean Folston this year while he battled through a knee injury that cost him his freshman season.  Brian Kelly raved about Bryant during Pinstripe Bowl practices and Bryant will enter the off-season poised to challenge for the starting tailback position with Folston, George Atkinson, and Cam McDaniel.  At a minimum, Bryant should be able to provide a heck of a 1-2 punch at running back with Folston just like Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood in 2011 and then Theo Riddick and Wood in 2012.  Bryant was a 5-star recruit for a reason a year ago and we could start to see that this spring.

Max Redfield (S) – After not seeing much action on defense throughout the 2013 regular season, Redfield saw some extensive action in the Pinstripe Bowl.  Redfield started the game, but only ended up collecting one tackle in the contest.  Just seeing Redfield on the field was a welcomed sign for Notre Dame fans though given the struggles of Notre Dame’s safeties in 2013.  It took Redfield some time to get comfortable enough in the defense to make the necessary calls but the extra month of bowl practice allowed him to gain that level of comfort.  Notre Dame hasn’t had an impact safety the last two seasons since Harrison Smith was drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.  For Notre Dame to make a playoff run next year,  they will need a safety like Redfield to step up.

Torii Hunter, Jr (WR) – Of all of the freshmen wide receivers, Hunter had me the most excited this time last year.  Then he broke his leg during the practices for the US Army All-American Bowl and suffered a setback in the summer that cost him his freshman season.  Hunter started to practice with the team over the last few weeks though and is a potential big play threat for the Irish.  Hunter will have some competition on the depth chart with the likes of fellow freshman Will Fuller and junior Chris Brown who played the best game of his career in the Pinstripe Bowl to be one of Notre Dame’s deep threats in 2014.  It’s not a given that Hunter will be able to fully bounce back next season already, but it will be interesting to watch how he comes back from the injury over the spring and fall.

Mike Heuerman (TE) – Heuerman didn’t play as a true freshman this year.  He needed some time in the weight room before he was ready for playing time, but he could be called upon in 2014 should the Irish suffer an injury to either Troy Niklas or Ben Koyack who emerged during his junior year after two very quiet years to start his career.  If all goes well for Notre Dame, Heuerman won’t be called upon too much in 2014, but his development this off-season will be very important down the road for Notre Dame with Niklas and Koyack both out of eligibility after the 2014 season.  Now, if Troy Niklas were to surprise most and declare for the draft early, Heuerman’s off-season becomes even more important for Notre Dame.

Michael Deeb (ILB) – Notre Dame loses both of it’s starting inside linebackers with Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox both exhausting their eligibility this season and Jarrett Grace will likely miss spring practice as he covers from a fractured tibia and fibula suffered against Arizona State.  Freshman Doug Randolph is likely out of all contact drills this spring as well leaving just Deeb and possibly Kendal Moore if he is back for a 5th year as inside linebackers currently on the roster who will be available this spring.   Joe Schmidt could potentially be back as well if a scholarship is available once the Irish wrap up this year’s recruiting class.  Deeb didn’t play this year, but he is going to get a lot of playing time this spring which could propel him to starting role for 2014.


You may also like


  1. A little logic. Are the only good coaches the ones that have worked with or for BK?? I doubt it. He has to take a chance and hire top guys that he doesn’t know personally.

  2. Jack, you are preaching to choir here about Brown.

    When he was at Carolina, he never beat FSU, the conference leader (before Miami and Va Tech joined) and never came within two touchdowns of them either.

    At Texas, despite leading the known world in facitilities, and having his own network in the latter years, he had a losing record against OU and won only TWO conference championships in his time there. His aw shucks ways fool a lot of people, but there is more sadness in Norman than anyplace else over Brown’s departure.

    The boys really showed up for Mack’s farewell. The career achievement
    award for the most overpaid and overpraised coach.

    They should get rid of him in Austin. There is a story in Tuscaloosa (quality inside info here) that after Perkins was fired, a coupl of big Tide alums went to see Perkins and offered to buy his house at an over market price. Perkins said he was comfortable there, until the alums upped the cash, eye contact and pressure. With a big profit Perkins soon left town.

    Brown hanging around will be no asset to the new coach.

    Too bad. Travail in Austin. I hope it’s nothing temporary!

    1. Well now, Mr. Corporate World Expert: “His aw shucks ways.” Really? Don’t like southern people…eh? Not to mention further, “(quality inside info here).” Surely you jest! In the REAL corporate world “loose lips sink ships!”

