Notre Dame’s recruiting class of 2012 was marred by late defections and near misses, but despite the end of the cycle disappointment, the Irish signed several freshman who will make an impact very early on in their careers. Here is a look at six freshman whose names you should hear called sooner rather than later this fall.
Normally it’s not a good sign when a true freshman is being counted on to be a contributor along either line, but in the case of Day, his early enrollment for the spring semester has allowed him to benefit from a full off-season in the training program under Paul Longo. Day was pretty disruptive during limited action in the Blue-Gold game and has impressive in fall camp already. Look for Day to work his way into the rotation up front for the Irish early on this season.
Since the day Neal signed with Notre Dame a few weeks after signing day, I’ve said that Neal will see the field early on in his career and nothing he has done in fall camp has done anything to make that look any less likely six months later. Neal is a dynamic playmaker who is going to get on the field in two weeks in some way or another whether it be as a runner, a receiver, or a returnman. Notre Dame simply doesn’t have anyone on the current roster that possesses Neal’s gamebreaking ability which means he will see as much action as he’s able to process.
Early indicators are he will be able to process a lot and could be a major component of the Irish offense before not too long. Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin will find a way to showcase Neal’s skills early and often on screens, designed runs, and in any other manner in which they can get him in space.
Another wide receiver that will likely see the field early on in his career at Notre Dame is Chris Brown and the reason that he’ll see the field early is the same reason Neal will – speed. Brown has the kind of speed at the outside receiver position that Notre Dame is lacking heading into the season. Brown has been turning some heads early in camp and it looks like he will be a factor early on this season for the Irish. It wouldn’t be a surprise to many right now if Brown ended up as Notre Dame’s go to deep threat on the outside by the end of the season.
Brown is still probably a year away from really being ready to being an impact player because he needs to add some bulk before he can be an every down receiver, but in a situational role, Brown should make his presence felt on the field this fall in the Notre Dame offense.
From the time Okwara committed to Notre Dame, I projected he would one day grow into a defensive end in this defense. That day won’t come in during his freshman season, but the North Carolina native is going to be too athletic and too talented to keep off the field this season. Only 17 years old now, Okwara has a lot of room to grow, but for now he will start his career as an outside linebacker and should provide depth at the position early on while also being a major contributor on special teams. Look for Okwara to flash some pass rushing skills at some point this season similarly to how his former high school teammate Prince Shembo did as a frosh against Utah in the 2010 home finale.
Prosise came to Notre Dame as a safety but was moved to outside linebacker in a role similar to the role Jamoris Slaughter played in the Champs Bowl against Florida State. While he lacks the size to be a major contributor at outside backer this season, look for Prosise to be a potential special teams stalwart and potential return man.
In this year’s Lindy’s Notre Dame preview I wrote that I felt Shumate could be a major special teams contributor this year, but early returns from fall camp are suggesting that Shumate’s roll might actually not be limited solely to special teams. Shumate has been working at corner so far in camp and could very well end up pushing for playing time in the nickel package as the slot corner.