6 Early Standouts from Notre Dame Spring Football ’18

We already took a look at the story lines from the first week of Notre Dame’s 2018 Spring practice.  Now we’ll take a look at some early potential standouts from the early goings.  Based on the way guys looked physically on the first day of practice, here are some players who appear to be ready to make a leap:

Dexter Williams and Tony Jones Jr.

Both look slimmer and more athletic. Jones Jr. changed his number to #6, and seeing him running routes out of the slot was reminiscent of Theo Riddick in 2012. He looked comfortable and quick, and was able to get separation from the safeties.

Williams also looked noticeably sleeker, with Kelly saying the drop in weight was an effort to keep him healthy. It’s impossible to guess what kind of role he will play in 2018, but we do know he has serious ability.

When gauging the ceiling of the 2018 team, these two guys and what they become are major factors.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

Apparently he’s an athletic marvel who moves like a sleek big game cat. He’s currently slotted behind Asmar Bilal at Rover, but Bilal’s career has gone by why of Ishaq Williams. He’s physically gifted, but the plays just haven’t been there. If Owusu-Koramoah emerges as a playmaker, it’s hard to see him not taking over the spot.

The thing that could hold him back is his lack of girth. He’s listed as being 210 pounds; Tranquill played this spot last season at 230, and a slimmed down Jordan Genmark-Heath is playing strong safety at 211. Is Owusu-Koramoah big enough to handle the position week to week? Perhaps not, but his potential is immense.

Jordan Genmark Heath

Speaking of the sophomore safety, he appears intent on inserting himself into the safety discussion permanently. He dropped around nine pounds in the offseason and is moving a lot better in man coverage against slot receivers. He showed a nice ability to come up and make plays in the running game in his short time against LSU, and some improved range in coverage could give him a leg up in a situation where range was not a feature in the Irish secondary last season. He also changed to #2, if you believe that sort of thing matters at all. There is just something about single digits.

Javon McKinley

Could this be the season McKinley’s immense talent and potential is realized? The thing about receiver is there is so much opportunity, but also so many bodies. It’s like being one shot off the lead in a golf tournament, but tied with seven other golfers. Sure, you’re close to the top, but you need to beat out a plethora of others. That’s receiver. McKinley theoretically doesn’t have to do much to get into the rotation, if not start, but there are a lot of people in the same spot.

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The good news is, McKinley has positioned himself very well physically. He looks the best he has since his arrival in South Bend, and he has the pedigree to back it up. He put up phenomenal numbers against the best competition in the Golden State, it’s just a matter of bringing it all together.

Michael Young

Young is going to be my “irrational belief in his abilities” guy this offseason. I’ve come to accept it. I know it’s wrong to make too much of a few practice clips, especially when they are non-padded. But my goodness, does he look explosive. He came on at the end of last season, and was a hot topic in pre-season camp, so he’s been involved for a long time. Watching him run by Troy Pride, the teams fastest player and possible starter, continually on Tuesday was eye-opening.

It remains to be seen just how Notre Dame feels they can use Young. Can he play the X or W, a la Will Fuller? Do they want to put him in the slot, which lends itself to someone of his size? That also would give them the opportunity to give him the ball on jet sweeps and the like. Whatever the case, Notre Dame really has something in the sophomore receiver and I’m ready to overreact.

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42 comments

  1. duranko 1 year ago

    From the South Bend Tribune (in Sunday’s edition which announced a “study” on the South Shore Station. Yikes!!)

    On Friday, the senior announced via Twitter his intention to graduate in May and then complete a graduate transfer for his final season of eligibility.

    “I just want to thank the University of Notre Dame for the love and support they’ve poured into me,” Hayes tweeted. “ND is a special place to grow as a man on and off the field. I’ve learned so many valuable lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I’m going to miss the relationships I’ve established along with all the guys on the team. It’s nothing but love for y’all.”

    In 26 career games, Hayes — a former four-star defensive line prospect from Brooklyn, NY — made 39 tackles with one sack and four tackles for loss. After playing sparingly in his first three seasons, he finished with 27 tackles and a sack in 2017, starting all 13 games at the strong side defensive end position.

    On National Signing Day in February, Irish associate head coach and defensive line coach Mike Elston noted that Hayes’ decision to return for a fifth season had been far from a slam dunk. And now, it’s a sudden turnover.

    So, in summary, Hayes loves Notre Dame and Notre Dame loves Hayes.

    This is way, way more amicable than the typical divorce.

