The Notre Dame football team wrapped up fall camp over the weekend, with classes starting today for the student body. The media was allowed to observe four full practices, and we learned a lot from the reports of those in attendance, however it can be difficult to keep up with every update with the football team, the status of players, etc.
I run a weekly Stock Report following each game week and thought it’d be a good idea to run one with camp ending. A bit of a where does the team stand as preparations begin in earnest for the opening contest against Michigan.
Nick Coleman, Safety
Coleman has come up a lot in the last week or so with Brian Kelly and beat reporters following his performance in practices. It’s been a long journey for him: starting nickel in 2016 against Texas, relegated to the bench early that season, moved to safety in 2013 and start all 13 games, fall to third team in the spring of 2018, play his way back into the starting lineup during 2018 fall camp. What a ride for the senior from Ohio, who played mainly running back in high school.
Kevin Austin, Receiver
The true freshman receiver has exploded in the last week of camp and has worked his way into the receiver rotation, who will likely come in for either Chase Claypool and Mikes Boykin at times. His physicality lends itself to early time, and his explosiveness has helped him separate from defenders. I’ve been bullish on him since he signed, he was basically a five star talent in my mind, and if you think of him that way it’s no surprise he has been impressive in fall camp.
He’ll see the field a lot, hopefully the passing game is good enough for Austin to get a legit opportunity to showcase his talents. The sky is the limit for him.
Asmar Bilal, Rover
I’ve been down on Bilal pretty much all off-season, so to see him show up as a positive in the latter stages of camp has been a big plus. Remember, Bilal doesn’t have to be spectacular. The front seven has a number of high impact playmakers, having someone who knows their assignment, and makes the plays available to them, is very useful. I think of Bilal being able to put up a Danny Spond circa 2012 type of season. Spond wasn’t making plays all over the place, but he was dependable and did what the defense needed of him. It looks like Bilal is evolving into that type of player, solidifying the defense even more.
Jafar Armstrong, Running Back
Thank goodness for this, because Notre Dame is going to need a high quality version of him in the opener. Brian Kelly compared him favorably to former running back Theo Riddick, which would obviously be a huge boost to the offense with the all but certain unavailability of senior Dexter Williams in the early weeks.
We’ve only seen Armstrong run through really big holes going back to the spring game, and the Michigan front seven is an entirely different animal. But, Armstrong’s versatility would be useful with Williams available or not, and it’s hard not to get excited about what a player with his skillset can bring to the offense.
Chris Finke, Receiver
Dating back to 2016, Finke is constantly referenced as being unguardable in practice, and this season is no exception. He seems to be pretty firmly set as the third receiver, beating out Michael Young who dealt with some injuries throughout camp. He has developed a nice rapport with Wimbush out of the slot, and his senior quarterback seems to trust him. It certainly appears the former walk-on will have a pretty big role on the 2018 team.
Jalen Elliot, Safety
It was all right there in front of Elliott at safety heading into the fall, and it might be slipping away. He appears to have followed Nick Coleman’s spring trajectory, falling behind both Coleman and Houston Griffith on the depth chart, and it may be difficult for him to crack the rotation if everyone remains healthy. Haven’t given up on him as a player at all, but his hill just got a little bit steeper.
Tony Jones Jr., running back
It’s not that Jones Jr. was bad in camp or anything, but he was certainly unremarkable. It’s in stark contrast to the way reporters talked about him in the spring of 2017, when he flashed on big runs regularly, and it was close to the conventional wisdom that he was at times Notre Dame’s best back, and this was with Josh Adams on the team. Now there just isn’t a lot being said about the redshirt sophomore. There is a lot of consternation about the running back position this year, and it largely stems from the unknown of what Jones Jr. can deliver this season.
Michael Young, receiver
Not really a result of his own doing, he just incurred an injury that required him to miss some time. However, that allowed Finke to cement himself in the lineup and for Kevin Austin to emerge ahead of him. Still expect to see Young on the field a lot, even in week one, but he might not be featured as much as expected coming out of the spring. He’ll have plenty of opportunity to play his way into a more prominent role, however.