Julian Love to NFL: Notre Dame Must Replace All-American CB

Heading into bowl season I was convinced Julian Love was going to leave for the NFL and had already started to come to grips with it.  Then news trickled out that Love got a lower grade than expected and that it actually looked like he might be back for a senior season.  That hope was short lived after Love announced on Twitter Friday evening that he will be leaving a year early to pursue his NFL career.

And with that, Notre Dame must now replace their first consensus All-American cornerback since 2002.  The world saw just how big of a task that will be for Notre Dame.  When Love went out of the Cotton Bowl, Clemson immediately pounced and took advantage of the Irish defense.  He left the game with the score tied at 3 and returned to find the Irish down 23-3.  Trevor Lawrence zeroed in on Love’s replacement, Donte Vaughn, for two of the three touchdowns the Tigers scored in Love’s absence.

Love reportedly received a 2nd round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee and his performance in the Cotton Bowl should have only helped improve his stock since it was very evident that with him on the field, Clemson had a much harder time moving the football.  How much he could improve his stock coming back was always questionable as well.  The only knock on the consensus All-American is his top end speed and that won’t improve much with another year at Notre Dame.

Love rarely left the field for Notre Dame the past two seasons so not having the best on the fly replacement shouldn’t have surprised anyone.  Vaughn having a tough time getting thrown into that position against Clemson’s athletic receivers shouldn’t have surprised anyone.   The good news for defensive coordinator Clark Lea and Notre Dame is that they have an entire off-season to figure out how to replace him.  The bad news is, much like Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey last year, they probably won’t be able to fully replace his production immediately.

Notre Dame has a lot of corners on the roster heading into 2019.  Troy Pride returns for his senior season and will continue to lock down the field corner position.  Shaun Crawford is going to attempt another comeback from his third major injury to compete at the nickel position.  Who takes Love’s boundary corner spot though now becomes one of the biggest question marks of the 2019 off-season.

Here are the names that will get the first looks:

  • Donte Vaughn – Despite the rough showing in the Cotton Bowl he has a lot of talent and has flashed at times.  2018 as a whole did not go well for the junior though so he’ll have some work to do.
  • Tariq Bracy – Might be better suited for the field position, but he was the first freshman CB to see the field this year.
  • Noah Boykin & DJ Brown – Both freshmen redshirted this year but will be in the mix in the spring
  • Houston Griffith – He moved to safety in the spring but then played nickel after Crawford’s injury.  With the influx of talent Notre Dame has at safety now, Griffith is a potentially intriguing option to replace Love.

None of Notre Dame’s 10 early enrollees for 2019 are at the cornerback position which might make it challenging for either Wallace or Isaiah Rutherford to seriously challenge, but both arrive this summer and will be in the mix as well.

Getting Love back for 2019 would have been beyond huge for Notre Dame and not just because he so irreplaceable from a talent perspective.  He would have certainly been a captain and team leader next fall for the Irish as well and that leadership will be tough to replace as well.  Alohi Gilman is almost assured of being a captain.  Khalid Kareem will probably be in the mix as well.

From a talent perspective, missing out on cornerbacks in the class of 2017 haunted Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl when they didn’t have a guy like Paulson Adebo who was at one time committed to Notre Dame before flipping to Stanford to plug in.  It could haunt them next year too.  Notre Dame will have two upperclassmen corners in 2019 but six underclassmen corners.  That kind of imbalance is obviously not ideal and is only highlighted by losing a player like Love early to the NFL.

Notre Dame has nine months to figure out who they will replace Julian Love in the lineup with. It might be years until they have another corner who can replace the kind of production we have become accustomed to from Love the past two seasons.  One thing is clear: whoever does replace Love in the lineup has some mighty big shoes to fill.

You may also like


  1. Kelly not being able to recruit a Heisman trophy level quarterback in my opinion is a huge part of why Notredame has not won A national championship under Kelly.Kyler Murray on Notredame this year we take Clemson to the wire in my opinion.I would like to see Notredame do what Ohio Stste did and go out and hire a great offensive mind to really get this offense rolling

    1. Heisman winners never have head coaches that are impediments to success.
      Hell, to even dream of contending for one, they need at least their self-confidence enhanced. Not destroyed.

  2. After the secondary was exposed against Clemson,and combined with the departure of Love,
    some prospective recruits may look at this as a perfect opportunity to step in and play right away.
    As mentioned, no db’s in the early enrollment so focus aggressively on some of the non-committed
    playmakers available.

