When ESPN released it’s list of Top 5 Notre Dame players last week it got the Irish blogosphere talking. In response, NBC’s Keith Arnold enlisted the help of a few of us Notre Dame bloggers to expanded on ESPN’s idea by ranking the top 25 players on the Irish roster.
The first installment – players ranked #25-21 – was posted by Keith over on Inside the Irish yesterday with rankings from Irish blogs Her Loyal Sons, Rakes of Mallow, Clashmore Mike, and UHND on top of his own rankings and those of one of the readers of Inside the Irish.
You can see all of the participant’s rankings over on Inside the Irish. Below are my rankings along with the rational behind each pick.
25. Shaquelle Evans, WR: Didn’t see much action down the stretch in 2009, but could be the heir apparent to Michael Floyd.
24. Jamoris Slaughter, DB: Showed some flashes at safety last year and has the potential to be a very good defensive back.
23. Nick Tausch, K: I really hope this is too low of a ranking for Tausch.
22. Robert Blanton, CB: Looked great as a freshman in 2008, but took a step back in 2009. Will have to fight off Walls and Gray for one of the starting spots at CB.
21. John Goodman, WR: With so little experience behind Michael Floyd at wide receiver it’s tough project where the other receivers rank at this point.
Since I have a little more room over here, I’ll expand on these a little bit more.
I’ll start with Shaquelle Evans. This pick is based purely on potential. Evans tore it up last summer, saw the field early, and then wasn’t heard from much for the rest of the season after he didn’t come up with the 3rd and 10 pass against Michigan in week 2. Evans has a ton of potential though and might be the second most talented wide receiver on the Irish roster. I expect him to have a breakout season in 2010 in the new Irish offense. In terms of wide receivers, I have him ranked as the third wide receiver right now behind John Goodman at #21 and Michael Floyd who’s ranking will be revealed as the rest of the rankings come out.
Jamoris Slaughter came in next at #24. The junior safety looked pretty solid in limited action last year and should find his way in the starting lineup this year along side Harrison Smith. He’s got good coverage skills for a safety after converting from cornerback out of high school and was a fairly sound tackler on a poor tackling team last year.
Next up I put Nick Tausch. Like Evans, he played early as a true freshman and then didn’t play much after his first big snafu – two missed field goals against Navy. The previous staff said Tausch was injured before the Pitt game, but the injury or its extent was never revealed. Before the misses against Navy though, Tausch looked like the answer Notre Dame’s been searching for for years at place kicker. He’ll have competition from David Ruffer in fall camp, but look for Tausch to lock down the place kicking duties.
Going into last season Robert Blanton would have probably been ranked a lot higher on most people’s lists of the top 25 Notre Dame players, but a disappointing sophomore campaign brings Blanton to a make-or-break type season. Between he, Darrin Walls, and Gary Gray one won’t be starting. I have Walls and Gray ranked higher on my list to give you an indication of who I think ends up starting.
Rounding out the first group of rankings is junior John Goodman. Outside of one really nice touchdown grab in garbage time against Washington State we haven’t seen a whole lot from Goodman, but I expect big things out of him this year. By the end of the season Goodman will be at worst one of the top 3 receivers on the Irish roster.
In looking at the other sets of rankings, the one player I wish I had included is Braxston Cave. I think the junior center is going to end up starting at center for the Irish this year and that he’ll establish himself as one of the young leaders on the team.
Most of the other lists included Mike Ragone and Kerry Neal but I had a tough time placing them. Kerry Neal has been bounced back and forth between outside linebacker and defensive so much I wonder if he’ll be able to salvage his career in 2010 with Brian Smith and Darius Fleming penciled in as the starting outside backers. Ragone looked great in the Blue-Gold game, but his past injuries make him tough to place. He certainly has the talent, but time isn’t on his side at this point.