      The 7 billion dollar corporation I worked for before I became an entrepreneur, would fire people for far far less! Howbeit, with your usual bombastic attitude I am not surprised. I am now thoroughly convinced you’re traveling the corporate motivational circuit collecting huge six figure honorariums! Such amazing cognitive capacity you have! So who’s the “princess on the pea?”

  3. to basil and I hate SC Durham Smythe has been getting some rave reviews on the practice field, including in the bowl prep practices. He has been indentified as a player with “downfield skills” and it looks like Nic Weishar is showing the same stuff in San Antonio.

    1. Can’t have enough of those guys on the team. But too that, knowing Kelly’s penchant to not use the Run Game to his advantage, where does that leave the RB situation if the WR’s and TE’s are as good as advertised?

  4. Though I shouldn’t be surprised, I still am [something] how ND “fans” can make excuses about everything. Anyway can’t wait to see this team next year with Golson back, the returning players, and adding these new young and exciting players. [I am excited because there should be no more excuses then from the excuse makers. But I’m sure we’ll hear them anyway.]

    Anyway so ready for next year, only 242 days until first game!

  5. i have been waiting for 26 yrs, i am not complaining, offering suggestions every day, hire a player personnel guy who job is to do nothin but find the best, oc and dc names, tired of losing,

    “Don’t succumb to excuses. Go back to the job of making the corrections and forming the habits that will make your goal possible.” vince lombardi

    1. bj,

      I would advise not using Mac Brown as your example. Minus Vince Young he really didn’t do anything. Texas is botching their search for a head coach. They have a great one at Baylor and they are not looking at that guy who has kicked Texas’s ass with less talent.

  6. Though I shouldn’t be surprised, I still am how some ND “fans” can only complain about every thing. Anyway can’t wait to see this team next year with Golson back, the returning players & adding in these new young & exciting players. A coach is tied so much to his QB the one year BK had his own QB, 12-0 & NCG. Those worrying bout Zaire not playing, he had steep learning curve even if learning O fast. He came from a triple option offence that didn’t throw ball till sr. year in high school, then missed a lot of spring ball & 1st 3-4 games this when sick, he wasn’t ready. There some other schools that had good QBs that red shirted that turned out all right when they had to play like TA&M, FSU among others. Any way so ready for next year, only 242 days till 1st game!

  7. First of all hiring a name isn’t going to make it any better. Look at your great coach Mack Brown, he hired the hit hand with the offensive coordinator from Boise and that guy tanked. It comes down to the system and process used by the head coach. Saban , Meyer and the other great coaches implement their system, if it sucks the coach will get fired. I’m not defending BK, but he will run his program the way he sees it and if they keep going 8-5, 9-4 or even 6-6, he will be gone at the end of his contract. ND is already paying for one shitty coach they don’t need to pay
    For another.

    Now my main gripe with ND, what the hell is going on with this receiver out of Florida? He is tearing it up at the Under Armor game and a bunch of test scores are holding them back from the offer. I can tell you this much my SAT scores were 850, my wife’s 1100, (yes I married up), my college GPA 3.0 her GPA 2.3. Test scores don’t mean shit. Get the kid in school and have a tutor work with him!

  8. What I can’t understand is how a coach like BK can’t seem to develop more than one QB at a time at ND when at Cinci it seemed he had like 3 or 4 ready to play. I think I recall one season at Cinci where BK literally went through like 4 QBs and the fourth played as well the first did. Like I’ve said, either BK has forgotten how to coach and develop players or the ND stage is too big for him. My guess is the latter.

    Soon, BK will have 4 QBs (barring defections) that fit his system. He’ll also have a rock solid O line for years to come and a stable of RBs and WRs. At some point lads the excuses have to run out.

    1. Simple Rob,

      Next year BK will win a National Championship or will be the best FUBAR Head Coach in America!

      By the way, are U ready for another dynamic 5TH YEAR with BK? WOW! Next year’s schedule was designed for Meyer or Saban in mind! Even they would start whining to their AD! Hahaha! Albeit, an excellent way to fire a Head Coach! Gotta love Swarbrick on this one!

      Happy New Year SteelFanRob!!!

  9. go hire the oregon offensive coordinator, dennis fgrost, they crushed texas, even a good coach like mack brown couldnt hold em down


    “Mack Brown hired a player personnel guy, a move that Saban had done in 2009. Brown decided to start setting up camps to recruit sophomores, something he had resisted before, though everyone else was doing it.”

