Upon Further Review: Incoming Irish

Opinions varied on which Notre Dame freshmen from the class of 2015 would be called upon to lend a hand as rookies next fall. Midway through spring ball, the forecast for first-season playing time has changed for many.

The status of incoming Irish freshmen will be better determined in mid-August, rather than mid-April, but enough has changed since February's National Signing Day to author a refreshed look at potential contributors from the class of 2015 next fall.

Of note: Players are grouped by position as possible, not listed in order.

EARLY ENROLLEES
Jerry Tillery -- From curiosity to sure-fire contributor? That appears to be the case for this former top tier tackle prospect turned defensive linemen. No post-practice presser with head coach Brian Kelly -- or assistant coaches Keith Gilmore (defensive line), Harry Hiestand (offensive line), or Mike Denbrock (associate head coach) has concluded without the utterance of Tillery's name.

Micah Dew-Treadway -- Will be aided immeasurably down the line by his semester enrollment, but barring injury calamity to the position group (a la 2014) Dew-Treadway is headed for a season of development on the scout team.

Tristen Hoge -- Working as the No. 3 center behind 5th-year senior Nick Martin and redshirt-freshman Sam Mustipher. Hoge is on the five-year plan as are the majority of offensive linemen recruited to a healthy football program.

Te'Von Coney -- Has impressed Kelly with his toughness and knowledge of the game and has the physical skills to contribute as a rookie on special teams. Backs up Jaylon Smith at the will linebacker position.

BACK SEVEN DEFENDERS
Josh Barajas -- At worst, special teams duty. At best, stardom among the specialty units. Barajas has everything a coach could want in a coverage and return units contributor. (Reminiscent of current junior James Onwualu in his aggressive approach and demeanor.) Playing time at linebacker though will be an uphill battle with six certain contributors already populating the three-position unit and a seventh, Coney, in the fold.

Barajas vs. Coney could be an August camp battle to watch.

Asmar Bilal -- He can run like the wind and tackle, so special teams duty seems likely, not to mention prudent. Last projected by a few pundits (and myself) as a potential 2015 safety to aid the depleted unit, the Irish now seem to have enough help at the position with incoming transfer Avery Sebastian, the move of John Turner back to safety after a year at linebacker. Add to that the expected return ahead-of-schedule by Drue Tranquill from November ACL surgery and a position switch would only occur to benefit Bilal, not just augment depth. .

Shaun Crawford -- Will get a serious look at nickel in an effort to augment incumbent Matthias Farley's efforts at the crucial position. It seems unlikely Crawford wouldn't either win the No. 2 nickel role and/or be the team's No. 5 varsity cornerback in-season.

Ashton White -- Nickel candidate #2/3

Nick Coleman -- Nickel candidate #2/3

Said defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder of the lack of current competition for Farley at nickel: "Younger players that will be here in the fall. We have a number of in-and-out corners. We'll find one of them and see which one suits the position the best."

Nicco Fertitta -- A special teams audition awaits.

Mykelti Williams -- Assuming good health to four of Notre Dame's six veteran safeties, Williams' best chance to play as a rookie is likewise as a member of the Irish run teams (kickoff and punt coverage and return.) Similarly to Bilal above, Williams appeared to have a foot-in-the-door for a potential three-deep role in the fall, but that was before the program recruited 5th-year senior Avery Sebastian and senior John Turner moved back to safety from linebacker.

SKILL POSITIONS
Aliz'e Jones -- Yes. He'll play. Or to quote Denbrock: "If you're going over ideas such as, 'Okay, what are we going to do with two tight ends? What do we like to do?' Well it always pops into my brain, 'Well Aliz'e's coming, so maybe we like that a little better.'"

C.J. Sanders -- An immediate candidate for punt and kickoff return. Said special teams coordinator Scott Booker when asked if Sanders could contribute as a punt returner: "Have you seen his high school film?"

Myles Boykin -- Has the frame to compete with the varsity from the outset but the names Fuller, Robinson, Brown, Prosise, Carlisle aren't going anywhere, and the Hunter/Brent/Holmes trio has a head start on any incoming freshmen pass catchers.

Equanimeous St. Brown -- To best illustrate the challenge that faces St. Brown, Boykin, Guyton, and even last year's freshmen tandem of Justin Brent and Corey Holmes, consider a quick review of former Kelly-era wide receiver rotations:

-- Would St. Brown or Boykin or (fill-in your candidate) have cracked the Irish rotation as a 2010 freshman? There's no doubt.

-- How about 2011? Absolutely.
-- 2012? Possibly -- the last man in was freshman straight-liner Chris Brown.
-- 2013 and 2014? No way.

The position has been recruited well of late, and the incoming targets will likely have to wait their turns as a result.

Jalen Guyton -- See Bokin, St. Brown.

Dexter Williams and Josh Adams -- The development of C.J. Prosise as a potential running back contributor clouds the immediate futures of both Williams and Adams, but it's notable that average No. 4 running back of the Kelly-era (not including quarterbacks) generally participates on game days over the course of the season:

2010: Jonas Gray 20 carries, 103 yards
2011: George Atkinson 9 carries, 29 yards, 2 TD
2012: Cam McDaniel 23 carries, 126 yards, 1 TD (Includes QB Everett Golson and three other runners ahead of him)
2013: Amir Carlisle 47 carries, 204 yards
2014: C.J. Prosise 10 carries, 134 yards, 1 TD (Includes 3 RBs and 2 QB ahead of hi in attempts)

LINEMEN READY FOR DEVELOPMENT
Bo Wallace -- Expected to aid future Irish pass rushes, though he'll have to be hell on wheels to pull ahead of myriad potential contributors at rush end this fall (Kolin Hill, Doug Randolph, Grant Blankenship, etc.) as part of the team's sub packages.

Elijah Taylor -- All signs point to a redshirt season, especially with the emergence of Tillery as a near-certain contributor, coupled with ample sophomores ahead of him in the pecking order.

Brandon Tiassum -- Like Taylor (and Dew-Treadway, above), Tiassum is likely slated for some quality time with strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo.

Trevor Ruhland -- Guard prospect will lift and learn in 2015.

SPECIALISTS
Justin Yoon -- The field goal kicker. Period. And if not, I'll see you in the Sun Bowl.

Brandon Wimbush -- Barring catastrophe, Wimbush will redshirt as have five of his six Kelly-era quarterback predecessors.


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