A collection of thoughts that need to leave my head prior to the outset of August Camp:
1 – Suspended junior running back Greg Bryant ranks somewhere between Notre Dame’s 35th and 40th most important player entering his junior season. That harsh reality helps assuage his absence between the lines in 2015 – but I can’t shake the thought he might have ascended to rank among the team’s Top 15-20 had things not broken bad for him over the last calendar year.
2 – In December 2012, Notre Dame’s incoming linebacker pledge class was as follows: Jaylon Smith, Doug Randolph, Michael Deeb, Danny Mattingly, and Alex Anzalone. That quintet is entering its third season of college football and only Jaylon Smith has recorded as much as a solo stop for the Fighting Irish.
(Well, he’s recorded a lot of them and much more, but the point remains.)
3 – I’d like to amend my answer during Monday’s Podcast regarding the player I view to be a bit better than does the masses. It’s Sheldon Day, who ranked as the team’s best player (not the defensive line’s best, the team’s best) per my film reviews last fall prior to his Game 10 knee injury.
I’ll borrow from Mike Ditka on the subject: “Stats are for idiots.” I agree when it comes to the impact of interior defensive linemen.
4 – In my viewing lifetime (1981-present), the best Notre Dame player to return from suspension is Michael Stonebreaker, a first-team All-American for the 1988 national champs, and following his suspension in 1989, a first-team All-American for the 1990 title-contending squad. (A close second on this list is Julius Jones as a 5th-year senior for a terrible Irish team in 2003.)
Can Keivarae Russell overtake either for the mythical mantle this fall?
5 – It’s worth reiterating that the bane of the Irish fan’s existence over the last 12 months – the so-called 2014 Frozen Four – could help propel the 2015 squad to the college football playoffs, because had he suited up for Kelly & Co. last season, there’s little chance Russell would be in tow today.
Russell first publicly mentioned going pro in the bowels of Yankee Stadium following the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl…at the conclusion of his true sophomore season.
6 – The medical disqualifications of junior tight end Mike Heuerman and the aforementioned Michael Deeb bring Notre Dame’s present scholarship total to 86 athletes, at least if you include former walk-ons Connor Cavalaris (now a grad student) and sophomore Montgomery VanGorder, both presented with scholarships last summer.
Kelly’s program is technically one scholarship over the NCAA’s 85-man allotment, an ideal situation for a program that generally begins August Camp hamstrung at no more than 80 eligible players deep.
My best guess: Kelly’s squad squares off against Texas with 83 players on scholarship on September 5.
Attrition always strikes in August. Always.
7 – On a related note, I’d like to petition that (Notre Dame graduate) Cavalaris be one of the grant-aid 85. Call me old fashioned but I’m a fan of players that earn their scholarships on the field, something he’s done since he began running under kickoffs for the 2012, national runner-up Irish.
8 – It’d be interesting to see how many times Kelly referenced Ishaq Williams in a press conference during his three seasons as a competitor vs. the number of times Williams was referenced, however loosely, during his 11.5 months as a suspended player. Has to be close, don’t you think?
9 – A final note on Greg Bryant: Did you know only one formerly redshirted freshman running back has ever gone on to lead a Notre Dame team in rushing yards? (Freshmen eligibility began in 1972).
Cierre Wood, and he did it twice, 2010 and 2011. On a related note, name a standout 5th-year senior running back in program history other than Julius Jones? They don’t exist; they go pro.