5.) Josh Adams – Jr, RB
Highest Ranking: 3; Lowest Ranking: 6
Even before he was named a captain over the weekend, Josh Adams was showing signs of leadership through the off-season. One of the best Watch ND videos from the spring featured Adams taking ownership of the running backs group.
I came in the highest on Josh Adams which shouldn’t come as a surprise because I think Adams is the best running back Notre Dame has had in a long, long time. Some fans got on him last year but it was very clear that he wasn’t 100% early on in the season. Once he started to get healthy, we saw Adams busting the long runs that he’s been known for from day one of his freshman season.
Among the highest trending players on the team, it’s hard to temper the predictions for what Adams can do this season. Brian Kelly and Chip Long have been hinting for months Notre Dame wants to run the ball, and Adams is their best of three good backs. Oh, and he was just named captain. He’s going to blow big.
Chip Long loves to run the football and Adams is easily the best back on the team. If Adams stays healthy this year, he should top 1,200 yards and score 10 touchdowns. He’ll also get within striking distance of Autry Denson’s all-time rushing record for next year although a 1,200 yard, 10 TD season could have Adams getting ready for the NFL Draft next April.
4.) Brandon Wimbush – Jr, QB
Highest Ranking: 3; Lowest Ranking: 5
I had a hard time ranking Wimbush too high simply because we haven’t seen much of him so ranking him overly high was a little too much like projecting where I hoped Wimbush would be to me. Matt had no such hesitation though ranking Wimbush 3rd overall.
While it may shock some to have a player up this high who’s never started a game at the college level if you have followed Wimbush’s practice reports and the favorable returns from his teammates it appears Wimbush is a player who could put up Brady Quinn upperclassmen like numbers in Chip Long’s offense.
Well now, those are some loft expectations. Brady Quinn like numbers this year seems out of reach to me. Now, slightly better Deshone Kizer 2015 style numbers would be a more reasonable expectation to me – especially since the indications are that Notre Dame will be running the ball more this year.
Greg was a little more guarded in his projection for Wimbush as well.
He’s playing in an offense that is catered to his skill set, and it’s unequivocally his team. He’s got dynamic backs, a great line, and a slew of receivers. It’s all there for the former top 50 recruit.
3.) Nyles Morgan – Sr, LB
Highest Ranking: 3, Lowest Ranking: 4
In retrospect, I wish I had swapped Morgan and Adams because the more I think about it, the more I think Morgan is going to have a ridiculous senior season. He might not have a Manti Te’o level ridiculous senior season, but he is going to have a crazy season. MIKE linebackers have put up gaudy stats in Mike Elko’s defenses and Elko hasn’t had a LB with Morgan’s skillset to work with before.
Greg has some similar expectations and had Morgan 3rd like I probably should have as well.
He could have a special season. He’s in phenomenal shape, he’s taking his captain role seriously, and we’ve all heard about what Mike Elko did with his middle linebacker and Wake Forest last season. Let the big dog eat.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone this year if Morgan ends the season with 120+ tackles with 7 or 8 sacks and a bunch of turnovers. If he does that, Notre Dame could have another Butkus Award winner on its hands.
2.) Mike McGlinchey- 5th, OT
Highest Ranking: 1; Lowest Ranking: 2
Ok so this countdown was going to come down to two players. The only question was who was 1st and who was 2nd. Matt and Greg went with Quenton Nelson at #1, I went with McGlinchey. As such, McGlinchey comes in at number two since I got outvoted. You really can’t go wrong with either All-American here but the reason I went with McGlinchey is because I think he is going to have a huge bounce back season. The move from RT to LT and the struggles of the team in general got to McGlinchey last year I think. Now in his second season as the LT, I think we’re going to see a kid who will not only be a 1st round pick in the NFL Draft, but a high 1st round pick.
Matt expects a bounce back for McGlinchey too.
Shocked a lot of people coming back for his 5th season, McGlinchey is looking to rebound from a disappointing season which earned him the nickname “McFlinchey.” Make no mistake Big Mike will be protecting Brandon Wimbush’s blindside and will be counted on to deliver his NFL 1st round potential capabilities in 2017.
As does Greg.
He’s back with something to prove and I think he will. He’s stronger, the offense is likely to feature his strengths, and this is his last stand. Notre Dame better be a force on the ground this year.
Common theme here is that everyone realizes McGlinchey underperformed in 2016 and no one expects that to happen again.
1.) Quenton Nelson – Sr, OG
Highest Ranking: 1; Lowest Ranking: 2
And that brings us to the top spot in our rankings. Like McGlinchey, Nelson could have left for the NFL but he came back. He might not have been a 1st rounder like McGlinchey would have been last year, but he will be next April. Nelson has been ascending for the last two years and that ascent appears to be continuing this summer.
Here’s what Greg had to say.
The single best player on the team this year. McGlinchey plays the glamour offensive line spot, but Nelson might be more important to the team’s success this year. Expect an All-American season from the senior guard.
Matt doesn’t think that Nelson is just the best player on the Notre Dame roster, but thinks that Nelson might just be the best player at his position in the country.
The 5-star recruit has lived up to his lofty prep rankings and has been the most consistent, dominating force on coach Harry Hiestand’s line. Probably pound for pound the best guard in the nation.
If Nelson and McGlinchey are indeed the best two players on the Irish roster at the end of the year, the Notre Dame offense won’t skip a beat with a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator. The pair were just named All-Americans earlier this week and they should both hear their names called on the first night of the NFL Draft next spring.