Matt Cashore /

O’Malley’s Monday Musings

Nine loosely related thoughts for Irish fans to ponder as Notre Dame heads into the final week of spring football.

1 – Make this piece fit: The sight of 6’4 ½” 240-pound tight end Alizé Jones working at – and running by people from – the W (boundary) receiver position bodes well for a still-developing Irish offense. It’s unlikely Jones will be the most complete tight end on the roster in 2016, but the sophomore target might already be the squad’s second-best perimeter weapon behind Torii Hunter, Jr.

If Jones can operate from both the boundary and as a detached tight end, he and Hunter will form a tough tandem to contain in third-down passing situations.

Enjoy some highlights here:

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2 – TJ Part II: The aforementioned Hunter is headed for a senior season reminiscent of TJ Jones (70 catches, 1,108 yards, 11 total TD). Interesting to hear Hunter is also fielding punts as sophomore return man C.J. Sanders mends from hip surgery.

3 – Solid…not yet deep: Notre Dame’s offensive line could again emerge as the squad’s best unit. It’s not there yet, but the group benefits daily from the tutelage of one of the nation’s best position coaches (at any position) in Harry Hiestand. Now in his fifth season in South Bend, Hiestand has three future pro pieces at his disposal this spring, plus a couple of centers that will produce quality collegiate careers at minimum.

But the current crop – the “Spring 10” so to speak – is unproven thereafter. Look for two of Notre Dame’s three incoming freshmen to earn spots on the two-deep in August Camp and for one of them to play as the first tackle off the bench next fall.

4 – QB3: Words of advice for Notre Dame’s preternaturally talented third quarterback (and he’s a distant third, at present) Brandon Wimbush:

Redshirt, young man. Redshirt.

Wimbush need look no further than junior teammates Jay Hayes and Corey Holmes for motivation to that end. Both sat as sophomores last season after earning cameos as true freshmen. Both are much better for it and headed for contributing campaigns in 2016 with three seasons of eligibility on the table.

And if Wimbush’s coaches need a reminder of the value of a sophomore season redshirt they need look no further than defensive linemen Kona Schwenke who would have looked awfully good anchoring the otherwise youth-filled 2014 defense as a fifth-year senior.

5 – An honor befitting of another Elite 8: Early congratulations to co-MVPs Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson. No the pair hasn’t been honored as such yet, but they will be Monday night during “An Evening With Notre Dame Basketball.”

And kudos to Mike Brey and the Irish hoop handlers for adopting Brian Kelly’s Awards Show format rather than maintaining the status quo of a staid, stale basketball banquet. 

Key for a third consecutive NCAA Tournament run in 2017? Finding Co-MVPs commensurate with Pat Connaughton/Jerian Grant and Auguste/Jackson for a third straight season.

6 – I think I think… That defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder would prefer to start Nick Watkins at left corner to alleviate certain Nickel starter Shaun Crawford’s overall workload, but that Watkins’ broken humerus suffered last week is going to throw a wrench in those plans.

Watkins needed to work on his tackling and upper body strength pre-injury, and this setback is likely to open the door for Crawford to win both jobs. He’s certainly talented enough to handle it, but that’s a heavy workload for a redshirt-freshman one year removed from knee surgery.

I think Crawford is a better player, but a healthy Watkins is crucial to the overall success of the defense.  Depth in the secondary, as you know, is key.

7 – Your way-too-early preview: What to the numbers 80, 45, 20, 15, 15, 13, 10, 10, 8, 5, 3, and 3 signify? Those are my approximate reception totals for Notre Dame’s top 12 pass catchers next fall. It’s going to be top-heavy, because as promising as the wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs appear on paper, inconsistency will be part of the learning process for guys not named “Hunter” over a 13-game slate.

8 – I also think: Sophomore walk-on Chris Finke might occupy one of those 10-spots projected above…

9 – Kizer vs. Zaire:  Saturday afternoon in South Bend…doesn’t get much better than that for Irish fans looking to form their own opinions on the 2016 Quarterback Competition. (I feel like that needs to be capitalized since it’s now an annual event in the Kelly Era.)

As an aside, great call by Kelly to pit the two vs. each other, though there should be one amendment to the “Blue vs. Gold” format that will split the teams: the first unit Irish offensive line should play for both quarterbacks in the first half.  

Until next week, Irish fans… Top Stories