Irish Eyes Mail Bag

You asked, we answered: subscribers asked an intriguing set of questions for this month's off-season mailbag.

#1 -- Go to Guy?

Ed in Tempe writes: I like what coach (Kelly) is doing by building the program from the offense and defensive lines out, but why are the Irish struggling to recruit top receivers to South Bend? Who's the best recruit since Mike Floyd? T.J. Jones? Can ND win big with average receivers?

O'Malley: We only agree on the first part: I like that he's building up front, too.

Regardless of their individual achievements (to date, or in high school) or their rankings prior to college, I think the Irish receivers corps -- both for 2014 and beyond -- is the team's strongest, or at least second strongest position group.

Mainly because I don't think you need one great receiver to win in college: you need a bunch of guys that are tough to cover and can make plays. ND has five, potentially nine such players for 2014, and none of them exhaust eligibility thereafter.

I think DaVaris Daniels can be a breakout star with the return of Everett Golson and a swift kick in the … I think Corey Robinson, Will Fuller, and C.J. Prosise each have a unique quality about them that -- in congress -- makes the unit difficult to defend. Robinson's catch radius is top tier, Fuller can fly and has excellent ball skills, and Prosise is my undervalued player because I think he can excel after the catch.

Add to that the burst possessed by Chris Brown, the and the intrigue of Torii Hunter, plus Justin Brent and Corey Holmes for the future, and I love what the staff has done at the position.

As great as Michael Floyd was, Notre Dame won 25 and lost 18 when he played.

It takes a village, not a tower. (And a great quarterback doesn't hurt.)

#2 -- Top 10 for 2014?

Karen in Raleigh writes: Who are our 10 best players -- as of now, not projecting -- for 2014? How about with projecting forward as well?

O'Malley: The first part is easier, though far less exciting )and less enticing) of a list.

Best based on 2012-13 performance (no particular order): Jaylon Smith, DaVaris Daniels, Everett Golson, Kyle Brindza, Cam McDaniel, Keivarae Russell, Sheldon Day, Tarean Folston, Ronnie Stanley, Nick Martin -- just missed: Jarrett Grace, Tony Springmann (2012 performance).

Projecting for 2014, I'd argue for: Smith, Golson, Folston, Daniels, Russell, Day, Brindza, Martin, Romeo Okwara and I think McDaniel remains in the mix unless Greg Bryant flat out takes that spot..

I also considered: Stanley, Bryant, Grace, Ben Koyack, Elijah Shumate, Max Redfield, Cole Luke, Chris Brown and Will Fuller. Projecting Shumate, Redfield, Luke, Brown, and Fuller to "Top 10" status is a bit much, but they crossed my mind.

#3 -- Next to join and must gets

Tony in Clearwater writes: Which current prospect are you most certain will be Irish and why? Which current (realistic) prospect is the most important and why?

Anna Hickey: As this point, I don't foresee a commitment from a member in the 2015 class happening before junior day (March 1). There could be something that happens on junior day, but we'll evaluate that closer to that point in time. There's not a prospect with an Irish offer that is outwardly leaning towards Notre Dame more than 50 or 60 percent right now.

But, should four-star wide receiver Miles Boykin of New Lenox (Ill.) Providence Catholic receive an offer, I believe the Irish would be the favorite to land him. Boykin visited last season for the BYU game, and he visited last weekend as well. Boykin has great size (6'4") and athleticism; he could find a fit in a variety of roles at Notre Dame.

Jashon Cornell

As far as most important (realistic) prospect, I would go with a running back name, but it's too early in the game to dial in one one name in that department. I'll go with defensive end Jashon Cornell of Saint Paul (Minn.) Cretin Durham, the same school that Notre Dame freshman wide receiver James Onwualu attended.

Cornell is a four-star prospect and ranked as the nation's No. 9 defensive end. He can also play outside linebacker. I believe this will come down to Michigan and Notre Dame. He'll be participating in the Best of the Midwest combine on Monday, so I'll be able to touch base with him in person.

#4 What's in a number?

Lawrence in Columbus (Ga) writes: I'm concerned, to say the least, about the Irish defensive line for the coming season. You don't win with bodies, you win with talent and outside of Sheldon Day, I don't see it.

O'Malley: It's a shared concern by me and I assume many, and probably the difference between 10-2 (or better) and 8-4 (or worse) next fall.

Junior DL Sheldon Day

The 15-player unit contains one certainty: Sheldon Day. Day will be somewhere between solid and outstanding. Thereafter the group is faced with:

  • Two health concerns -- Tony Springmann's surgically repaired knee and Chase Hounshell's thrice-repaired shoulder.

  • Banking on inexperience thereafter -- Is Jarron Jones the player we saw vs. Brigham Young? Or vs. Stanford? Will he pay the price to anchor a line for 13 games? Is Isaac Rochell a year away? Can he do battle with the likes of Michigan, Stanford, Florida State, and USC up front? Is 5th-year senior Justin Utupo viable as a two-deep end?

  • Tweener concerns -- I love Romeo Okwara as a 4-3 defensive and, and I might like Ishaq Williams in the same role, but I'd be concerned with either as two-gap defensive ends in a three-man front.

  • And freshmen/redshirt-frosh -- What will defensive line coach Mike Elston get from edge rushers Jhonathan Williams, Kolin Hill and Jonathan Bonner? How about Grant Blankenship? Can Daniel Cage offer meaningful aid on Saturdays? Where's Jacob Matuska in his development? Is late addition Pete Mokwuah a prospect or a player on the roster?

Spring will give us an indication on players such as Okwara, Jones, Rochell, and Utupo, but we won't have an answer to this question until mid-October at the earliest.

Note: Send your questions about spring ball (or fall) to, or contact me directly through the site by clicking my name on the message board and sending a private message.

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