1 – Someone old, someone new: I for one am looking forward to the much-anticipated Muhammad Ali/Larry Holmes rematch in two weeks, aka, Super Bowl 50. Let’s hope the NFL’s all-time class act, Peyton Manning, has a little more left in the tank than did Ali when Holmes ended the former’s career in ignominious fashion back in October of 1980.
2 – Podcast Omission: A question was posed on today’s Irish Illustrated podcast asking for our opinions on the top “sleeper” of the Brian Kelly era. Though he wasn’t recruited by Kelly, Tyler Eifert doubtless developed under the current regime and as a three-star prospect turned NFL Pro Bowler, was the discussion’s clear-cut winner. Other names bandied about on the Podcast included Will Fuller (a four-star) and C.J. Prosise (four-star at Scout.com/three-star elsewhere), plus under or not recruited standouts Tommy Rees, Joe Schmidt, Matthias Farley, and, ironically, Nick Martin.
The latter leads me to this head-shaking omission by Tim Prister, Pete Sampson, and myself, because he’s the No. 1 sleeper of the Kelly era, the new millennium, the last quarter-century, and possibly in the history of the Notre Dame program:
3 – When .500 is a Good Thing: The loss of future first round NBA Draft pick Demetrius Jackson Saturday to a hamstring injury puts Notre Dame’s four-game ACC winning streak in immediate jeopardy, though should the Irish steal a win in the Carrier Dome Thursday night, they’d be favored to handle Wake Forest in South Bend next Sunday (whether Jackson plays or not).
Look for Jackson to miss the matchup against the Orange but return in an attempt to secure a 6-3 league mark vs. the Demon Deacons, especially with this brutal slate on tap thereafter: at #15 Miami, home vs. likely #1 North Carolina, at giant-killer Clemson, and at #17 Louisville – four games in which the rolling Irish will be Vegas underdogs, with or without their star point guard.
If Notre Dame survives its next six contests with a 3-3 mark (bringing their league mark to 8-5 with five to play) they’ll be no reason for angst on Selection Sunday.
4 – Next in Line? Congratulations to former Irish star Troy Murphy for his induction into Notre Dame’s Ring of Honor Saturday afternoon. Murphy joins Luke Harangody, Austin Carr, Adrian Dantley, Tom Hawkins, and Digger Phelps among former men’s basketball luminaries to have jerseys raised to the Purcell Pavilion rafters.
Who should be next? Here’s your prime handful, choose your own order: Kelly Tripucka, David Rivers, and John Shumate…followed by John Paxson, Jerian Grant, LaPhonso Ellis, Pat Garrity, and Monty Williams. And as colleague Lou Somogyi pointed out, the names Moose Krause, George Keogan, and Dick Rosenthal need some type of mention as well.
5 – What Might Have Been? Watching bits and pieces of Sunday’s NFC Championship game, the varied skillset of Arizona Cardinals rookie running back David Johnson elicited an immediate comparison, at least at the college level: C.J. Prosise.
It’s a shame Kelly & Co. didn’t get a second season out of Prosise at his best because the dual-threat offensive weapon would have been a dynamite performer in next year’s balanced offense. But that’s the price you pay for both top-notch player development and quality recruiting – eventually those guys go to the league, often sooner than expected.
6 – Playoff Level: Building on last week’s two-part series:
and excluding incoming freshmen, I’m comfortable projecting the following Irish as Playoff Level performers for 2016:
Isaac Rochell, Jarron Jones, James Onwualu, Cole Luke, Malik Zaire, Torii Hunter, Jr., Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson, DeShone Kizer, C.J. Sanders (return game), Tyler Newsome, and Justin Yoon.
7 – New Year’s Six Level: For various reasons (injury concerns, inconsistency, new roles/situations), the following should project as New Year’s Six level competitors at present:
Josh Adams, Tarean Folston, Drue Tranquill, Durham Smythe, Alex Bars, Steve Elmer, Greer Martini (listed as an oft-used reserve), Josh Adams, Equanimeous St. Brown, Aliz’e Jones, Shaun Crawford, Jerry Tillery, Andrew Trumbetti, Nyles Morgan, Daniel Cage…and Brandon Wimbush.
8 – Second Tier: The lists above purport a promising campaign but it’s likely true that the 2016 season’s fate will thus rest in the hands of the current Second Tier (or as offered today by a colleague, “Russell Athletic Bowl” level competitors). How many from the following will outplay this expectation to strengthen the Irish from within?
Max Redfield, the starting center, Corey Robinson, Avery Sebastian, Jonathan Bonner, Jay Hayes, Nick Watkins, Devin Butler, Nick Coleman, Te’Von Coney and Miles Boykin (notable in that he’s one of only two RS-frosh listed)…and yes, a full handful of incoming freshmen.
I’ll have a follow-up to No. 8 next Monday in the Musings…
9 – Everything But? My annual “Two-Class Review” – a look at Notre Dame’s last two recruiting classes with an eye toward their roles two seasons into the future – is just over a week away. At present, the only major area for concern between the 2015-16 crop of 44-plus committed players is, unfortunately, the sport’s second-most important position group: the interior defensive line.
We don’t know much about the 2015 freshmen trio of Elijah Taylor, Brandon Tiassum, and Micah Dew-Treadway, nor do we know if 2016 “Big End” prospect Khalid Kareem can or will make the transition inside – but we know at least two from that quartet must be ready for prime time in 2017 to augment the efforts of veterans-to-be Daniel Cage and Jerry Tillery in the middle.
Until Next Week, Irish Fans…