One of the biggest predictors for early playing time as a freshman is whether or not that player enrolls early. Getting into the weight room, participating in spring practice, and going to class a full five months ahead of your classmates is a tremendous advantage.
Every year for the past few cycles Notre Dame has brought in at least one early enrollee, usually around 3-4. The 2019 class is going to feature a whopping 10 players enrolling when classes resume in January. That’s not only a positive for the players themselves, but for the team as a whole. Veterans get banged up, or the team doesn’t want to overuse them in spring ball, and the young players provide depth in numbers to keep practices competitive and functional.
Four On The Offensive Line
The Irish will have four freshmen offensive linemen showing up for winter workouts in Andrew Kristofic (229th nationally, per 247 composite), Quinn Carroll (108th), John Olmstead (180th), and Zeke Correll (119th). That’s four players within the top 250, three tackles and a guard, although those positions are likely movable. That gives the Irish 14 scholarship offensive linemen to have at their disposal for spring practice, which will do wonders for the quality of work the offense will be able to put in over those 15 practices. A reminder that last season Notre Dame had as little as nine scholarship linemen for the spring at times, which limited what they could work on. There will be no such limits next time around.
A further reminder that in numbers and in rating, this is the best recruited unit on the team, and perhaps the nation, which is, you know, pretty good considering offensive line play is what makes everything go in the game of football, and Notre Dame has a history of turning out quality linemen.
Three On The Defensive Line
Three defensive line signees out of the four the Irish pulled in will be seen by Irish fans for the spring finale in defensive end Nana Osafa-Mensah (138th), and defensive tackles Jacob Lacey (157th), and Hunter Spears (292nd).
Osafa-Mensah is one of the stars of the class, a top 150 defensive end out of Texas, who is 6-4, 231 and a pass rush specialist. He has been in the fold since the summer, never wavered, and will have a chance to compete in the spring. After having seen how Notre Dame has developed Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara, fans have to feel good about what can happen with the Texas product.
Lacey and Spears are two four star defensive tackle prospects, Lacey having been committed since July of 2017, and Spears another Texas product who is coming off of a knee injury. Lacey is 6-2, 285 and a very good athlete inside who also plays baseball. Getting into the weight room early for him and Spears, who could use a college weight training program to fully recover from his injury, will be vital.
It’s hard to gauge the chances of this trio to see the field in 2019. Three years ago I’d have said there was a really good chance. The roster is deeper now, and the players ahead of them are pretty good too. An amazing thing to say along the defensive line.
A Star Running Back
Missouri running back Kyren Williams will be available in the spring, and his skill set gives a big chance to see the field, if he can master pass protection, albeit a big if there.
Williams can run inside or outside, and is excellent in the passing game. Given who the quarterback is for the Irish, those skills as a receiver could be invaluable. Leading rusher Dexter Williams will be moving on the NFL following the playoffs, so there is certainly going to be time and carries available. For a guy who has been compared to Theo Riddick by some recruiting analysts and a playing style of Golden Tate (by me), the sky is the limit for him.
A Linebacker And A Punter
Indiana Player of the Year Jack Kiser will also be an early enrollee, the three star likely needing some time to develop before becoming a contender to see the field, even on special teams. He projects as a Buck or Rover, and the Irish have recruited those positions well the past few cycles.
Punter Jay Bramblett from Alabama, Tuscaloosa no less, will be able to compete right away, with a leg up (see what I did there) at being the starter right away with senior Tyler Newsome having exhausted his eligibility. As a likely starter, getting him on campus and acclimated to college football early is key.