4 Controversial Notre Dame Football Pre-Spring Thoughts

Signing day is over, the class of 2018 is officially complete, and next month spring football begins in earnest. Naturally, there is a lot to discuss, most notably quarterback, with a lot of strong opinions on all sides of the topics.

I wanted to touch on some of the hot topics prior to spring ball, with a lot of opinions many will find unfavorable. Let’s just dive right in.

Go Live With All The Quarterbacks

No red jerseys this spring. For what seems like the 8th time in Brian Kelly’s nine seasons, there will be a quarterback competition in the spring that will probably extend into the fall. It’s just the nature of how these things go, especially under Kelly. The latest version, in 2016, was totally botched and left Notre Dame platooning quarterbacks in the first week. That can’t happen again.

Notre Dame will have four quarterbacks on scholarship when the season kicks off, three in the spring, and top 100 prospect Phil Jurkovec arriving in the summer. They don’t need to approach the spring as if they are protecting something or someone. We’ve seen many instances, at Notre Dame and elsewhere, where a team loses their top signal caller and the team carries on without missing a beat. Kelly and co. shouldn’t be afraid to compete for wins with any of these guys, so holding back on offense to protect one or two players will be a disservice to the competition and the team as a whole.

This isn’t a call to run Wimbush or Book into the ground, but if they are to really compete, then let them compete as hard as they can, as much as they can. That goes for Avery Davis as well, who also needs to know how he’ll perform against a live defense. Kelly might like what he has at quarterback, but he also needs to be aware that his program is still building toward something. Protecting his signal callers won’t move the team forward. Making them as live as everyone else sets the tone for the entire team.

Keep Drue Tranquill At Rover And Coney At Buck

This is a flip from how I felt a month ago on this topic. Notre Dame has a lot of Rover candidates and Tranquill seemed like a fit at the Buck next to Coney, who would move to the Mike. Get the best 11 on the field, and all that. But, Tranquill finally found a position that suits him at Rover, and he was excellent last season. Is it possible he is 10% less effective inside? Remember, he is replacing the production of Coney, who was phenomenal at Buck last season. Is it possible his replacement at Rover is 10% worse than Tranquill? Would that probably be likely?

It seems the easier task to find someone to replace the production of Nyles Morgan in the middle, while playing next to Coney and Tranquill, than Tranquill replicating Coney, and another player replicating Tranquill. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to have your two best defenders return, and then have them play different positions. There is a good chance every player gets a little bit worse, with the entire defense taking a hit as a result.

Kelly sold the move of Tranquill as an effort to have him on the field for all three downs, and with an eye on the NFL. But, Tranquill already was on the field on third down, and I would think it more likely that Tranquill is a hybrid type player in the NFL anyway. He’s currently playing a position perfectly suited for him.

Does this mean Jeremiah Owusu-Karamoah and Shayne Simon have to wait their turn? It probably does. But, I don’t think moving Tranquill just to get those guys on the field makes the defense better overall. Why find something that works just to shuffle it around?

Move Jay Hayes Inside

This move should have been made last season, but it’s time for this to happen. He broke down at the end of last season, his production really fell off, and he was consistently outplayed by Khalid Kareem. Kareem is likely poised to take a lot of his snaps, and he wasn’t very dynamic in the passing game as it was. He only notched one sack and four quarterback hurries last season. Where ever his future is, it isn’t at defensive end.

Move him to the three technique behind Tillery, then move Tillery over on third down with Hayes next to him. Hayes is more athletic than Jonathan Bonner, who is best against the run, and it allows him to show some tape at the position he’ll play at the next level. Yes, he’d be a backup, but he’s likely to be a backup anyway. Might as well put him where he’ll eventually end up.

Move Julian Love To Safety

The logic here is a bit of a contradiction to my thoughts at linebacker, but that’s the way it goes.

Everyone knows the safety play was poor last year, and while Notre Dame has plenty of options with Alohi Gilman and Derrik Allen entering the equation, and Jordan Genmark Heath coming on, the addition of Love to the position would ensure Notre Dame has at least one good player at the position who we know is a play maker. Another season of uncertainty, when there is an option to solidify at least one spot, would be unacceptable.

Also, Notre Dame has three options without Love at corner in Nick Watkins, Troy Pride, and Shaun Crawford, all of whom have started games, played big minutes, and made plays in big moments. We know they can play. We also know Love can handle the move; he’s already started games at safety, he’s played nickel, and both corner spots. The guy knows how to play football, no matter where he is put. A starting secondary against Michigan of Pride, Watkins, Love, and the best of Gilman, Coleman, or Allen would suit me just fine.