    1. Amen bj,

      Further, if he hires another Grand Valley Boy…we know the ship is going down! The real problem with going after an excellent and proven OC as you have suggested, unfortunately, BK can’t tolerate not being the smartest guy in the room. It will definitely be his demise not the excellent players we have. They deserve better… spot on bj!

    2. bj

      The guys name is Scott Frost OC Oregon. HE just got named OC for the 2013 season so i ddont see him leaving anytime soon except for a HC position. BTW Oregon scored 1 TD and 3 FGs against Texas so they didnt exactly light it up against them. Mariota was filthy in the first half but once he lost his legs in the second half the offense wasnt the same. Oregon has everyone back on offense next year except for wr huff. They will be scary to deal with next year.

  10. Kelly has already said that Zaire has picked up the offense way faster than anyone so young. Most schools do not have experienced backup QBs but I think Zaire will be the most ready of any with no game experience. As far as running back the reason Cam gets so many carries when we are ahead is because he is a dependable kid with pretty good talent that will not hurt us so the number of carries is skewed. Having a QB who can run makes all the difference in the world and because we will be much more effective in the red zone and plays will not be limited because of personal. The running backs will get their carries, an injury or a banged up player necessitates having at least two to three good running backs. It will work out. I am more concerned with defense in the front seven. Line play is the most important thing both offensively and defensively.

  11. With a strong offensive line the offense should be incredible. A healthy Bryant, Cam, and Folston should be plenty. I’d like to see GAIII and Carlisle used as receivers rather than in the backfield.

    You are right about BK. It seems he has regressed as a coach. Holtz was a darn good coach but elevated his game at Notre Dame. You have too; otherwise, you are destined to be average or fail. IMO, Holtz simplified his approach…ND will have the strongest offensive line in the country and we will run until someone stops us. More times than not, this was the case. Let’s see how BK responds with the return of EG. A talented QB can make an average coach look great.

  12. Agree with fxm. Cam is a hard nosed football player but if Bryant doesn’t rise to at least #2 on depth chart (assuming Folston is #1) then that would be a huge disappointment. You definitely want a guy as highly touted as Bryant to be able to prove it out on the football field that he was worth the hype. I like Amir, Atkinson, and Cam…. but I definitely wouldn’t feel bad if Bryant and Folston carried the load next year.

    Not worried about QB. Golson will shine and Zaire will get some playing time. By the time we need Zaire to step up, he will be ready….. as long as Golson stays healthy and doesn’t pull another boneheaded move in the classroom.

    1. If Bryant is as good as advertised, he, Folston and Cam will be splitting duties if ND were a normal place for the run game. The fact that Golson is a multi threat QB changes the backfield situation where Kelly might employ even less running plays for RB’s which would leave one if not all but one player very unhappy. I won’t get off the horn on this run game issue of Kelly’s until ND can prove it has the fire power outside of using a strong run game to win games. In fact, they have so much run power that if they don’t use it Kelly should find another place to coach (meaning he can’t see the forest for the trees) and isn’t a very good coach.

      I don’t see GAIII coming back and Carlisle, well he might find some time on STeams. I think Mahone will need to find a new position or he’ll likely transfer to another school. No sense in Mahone sticking around if he has serious thoughts of football after college.

  13. Well, imagine that! Hendrix wanting out before spring practice and heading to Miami! WOW! Really! The automatically assumed QB paper pecking order disturbed this early? No way, are you kidding me! Is this a BK joke? Lovely, so we are down to 1 QB with 1 year of game experience and the rest with ZERO game experience! I’m sure glad we threw away a whole year of opportunity for Zaire to gain valuable playing time for 2014! But oh no, he is only a freshman! You can’t play a freshman, how dare we do such a ridiculous feat! So now we have a highly valuable ‘1st year – 1st unit practice team’ freshman!!! I wonder if BK will find a way to screw that up too? Especially, with his illustrious proven multidisciplinary QB development approach! Oooooooooooo I’m so excited! Another dynamic year of amazing championship development right before our very eyes!

    1. He should have gone before the 13 season began. Kelly didn’t prepare him for the field and when he needed him, he did not perform well. Bully for AH to take his game to another place where he can find out if he has the tools to be a regular player. RU would be a good place for him. I hope he sees success wherever he goes.