    Let the Kelly haters hate.

    Me? I like Kelly, I like Notre Dame, I like Jay Hayes and ENJOY Notre Dame football! That will NOT CHANGE!

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  2. ndcrazymike 1 year ago

    Who knows what the standards are? maybe he wasn’t dedicated to strength and conditioning being his last year. maybe he wasn’t practicing up to par. we know from ALL reports KHAHLID KAREEM had moved ahead of him as STARTER! KAREEM in a backup role last year had more SACKS and tackles for loss than JAY HAYES did in limited play. and don’t forget originally HAYES said he wasn’t coming back for his 5th year than changed his mind. I get the feeling maybe HE wasn’t happy or didn’t want to play in a backup role 5 years into the program! Lets move on and talk about who is still here rather than who”s not!! Still 3 over the limit so this won”t be the last man out!!!

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  3. Greg Kelly 1 year ago

    Atta boy, BK, practicing the art of Irish diplomacy.

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  4. duranko 1 year ago

    Jay Hayes is leaving to transfer.

    He had been passed by Khalid Kareem.

    But Kelly did two unusual things about Hayes:
    (1) ND is releasing Jay so he can transfer ANYWHERE
    (2) Kelly said “We love Jay. We wish him the best.”

    It doe not seem that Kelly throws the word “love” around often about departing players.

    “Jay understands the standards that we have here and he felt like a change would be better for him,” Kelly said. “We granted him a release for anywhere he wants to play.”

    “We gave him the opportunity to come back if he could meet the standards that we set here. I don’t know what his thoughts were, I can’t read into his mind. He decided to transfer. He’ll finish his degree this semester, so he’ll be a grad transfer and he’ll be immediately eligible. We love Jay, we wish him the best.”
    That is the excerpt from Kelly’s press statement.

    You gotta ask yourself. If Jay Hayes were your son, and Kelly said these things about him, how would you feel?

    I wish Jay well.
    I wish Notre Dame well.

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    1. Keith 1 year ago

      The “if he could meet the standards” and “Jay understands the standards we have here and he felt like a change would be better for him” quotes seem at odds with the “love” line. It implies that there was some concern about wether he could meet the standards and that he left because he couldn’t or didn’t want to.

      If I were a parent, I’d think it was a coach trying to justify losing a player in spring practice—and throwing my kid under the bus a little. Hard to know. It’s just a really odd statement. Unnecessarily odd, as he didn’t need any more than “he decided to leave; we’re in a scholarship crunch; we wish him the best and he can play anywhere.”

      From a football standpoint, I don’t think this hurts too bad if it’s true that Kareem has stepped up. Hurts depth, but, form once, we have enough depth up front on defense that this isn’t a killer. I always wanted to see Hayes move inside, anyway.

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  5. Keith 1 year ago

    Jay Hayes has decided to transfer. Kelly had kind of gaffe announcing it, but it seems to me like it’s a mutual decision. We need to free up the scholarship and he’d fallen behind on the depth chart.

    Not sure though. Anyone hear anything?

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  6. Michael the Archangel 1 year ago

    ICYMI
    Courtesy of Eric Hansen (SBT)

    “I want them all to see themselves (CBs) as starters,” Lyght says.

    All five of the returning corps, that is: Crawford, Pride, Love, grad senior Nick Watkins and junior Donte Vaughn.
    And when most of the freshmen arrive in June, Lyght wants newcomers Noah Boykin, Joe Wilkins Jr., Tariq Bracy and DJ Brown to have that starter’s mentality as well.

    “In today’s age, I’m not a really big believer in the redshirt systematically,” Lyght said after Thursday’s practice.

    “It’s good for some players individually, but just as a general philosophy,
    I think if you have a really good player and then you redshirt him and he plays two years, he might leave anyway.
    So what’s the point of redshirting him? Just let him play and let him develop.”

    https://www.ndinsider.com/football/shaun-crawford-again-ascending-in-deep-and-talented-notre-dame/article_314c2eb2-3924-11e8-a146-2b17263fe77f.html

    ” An even more dramatic leap in that area was tamped down by holes in the safety corps,
    which didn’t record a single interception last season, and an inconsistent pass rush that faded to a No. 83 national ranking in sacks by season’s end.”

    More sacks and more forced TOs will be key for D’ to be dominant.

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  7. Greg Kelly 1 year ago

    Notre Dame vs. UM Duluth, frozen four final, doesn’t get better than that.

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