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    1. I hear you Sean – loud and clear. It must be close to ten years now since the Irish had a legitimate run-back threat on special teams. That’s ten years of mediocrity. Fortunately the kicking game has been solid or I would give the entire special teams group a failing grade.

      Brad Sinclair (the other Brad)

      1. huh? CJ Sanders was no slouch. He had several return TDs in his career here. Wish him the best in his 5th year elsewhere. We just didn’t have room for him in the WR room anymore.

      2. Really Brendan?

        Sanders had like 2 returns for TDs in 3 years as a returner or something. One of those may have been a punt return. Outside of that, it was rare that he put us in really good field position. One hit and he went down almost every time. Poor vision. Our special teams coaches never seem to put the best talent or fastest player on the roster back there.

        Could you imagine if Will Fuller would have returned kicks and punts? Adoree Jackson is not a big guy but he was the fastest on USC and he was their return man on both kicks and punts. So what gives with ND coaches not utilizing guys like that?

    2. Sean and Brad,
      I agree. Coach Polian stopped the bleeding from 2016. But we are far from explosive on ST’s. No punts blocked, no FGs blocked, nothing was taken to the house, no fake FGs or punts, and we were losing the kickoff coverage battle until late in the year when we started kicking it out of the endzone. The coaches need to step up here.

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. Not 100% accurate. Look back at the Miami (OH) game, Tony Jones Jr. Had a 30+ yard run on a fake punt, well designed.

        However, your underlying points are well taken. I think there’s a lot to improve on for our ST.

        Look for true Frosh and 4-star WR Braden Lenzy in the return game this year. He was a track star and highly recruited to sprint at hometown Oregon, best track program in the nation.

      2. Yes, you’re right Brendan…we did run that fake punt very well. And we had a 2 point conversion in the Citrus Bowl when we really needed one. But we can still do better, IMO.
        I think you may be right about Lenzy too…he sure has the speed for that job.

        BGC ’77 ’82

  1. Greg,
    I sure agree with leaving spectacular players exactly where they are! As for who gets the open linebacker position, let that be determined by who gains the most this summer under Balis’s program, and who wants it the most in August. But leave our three AA candidates where they are…

    BGC ’77 ’82

  2. Some valid points on the first three positions, but just cannot see moving by far the most successful secondary player out of position. Corners often have sole responsibility for the opponent’s best receiver. Why ask your lock down corner to do something else?

    1. Completely agree, Bob. Corner is a vital position. Love is the best. Why even think about moving him away.

  3. You already noted that you contradicted yourself so I’ll give you some credit there, because that was my initial thought when I read the Julian Love Headline.

    My argument is this: You already state that we have a lot of high-potential options at S, with or without Julian Love. So why would you take a 2nd team All-American (according to SI) and change his position? Julian Love shined last year as a cover corner. I disagree with this more than any. I would make the position switch with Drue Tranquill.

    Different strokes for different folks. Going to be a long, interesting off-season. Looking forward to Spring Ball so we can see where the staff might take these questions.

  4. I am more worried about who they put at Mike if Coney/Tranquill don’t move than who they would put at Rover if they do.

    1. I agree with this. While I don’t disagree with Greg’s logic, I look at it a little differently. Would you rather see Jamir Jones on the field for 80% of the defensive snaps, or a combination of Jeremiah Owusu-Karamoah, Shayne Simon, &/or Asmar Bilal?

      I think the latter 3 have way more potential than Jamir Jones. But, these are opinions, which are meant to be debated.

      1. Let them “debate” it in the training rooms and on the practice fields.

        La Crosse, IN

      2. Of course they will debate it in the training rooms and practice field, but why are you here in the comments section if you don’t want to pass the time this off-season and talk about it?

        These are all hypothetical, and at the end of the day the coaching staff and analysts are the experts; we are just fans speculating. But it’s still fun to do so.

      3. Brendan,
        It is fun to speculate, and to a certain extent that is why I’m here. I just think that these things will work themselves out. Replacing only TWO guys on a good 2017 defense won’t be as hard as some of the posters seem to want to make it though! If we are suffering anything, it is an embarrassment of riches on “D”! That’s why I say hit the weights and go for it! I’m not trying to ruin anybody’s fun.
        I just know from coaching wrestling that it’s always what the kid did during the summer (or did not do) that defines what he is capable of doing in the winter.

        BGC ’77 ’82

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