Last night I posted the first in a series of posts outlining the top 25 players on the Notre Dame roster for 2010. The series is being compiled by Inside the Irish over on NBCSports.com by Keith Arnold with input from several ND blogs including UHND. This morning I give you the next set of rankings – numbers 20-16.
Like yesterday’s post, I’ll start off with my rankings and then give some comments on my all of the picks. The full list of rankings from all of the Irish bloggers is over on Inside the Irish.
20. Darrin Walls, CB: Expected a lot more out of Walls last year. Hopefully Chuck Martin can help Walls fulfill some of his potential in 2010.
19. Gary Gray, CB: Gray was the most consistent Irish corner in 2009. Why he didn’t play more I have no idea.
18. Harrison Smith, DB: Toughest player on the team to rank. Talent is clearly there — production hasn’t been.
17. Zack Martin, LT: Hasn’t played much but was a fast riser in spring ball and could be the starting LT. If he is, let’s hope this ranking is too low.
16. Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE: Was a training camp star last year, but was inconsistent in the fall.
This set of rankings starts with a pair of veteran corners – Darrin Walls at #20 and Gary Gray at 19. In the first set I had Robert Blanton ranked just outside the top 25 at #22. Walls and Gray come in a few spots because I think they’ll end up being the starting corner duo for the Irish in 2010. Walls had the look of a lock down corner in 2007 as a true freshman, but missed all of 2008 due to suspension and then had a very up and down season in 2009. Of all of the corners on the roster, Walls probably has the best pure coverage skills, but he also trails Gray and Blanton in his tackling. Still, Walls has the talent to be a good corner for this team and with one season left the time is now for him.
Gray meanwhile was the most consistent Irish corner in 2009 and I still can’t figure out why he didn’t play more. Gray was a sound tackler and was more than solid in coverage. A big season from Gray wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
Number 18 on the list is sure to draw some debate. Harrison Smith is the most maligned player on the roster this year and that is a largely a deserved distinction. So far Smith is known more for his bone-head plays than his big plays. I still think a lot of his mistakes over the past two seasons stem from playing out of place at linebacker and then switching back and forth. Now that he has a steady home at safety, Smith will hopefully start to live up to the hype. If this list were based on pure athletic ability, Smith would be much higher. It’s time that potential turns into production.
Next up is Zack Martin. It’s tough to project Martin, but I have a hunch he is going to be a nice surprise for Notre Dame fans this fall. He was a fast riser in spring ball and with both tackle spots open, look for Martin to secure one of them – most likely the coveted left tackle position. He’s an athletic tackle who should really excel in the spread offense.
Rounding out our second set of rankings is Kapron Lewis-Moore. This may be a tad too low for the junior defensive end. No one else had Lewis-Moore listed yet which leads me to believe he’s a top 15 player for the rest of the contributors in these rankings as I can’t see him falling outside anyone’s top 25. My lower ranking stems from concerns over on well he’ll hold up at defensive end in the 3-4 alignment. When he was moved inside last year in the 4-3 he looked over-matched. He’s got a lot of talent and ton of upside at this point though.
In looking at the others’ rankings, a few things stood out to me. First, Ian Williams showed up #18 and 19 on two separate lists. This took me by surprise since as you’ll see over the next few days, I have him ranked quite a bit higher. If Williams really is only the 18th or 19th best player on the Notre Dame roster, the Irish defense could be in a lot of trouble this year. The nose-tackle is one of the most important positions on the field in a 3-4 defense meaning Notre Dame is going to need a big season from the senior.
Another player that took me by surprise for being ranked low was Trevor Robinson who came in at #17 on one. As I wrote last week, Robinson is one of the top 5 players on the Notre Dame roster as far as I’m concerned.
So far this as been a pretty fun experiment and should only get more interesting as we get closer to the top 5. Keith will be posting the next set of rankings from everyone later today and I’ll have more detail on my rankings later this evening.