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.
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.
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.
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.
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.