Notre Dame has named its captains for the 2016 season and none of them are any surprise. A quartet of seniors – linebacker James Onwualu, defensive end Isaac Rochell, offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, and wide receiver Torii Hunter – were named captains by Brian Kelly on Wednesday following practice with each addressing the team (video above).
The four named by Kelly all make a lot of sense. All four players are seniors and the elder statesmen in position groups that lost a lot of leadership. Notre Dame lost three starters on the offensive line, its top four wide receivers, two starting linebackers including an all-time great, and half of its defensive line including the ultimate captain Sheldon Day from the 2015 squad.
- Mike McGlinchey – Notre Dame’s starting left tackle stepped into a starting role last year as a right tackle. He is moving over to the left side to replace 2015 captain Ronnie Stanley and is the leader of a group that will feature three new starters – Sam Mustipher, Alex Bars, and either Tristen Hoge or Colin McGovern.
- Torii Hunter Jr – The wide receiver is the only returning receiver with any sort of experience. Hunter will be asked to lead Notre Dame’s young, but talented wide receivers.
- James Onwualu – This one was probably the least surprising as Onwualu will be entering his third season as a starter for the Irish at SAM. Notre Dame lost Joe Schmidt and Jaylon Smith from the 2015 team and Onwualu will now be tasked with leading another talented, but young group. In the wake of last weekend’s arrests which included sophomore linebacker Tevon Coney, Onwualu’s role in team leadership will be tested early.
- Isaac Rochell – Another player entering his third year as a starter for Notre Dame, Rochell will step out of Sheldon Day’s shadow on the defensive line and could be in store for a huge senior year after Brian Kelly revealed the Georgia native had not been completely 100% the last few seasons.
Some seasons the captains are not as important as others. In the wake of last weekends arrests and all of the leadership that was lost from 2015, this is one of those seasons where captains are vitally important. Notre Dame has not gotten off to a good start this season with the off the field issues rearing their ugly heads again this summer. The four captains for 2016 will need to be visible and vocal for Notre Dame throughout the season.
A strong case could have been made for Malik Zaire to be a captain, but the dual quarterbacking system Brian Kelly plans on using – at least against Texas – could have played a role in Zaire not being named a captain. Zaire is a natural leader that the team appears to rally behind and gravitate to. Even with a “C” on his jersey though, the senior quarterback can be a leader for this team.
One position group that will need leadership that is not represented in the group of captains is the secondary. Following the dismissal of Max Redfield earlier this week, Notre Dame is even younger and less experienced than they were already. And Notre Dame was pretty young and inexperienced there to begin with. Senior Cole Luke and junior Drue Tranquill will still be called upon to lead a secondary full of freshmen.