Speculating on Impending Notre Dame Personnel Changes

Dexter Williams - Notre Dame RB
Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports

Following Notre Dame’s loss to Duke this past weekend Brian Kelly made it very clear that personnel changes were coming to Notre Dame.  He backed that up with immediate staff changes on Sunday by firing Brian VanGorder and reiterating that personnel changes will be coming in the very near future.  While Kelly may give a glimpse of some of them tomorrow at his weekly presser, it’s likely that we won’t know any of them until kick-off on Saturday.

So let’s speculate on some players who might see more playing time, some who may see a reduced role, and some who may see time at new positions.

More carries for Dexter Williams.  The one player that Kelly singled out on Saturday for playing with passion and fire was running back Dexter Williams.  The sophomore running back had a tackle breaking run for a touchdown on Saturday that was one of the more impressive runs of the season.   On the season Williams has just 13 carries but he’s gained 83 yards on those carries and has found the end-zone twice already.

Fellow sophomore Josh Adams has looked off the past two weeks and senior Tarean Folston does not look like the same player from before his ACL injury last year.  Adams and Folston have combined for two touchdowns in a combined 84 carries.  Williams is a potential game breaker and needs to be on the field more.  After getting singled out by Kelly this one is a no-brainer.

Playing time for Jay Hayes.  Hayes was reportedly the odds on favorite to be the starting weakside defensive end prior to his high ankle sprain.  Kelly swears though that Hayes is not limited at all and has already said Hayes is one player Notre Dame needs to “activate” more.  Andrew Trumbetti has been nearly invisible so far this year despite a lot of snaps at WDE and Daelin Hayes has made an impact but is still a true freshman coming off injuries in high school.

Jay Hayes is not a stereotypical WDE, but at this point what does Notre Dame have to lose? Notre Dame has a single sack on the season as a team and Trumbetti has 6 tackles on the season and none for loss.


Reshuffling in the secondary.  Nick Coleman bounced back a little bit against Michigan State but mainly because the Spartans targeted Cole Luke.  Coleman had another rough outing as evidenced below.

Coleman also missed an easy tackle on the kick return touchdown that got Duke right back in the game after the Irish jumped to a quick 14 point lead.  Notre Dame doesn’t have many players left who haven’t played but it’s safe to say no redshirt is safe at this point.

Coleman isn’t alone in struggling at corner for Notre Dame.

Donte Vaughn is a tall, fast corner who got the first interception of his career and was at least in solid coverage on the occasions that he got beat on Saturday.  Julian Love has been one of the more sound tacklers on a really bad tackling team.  We haven’t seen sophomore Ashton White at all or freshman Tony Pride Jr much so far but that could change.  Pride was the highest rate of all the corners who signed in February.  Perhaps we’ll see more of him.

At safety, Avery Sebastian was back on the field after his rough Texas outing and looked pretty OK in the second against Duke.  Drue Tranquill has had a really rough start to his junior campaign so it would not be shocking if Sebastian was in the starting lineup Saturday.

More playing time for Chase Claypool and Kevin Stepherson.  Both freshman have made plays when given the chance.  Stepherson showed that the Will Fuller comparisons are not completely off base by getting behind the Duke defense for a long score on Saturday.  No other Notre Dame wide receiver has shown that ability and Kelly said after the loss they need to find more plays for Stepherson.

Claypool made some plays against Michigan State including just missing a desperation Hail Mary at the end of the first half that could have changed the entire game.  Claypool is raw but in limited action he’s looked like a physical specimen.  Maybe Claypool gets more looks as a flex tight end similar to what the staff had envisioned for Alize Jones.

Getting Asmar Bilal on the field.  Notre Dame’s linebacker play hasn’t been steady.  Nyles Morgan is racking up tackles, but he isn’t making too many negative plays other than picking up Notre Dame’s only sack of the season.  Morgan is also taking himself out of too many plays at times by running right into blocks instead of trying to shed them.

James Onwualu played great against Nevada but has been uneven since.  The one play that is still ingrained in my memory from Saturday’s debacle was Onwualu getting completely run over by Duke quarterback Daniel Jones.

Kelly hinted that some position changes could be coming and linebacker was one area that immediately came to mind.  Greer Martini has played WILL primarily this year but could he get a look at SAM? Sophomore Asmar Bilal is one of the more athletic players on the roster and could see more playing time as well.

Changes on the offensive line?  Pro Football Focus rated Notre Dame’s offensive line as the best in all of college football in the pre-season, but they have been below average this year.  Even the left side of the line where Notre Dame’s only two returning starters – Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson – are playing has been a weak spot.

Could Notre Dame reshuffle it’s offensive line?  Alex Bars was once described as one of the best offensive linemen Brian Kelly had ever seen as a freshman.  Could Kelly moved McGlinchey back to right tackle where he excelled a year ago and shift Alex Bars to left tackle?  Could Notre Dame insert Tommy Kraemer into the starting lineup to inject some youth?


