Notre Dame Football Senior Week Stock Report

Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame enters senior week on a rare high after their 44-6 drubbing of Army in the Lone Star state last Saturday. It goes without saying that this has been a very difficult and unfortunate season for the 2016 class, yet some of the strongest performances have come from those playing in their final home games for the Irish next weekend. We’ll get to those guys in a minute. As a whole, last weekend represented one of the few times we were treated to a complete performance on all sides of the ball for this Notre Dame team: the offense controlled the game holding the ball for 10 more minutes, the defense held the nations 2nd ranked running offense to 90 yards below their season average, and CJ Sanders opened the game with a 92 yard kickoff return for a touchdown (play him on offense!!). It is probably no coincidence that such a performance came against one of the weakest teams on the schedule in terms of overall talent, but when the team is 4-6 fans have to take what they can get.

Freshman Julian Love continues to impress, this time playing free safety, with a tackle for loss and an interception at the goal line. Greer Martini was again excellent against the option teams with 20 tackles combined against the two service academies. Kevin Stepherson got into the end zone one more time en route to 5 catches for 75 yards to bring his total to 21 receptions, 410 yards and four scores. The thing these three players have in common is the three star distinctions levied upon them out of high school by the various recruiting services, while also being some of the earliest commits in their classes. There is a lot to be said about Notre Dame’s ability (or lack thereof) to close strong in recruiting. But, they’ve shown an ability to identify under the radar talent early, which has been a strength during the Kelly tenure.

Now for the senior week edition of the Notre Dame Stock Report

Trending Up

James Onwualu

Don’t look now, but it’s another former three star recruit, who committed early, that turned into a captain for the Notre Dame football team. He is without question playing the best football of his career and his performance has been lost in this season of futility as is often the case. He currently leads the team in tackles for loss with 9.5 and on pace to finish with 11.5, which would be the most in the Brian Kelly era among linebackers since Manti Te’o’s 13.5 in 2011. He’s on pace to finish with 74 tackles and two sacks and is also currently 2nd on the team in passes broken up with 5. I wrote in the preseason about senior bump candidates and he was on the top of that list and he certainly lived up to that prediction this season.

Perhaps most impressively, he has continued his stellar play even as the season took a turn for the worse.  I don’t think it’s any secret that Irish defenders don’t like playing the service academies and this is especially the case when you enter those contests with a 3-5 record. Onwualu responded to those circumstances with 21 combined tackles including a career high 13 against Army. That’s what leadership looks like. He deserves to carry his head high as he takes the field for the final time in Notre Dame stadium versus the Hokies.

Issac Rochell

This guy is a warrior who has played way too many snaps the last two years to the point where it has been a disservice to him as a player and his overall output. He’s also played out of position due to the lack of serviceable players along the defensive line which has also limited his overall effectiveness. For those reasons, we never really got to see how good Rochell could be at Notre Dame, but he has given everything he had to the school and the program in a way that most players aren’t even asked to give and for that only positive things should be said about Rochell and his contributions. Just from a leadership standpoint he has lived up to his billing. Similar to Onwualu, it would have been easy for Rochell to ease off the throttle. He has not.

Hold

Jarron Jones

He would have been a slam dunk trending up a couple of weeks ago after his virtuoso performance against Miami, single-handedly destroying the hopes and dreams of the Miami Hurricane offense. Then the service academies showed up and the 6-5, 315 pound nose tackle made it very well known that he was not about the cut blocking schemes of those programs. There are differing accounts as to whether he was strategically held out or if Jones more or less asked out. Either way, Jones is likely just fine with only playing a combined 29 snaps in the last two contests. Is that fair to someone like Isaac Rochell, who has played a lions share of the reps his entire career, probably to the detriment of himself? No, it isn’t. But, it’s also understandable given Jones’ previous lower leg injury history.

That all being said, aside from the game against Miami, Jones has only flashed episodes of dominance and the 6 tackle for loss game two weeks ago aside, he’s notched only 2.5 tackles for loss in all other contests. I have a feeling that if this was written two weeks from now the story would be different; I have a hunch we’ll see some strong performances from him in the next couple of games. For now, it’s a wait and see.

Cole Luke

There was some talk following the 2014 season that 2015 might be Cole Luke’s last season at Notre Dame. He was stellar as a sophomore with four interceptions, 48 tackles and 11 passes broken up. He also showed well against future first round pick Davante Parker out of Louisville and conventional wisdom was a similar junior year would propel him into the NFL draft. For whatever reason, we haven’t seen the level of play from Luke in the last two seasons, although he has trended back up in the last few games after a slow start to the season. Much like Jarron Jones, the next two weeks will tell the story for Luke’s season, as Virginia Tech and USC feature very strong passing games. Luke seems to have taken to playing out of the slot which will bode very well for him at the next level as he may not have the speed to play solely on the outside.

