Never Trust a Depth Chart: Thoughts on Notre Dame’s 1st Depth Chart

Notre Dame released its first dept chart of the season on Tuesday and we posted it earlier like we plan on doing each week there is a new depth chart (note, there will be a nice link in the navigation that links to an archive of them all very soon).   Here’s the thing though, never fully trust a depth chart because they generally don’t really mean much at the college level since there are no rules governing them like in the NFL.

In the NFL there are some rules that govern depth charts and injury reports and all that jazz that don’t apply on the college level.  Hell, Temple head coach Geoff Collins has said he doesn’t believe in depth charts.  Since there is no incentive to be totally forthcoming in a depth chart, there is always a bit of gamesmanship involved.  If you look close enough though, they do offer some clues and there were some interesting things in the one Notre Dame released on Tuesday.

Will both graduate transfers really start at wide receiver?

The biggest surprise of the depth chart was seeing both Freddy Canteen and Cameron Smith being listed as starters at wide receiver.  Sorry, but I just don’t buy this.  Reports out of camp were pretty good on Smith and were generally pretty positive on Canteen, but I have a very hard time believing they will be starting over the likes of Chase Claypool, Miles Boykin, or Javon McKinley.  Maybe Smith starts because of his familiarity with Chip Long and DelVaughn Alexander, but Canteen too?  Just don’t see it happening regardless of who is listed as the starter.

Where is Javon McKinley?

Speaking of McKinley, I have an equally hard time believing that he is not among the nine best receivers on the roster.  He was slowed by injuries last year, but the kid was an absolute beast out of high school a year ago in a tough league in California.  If he is really 4th at any receiver position, Notre Dame is either ridiculously stacked at receiver or something is up.

Kevin Stepherson is expectedly absent

Speaking of something up.  Sophomore wide receiver Kevin Stepherson is also absent from the three deep at any receiver position, but this one isn’t a surprise.  Stepherson hasn’t been getting reps all summer and there have been more than subtle rumors of a suspension even though Brian Kelly said last week he could neither confirm, nor deny that the speedy receiver was suspended.  If he is absent from the next few depth charts and then magically appears, he will have essentially confirmed the notion.

The kids are probably going to play on the defensive line

Notre Dame has a pair of freshmen listed as the backups at both interior defensive line position.  Kurt Hinish is listed as the backup to Jerry Tillery at NG and Lord Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (trademark pending on Lord Myron) is right behind Jonathan Bonner at DT.  Kelly downplayed how many snaps they would get on Tuesday but they are still listed ahead of juniors Brandon Tiassum and Micah Dew-Treadway.  Remember though, three years ago Pete Mokwuah got some praise from Kelly in camp and was on some depth charts early on.  As a senior he is not listed in the three deep.

Notre Dame might be kinda, sorta deep at defensive end

Again we have to take depth charts with a grain of salt but Ade Ogundeji not being listed on the three deep is a good thing for Notre Dame.  Some years they would have been dependent on a raw, developing player like him but this year they aren’t.  Andrew Trumbetti is listed as an OR “starter” at both the WDE and SDE so look for him to play on both ends of the line as we thought. The “OR” designation might be more of a reward for a senior who put in a lot of work though.  Look for Hayeses to still start.

Alize Mack isn’t really a backup

Durham Smythe is listed as the top tight end and Mack doesn’t have the same OR next to his name like Trumbetti does, but let’s be honest, Mack isn’t really a backup.  Mack is going to be a pretty big part of the Notre Dame passing game.  He is a matchup nightmare and while Smythe is a solid player, he doesn’t present those same matchup problems that Mack does.  Smythe might officially start and play more on running downs, but Mack will undoubtedly have more receptions and touchdowns than Smythe this year.

Is Avery Davis really behind Montgomery Vangorder?

Freshman Avery Davis isn’t listed as the third quarterback since the staff would obviously like to preserve a year of eligibility for Davis, but if push came to shove and one had to prepare one to start a game for the Irish, do you think Kelly is sending out Vangorder or Davis?  Hopefully it never gets to that – or even close to that.

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  1. So what did Canteen do to deserve his “reward?” I’d rather see Chris Finke’s name there. I hope all these BK depth chart mind games pay off.

  2. Hey Duranko –
    See Parseghian, Ara: Northwestern year 2 to year 3. Worked out pretty good for him. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it – wait – it was pretty broke in D, O, special teams, Strength & conditioning at ND- looks like a honest look in the mirror.

  3. Completely agree on comments about WR surprises. I just don’t buy that Smith and Canteen are options #2 and #3 with all the WR depth/talent Kelly & Co. have recruited.

    Boykin was the Spring Star and Claypool may be the most physically gifted WR on the roster in terms of combination of size/speed/athleticism.

    I agree about McKinley. This is an insanely talented player out of California. Between him and Justin Brent, if Kelly’s not careful he’s going to get a reputation for wrecking elite WR prospects.

    It’s a shame about Stepherson. I’m not sure ND has another guy on the roster that can stretch defenses quite like him.

    Yep, Mack is not a backup. This is just paying respect to Smythe.

    I’m extremely concerned that Dew-Treadway and Tiassum were not able to outplay a couple of true freshmen to claim the backup spots. Also, disappointed that Darnell Ewell turned out to not be ready for this level yet. Physically, we were given every reason to think he could be relied upon for meaningful minutes this season.
    I know Safety has gotten the most press about being the primary concern on defense, but for me it is Interior DL. If we lose a starter at Safety, the level will not appreciably drop when the backup comes in. If Bonner or Tillery goes down, then you’re like looking at having to move Jay Hayes inside because the true frosh cannot handle that volume of reps.

    I’m excited to see what the DE position really looks like. With Daelin and Jay playing to their potential this DL could be pretty darn good even with questions on the interior.

    I also agree on Davis. Hopefully, the depth chart at QB looks like this all year. It would mean Wimbush started every game, didn’t get injured and didn’t disappoint. And that Book also stayed healthy and ready to come in if needed for a few snaps or in garbage time.

    1. Optimism is a wonderful thing, but . . .
      “There are really two kinds of optimism. There’s the complacent, Pollyanna optimism that says, ‘Don’t worry – everything will be just fine,’ and that allows one to just lay back and do nothing about the problems around you. Then there’s what we call dynamic optimism. That’s an optimism based on action. ” Ramez Naam

      So when the ND staff and team give a reason for optimism, based on the action on the field,
      then optimism will be earned and forthcoming. Until then, it’s premature. Stay tuned.

      1. This is an interrogative question. Does any one ever remember any college football program which, while retaining its head coach, adjusted, RADICALLY, all five areas?

        ROLE of HEAD COACH
        Offensive Coordinator
        Defensive Coordinator
        Special Teams Coach
        Strength and Training Coach

        By the way, as the conjecture season is in twilight, I’ll venture one more. The biggest area of improvement, both statistically and by observation, will be Special Teams.

        And I’ll thrown in a second litmus test. Notre Dame will lose every game in which the opponent runs 75 or more offensive plays. Discuss among yourselves.

        It seems rare, even if not literally unique.

        The undiscussed undertone is that this is a very experienced football team. Steele’s experience rankings understate this, as he gives heavier weight to 5th year starters.

        But these guys have played a lot of football on both sides of the ball. It looks like 4 sophomore starters, Kraemer on offense, and Daelin Hayes, Love and Elliott on defense.

      2. Southside, I was okay with our archangel defining optimism. He’s sort of the board Socrates.

        But when he quoted Ramez Naam, that really through me off.

        But after all, I’m here to learn…….

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