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  1. bruce johnson 3 years ago

    It’s seems the administration is incapable of hiring a stellar athletic director. Wadsworth forced out Lou.
    White hired the three most incompetents coaches in our history. And swarbrick drove the last nails in
    thedestruction of our once sacred program. I think they need a committee of outside advisors to help
    Pick one. And advise on s stellar fotbAl program

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  2. M. Allen 3 years ago

    BK out!, really. Lets not forget what this program was before he got here. Last year he missed the play-offs by one game (w/ the 2nd string QB), which could be blamed on the defense. I would say his rep as a qb coach and offenive guy is well-deserved. The Offense is doing what it should, I personally believe if the “O” puts up 30+ points and lose the defense is at fault. Also, the first three games they played (#11)Texas, which they almost won (defense again), Nevada, and (#17)Michigan State, Duke(defense again), was not a cake walk. Lets take Michigan for example, they played Hawaii, UCF, Colorado, and Penn State (all unranked). Most of those top teams don’t play the schedule that ND plays. This team is also very young. Firing BVG should’ve happened last year.
    I think they will turn things around. Fans just need to “relax”, although I was really ticked about losing to Duke (woo-shaaa).

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  3. Bruce G. Curme 3 years ago

    SORRY AGAIN: That would be put in Larry Conjar’s capable hands (spelling unsure) but I’m pretty sure Wolski would do it too!

    Wow – I’m getting old.
    Bruce Curme

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  4. Bruce G. Curme 3 years ago

    I meant to write “diveback/fullback” just above – NOT “tailback/fullback”…in my opinion, the cupboard is fairly well stocked with quality tailbacks.

    My bad.
    Bruce Curme

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  5. Bruce Gregory Curme 3 years ago

    Everyone, including BK, seems to want a power running game. So do I, of course. But can it be done with our personnel in a one back offense with 4 wide outs, or three wide outs and one TE?
    I really don’t know. I’ll “fess up” – I don’t know what you are talking about when you say “a Pro Hybrid Spread O” and stuff like that. Obviously, a lot of you think you can have smashmouth power running with a single back O. Perhaps – I never actually played this game beyond grade school so sometimes I know that I don’t really know what’s going on in modern football with these one back (or no back) spread O’s. So I’d like to hear about it from some of you.
    I do know this 1. The option can be run with just one back and a good ball handling running quarterback, but it’s not a triple option, and can never be your primary weapon
    2. I know this too – you can definitely have a power running game with TWO backs – and you have your choice of a half dozen completely different ways to do it, and you can still pass well (you still can have 2 or 3 wideouts) and you can flare one back on any play you want to, or send one on a brief delay right through the line into the area vacated by the LB’s, still giving you four receivers in space. And you still have your FB to pass block. Now you probably wouldn’t want your “FB” to actually line up where an old school FB would have on most plays, but having that second back in there, I think, causes way more problems for a “D” than a fourth wideout would, at least if he’s a quality FB like Bettis obviously, or Anthony Johnson, or Wayne Bullock. Hell, even Wolski would do those workhorse tasks with a smile on his face if you asked him to do it. (Apologies to about 15 other guys I didn’t mention who toiled at ND in anonymity doing those jobs for decades).

    So could somebody please answer this question:
    Do we even have a bona-fide tailback/fullback type guy on scholarship at all?
    and 2. Am I just “behind the times” and don’t get “power running football” with the spread O and a single back? Can you have it both ways?

    Bruce G. Curme 77′ 82′

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  6. david 3 years ago

    Patrick, you get early Laugh of the Day.

    “Am I 100% satisfied? Absolutely not.”

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  7. david 3 years ago

    Facts: When Kelly arrived at ND, all the expectations were focused on his ability to develop QBs, and that was an offensive genius with his own version of a west coast, no huddle offense that would run opponents off the field.

    Well, that never happened. ND is slow and confused, they can’t even get their OWN personnel on and off the filed without burning TOs. And Kelly’s track record at ND with improving the play of his QBs is unimpressive.

    The last 3 years, his mantra switched to “red zone efficiency”. And how has that gone?

    So this latest issue…a sieve of a defense….is just another problem laid on top of all the other, unresolved problems.

    Personnel is not the issue. Coaching is. Starting at the top.

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  8. Damian 3 years ago


    I do agree about the defense. You’re right that because of ND’s schedule and relative independence, we face all kinds of offensive schemes. ND needs to make sure it has great coaches on the defensive side of the ball.

    Also agree about Miles, but more so because he is not coming to ND for the same reasons Saban and Meyer aren’t. Shaw has proven you can win with high academic standards and discipline at Stanford, but guys like Miles just don’t want to deal with it when they can get a much higher paying gig and be able to run the program as they see fit.

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  9. Patrick 3 years ago

    I’m not jumping off the Kelly bandwagon yet. Am I 100% satisfied? Absolutely not. There are glaring issues in the program. Namely, depth. ND had a lot of NFL talent last year and that was evident in the draft. Could it be replaced? Nope. That doesn’t happen at Alabama, Ohio State and others. The next man is is typically a 1st or 2nd round player – immediately. Not at Notre Dame. Talent isn’t the issue at Notre Dame.

    To me, just as a die-hard for over 20 years, it is motivation, aggression, tenacity and focus. This is most evident on defense. I agree with many of you, BVG should have been gone after last year. But he wasn’t and the shambles are what remain. But what happens during the off-season determines the next 1-3 years at ND.

    I believe the offense can score points, change field position and keep ND in games. But the defense needs to be the strength of the program. With the variety of offenses ND plays (and who they will invariably face in a playoff scenario), the defense is what matters.

    I don’t think starting with Les Miles (whose teams have had their own issues) is the answer. To me it either comes down to Kelly hiring the best defensive coordinator he can next year, or ND opens up the war chest and goes after a coaching legend. Hands him the keys and lets him win a title.

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