Torii Hunter Jr.

Injuries have really impacted what could have been a solid senior season for Hunter Jr. He is currently on pace for a 60 catch, 780 yard, 5 touchdown season had he played in all 12 games. In other words, Davaris Daniels in 2013. Such results would be completely acceptable given the performance of Equanimeous St. Brown, who projects for 60 catches 936 yards and 11 touchdowns (you guessed it, basically TJ Jones in 2013). However, knee and head injuries have kept him out of two contests and have limited him somewhat when he was playing. In some ways he has been disappointing–not all of which he can control–and in other ways he has lived up to what the Irish expected of him. Let’s not forget last season he finished with 28 catches for 363 yards in 13 games. He raised his game this year, without question.

Trending Down

Malik Zaire and Tarean Folston

Injuries and offensive philosophies derailed the careers from these two promising and talented players. You can imagine a world where Notre Dame was a ground and pound, play action passing team in 2016 with Zaire and Folston featured in the back field. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen throughout Kelly’s career, if he has the option to feature the pass over the run, then he will do just that. Folston has shown flashes this year, and of the two still has the best chance to rewrite his Notre Dame career in these final two games. He looked great last weekend with 84 yards and 13 carries which featured his patented inside running, something many fans hoped to see more of this season.

Zaire simply never had a chance this year after what we all saw against Texas. You could say he never had a chance once the offense evolved away from the style he was comfortable with after his ankle injury last season. An immensely confident player, he seemed to never recover from being demoted following week one against Texas. It’s too bad because he was clearly committed to the program, he could have transferred on a number of occasions, and frankly he deserved better. Wherever he ends up next season, I think everyone wishes him the best of luck.

 

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80 comments

  1. George 3 years ago

    Looks like 2012 never happened now:

    A former University of Notre Dame student athletic trainer violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when she committed academic misconduct for two football student-athletes and provided six other football student-athletes with impermissible academic extra benefits, a Division I Committee on Infractions panel announced Tuesday. One additional football student-athlete committed academic misconduct on his own.

    The panel prescribed one year of probation, a two-year show-cause order and disassociation for the former student trainer, and a $5,000 fine for the university. The NCAA also recommended Notre Dame vacate all wins in the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

    Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said on Tuesday that the university will appeal that ruling.

    “It’s never happened before in the history of the NCAA,” Kelly said on Tuesday. “A penalty has never been issued in this fashion before.”

    During two academic years, the former student trainer and two football student-athletes engaged in academic misconduct when the former student trainer completed coursework for the student-athletes, according to the report by the NCAA. These unnamed student-athletes, in addition to a third football student-athlete, also committed academic misconduct individually.

    The university determined the three student-athletes violated its academic integrity policies. The misconduct resulted in the student-athletes playing while ineligible — one student-athlete during the 2012-13 season and the other two student-athletes during the 2013-14 season.

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    1. SteelFanRob 3 years ago

      Can someone please explain how ND football can be so mediocre and nonetheless have so many off-the-field problems under BK?

      Perhaps Shaz and friends can tell us once again how great things are at ND and how the rest of us are over-reacting?!

      Thank God we didn’t win it all in 2012!

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      1. Shazamrock 3 years ago

        I could tell you, but first you have to ask nicely.

        Your grief over Hillary Clinton’s defeat is understandable.

        Maybe your Steelers will put a nice run together and make the playoffs.

        Best Wishes!

        Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

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      2. SteelFanRob 3 years ago

        Oh, Shaz, sorry, you perennial fount of misinformation, but I didn’t vote for the want-to-be “witch-in-chief.” Perhaps you did and are merely trying to deflect your guilt and shame unto others. Nice try, though, to try to distract us from your lack of ND football acumen.

        The Stillers are as poorly coached as ND. The only coach in America more useless (and gutless) than BK is Burgy’s paramour, Mike “Dumblin.” They may well make the POs, Shaz, since the AFC North is that bad. But who cares. At the end of the day, they, like the Irish, won’t be able to match up against a good team. Bad teams find ways to lose. Just ask BK!

        If it wasn’t for Vontaez Burfict of the Bengals last year spotting the Stillers 30 yards in penalties on their last drive, Mike “Dumblin” would be on the longest PO drought without a win in Pittsburgh since before Chaz Noll took over in 1969. Think about that for a moment. But, hey, at least Mike “Dumblin” has Burgy to smoke his stogie and swill his jism over the holidays. You know how much Burgy likes to brag about that!