    1. Mike Dodd,
      When your offense only puts up 3 points over 60 minutes, less than one point per quarter, against a team with an offense that is used to scoring 50 to 70 points in a game; and that team is held to 30 points, how is that “exposing the secondary”? Are you calling for a defensive shut out here…to post a 3-0 win?

      I think some offensive problems were exposed, and as a result of the ZERO ball control “O” we were running, the secondary eventually, and not without a decent struggle, gave up 3 touchdowns. That’s what happens to almost ANY defense when you endlessly fail to move the ball against a team with an explosive offense. “Three and out again boys, sorry, get out there and stop them again” (and again, and again, forever and ever, amen). That’s the way it looked to me.

      BGC ’77 ’82

      1. Religion has always been on the board for me…even Religion and football!

        BGC ’77 ’82

  3. Donte Vaughn is always on his man. His only problem is getting his head turned around. Thats easy for me to say because Im not in his shoes. He is reported as 6-3 which is rare for a corner. As some of you mentioned, we have some gaps to fill. However, I have seen guys come in and do a great job filling holes that were left. Football is definitely a game of timing. Go Irish!

  4. Good for Love..i was thinking a 2nd round grade
    for him..thats pretty good i roll out too..good
    luck and rite on Love..Vaughn will be fine he is a good
    corner and has to much talent n size for
    him not to be starting next year..dude got beat
    a few times but he was rite there for most part and
    next year and will make thoughs plays..
    I agree with BGC not sure how good the LBs
    will be..think the talent is there but didnt see much of the
    field this year for experience..but i think for the
    most part the defense should be good enough
    to give the offense a chance to win every game
    agian..tho the schedule is kinda tuff especially
    the road games..Nice year and think the talent n
    this team will bounce back a little better then
    the 2012 team did..cause hell 6 starters are not gonna
    get suspended for the whole year agian..?

  5. A big loss for ND, but not an insurmountable one. Frank is right, Vaughn came in the game in a difficult situation. Had it been another team, he may have had time to adjust. But Clemson immediately targeted him, and I can’t blame him, I would want ND to do the same in the same situation. Hopefully Vaughn will learn from the experience and will become a better player going forward.

    I hope Love doesn’t regret his decision. He’s a talented CB but he didn’t get an especially high grade from the draft committee. Another year may have upped his grade and maybe make him an elite CB for the NFL. We’ll find out soon enough, but I wish him well.

  6. Would someone explain what happens when student- athlete jumps ship. Do they get to stay until drafted or end of semester.

    1. Well, they mostly finish the semester…then some of them pay to take summer session classes and graduate eventually…some of them finish after their pro career…they all pay their own tuition, etc. Some never get their ND degree.

      BGC ’77 ’82

    2. According to Eric Hansen at SBT, of the 17 players who left ND at the end of their Junior year since the NFL allowed it in 1989, only four eventually graduated, Rocket Ismael & later, Jimmy Clausen (3 years after they left), and CB Tom Carter & RB Darius Walker (both two years after they left early).
      Among the 13 remaining who never returned to get their degree, RBs Walker, G.Atkinson and Josh Adams weren’t drafted, but 11 of those 13 were drafted in the first or second round, and I suspect Julian Love will as well. I’d have loved to see him play @ND on Saturdays, but here’s wishing him a long healthy and successful career in the NFL, another Chicago area kid who developed into an elite student-athlete at ND.

  7. Donte Vaughn was well positioned on some plays…especially high pointing the ball in the end zone…but unfortunately he tipped it up, and doubly unfortunately the Clemson receiver was able to make a “tip drill” play on it for a TD that basically was defended about as well as you can do it. A game of inches, as they say. IMO – Donte will be fine next year…so will our other DBs. What I worry more about replacing is our linebackers. Replacing Drue and Devon on defense will be something like replacing our two 2017 first round “O” linemen was this year.

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. BGC,
      I agree.
      Losing star power like Williams, Mustipher, Tillery and especially NDs two Senior LBs and All-American Love at CB, the challenge will fall upon the coaching staff to continue to develop the talent left behind. And thanks for pointing out Vaughn not being the reason ND got beat. You can’t score three points and drop passes, and have more turnovers and penalties versus one of the two elite teams and blame one player. The mantra of this staff has been execution and development, and it will be required even more next season if ND wants consideration for next year’s playoffs. I’d add the development and improvement of the OL as key in remaining a top five team, regardless of who plays QB.

      1. MTA, I agree 100% – especially about the “O” line. They have experience (some good, some bad) and they have talent, and will probably have incoming depth at some point, but they need more “physicality” and they especially need timing improvement. We can put some of that into Coach Balis’s capable hands.

        BGC ’77 ’82

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button