Notre Dame’s Roster Math Working Itself Out… Again

Now that Notre Dame has been consistently recruiting classes of 20+ members while simultaneously not having to rely on freshmen much, the 85 scholarship limit is a topic every year.  At one point this off-season it looked like Notre Dame was over 90 scholarships.  Not surprisingly, that number has come down and the scholarship math is working itself out again.

As of this writing, it looks like Notre Dame is theoretically at 86 scholarships if you include incoming freshmen JD Bertrand and Marist Liufau in the numbers.  More on these two later. Bottom line though is that Notre Dame will most likely be under the 85 limit again this year even though it looked like they were over 90 just a couple months ago.

The roster math started to become clearer back in January when both Julian Love and Miles Boykin decided to head to the NFL with eligibility remaining. If both stuck around, and Notre Dame would have LOVED if they did, we’d still be looking at 88 scholarships and maybe the math would be a little more murky.

After Boykin and Love’s decisions, transfer season started and the math became even more clear for Notre Dame.  Since then a few transfers from DJ Morgan and Devin Studstill open some spots.  Last week a few more transfers cleared even more room.

Transfers of Luke Jones & Noah Boykin Open up Scholarships

Transfers are unfortunately part of the game and are even more prevalent today than they were 20 years ago.   Almost immediately following the completion of spring practice, two sophomores buried on the depth chart put their names into the transfer portal – offensive lineman Luke Jones and cornerback Noah Boykin.

No one should have been overly surprised when either Jones or Boykin’s names were there.  Luke Jones redshirted last year and then saw his classmate Jarrett Patterson jump him on the depth chart and put himself in a position to be a multiple year starter for Notre Dame at center.  Jones meanwhile didn’t look like he would be in the two-deep this year and likely would have been behind early enrollee Zeke Correll.

Boykin was in a similar situation.  He saw classmate Tariq Bracy see the field plenty last year as a true freshman and then saw a walk-on cornerback Temitope Agoro play over him in the spring.  Boykin on the other hand wasn’t making too many moves this spring.  There was a chance either KJ Wallace or Isaiah Rutherford would have passed him in the fall.

Both late additions to Notre Dame’s 2018 recruiting class, their departures aren’t overly surprising either.  It’s extremely rare for late additions – outside of the 5-star, elite recruits that wait until Signing Day – to be all be impact players like we saw with Notre Dame’s flurry of late offers in the class of 2017.

JD Bertrand & Marist Liufau

The biggest beneficiaries of the latest transfers for Notre Dame are a pair of incoming freshmen.  It’s been reported numerous times that both were recruited by Notre Dame with possibility of not being on scholarship this fall via either preferred walk-on or more of a “grey shirting” route.  Notre Dame was very up front and honest about that.

While Notre Dame is still at 86 and in theory one scholarship over the limit, it would be shocking if one did not open up between now and then.  We’re more than three months away from the start of fall camp and if you look up and down the roster, there are some names that jump out as possible transfer candidates.  We’re not going to name any names or speculate about any here, but if you follow the team closely, it’s not hard to look at the roster and see a few obvious potentials.

Even if there’s not, it looks like both while be able to participate this fall,  Liufau was reportedly in the “grey shirt” situation originally where he would have had to go to school somewhere else like Holy Cross in 2019 if a scholarship wasn’t available while Bertrand could have gone the preferred walk-on route.  With that in mind, it looks like both will be on the practice field for Notre Dame this fall.

Don’t Worry About Scholarship Numbers for 2020

People are already worrying about the scholarship numbers for 2020 and while it can be fun to start projecting who might leave early, who will be back, and how big the class of 2020 can be; we see every year that it’s pointless to start working the numbers now.  It’s just too early and too much will change.

We’ve also seen Notre Dame recruit in high numbers every year even when it’s often looked like a class will have to be small.  With the torrid start that Notre Dame is off to this year, don’t expect the Irish too slow down at all either.  If Notre Dame has elite prospects who want to sign with them, they are going to take them.

Notre Dame already has three commitments either in the top 100 or on the cusp now – Jordan Botelho, Jordan Johnson, and Michael Mayer.  They are also heavily in the mix for elite recruits like Chris Tyree, Jalen McMillan, Lanthan Ransom, and AJ Henning just to name a few.

The class of 2020 looks like it has the chance to be a potential program altering one if Notre Dame hits on it’s elite targets.  Brian Kelly and his staff aren’t going to be turning away anyone anytime soon because they’re worried about scholarship numbers in 2020. The numbers will work themselves out.  They always do.

Transfers aren’t necessarily a good or a bad thing – they are just a reality.  The old school mantra of “oh they should just tough it out and work harder” simply is not realistic in 2019.  You can complain about it and reminisce about “how it used to be” or you can accept it and realize that some turnover of the roster is healthy.

Be prepared to hear about how much Notre Dame is over the scholarship limit for 2020 as this recruiting class continues to grow, but remember, the math is going to work itself out.  It does every year and Brian Kelly and his staff have proven they know how to manage their roster pretty well at this point.

You may also like


  1. Frank , I noticed you mentioned AJ Henning in your article for 2020 class. Is he still on radar for being recruited by ND? I remember him being recruited bt Autry Denson and Reese in early 2018. Henning made 3 unofficial visits to South Bend in 2018 as a junior. ND made offer to him at this time. AJ Henning — for those not familiar is highly recruited APB —An All Purpose Back from Lincoln Way East high school in Fankfort , Illinois (South Suburb of Chicago). He is a “game breaker/Rocket ” type — a running back , receiver, kick off and punt returner. 5’10” 180. He also is on track team in 100/200 meters. He’s undecided on the 25 offers from the college major Big Boys — yet narrowed down choices to Michigan , Illinois , Notre Dame , Georgia. Thing is , if ND is looking for that game breaker–is AJ Henning still on radar — and hopefully Lance Taylor will go after him. The kid is a “game breaker” type — what the Irish need to reach elite.

  2. I am a fan, not an analyst, but I wouldn’t assume that BK’s top priority is to give these 2 scholarships if there’s someone else out there that can offer help this season – like the grad transfer kicker that’s reportedly considering ND. I’m not saying that this is going to happen, but I think BK and ND have been much more aggressive with personnel management lately and I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that he will surprise us how he utilizes an available scholarship.

    1. grayshirting would be a sad sad step for Notre Dame

      Were I the Dad of these two kids, I would have accepted if Kelly had said “we think, but there’s no guarantee, that spots will open up. I’d guess about 80%. So Grayshirting is the backup plan>:”

      But we’re not your average secular Godless state school. After all, we are Notre Dame, not ohio State.

      We are Catholic Christians and we have ALWAYS understood this, in the days of our cham;pionships under Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian and Devine that it is INTEGRITY and VIRTUE first:

      “For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul.”

      There’s more than a football roster at stake here.

  3. One of my Dads favorite sayings was “Don’t worry about the mule being blind, just keep loading the wagon”

Leave a Reply

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

Back to top button