Matt Cashore /

O’Malley’s Monday Musings

A collection of thoughts that must leave my mind prior to the start of Week Four.

1 – In August I offered in this space that Frank Stam’s switch from fullback to linebacker and ultimately to rush end was the most successful “scrimmage flip” in my Irish viewing lifetime (1980-present). One month later we have a legitimate contender to join Stams atop that short list in safety-turned-WR-turned-RB C.J. Prosise.

2 – With due respect to the ultra-productive Darius Walker (2005-06), Julius Jones (2003) and Jonas Gray (2011) are my choices as Notre Dame’s two best single-season runners of the new millennium.

Prosise is well on his way to turning that top tier duo into a trio, and there’s a common trait that links each: the ability to run through tackles at the second level – plus speed to burn thereafter.

3 – Notre Dame entered the season three-deep at strong safety with Elijah Shumate, Drue Tranquill and Avery Sebastian populating the depth chart. After Saturday, only Shumate is available for the foreseeable future with Tranquill out for the season (torn ACL) and Sebastian sidelined by a broken foot.

It’s not an issue if free safety Max Redfield can function with a broken thumb by the time the Irish hit Death Valley, but the junior sat out Saturday, a decision due in part to personnel tweaks (Shumate and Tranquill as safeties) but doubtless his injury as well. 

Sans Redfield, the best option appears to be a Shumate/Matthias Farley combination, but which of the two – both better suited to play the strong side – plays in Redfield’s stead as a free safety and ultimately the last line of defense? (Defensive backs coach Todd Lyght offered in August that Shumate and Redfield cross-trained since the spring.)

4 – While we’re on the topic: Sheldon Day, Isaac Rochell, Will Fuller C.J. Prosise, and Jaylon Smith, and likely in that order. There’s your new short list of the players the 3-0 Irish “can’t afford to lose” going forward.

5 – Day offered last week, perhaps in jest, though it appeared at least a kernel of truth was present, that freshman nose tackle Jerry Tillery “ does things Jerry's way,” at times in practice. And that he can get away with it because of his unique athletic gifts.

Against Georgia Tech, the rookie Tillery appeared to be as disciplined as any of his veteran teammates, and the Yellow Jackets interior rushing attack was stymied as a result. Faced with his toughest collegiate test to date, Tillery shined.

6 – Over the last 30 years, six Notre Dame teams have begun a football season with four consecutive victories: 1988 (national title), 1989 (one loss, runner-up) 1993 (one loss, runner-up), 2002 (10-3 after an 8-0 start), 2012 (one loss, runner-up) and 2014 (8-5 after a 6-0 start).

With a win over Massachusetts (underdogs of 27 points) this week inside the House that Rockne Built the 2015 Irish will qualify as the seventh, and in the process tie Kelly with Holtz for three such campaigns – in six seasons rather than 11.

7 – It’s imperative that freshman kicker Justin Yoon gain confidence/rhythm heading into what should be a 60-minute battle with Clemson to open October. There’s no such thing as intentionally settling for a field goal in scoring territory, but if the Irish build a solid second half lead this Saturday, and a 4th-and-1 opportunity presents, a makeable field goal attempt wouldn’t be a bad idea.

8 – A list of third-down playmakers for the Irish defense reads as follows among Georgia Tech’s first nine failed attempts to move the chains:

-- Drue Tranquill
-- Romeo Okwara/D-Line pressure
-- Daniel Cage/Isaac Rochell
-- Joe Schmidt/Greer Martini
-- Joe Schmidt
-- Drue Tranquill (injured thereafter)
-- KeiVarae Russell
-- Sheldon Day
-- James Onwualu
-- And after the Yellow Jackets converted try #10, Day and Russell both keyed the stop of another thereafter.

It’s a promising sign for the near future that the defense dominated on third down without the direct aid of the nation’s best linebacker, Jaylon Smith.

Onto Week Four… Top Stories