With freshmen reporting to campus and Notre Dame posting videos of its off-season training already, it’s easy to get excited about what instant impact freshmen might be roaming the Gug these days. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the same players who were in there shoes a year ago though who spent their first 12 months on campus out of the spotlight. Today we’re taking a look at six players who redshirted a year ago who could be primed to make an impact for Notre Dame this fall.
Shaun Crawford – CB
The headliner of our list, cornerback Shaun Crawford was set to make an instant impact as a freshman in 2015 before an ACL injury in fall camp cost him his rookie season. Almost a year removed from the injury, Crawford is back and ready to reclaim his position in the Irish defense. Prior to the injury Crawford was pretty much inked in as the top nickleback on the depth chart. With Keivarae Russell now in the Kansas City Chiefs defensive backfield, Crawford could be an every down starter for the Irish this fall.
Crawford’s size will be a concerned at just 5’9″, but by all accounts he plays much bigger than his frame suggests. It will be no surprise if Crawford starts opposite of Cole Luke in the base defensive package while still sliding over to nickel on pass downs to maximize his talents.
Jay Hayes – DE
Pushed into action because of injuries during his freshman season 2014, Hayes was a not so willing redshirt as a sophomore. The New York native took his frustrations to Twitter at times which didn’t do much to help his cause, but as he heads into his junior season reports have been the defensive end is more focused and hungry for action.
Hayes was playing weakside defensive end in the spring which was a bit of a surprise considering he had previously been projected to be an interior lineman, but given Notre Dame’s lack of numbers on the weakside, it could also be his ticket to substantial playing time this fall. Hayes has classmate Andrew Trumbetti ahead of him at WDE and after Trumbetti’s breakout performance in the Fiesta Bowl passing him could be a tall task. Hayes is a very talented lineman though and much like his fellow New Yorker on the defensive line, Jarron Jones, a resurgence as a redshirt sophomore could be in store for him this fall.
Tristen Hoge – OL
The competition at the center position turned out to be a little short lived with Sam Mustipher pretty much locking up the top spot at center on the depth chart heading into fall camp, but Idaho native Tristen Hoge could still be a vital member of the offensive line in 2016. Hoge could still challenge for playing time at right guard where a clear #1 did not emerge in the spring and if nothing else, he could serve as a jack of all traits interior lineman reserve for Harry Hiestand.
Corey Holmes – WR
The surprise of spring practice, Corey Holmes may have resurrected his Notre Dame career after it appeared he was headed for a career buried on the depth chart. Despite seeing the field very early on as a true frosh in 2014, Holmes redshirted a season ago for Notre Dame while true freshman Equanimeous St. Brown passed him on the depth chart. This spring, however, Holmes was one of Notre Dame’s best receivers and could be primed for a big a year.
With Notre Dame having to replace all three starting receivers from 2015, there is playing to be had all over the place in the Irish receiving corps. Holmes spent time this spring in the slot with CJ Sanders sidelined due to injury. Holmes also clocked in as the fastest Notre Dame receiver with a 4.39 time in the 40 and could see time on the outside as well – especially if Corey Robinson is unable to continue his career due to the concussion problems that have clouded his future.
Miles Boykin – WR
Another wide receiver to look out for, Miles Boykin could be the oversized receiver the Irish need to cure some of their red-zone woes. Notre Dame struggled at times in the red-zone – specifically in the loss to Stanford where the Irish converted just one of four trips to the redzone into a touchdown. Notre Dame lost that game by two points. This is where Boykin could come into play in 2016. At 6’3′, 225 lbs, Boykin is literally a big target who has the type of frame that can shield off defenders in the red-zone.
Just like Holmes, Boykin will have every opportunity to stake his claim for playing time this fall with three receiver spots up for grabs. If Notre Dame struggles in the red-zone again this year Boykin will almost assuredly get some looks even if he is not able to secure a starting position.
Micah Dew Treadway – DT
An early enrollee a year ago, Micah Dew Treadway spent his freshman season like many freshman defensive linemen – in the weight room and learning to adjust to the difference in size in the offensive linemen he has to face on this level. After a full year and a second spring practice, Dew Treadway could be ready for action this fall. He wont’ enter camp in the two deep most likely, but if the last two seasons have taught us anything, it’s that Notre Dame will use more defensive linemen than anyone thought they would. Dew-Treadway’s classmates Elijah Taylor and Brandon Tiassum could challenge for time as well.
There are some other red-shirts from 2015 that could make some noise this year too. I still think both Josh Barajas and Asmar Bilal have very bright futures, but the linebacking spots looks like they could be looked up and both might be relegated more to special teams duty in 2016. Bilal especially could excel in a special teams role though.