Report: Lombard, Collinsworth, Moore, and Utupo Expected Back for Notre Dame

Kendall Moore - Notre Dame ILB
Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Kendall Moore (8) stares down Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Chas Dodd (19) during the first half of the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankees Stadium. Notre Dame Fighting Irish won the game 29-16. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Matt Fortuna is reporting that Notre Dame is expecting back four seniors for 5th years in 2014 – Christian Lombard, Austin Collinsworth, Kendall Moore, and Justin Utupo.  At this point, however, nothing has been officially announced by the University.

The first two names on that list should really surprise no one.  Lombard started all 13 games in 2012 and then started the first seven games in 2013 before missing the rest of the season following back surgery.  Lombard spent the 2012 season at right tackle for Notre Dame but slid inside to right guard with the emergence of Ronnie Stanley at tackle in fall camp.  Look for Lombard to start at right guard again for the Irish in 2012.

Austin Collinsworth started 11 games for the 2013 Fighting Irish after missing the entire 2012 season due to injury.  In his first season back and during his first stint of extended playing time outside of special teams, Collinsworth led Notre Dame with three interceptions and placed 9th on the team with 43 tackles.  Collinsworth, son of NFL on NBC color commentator Chris Collinsworth, also had three pass breakups and three QB hurries this season.  Look for Collinsworth to challenge for a starting role in 2014 but be challenged in spring and fall camps by the younger safeties.

The other two names on this list would have been more than a surprise to Notre Dame fans had they heard them back in the summer – they probably would have been a shock – but both Kendall Moore and Justin Utupo saw more and more playing time down the stretch with the injuries Notre Dame faced during the 2013 season.

Kendall Moore became a more and more likely 5th year candidate as his playing time increased and the injuries at inside linebacker mounted for next year.  Neither Jarrett Grace or Doug Randolph will take part on contact drills this spring – a development that will impact Randolph more so since he has not played much inside linebacker – leaving Notre Dame with just Michael Deeb and now Moore at inside backer for the spring at this point.  Moore played well down the stretch as well though offering some hope that he will be able to challenge for a more prominent role in 2014.  Moore ended the 2013 season with 17 tackles and picked off his first career pass in the Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers.

Justin Utupo saw more playing time in the latter stages of 2013 as well as injuries piled up along the defensive line for Notre Dame.  Utupo had seven tackles with one for a loss on the season.

If all four players do indeed return for a 5th year – nothing is official until all four graduate and are approved for graduate studies by the University – that would leave Notre Dame with three more spots remaining for the 2014 recruiting class when factoring in the current commitments, early departures, and all four coming back.  There are still a lot of names left on the board – especially with the string of recent defensive line offers that have gone out – so it should be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few weeks.

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  1. Bringing all 4 back, based on need and space, makes sense.
    Are we even in the run for a stud D’
    HS line prospect and,
    after all is said and done,
    a stud HS prospect sometimes
    leaves soon or never quite arrives at all we hoped he could be.

    If Moore and Utopo, want back, welcome back.

    Collinsworth and Lombard are no-brainers,
    regardless of the depth and talent available at their positions.
    That’s the idea. To maintain that depth at every position!

    We’ve all seen them already contribute. Fifth year seniors do come of age,
    and make key plays. Moore’s INT in the PinStripe might just be a sign of things to come.
    (I’ll still always remember Joe Schmidt’s collision enforced hit on that late attempted $C pass
    as a season’s highlight moment- and from the former-walk on. Is Joe back?

    Any of the four mentioned are all capable of making those kinds of game saving plays,
    and it will become a 2014 season highlight memory moment when it does.

    1. Michael,

      I mentioned the possibility of a late-breaking stud D-line recruit, but I realize how unlikely it is.

      Still, there are new offers out there. If the Irish pick up Quick, McKenzie, and Alexander, and then Sawyers or Juju Smith or Marcus Griffin wants in, something’s gotta give.

      You don’t have to tell me that I have a rich fantasy life.

      1. May at least those fantasies of yours be realized! Van Gorder will impress if he can win over a needed stud D-line recruit in the time remaining. The rest of our recruiting needs are being met, if all holds true. I get gun-shy after the last couple of late defections the last couple of years.

  2. Moore is an interesting project. He was kind of caught in the logjam of the 2012 depth chart, and actually may have become distracted by
    being Nix’ straight man.

    But It’s go time now and Kelly has been working him since mid-November. I would bet that Longo and Brian Van Gorder are all over him starting immediately and he will be held to a high level of accountability. I still believe that he will be a placeholder, and even if he were to start against Rice, my conjecture is that he would be replaced by Deeb, Morgan or Randolph by mid October.

  3. A complicating issue is that Utopu would be around for Spring Practice. A stud he may not be but it’s tough to DCE a three deep at DL for the Spring, and these young studs Hiestand has lined up are going to want to hit somebody.

  4. The final count will depend on recruiting.

    Utupo’s fifth year might be sacrificed to a promising recruit. But we have only seen him in limited action. Coaches see him every day. If he is a playable backup, his fifth year will be justified.

    Collinsworth will contend for starter. Youth in the defensive backfield will require a veteran who can recognize offensive sets and coordinate coverages. Those were Zeke Motta’s most valuable assets and Collinsworth is comparable.

    But it is a numbers game. If a stud recruit at a position of need – like Sawyers – breaks late for the Irish, he will be hard to pass up.

  5. I’m not sure how many spots they have on their 85 man scholarship limit, so this may be a moot point.

    I see bringing Lombard back and maybe Moore (although I agree with Drew, he needs to lose some weight or try to get quicker). They shouldn’t be bringing back Collinsworth and Utopo. Collinsworth is the Tommy Rees of the safeties — gives you everything he has but lacks the athleticism. He’ll do well against lesser competition but get dominated by the better teams. There’s too much younger talent at safety to think you need Collinsworth to come back for a 5th year.

    As for Utopo, the only reason he got any playing time was due to all the injuries on the DL. He needs to step up his game to get to where Collinsworth is now. I understand the lack of depth they have at DL but, again, there’s too much younger talent at DL. I would rather have one of those kids lose a red-shirt year than have Utopo back.

    1. Nothing wrong with having an experienced safety on the team, even if you think he’ll get beaten out by younger talent. If you have roster space, and ND does. If Collinsworth is the Tommy Rees of safeties, then he might have value depending on what happens. And you never know. People get injured. People get suspended. People underperform. And Utopo — Given the DL situation, I certainly can see some value in keeping him.

  6. Moore needs to drop @ least 20 lb, he moves like a slug. Why haven’t they been after these other d tackles hard all along? I don’t understand kellys position thinking here?

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