        How’s your pie-in-the-sky sale for our lovable losers going, Shaz? This latest news about ND’s malfeasance must have the BK apologists lining up for their slice of the head-up-the-shit-hole pie you guys love to munch on.

        Just make sure you save some room for the apple and pumpkin pie!

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      3. Shazamrock 3 years ago

        “cry baby cry…
        finger in his pie
        Who stuck it in???
        I swear it wasn’t I “

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  2. Shazamrock 3 years ago

    Angry Mob Sale!!!

    50% Off – All Pitch Forks !
    Flaming Torches: Buy one get one free!
    Spiked Clubs. Sm. Med. Lg. (Mail in rebate)
    Assorted Battle Axes. (Free sharpening with every purchase!)

    “Nobody beats the Wiz”

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    1. SteelFanRob 3 years ago

      Yup, no worries at ND, folks.

      Everything is just great. Great coaching. Great team. No need to do anything with the football program.

      Pie-in-the-sky Sale for the Holiday Season!

      BK — 100% Off!

      McGlinchey False Starts — Buy one, get three free!

      ND Sp. Teams Play — Only small (no returns please, unless playing Army)!

      Losing record, no bowl game — Priceless!!!

      Don’t miss out on this yearly Pie-in-the-sky sale sponsored by our lovable losers!

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      1. George 3 years ago

        Hey now, 4 win seasons don’t grow on tress.

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      2. SteelFanRob 3 years ago

        Yup, George, you have to work really hard to be this bad! Let’s give BK credit for working his ass off to wreck the legacy of the ND football program. Heck, not even the fat man himself could do that!

        As bad as TW was as a football coach, at least he was a decent man. No surprise then that at least as the team sucked there were no off-the-field concerns.

        BK is a bum, plain and simple. Not only is he a mediocre coach, he’s a lousy administrator. Look at the number of incidents that have happened during his tenure at ND. And I’m not even counting the tragedies of Lizzy Seeberg and the young camera assistant who was killed during practice, perhaps as a result of ND negligence.

        But, George, if you stick your head up you ass far enough, like some here are prone to do over and over again, then perhaps you won’t see what’s really happening and make believe the shit smell coming out of S. Bend is simply from your own arse.

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      3. SteelFanRob 3 years ago

        BTW, George, I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying you have your head up your ass regarding ND football. On the contrary, you seem to be one of the few on here who isn’t delusional to either the “Shaz” pie-in-the-sky or the “bruce johnson/bj” bring back the “Four Horsemen” extremes.

        Happy Thanksgiving (in spite of ND football) to you and yours!

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      4. George 3 years ago

        Nope, I understand your message loud and clear. This season has been a horrific travesty, and this Saturday in LA will be the cherry on top. It will truly be a struggle to force myself to watch, but at least it will all be over soon.

        Only 17 point underdogs. Las Vegas loves ND for some reason. Won’t they ever learn?

        Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours as well!

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  3. George 3 years ago

    The Texas AD has guts. Too bad Jack doesn’t.

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    1. Ron Burgundy 3 years ago

      Indeed, gutty move.

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  4. pete 3 years ago

    Unfortunately Kelly will be back. Even if Notre Dame gets blown out by usc he will still be back imo. What he needs to do but probably won’t is bring in from the outside a really good dcoordinator and for the 1st time in 7 years bring in a great special teams coach. Also on the offensive side of the ball have Denbrock coach receivers only including tight ends, fire booker. Also Kelly needs to change the offense to a pro style I formation offense with spread concepts incorporated, like Florida State, Michigan and Michigan State run. Yesterday Michigan State in the red zone against Ohio State ran 18 plays, 15 were runs with the quarterback under center. Inside the 10 they ran lj scott 6 straight plays and scored. Contrast with Kelly. 2nd and goal in shotgun Adams gets stuffed on the half yard line. 3rd and goal Kizer in the shot gun fumbles the snap. How dumb is that.

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    1. Ron Burgundy 3 years ago

      You’ll have to ask Chris. After all, he was at the game.

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  5. C-Dog 3 years ago

    Another theme of Kelly’s coaching career has been great freshman and sophomore players who flame out or get hurt and seem to be abandoned by the coaching staff.
    Zaire and Folston are only the latest. Golson was another. Does anyone agree or have other examples.?

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  6. C-Dog 3 years ago

    The Irish Facebook fans said the team was flat and the crowd was flat. Kizer looks like he has had the hope sucked out of him. Kelly looks like he doesn’t care.

    Does anyone there care about the Lady on top of the Dome?

