Welcome back everyone!
If you were one of those die hards that hung in there through the disaster that was 2016, you know how this column works. Each week I take an account of the Fighting Irish football team from a stock market perspective. Who, or what, am I buying? Who am I selling? What are the trends?
It’s a different and fun way to go through the season (who needs traditional game recaps anymore?) and people enjoyed it enough last year that we decided to bring it back.
As we head into the first game week of 2017, I’ll take stock in the pre-season, what the climate of the Notre Dame football team is, plus some updates from Brian Kelly.
Let’s get into it.
- Nyles Morgan – He’s ready to shine and I’m all in on his senior season being spectacular. He’s been telling the same story on social media for 8 months now; he’s ready to make amends for what happened in 2016 and I believe there will be a reckoning. Watching him over the course of the year will be a joy.
- Equanimeous St. Brown– I’m a believer in St. Brown being one of the top receivers in the nation. And thank goodness for that, because the rest of the receiving core is as settled as travel plans with two young children. In other words, it’s all in play. Recent history shows a significant uptick in production for the season after the “hello world” season at receiver for Brian Kelly’s Irish. St. Brown has the pedigree, the work ethic, and the proper role to shine and I believe he will.
- Drue Tranquill – Yep, it’s going to happen. We view Tranquill as a disappointment, but he’s been playing out of position his entire career. Of course, he has struggled. He was just athletic enough to get by as a safety and that’s what they made him do for three seasons, and it hurt him and the team. Now, he’s in his element, ready to attack, and attack he will.
- Brandon Wimbush – I think he’s the goods everybody. He’s a leader, he’s got the physical tools, and he’s got the weapons around him. And he’s got the benefit of an offense that no one has seen him run. Think of how that helped Brady Quinn in 2005. I believe it will impact Wimbush in a similar way.
- The Defensive Tackles- I’m sorry, I just can’t get there. And this isn’t about the individual players. I think Jerry Tillery and Jonathan Bonner will be fine. And there will be games where they look really good. But, playing defensive tackle at high level against the type of teams Notre Dame plays week to week is really hard. And it’s a tough ask for a guy like Bonner, who has never played significant minutes in his career. In addition, they are backed up by freshman, who again, I think will end up being good players for Notre Dame, but teams like Georgia, USC, and Stanford eat inexperience like this alive. This is the only part of this team I’m selling, but it’s a huge, huge part.
- Tony Jones Jr.– The hype has grown and grown on Jones Jr. throughout the preseason and he appears to be a key part of the Notre Dame backfield that features some legit talent. He’s been spotted several times throughout camp in a two man backfield with Josh Adams, and I’ve been pounding the table about his skills as a pass catcher for months.
- Grad Transfer Wide Receivers- Notre Dame released their week 1 depth chart with transfers Freddy Canteen and Cam Smith listed as starters at wide receiver. First of all, good on them for showing up to a loaded position and winning some jobs. At least earning time on the field. Most expected Cam Smith to play a role, but more skeptical of Canteen. As it is, they have to be happy with the decisions they made.
- Defensive Ends- Suddenly, the Fighting Irish defense boasts a plethora of options at defensive end. While only two, Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara, possess the ever elusive “speed rusher” skill set, Notre Dame has six guys who are viable options in a competitive game situation. This is not a small thing, I have concerns about the defensive tackles, but it would be a lot worse if defensive end was also a big question mark.
- Recruited Wide Receivers- On the flip side of the grad transfer trend is a slew of scholarship players who have been on campus for a lot longer than a few months who got beaten out for jobs. In addition, former walk-on Chris Finke is listed as the co-starter in the slot with Canteen, with CJ Sanders moved out of there entirely. Miles Boykin, Chase Claypool, CJ Sanders, and Javon McKinley all saw themselves beneath the top of the depth chart. To be clear, I expect all of those players to see the field but, what’s going on there fellas?
- Kevin Stepherson– He gets his own bullet point, because he’s his own little situation. Seems to be he’s probably suspended, likely around four games, and who knows after that. Ironically, the suspension is actually good news; at least there is an explanation and a time frame for his return to the team as viable option to play. Baby steps!