Matt Cashore /

Ten on Top: Outstanding Irish to Date

Irish Illustrated goes to the blind ballot box with each staff member naming his or her Top 10 players and five additional honorable mention choices for the 6-1 Irish.

Earlier this week I polled the Irish Illustrated staff for their Top 10 Notre Dame performers to date, asking for five honorable mention candidates as well.

Our panel includes Jack Freeman, Tim Prister, Pete Sampson, Jake Brown, Steve Hare, Anna Hickey, and myself. Our No. 1 and No. 2 choices were separated by one point (and were significantly higher than was No. 3) while No. 3 and No. 4 had a three-point separation between them.

1. C.J. Prosise – Has posted 12 (total) touchdowns and an obscene 7.1 yards per carry. Prosise received four of seven first place votes from the panel plus a low outlier at #4. As Anna Hickey (voted him second) offered of Prosise going forward: “Feed the Beast…”

2. Will Fuller – It should be noted Fuller flat out won a football game – a loss that would have waylaid the season – and that outweighs his remarkable 21.9 yards per catch average. Received three No. 1 votes, three No. 2s and a No. 4.

Said Pete Sampson (voted him first): “A scoring threat from any yard line, Fuller has taken Brian Kelly’s spread offense and stretched it vertically beyond the limits of most defenses.”

3. Sheldon Day – The senior captain placed No. 2 on two ballots and No. 3 on four others. (He fell to No. 7 in one ballot). After voting him second, Tim Prister said of Day: “At the center of all good things that happen to the defense.”
4. Jaylon Smith – Placed either No. 3 or No. 4 on all seven ballots. I voted Smith No. 4 overall (behind Prosise, Fuller, and Day), noting “Forces offenses to game plan around him, or better put, as far away from him as possible.”

5. DeShone Kizer – Was named on all seven ballots, as low as #10 (twice) and as high as No. 3 overall. Said Steve Hare of the Irish triggerman: “Kizer has made his share of mistakes but without his clutch performance this season the Irish already would be out of the playoff hunt.”

6. Isaac Rochell – Earned a top 10 mention on five of seven ballots, receiving honorable mention on the other two. I voted him the highest at No. 5. Said Jake Brown of Rochell: “The other disruptive defensive lineman upon which Notre Dame can rely. Without him and Day, where would the Irish be?”

7. KeiVarae Russell – Like Rochell, appeared on five Top 10 ballots and two honorable mention. Said Pete Sampson of Russell: “Was outstanding against USC, which could be his new standard. His tackling skills have been very underrated.”

8. Ronnie Stanley – Earned four top 10 nominations, two honorable mentions, and was left off one ballot altogether. I ranked Stanley seventh with this takeaway: “I assume his overall film grade merits higher, but much is expected of Stanley, and he’s been “very good” rather than, say, the best offensive lineman in college football. He needs to be the latter in November.”

9. Nick Martin – Placed on four Top 10 ballots and earned honorable mention on a fifth while being left off two completely. Said Anna Hickey of the two-time Irish captain: “He’s healthy, and he’s not getting beat. The unquestioned leader of a terrific offensive line unit.”

10. Tyler Newsome – Appeared on four Top 10s with an honorable mention as well. Newsome placed #5 on one ballot. Said Tim Prister of Notre Dame’s third-phase weapon: “The number of times he’s significantly impacted the outcome of a key stretch of the game as well a final outcome are beyond the normal contribution of a punter.”


In order of votes received, weighing Top 10 nominations:

-- Chris Brown
– Made three top 10s, though never higher than No. 9 and placed among each remaining voter’s honorable mention. One of eight players (Fuller, Prosise, Smith, Day, Russell, Rochell, Kizer) to be named in some manner by each voter. Said Jake Brown of his namesake: “He's developed into a reliable second option for DeShone Kizer in the passing game. Kudos to Brown for making it happen.”

-- Elijah Shumate Earned two top 10 nominations plus three honorable mention ballots. Said Jack Freeman of the senior safety: “Maybe his eye discipline should be better, but he delivers the hits.”

-- Justin Yoon – Three Top 10s and an honorable mention. Offered Freeman of Yoon: “Overcame freshman disorientation to become a major weapon”

-- Joe Schmidt – Earned a spot on one top 10 ballot with three honorable mention.  As Hare noted of Schmidt: “It’s clear Notre Dame is better with Schmidt in the lineup, even if he misses a tackle or two each game. He is the glue of the Irish defense.”

-- C.J. Sanders – Placed on two Top 10 ballots with an additional honorable mention…

-- Cole Luke – One Top 10 ballot with two honorable mentions

Others Receiving Honorable Mention Votes: Quenton Nelson (2), Steve Elmer (2), Mike McGlinchey (2), Torii Hunter (1), EQ St. Brown (1), Josh Adams (1), Jerry Tillery (1), Buster Sheridan (1), Malik Zaire (1 – top 10) Top Stories