Notre Dame true freshman cornerback Julian Love was thrust into a prominent role this fall. The unheralded, 3-star recruit responded by being one of the few bright spots in leaky defense. On Tuesday his impressive rookie season was rewarded by being named a Freshman All-American by 247 Sports. Not bad for a recruit they ranked as just the 46th best corner in the country a year ago.
Julian Love wasn’t an early enrollee for Notre Dame, but it didn’t take him long to move up the Notre Dame depth chart upon arriving on campus this summer. It wasn’t far into fall camp before Love moved into the backup nickel position behind then starter Shaun Crawford. It wasn’t long before he saw game action either. Love was on the field against Texas in the season opener well before Crawford suffered his season ending injury.
When Crawford was lost for the season in week two, it was Love’s time to shine. Notre Dame was already without junior Nick Watkins (injury) and senior Devin Butler (injury/suspension). Love stepped right in and more than held his own.
Julian Love Is As Versatile As They Come
Love showed how versatile he could be throughout the season. When Cole Luke got moved inside into the nickel position at times, Love moved to the outside. He even started at safety against Army’s option attack. That’s three positions for a true frosh to learn in a defense that was once infamously described as harder to learn than Mandarin Chinese.
That’s a lot to ask of a true freshman. Love responded well though. By the end of the season, Love racked up 45 tackles, 2 TFL, and 3 pass deflections. In a defense that struggled to produce turnovers, Love did his part to remedy that problem with an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. As Greg Flammang wrote earlier this month, “He (Love) also hit a number of guys really hard in a way that didn’t make the refs want to eject him, which is a very useful quality these days.”
Props to Greg who also very accurately identified Love as one of the hidden gems in Notre Dame’s class of 2016 back in February months before Love ever stepped foot on campus.
Notre Dame’s Young Core Foundation
Love was one of several true freshmen to play prominent roles in the Notre Dame secondary this season. Devin Studstill, Donte Vaughn, and Troy Pride Jr all saw extensive action as well.
The experience Love, and his fellow frosh defensive backs, gained in 2016 should serve this defense well in the future. Next year’s unit will have a new leader as Notre Dame looks to replace Brian Vangorder. Whoever (and as of today it looks like that might be Mike Elko) that is will have a secondary full of experienced and talent youngster to compete with the upper class talent coming off of injury – Crawford and Watkins.