First Steps

Our spring status reports on every Irish player continue with a preview of four redshirt-freshmen with a chance to enter the two-deep mix by the spring session's end.

Recovered and Ready: McGovern and Randolph

Notre Dame's 2013 quintet of offensive linemen are known for two key traits: size and versatility. At nearly 6'5" and 313 pounds as of last August, Colin McGovern has the former but his ability to beat out a current or future Irish competitor at tackle is likely minimal -- guard is in his future, and that means spring brings senior Conor Hanratty, 5th-year senior Christian Lombard, and potentially classmate Steven Elmer as competition with a leg up on the New Lenox, Illinois native.

Also potentially the mix is fellow redshirt-frosh Hunter Bivin (though we've projected him at tackle) and junior (redshirt-sophomore) Mark Harrell who debuted vs. Air Force and appeared late in the team's Pinstripe Bowl win over Rutgers.

Post-spring two-deep consideration is key for McGovern with a trio of potential guards joining the fray in August. McGovern was limited early last season as he recovered from off-season knee surgery though he worked his way into the scout team mix as the season progressed.

Out for all of 2013 was linebacker Doug Randolph, a Cat (outside/boundary) prospect turned inside 'backer last August before his season was truncated by mid-camp shoulder surgery.

Randolph was deemed ready to roll for contact this spring. Should he remain inside under new defensive coordinator (and position coach) Brian VanGorder, competition exists at nearly every level of eligibility: 5th-year senior Kendall Moore, seniors (redshirt-juniors) Joe Schmidt and Jarrett Grace, and sophomore (redshirt-freshman) classmate Michael Deeb.

With five-star prospect Nyles Morgan joining the unit in August, spring 2014 is a crucial time for Randolph to make a first impression on his new boss.

Varsity Action

From scout team to three-deep to rotation time? That's the situation facing defensive lineman Jacob Matuska and cornerback Rashad Kinlaw, two redshirts that spent their true freshmen seasons learning a new position -- and on the opposite side of scrimmage, to boot.

A full-time high school tight end and part-time edge-rushing outside linebacker, Matuska moved to the defensive front last fall and is likely a year away from heavy competition for playing time. A consistent effort and improvement during upcoming spring session though could position him well for August camp when a whopping seven defensive line prospects enter the picture.

Almost 6'5" and 275 pounds as of August, the former four-star per Scout.com could be helped by a tweaked defensive scheme.

Kinlaw enters his first spring session after an Autumn spent running the opposing team's plays -- Notre Dame's third cornerback prospect from the 2013 recruiting haul served as head coach Brian Kelly's scout team quarterback for the bulk of last season.

The 5'11" 182-pounder remains a defensive back neophyte after losing most of his senior season to a broken leg and playing quarterback and safety upon his late-season return.

Ahead of Kinlaw entering spring ball are junior Keivarae Russell and sophomore classmates Cole Luke and Devin Butler. Presumed ahead but within striking distance is senior (redshirt-junior) Jalen Brown, suspended (and since reinstated) for the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl for a pre-game violation of team rules.

With incoming freshman Nick Watkins ready and able to breech the two-deep with a strong August camp, the Brown/Kinlaw competition could prove crucial to the winner as he looks to fend off the freshmen next fall. ?


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