With less than two weeks to go until the 2017 season kicks off for Notre Dame, Brian Kelly was asked on Sunday about which freshmen were still on the bubble about playing this fall. In response, Kelly rattled off the names of six freshmen who he has decided the Notre Dame staff will likely play.
“Jordan (Genmark-Heath) is off the bubble in a sense that I’ve made a decision right now that we are moving towards playing him,” Kelly said after the initial question was specific to Genmark-Heath. Kelly would add, “Myron (Tagovailoa-Amosa) is off the bubble. I’ve made a decision towards playing him. Kurt Hinish is off the bubble. Cole Kmet off the bubble. I’ve made a decision to play him. Michael Young is off the bubble. I’ve made a decision to play him.”
“Those would be guys that maybe would have been on the bubble, but we’re clearly playing those guys,” Kelly added. When asked specifically of Brock Wright who Kelly did not initially mention by name, Kelly said, “We’re playing Brock.”
None of these names should be too surprising. Kelly mentioned them all two weeks ago after the first week of fall camp after the team returned from Camp Culver. At the time, Kelly also mentioned Jafar Armstrong at the time. While he wasn’t mentioned by name, Armstrong was still impressive on Sunday in the open practice Notre Dame dubbed the “New & Gold” game.
So with those six frosh scheduled to play, what kind of role could each serve for the 2017 Fighting Irish.
Jordan Genmark-Heath: Special Teams Ace?
Jordan Genmark-Heath seems like he could be a real weapon on special teams and could get into the mix at safety – especially if Alohi Gilman is not ruled eligible for this fall. The safety position still as more questions than answers so it could be all hands on deck in the fall. With Kelly’s definitive statement on Genmark-Heath though, it appears as though a special teams role at least is in the cards.
Lord Myron & Hinish Needed at DT
At defensive tackle, the roles for Lord Myron and Hurt Hinish seem pretty obvious – provide any and all reps possible given Notre Dame’s thin depth along the interior of the line. Predictably, Elijah Taylor is still not back at practice and it doesn’t look like he will be back in any time soon. At this point, this is feeling a lot like Nick Watkins last year and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ultimately ends up redshirting.
Many will wonder why Kurt Hinish and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa are off the bubble while fellow frosh Darnell Ewell – the much more highly rated recruit – is not. At this point both are said to be further advanced in terms of technique and in physical development than Ewell. A year learning under Mike Elston and a year working with Matt Balis might be in the cards for Ewell. Kelly was clear two weeks ago though that it was only a matter of when, not if for Ewell.
Both Tight Ends Will Play
Chip Long loves to utilize the tight end position so it shouldn’t be too surprising that both Cole Kmet and Brock Wright are slatted to play as true freshmen – especially Wright who enrolled early. It will be very interesting to see if Kmet and Wright are ahead of senior Nic Weishar. To this point in his career, Weishar has not made his presence felt and he had plenty of opportunity the last two seasons with the injury to Durham Smythe in 2015 and the suspension of Alize Mack last year.
Return Man or Receiver in 2017 for Michael Young?
Wide receiver Michael Young could see the field as either a receiver or as a return man. Young is a dynamic athlete who has been impressive in camp. CJ Sanders has been an electric kick returner the last two seasons and Chris Finke looks like he could be a really good punt return man. That could mean a role in the offense is what Kelly has in mind. He’s mention the last few weeks that right now it’s Equanimeous St. Brown and then everyone else, so playing time at receiver could be there.
While not mentioned by name by Kelly on Sunday. It wouldn’t be shocking if Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah or Isaiah Robertson played this fall either. Owusu-Koramoah could be a special teams maven and Robertson could help at safety if the Irish don’t find the answers they are looking for at camp or early on this season.