10 Notre Dame Football Backups to Watch in Fall Camp

With Notre Dame starting fall camp on Sunday, everyone’s eyes are one some predictable areas like linebacker, field corner, and running back.  It makes sense. All of those positions have playing time and starting roles are up for grabs.  Fall camp is crucial for the development of the next wave of Notre Dame stars though too.  We’ll take a look at some players whose development is crucial for Notre Dame not just in 2019, but beyond as well today.

Phil Jurkovec & Brendon Clark (QB)

It goes without saying, but Notre Dame needs one of its backup quarterbacks to step forward and be the clear second option behind Ian Book.  Everyone thought Jurkovec would be challenging for the starting job by now, not fighting to hold on to the backup role; but the sophomore has struggled with consistency so far in his young career.

Jurkovec had a shaky spring capped off by an uninspiring performance in the Blue & Gold game.  To this point in his Notre Dame career, we’ve learned he can throw it a mile but struggles with his short and intermediate accuracy.  Given recent history at quarterback for Notre Dame, that’s not a good recipe for success.

In three of the last four seasons, Notre Dame has needed its backup to start at least one game either for injury or ineffectiveness of the starter.  So there’s a solid chance Notre Dame will need either Jurkovec or Clark at some point in 2019.  Brian Kelly and Chip Long need to figure out which that will be and have them prepared this summer.

Ovie Oghoufo (DE)

Oghoufo was one of the surprises of spring practice.  He moved from linebacker to DROP and flashed the kind of potential to make life after Julian Okwara and Daelin Hayes potentially look not so bad.  Playing time should be hard to come by for him this year if all goes as planned, but Notre Dame needs Oghoufo to develop this summer, so they have a viable Okwara replacement in 2020.

Another name to watch at DROP this summer is freshman Isaiah Foskey.  He arrived on campus already looking the part and could pair with Oghoufo similarly to the way Okwara and Hayes tag-teamed the position in 2018 and how they will in 2019.  Another name not to completely forget is Kofi Wardlow.  He came to Notre Dame extremely raw but still has three years of eligibility remaining.

Justin Ademilola (DE)

I left Ade Ogundeji off this list because I have fully bought into his potential as Khalid Kareem‘s backup.  In almost any other year, we’d all be excited about Ogundeji as a starting DE for Notre Dame. Because of the depth Notre Dame has though, the Irish have the luxury of Ade coming off the bench and moving into the starting lineup as a 5th year.

Justin Ademilola didn’t come to Notre Dame with the same fanfare as his twin brother, but don’t tell him that.  He’s played with a chip on his shoulder since arriving on campus, and if called up, he can be counted on for quality reps this year.  Ademilola held his own in the Cotton Bowl against Clemson as a true freshman.  His development is going to be fun to watch.

Derrik Allen (S)

It feels like Allen has been at Notre Dame for a lot longer than he has, but he is still just a sophomore with four years of eligibility remaining.  Many felt Allen was going to be an instant impact player as a freshman in 2018.  That didn’t happen.  Then Allen started spring ball this year slowly before finally flashing at the end of spring.

Allen checked in for fall camp slightly slimmed down still with four years of eligibility remaining.  The Kyle Hamilton hype train is already careening out of control, but we shouldn’t forget about Allen.  If Allen can live up to the hype he came in with a year ago, he and Hamilton could pair up to be the future at safety for Notre Dame for the next few years after Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott move on.

TaRiq Bracy & Houston Griffith (CB)

Donte Vaughn was the top corner at the field position on day one of camp, but that position is anything but decided at this point.  At the same time, Houston Griffith backed up Troy Pride at the boundary.  If Griffith stays at the boundary; the field corner spot will be a Vaughn vs. Bracy battle all summer long.

Hypothetically speaking, if Vaughn wins the field job, Notre Dame is going to replacing its entire secondary in 2020 with Bracy and Griffith the potential cornerback duo of the future.

Josh Lugg (OL)

Brian Kelly described Lugg as Notre Dame’s Swiss Army knife offensive lineman already this summer.  Lugg is Notre Dame’s first lineman off the bench as he cross-trains at guard and tackle.  There’s a good chance Lugg plays meaningful minutes this year already, but his development is even more critical for the future this summer.

Tommy Kraemer, Aaron Banks, and Liam Eichenberg can all come back in 2020 if they want to, but none of that is a given.  Notre Dame’s had good luck getting linemen to return for senior years and 5th years recently, but having someone waiting in the wings should be a priority for Jeff Quinn this summer.

Tommy Tremble (TE)

If Cole Kmet has the kind of season in 2019 that many expect him to, an early departure for the NFL is possible.  That’s where Tremble comes in.  Like Oghoufo, he was one of the stars of spring practice.  Like Lugg, he could have a role in 2019 already too.  We haven’t seen Notre Dame utilize too much “12 personnel” but with two receiving threats like Kmet and Tremble, we might this fall.

Lawrence Keys

Chris Finke is entrenched as the starter in the slot for Notre Dame this fall, but this might finally be the year we see Notre Dame utilize more of a rotation at wide receiver given the depth and athleticism in the sophomore class.   With that in mind, Keys should see the field as Finke’s understudy and one of Notre Dame’s more explosive offensive skill position players.

It’s going to be fun to watch how the entire sophomore class of receivers works into the depth chart this summer.  Braden Lenzy already impressed with his speed on day one of camp.  Keys brings a game-breaking component to the slot.  Joe Wilkins is the forgotten man at times but keeps flashing in practice.  Kevin Austin, whenever he is available, might be the most talented of them all.

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  1. I agree with your selections, Frank. It’s evident that at some point, Lugg will contribute valuable minutes.
    From what I read re: the first practice at Culver, add Frosh S Kyle Hamilton to the list.
    And don’t sleep on Shawn Crawford- if he’s healthy and can stay healthy, he’ll be significant.

    1. No doubt MTA—- the back ups are going to be crucial at every position on O and D units/starters. No need for me to go through list of players. We know who they are by now. I think the key is rotation of these back ups — I trust that Coach Lea will insert these talented “back ups” from D-line , Linebackers , and the Secondary. All will be needed to beat Georgia , Michigan and Stanford — the away games on the schedule.

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