May Mailbag

Part 1 of today's two-part mail bag examines head coach Brian Kelly's recent comments on senior linebacker Ben Councell plus a projection for junior nose tackle Jarron Jones.

#1 -- Ben Councell's Versatility

Irish head coach Brian Kelly offered a few personnel updates last week (covered in our latest podcast). Among them was the status and apparent ascent of Councell whose season was truncated on November 1 by a torn ACL and subsequent surgery.

Question from Mark in Indianapolis: You touched on Ben Councell's position change in Thursday's podcast but can you elaborate?

I received a fair number of Councell inquiries because I misspoke and/or contradicted myself in the podcast. I think I mentioned Councell is quick enough to play outside vs. spread teams. What Irish head coach Brian Kelly actually said was quick enough to play outside against standard offenses and to set the edge/battle the opposing tight end.

He's quick enough to play inside vs. spread attacks. Thus, he could spell both John Turner (at strong side outside linebacker when the Irish face a standard or power offense) and inside linebacker Joe Schmidt when ND faces a spread attack that will also run the ball.

Assuming that clears up any confusion I caused, I think Councell's work next fall depends on two factors.

  • His recovery from November 2013 knee surgery, and
  • Jarrett Grace's recovery from multiple surgeries to repair his broken leg

Regardless of what occurs inside, Councell, will contribute heavily as the strong side outside linebacker in congress with Turner, one of the team's highest risers this spring.

Though it's unlikely he'll be at full strength by the season's outset, Councell's continued emergence could prove crucial when the schedule becomes more challenging in October and November. He has a fifth-year option to play in 2015 after sitting out 2011 as a true freshman.

#2 -- Jarron Jones, floor-to-ceiling

Perhaps the most important question received this week -- not that my answer makes it factual.

Question #2 from Edward in Detroit: Is Jarron Jones among your top 10 preseason player projections? Does he have to be for ND to be a contender?

He's not, but the second part of Edward's question is quite astute: As the team's interior point in a 4-3, Jones better get close to that status by season's end.

My pre-season Top 10 is ALWAYS at least 75 percent based on previous production and film study, then about 25 percent projection. In other words, Cam McDaniel would be in the 2014 pre-season top 10 because we've seen what he can do -- be a solid, heavy contributed to the running game -- while Greg Bryant wouldn't be. He has no body of work.

Of course, I think Bryant is better than McDaniel, or will prove to be, but that's what my weekly IN-SEASON Top 10 list is for. It's notable that my pre-season Top 10 for 2014 doesn't include 10 players -- it would have had Stephon Tuitt and Troy Niklas not left early:

Jaylon Smith, Sheldon Day, Keivarae Russell, Everett Golson, Ronnie Stanley, Nick Martin, Ben Koyack, Tarean Folston, Cam McDaniel…

I don't think Jones, or an emerging spring standout such as Bryant, or Joe Schmidt, or Max Redfield, can be on a pre-season Top 10 list that's based mainly on film evidence/past production.

With the notable exception of Golson, Jones is the player Irish fans most need to make this list at season's end. In good health, Smith, Day, and Russell are locks. Stanley and Martin are are step behind them, and I'd be stunned if Folston isn't include (Bryant too, but that's still speculation).

Jones had better be, or Notre Dame will need 35 points per game from its offense to be in contention entering November.

Note: Later today, two more questions from last week's emails. Top Stories