      1. Kudos Jim,

        Further, Zaire will leave next when Golson is named the starter. Most teams don’t have the luxury of an expendable 4 star door-matt/back-up QB. Only 3 stars like Rees stick around forever. But hey, there’s more to life than being a back-up QB! There’s girls on campus! It will be interesting to see how long he’s willing to ride the pine for our return to glory!

        Happy New Year Jim!

    2. JC,

      Are you freaking out because ND’s backup QB is a Redshirt Freshman? Is it because starting experience is required to succeed?

      Because it reads a lot like you’re implying that it’s impossible to have a competent backup with zero starting experience.

      Just as an aside, completely unrelated, would you mind telling me how many games the last 2 heisman trophy winners had going into the season in which they won the heisman? Just give me the combined total.

      Yeah, I think ND will be fine at QB.

  14. Great post, Frank. Six to watch! Their development and contributions
    would be welcome and significant. And if we can get even half the contributions
    from several new incoming Frosh that we did this season with this group,
    and further development from our “next men in” DLs, OLs and DBs,
    a 4 loss season should be a thing of the past, even though I should have learned
    by now to quit “shoulding” on ND football.

  15. How about the big TE, Smythe(?) ? I’m excited for him. Another big target with athleticism. Also excited about all of the OL prospects. And I think Rochell is key to have a big winter/spring/summer.

    1. I thought for sure Smythe would see the field as a big receiver. He (from vids from HS) looks as though he can’t be covered. He has very good hands and is deceptively fast. I do hope his HS game translates to the college game – if so, ND might have another Samardzija on hand.

  16. It’s not a done deal that, “at a minimum,” Bryant will pack a 1-2 punch with Folston next season. People have wrongly counted out Cam every year. Bryant may sooner or later become one of our top two running backs. As of now, those two are Folston and Cam. It is possible, if not likely, that, at a maximum, Bryant will still be fighting to break into the top two at the start of next season.

    Potential and $2.50 will get you a ride on the New York subway. Bryant wants to prove he can do it. Cam has already shown he can do it; and Cam shows it game after game. It took three years, but Cam has finally beaten out Atkinson. And last year he passed Carlisle and beat out Mahone. Don’t count any chickens for Bryant just yet, good as he may be.

    1. I like Cam, but if Bryant is not > than, that is a bummer. Sorry, I like Cam, but would he play for Oregon, Bama, Florida State or even USC?

      1. Why would you care if he can play at those schools? – but if you need an answer, that answer is yes. Yes he could and would play at those schools. The kid has good talent, he’s dependable and he certainly doesn’t deserve the put downs he receives from ND fans. All he’s done is gain more than 4.5 yds per carry. In the games where ND lost this year, Cam saw less than 10 carries per game. UM – one carry and so on.

        I don’t know where this type of comment comes from. When Cam gets the ball – ND wins.

      2. Yes, he is fast and hits the hole faster than anyone on the team.

        He does not go down easy and always falls forward. Also, good blocker and receiver.

        He would be a good receiver and blocker for a scrambling Golson.

        He will be the number 2 or 3 WQ next year.

    2. ND will need all three of those guys to perform well next year and i believe they will. I think GA111 will be the odd man out. He hasnt lived up to his billing and getting suspended before the bowl game gets you into BKs doghouse. Ask Cierre Wood about the Doghouse. On paper we have three really quality RBs. Something to look forward to in 2014

      1. Jeff,

        Excellent point on BK’s Doghouse! What’s your take on how that now applies to Golson! Yeaaaah, trick question! You ‘old’ worn out fastpitch softball player!

      2. JC

        HAHA Trick question indeed. BK is still in love with EG just like he was with GA111. GA111 is done. EG will get another shot and i believe he will thrive with the weapons he is surrounded with in 2014. If its true that he has bulked up to 212 lbs he should be a beast to deal with when he takes off and runs the ball. Zaire will get some playing time as well but i dont see him starting whether he earns it or not.

        BTW 84 at Pebble last Friday with 3 birdies from the blue tees. Not bad for someone who is old enough to play the senior tour.

      3. I agree with you on both points!

        Keep up the good swing! My swing is a fishing pole because I have to have a lot of balls to play golf! Too expensive for me play! Duck!! Hahaha!

    3. Atkinson is the only back ND has that has shown the ability to break the long run and not get caught. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think you have to have a guy like that in the mix.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button