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.