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    1. Ron Burgundy 3 years ago

      Depends, is she hot?

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      1. C-Dog 3 years ago

        Ron,
        Making fun of Mary the Mother of God? Obviously you are a troll and a fan of another team. But to go that far ??? You just outed yourself Ron.

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      2. SteelFanRob 3 years ago

        Takes real guts to slur the Blessed Virgin!

        But would else would you expect from a black man-lover like Burgy.

        Mike “Momlin” and you planning a wild boys night out tonight, Burgy?

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    2. George 3 years ago

      Of course the crowd was flat. There’s nothing to cheer about. Incessant booing would have been my guess.

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  7. George 3 years ago

    If ND is not going to be the type of team that makes national championships (or .500 records) a priority, then they should at least be the type of team that is very disciplined, smart, and fundamentally sound. Unfortunately it’s none of the above. All the false start penalties are a joke! Something needs to change. Fire HH or get new players. Special teams this year are even worse.
    I think McGlinchy just started falsely again (yes I know it’s Sunday). And BK has no answers. He thinks it’s all just bad luck. No offense in the second half? Stuff happens I guess. VTs defense must be lucky.

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  8. ChrisJ 3 years ago

    I was at the game. Man coverage all night by VTech and we didn’t exploit it. Guess Kelly has lost faith in Kizer and/or our receivers. In my opinion, we ha e the talent at qb and receiver to do it but no. We don’t take chances in one on one coverages. To me that is an instant mismatch for 95% of corners in college football trying to cover one on one, yet we don’t utilize it.

    Kizer not sneaking from 2nd and goal from the 1 three plays in a row is just straight retarded. Good one coach. If the offense cannot punch it in on 3 sneaks from the 1, nobody could ever blame Kelly for that.

    Lukes PI call was PERFECT defense. Worst call I’ve seen since Ohio state/Miami.

    And last thing, can we please teach our freakin receivers how to block? Two of our receivers blocking one VTech DB and we get a holding penalty haha! How pathetic is that!? It’s time to start coaching these kids up!

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  9. George 3 years ago

    Going 4-8 with NDs soft schedule is tough! That much losing takes a lot of effort. All those losses don’t just materialize on their own. BK must work many late nights discovering different methods of taking losing to new heights. But Jack is cool with it and the University obviously doesn’t give a flip. It’s just a silly game. Reputation and dignity is overrated.

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  10. jeff 3 years ago

    What did I miss today? Just got home from the golf course “plan b” and i get on the site and see that SFR and George have lit things up with multiple post. Usually means things didnt go well for ND.

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    1. SteelFanRob 3 years ago

      Yup, jeff, you’re the smart one alright. We should’ve all had a plan B for a while now.

      Since you missed it, ND gave up multiple double-digit leads. They got outscored 34 – 14 in the final three quarters. Real gutsy effort by BK and Co. yet again.

      As C-Dog says above, at ND reputation and dignity be damned!

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      1. SteelFanRob 3 years ago

        Sorry, George, I missed you were the one who posted about reputation and dignity. But C-Dog is also spot on as well.

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  11. C-Dog 3 years ago

    Hopefully Kelly stays long enough to work with Swarbrick to pull Notre Dame out of the ACC. Kizer takes two obvious shots that are targeting and none are even reviewed. The ACC has shown an obvious anti Notre Dame bias. So please just abandon the arrangement.

    After that I hope Kelly moves on. These kids deserve better. He didn’t look like he cared.

    Maybe he has already decided to leave for the NFL and it’s just one more game for him.

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    1. Bruce Gregory Curme 3 years ago

      As I said after the Texas game – we need to go back to independent referees and officials. If you thought I was kidding, I was not. You’ll just get more and more of the same if we continue to use conference refs.

      Bruce G. Curme
      La Crosse, Indiana

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  12. Ron Burgundy 3 years ago

    Thanks to the seniors and best of luck.
    Most of us understand it takes guts to play this game.

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    1. SteelFanRob 3 years ago

      Most of us who actually played the game know that it takes guts to play hard and play to win. To lose like pansies over and over again doesn’t take much guts, though. But I guess it takes a lot of guts to make excuses and jokes out of such gutless performances. But that’s Burgy for you, never at a loss for a gutless or inane commentary.

      Stay classy!

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    2. C-Dog 3 years ago

      Burgy,
      And this isn’t mean to be judgemental, but does your husband know you post on this site?

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      1. SteelFanRob 3 years ago

        No, C-Dog, Mike “Momlin” Tomlin is seeing his team implode this season like BK’s. So I don’t think Burgy’s husband Mike “Dumblin” knows he posting on here.

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