Fast Freshmen

Our Stream of Consciousness series previewing every scholarship member of the 2013 Irish turns its attention to a pair of freshmen. Two speedsters that could force their way onto the field as members of Notre Dame's specialty units, or, "run teams," if not find a role from scrimmage.

Note: For Stream of Consciousness thoughts on 65 previously previewed Irish players entering 2013, click the links below.

10 in the Trenches: Both sides of scrimmage

Sunday Sampler (Hodgepodge)

Five Freshmen

Six on the Spot

The Returnees (Injured Irish from 2012)

Three Key Juniors

The Quarterbacks: Three to Make One?

Senior Trio

Through the Ranks: one per class

Early Impressions? Four in need of a strong summer/August camp.

Three Sophomores Ready for Impact

Relative Rookies: Redshirt-Freshmen Debuts

Rookie of the Year: The Prime Candidates

The Insiders (Linebackers)

Cornerback Cole Luke

Two pressing questions, one that will impact 2014, the other 2017:

  1. Can Luke's impressive skill set as a cover corner overcome potential tackling issues due to his 170-pound (as of early June) frame, not to mention the standard freshman learning curve? Fans underestimate how important tackling is on the corner (remember, talented freshman Darrin Walls started as a rookie, then was benched when Purdue's receivers shed him without breaking stride after the catch). If the answer is yes to either, the "fringe five-star" could take the No. 4 cornerback role from either Jalen Brown or Josh Atkinson.

  2. If the answer to questions above are "no," can a player with Luke's speed be redshirted/preserved at a program that has stunk out loud on special teams for the last two seasons? There's no way Luke's ability to run and play football can't aid the Irish run teams...

If Luke emerges as a two-deep cornerback option by season's end, the Irish perimeter will again be in good hands in 2014 with Luke, junior Keivarae Russell, and likely fifth-year senior Lo Wood. Is a part-time (or full-time?) nickel role available to Luke? His cover skills would be a fit and an upgrade over converted LB/Safety Elijah Shumate from last fall. (Shumate will not be the nickel this season, instead battling for a starting FS role.)

A Luke + Jaylon Smith combo in the nickel and dime packages is more than a little appealing...

Running Back Tarean Folston

The forgotten man…With fellow Florida frosh Greg Bryant the pre-season poster-child of nearly every Irish magazine and website, the hiccup-quick Folston's potential impact has been largely overlooked. But Theo Riddick is gone, so too is Robby Toma, and the clubhouse leader exiting spring for a RB/slot, role, Amir Carlisle, has yet to prove he can stay upright and on the field…Folston has a chance to play from scrimmage if he picks up the offense in August…

Unlike Bryant, blitz protection doesn't have to be part of the Folston package, as head coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin can use the latter in certain packages and with certain matchups in mind (in other words, Folston need not spend the bulk of his time as an offset running back)…

Aside from Folston's performance, there are two key camp indicators regarding his potential addition to the offensive rotation: the health of Carlisle -- if he can stay on the field, he's the best man for the job at present, and the continued emergence of C.J. Prosise in the slot. Notre Dame need not use a RB/slot player in its offense, its merely an option. If the 6'2" 220-pound Prosise proves he can play, Folston's impact will be delayed a calendar year…

Open jobs for the RB/CB/athlete include kick returner (George Atkinson was tentative in 2012), punt returner (because he can't be worse -- nor could you, for that matter), and coverage on both units: Folston can run and hit, two traits in short supply outside of a handful of Irish coverage men last fall…

Another reality regarding Folston: if he plays, and plays well, Notre Dame is unlikely to ink a second running back in the 2014 cycle, because a Folston/Bryant/Elijah Hood future, coupled with the presence of Carlisle through 2015 would provide quite a deterrent to a high school runner looking for early playing time…

Pre-camp guess: Folston doesn't redshirt -- the staff can't risk another Floridian losing focus during the depressing winter months…

An apt comparison to the Bryant/Folston battle for playing time might be Cierre Wood v. Theo Riddick in 2009: Riddick could do more, he therefore played, Wood, as a result, didn't but had a season of eligibility preserved -- one which he eschewed. But in this case, I don't think Bryant can be kept from the fray, he brings a toughness and wiggle necessary in Kelly's spread attack.

Look for both to play with Folston's ultimate contributions for 2013 determined by his ability to pick up the concepts of the passing game.


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