Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players for 2019: #6-10

Today’s installment of our countdown of the top 25 players on the 2019 Notre Dame roster continues today – albeit a bit later in the day than our previous editions.  Now that we are in the top 10, it is pretty interesting to see how differently we all view the players ranked #2-10.

In case you missed any of the previous posts in our countdown, take a look at them before diving too deep into this one.

10. Liam Eichenberg (OT, Sr)

  • Highest rank: 8
  • Lowest rank: 14
  • Number of ballots: 3

The offensive line as a whole was pretty fascinating since all three of us viewed Patterson as the 5th best linemen as the new kid on the block, but after that, we were pretty much all over the place with our rankings. If Notre Dame’s starting left tackle is only the third-best offensive lineman on the team, that might not necessarily be ideal.

Eichenberg had an up and down first year as a starting left tackle in 2018, but he had a solid spring, and there is growing optimism that he will take a big step forward this year.  As Greg pointed out below, Eichenberg’s predecessor had his struggles as a first time starting tackle too before blossoming into a 1st NFL Draft pick.

Matt’s CommentsBig Liam had 866 snaps last season, just one behind Hainsey, after starting all 12 games at left tackle.  Entering his redshirt junior season Eichenberg has the size and arm length to be an elite tackle, he just needs to work on his footwork.  Entering spring I kind of hope Eichenberg stays at left tackle and Hainsey at right tackle because if it isn’t broke why fix it?

Greg’s CommentsWill he go the way of Stanley and McGlinchey and ascend to left tackle greatness? Or will he not? This is like an Eichenberg/Quinn spot right here.

9. Aaron Banks (OG, Jr)

  • Highest rank: 9
  • Lowest rank: 13
  • Number of ballots: 3

I had Banks ranked the highest of our group because I feel that when healthy, he could be Notre Dame’s best offensive lineman.  All things equal, I would have ranked him higher than Robert Hainsey.  His foot injury clouds his outlook just a bit for 2019 though.  Big men tend to take longer to recover from foot injuries than small men.  Even if Brian Kelly says that Banks is a full go from his off-season surgery tomorrow, I still will have a believe it when I see it mindset.

After Banks was inserted into the starting lineup last year, the offensive line started to come together.  If he is fully healthy and ready for camp and doesn’t miss a beat, this line can be an elite unit this fall.

Matt’s Comments: Started the last five games for the injured Alex Bars and finished 5th in snap counts for one of the best offensive lines in the nation.  Banks was scratching the surface of his potential last season and entering his redshirt sophomore season you should see a massive jump for him at one of the guard positions.  The key for Banks is keeping his weight down.  He’s also coming off a foot injury which could hamper him in the fall.

Greg’s CommentsA very large person who can move to left tackle if needed. I hope his foot is going to be ok.

8. Chase Claypool (WR, Sr)

  • Highest rank: 7
  • Lowest rank: 10
  • Number of ballots: 3

If this is finally the year Claypool puts it all together; he has the potential to be ranked much higher than this.  Considering all three of us ranked him between 7th and 10th, it’s apparent none of us are overly bullish on the huge breakout season happening.  That doesn’t mean it won’t.

Claypool might have a volume problem given all of the other weapons to put up ridiculous numbers this year, but he should lead the team in receiving yards and touchdowns.  Finke will probably end up leading the team in receptions.  With a full year of Book as his quarterback, Claypool’s floor should be set at Miles Boykin’s 2018 output.  Anything lower would be a disappointment.

Matt’s Comments: Claypool returns for his senior season after finishing 2nd on the team in receptions, reception yards, and TD catches the last two seasons.  With his size (6’4) and experience (played in every game since enrolling), it’s now time for Claypool to step up and play like an All-American.  He’s got the talent, and he’s got the chance to make himself a lot of money with a breakout senior season.

Greg’s CommentsThe biggest “could be” player on the team. Could be exceptional, but even a standard performance would be really good. His special teams contributions will be significant this season.

7. Jalen Elliott (S, Sr)

  • Highest rank: 5
  • Lowest rank: 7
  • Number of ballots: 3

It is remarkable to think back at how far Jalen Elliott has come since the end of the 2017 season.  Everyone, myself included, penciled in Derrik Allen as a starter over Elliott last summer.  Elliott never got that memo.  He had a breakout season a year ago and enters camp as one off the odds on favorites to be a captain.

People tend to forget that Elliott was still learning defense on the job in 2017.  If he improves even half as much this year as he did last, he will generate a lot of buzz for postseason honors.

Matt’s CommentsWhat a difference a year makes for ole Jalen!  Elliott has started every game the last two seasons at safety, but last year he broke out leading the team in interceptions (4) while making 63 tackles and six pass breakups.  The charismatic Elliott should team up with Gilman to lead one of the best secondaries in the country in 2019.

Greg’s CommentsI trust Gilman slightly more as an overall player, but it’s a marginal difference. Really interested to see if he takes another leap this season. If so, this is too low. 

6. Robert Hainsey (OT, Jr)

  • Highest rank: 4
  • Lowest rank: 10
  • Number of ballots: 3

Notre Dames’s highest-ranked offensive lineman comes in ranked just outside the top 5.  To recap, our rankings had the Notre Dame linemen in this order: 1) Hainsey 2) Banks 3) Eichenberg 4) Kraemer 5) Patterson.

There have been reports all off-season that the Notre Dame coaching staff has growing optimism that Hainsey takes a big step forward this year and becomes the next elite Notre Dame offensive lineman.  What’s interesting with our rankings is how much our opinions varied.  I was the most bearish on Hainsey by far ranking him 10th overall while Matt and Greg had his 4th and 5th respectively. I even had Banks ranked ahead of Hainsey in my final rankings.

Matt’s CommentsHard to believe Hainsey will be just a junior after starting every game his sophomore season and seeing action in every game his freshman season.  It remains to be seen if he stays at right tackle or if they decide to move him to left tackle, but Hainsey is the leader of what should be an outstanding offensive line with four starters returning.

Greg’s CommentsThis feels high, but the coaches graded him as the top player on offense last season, so in deference to them, I give Hainsey the nod in the top 5. 

The players left in the countdown should have come as a surprise to anyone.  The other, however, might.  Check back tomorrow for our top 5.

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  1. I’ve been watching this team practice long enough to know Claypool has the talent to be an elite receiver, regardless of what the defense is doing. I have seen him make some pretty spectacular plays, but I haven’t seen the discipline and consistency play after play. If you want to be in that elite class, you have to do it every play. That’s what it takes to break into that elite conversation, and that’s what it takes to make it at the next level. Hopefully we see that from him this year, because the kid has all the talent to be that guy!

  2. Frank – it’s not a bad thing at all for your left tackle to be the “third best” lineman if your best two are at the level of excellence in execution we have at Notre Dame. Both of these lines are classic Notre Dame lines in a big year, a famous year. To me, there is really no doubt that this team is playing at that level: last year’s did too, excepting a few poor showings.
    As for Claypool, how many catches he makes depends upon what the defense is doing, and how it develops. Claypool will feast in some games, but might get shut out in one like Boykin against that Vandy guy. I’m not worried about any of their number of catches. Book above all understands this offense. They’ll all get many opportunities during the course of a year.

    BGC ’77 ’82

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