When Brian Kelly met with the media on Friday to wrap up the 2010 season, he announced that all seniors with eligibility remaining have applied for 5th years. Other than announcing David Ruffer would be back and be on scholarship this year though, Kelly didn’t have any other answers for who else will be back next season.
“What I can report today is that we are going to award David Ruffer a scholarship for next year,” Kelly said Friday. “I will meet with our other 5th year seniors on Monday and we will have an announcement on Tuesday relative to the other players that have eligibility,” he added.
Other than Ruffer, Notre Dame has eight seniors who are eligible to return for a 5th year in 2011 – Andrew Nuss (OG), Taylor Dever (OT), Matt Romine (OT), Mike Ragone (TE), Emeka Nwankwo (DE), Steve Paskorz (ILB), Gary Gray (CB), and Harrison Smith (S).
With Ruffer now on scholarship and 23 verbal commitments in this year’s recruiting class, Notre Dame has six scholarships available for the eight possible 5th year seniors and any remaining recruits.
Gray, Dever, and Smith would have to be considered locks to come back next season as all three were starters in 2010 and will be counted on heavily in 2011 – especially Gray and Smith with limited experience in the secondary.
That brings us to three scholarships left for Nuss, Romine, Ragone, Nwankwo, Paskorz and the remaining recruits. Notre Dame is still recruiting Troy Niklas, Bryce Haynes and Savon Huggins but is not considered the favorite for any of the three at this time. If the last month in recruiting has taught us anything, however, its that anything can happen this recruiting season.
Nuss is a strong candidate to come back with the depth Notre Dame has along the interior offensive line. Romine is as well based on his strong play down the stretch in 2010.
Ragone is an interesting candidate with Kyle Rudolph heading to the NFL. Notre Dame will have four scholarship tight ends on roster in 2011 without Ragone – Tyler Eifert, Alex Welch, Jake Golic, and Ben Koyack – but very little experience outside of Eifert.
The wild card in all of this posturing is the possibility of transfers. Right now there hasn’t been any news of possible transfers, but there is always a chance of transfers once depth charts are formed during spring practice.
Tuesday we’ll have more some more clarity on the situation, but one thing that is clear now is that its nice that Notre Dame is finally pushing up against the 85 scholarship limit.