At Long Last, Depth for Notre Dame

Notre Dame Football Depth
Notre Dame Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly runs onto the field with the team before the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Surprises, especially at Notre Dame are never surprising. Injuries are a given, simply a part of college football (which operates without “taxi squads”). Whining and self-pity do not solve these problems. Only Depth does.

The second degree of separation for outstanding depth is beyond mere numbers. It resides instead in the spacing among classes and among categories of eligibility remaining.   With the most recent recruiting harvest in the silos, Notre Dame now has true depth. It is not a misnomer.

Depth permits flexibility. It doesn’t merely soften the impact of the negative of suspensions and injuries but accentuates the positive of allowing moves and experiments.   The current experiment with Jerry Tillery as a defensive lineman, in the hope that he will become a “dominant defensive lineman” is feasible only because of the depth on the Offensive Line depth chart. While Tillery has the characteristics of that rarest of offensive commodities, a natural left tackle, the presence of Bars and others allows the tinkering with Tillery.

A full depth chart allows the development of “situational players.” In different ways, Matthias Farley, Kolin Hill and Tyler Luatua filled such roles in 2014 as the depth chart was solid in other positions. More situational players may emerge in 2015 and beyond.

A solid depth chart allows recruiting flexibility. In future years the staff can take a flyer, or two or three at some of those highly rated impact players who seem to wait until signing day to make a decision. With the cupboard stocked, seeking reward of a “great players” and getting shut out has a more manageable risk level.

To understand the extent and the spacing of the depth, let’s jump past the 2015 season and go right to the Spring of 2016, some 14 months from now.   We’ll list the players by position grouping, categorized by their remaining years of eligibility. Please not that this understates the depth as it will not reflect the 2016 recruiting class. We will make some guesstimates about participation, fifth year players, early pro departure (Jaylon Smith) and frosh participation in 2015. For this purpose, we will project only Yoon, Jones, Williams, Sanders (kick returner), Crawford and Fertitta (special teams) as participating in 2015.

That is unbridled conjecture, nothing more.

Defensive Line

  • 1 year of eligibility -Isaac Rochell, Jarron Jones
  • 2 years of eligibility – Jacob Matuska, Kolin Hill, Andrew Trumbetti, Grant Blankenship, Jay Hayes, Daniel Cage
  • 3 years of eligibility – Jonathan Bonner, Jhonny Williams, Peter Mokwuah
  • 4 years of eligibility – Micah Dew-Treadway, Elijah Taylor, Brandon Tiassum, Jerry Tillery, Bo Wallace
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16 defensive linemen ready to practice in Spring 2016

There has been an urban legend in South Bend that Notre Dame can not “recruit defensive linemen.” Hogwash! This staff has shattered that myth.

Offensive line

13 players (and preferred walk-ons flesh out the practice squad)

Wide Receiver

10players

Tight End

  • 2 years eligibility – Durham Smythe, Mike Heuerman, Tyler Luatua
  • 3 years eligibility – Aliz’e Jones, Nic Weishar

5 players

Quarterback

3 players

Running Back

(we are here projecting that Williams plays in 2015 and that Adams redshirts)

4 players

Linebacker

  • 1 year eligibility – Jaylon Smith, James Onwualu, John Turner, Jarrett Grace
  • 2 years eligibility – Nyles Morgan, Greer Martini, Michael Deeb, Doug Randolph
  • 4 years eligibility – Tevon Coney, Josh Barajas, Asmir Bilas

(here we assume that all of the 2015 linebackers redshirt)

11 players

Then we reach two areas in which 2016 recruiting must add bodies, where the depth is not yet at equilibrium.

Cornerback

  • 1 year eligibility – Cole Luke, Devin Butler
  • 3 years eligibility – Watkins, Shaun Crawford
  • 4 years eligibility – Nick Coleman, Ashton White

6 players

Safety 

  • 1 year eligibility – Max Redfield, Nicky Baratti
  • 2 years eligibility – Drue Tranquill
  • 3 years eligibility – Nicco Fertitta (identified by Kelly as likely to play on special teams)
  • 4 years eligibility – Mykelti Williams

5 players.

There is strength and power in these numbers. In addition to allowing roster flexibility and player shifts it allows the staff to be methodical and strategic in future recruiting classes. It is possible, but not assured that the best is yet to come.

Go Irish!

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11 comments

  1. HURLS 4 years ago

    Great job! What mustn’t be forgotten to mention is that depth provides rest for the front-liners. (starters) If the primary players “need a blow” to just freshen-up, NEXT-MAN-IN permits this seamlessly. In the past it might have been too dangerous to insert a 2d-stringer for a play-or-2. But now that BK has a stable of studs to step-in when need be, we can rest assured!

    Get psyched, Irish-fans!

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    1. Ron Burgundy 4 years ago

      What also mustn’t be forgotten is that you are from Boston and like to say NotaDame.

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  2. BJ 4 years ago

    http://www.nfl.com/photoessays/0ap2000000361531

    go get the best recruiter in the country, besides lou

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  3. a68domer 4 years ago

    Great article. Do you (or not) project Jaylon to go pro after 2015? That would take him outa the equation.

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    1. Michael the Archangel 4 years ago

      Not to speak for duranko, but if Jaylon has the difference-making kind of year we need and anticipate him to have, I would think it’s likely he’d go. Minus Grace and Schmidt as well made securing this year’s potentially outstanding group of LBs (Barajas, Bilal, Coney)all the more important.

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  4. Jimbo 4 years ago

    Results on the field will be how all this depth is judged.

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  5. Peter Recchio 4 years ago

    Great info and insights

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  6. BJ 4 years ago

    WILL BRIAN KELLY GET SERIOUS?

    http://www.nfl.com/photoessays/0ap2000000361531

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  7. VicPaul 4 years ago

    Great read. Nice to see the breakdown. Feels so good to see this team finally achieving some depth, pretty much across the board.

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    1. AJ 4 years ago

      Could not agree more. Now it looks like the coaches are coming together as well. It will be nice to see a couple domers in the coaching ranks. I just hope Kelly can keep the staff together for a while.

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  8. Vincent Papa 4 years ago

    Great article. Many good points!

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