Alizé Jones (TE) – Head coach Brian Kelly wisely forced a role for Jones – dual-threat as a detached tight end and/or W (Boundary) receiver. Jones is Notre Dame’s second-best weapon in the passing game and must find ample field time next fall, blocking acumen be damned.
Status: Ascending…Jones is Irish Illustrated’s post-spring selection to rank second behind Torii Hunter in receptions in 2016.
Durham Smythe (TE) – Solid spring considering his still-recovering status, but Smythe needs to get stronger and more sudden as a runner – completely understandable after missing an entire season of weight lifting in 2015 due to his September “Groupon” 2-for-1 surgeries on his shoulder, knee.
Status: Stagnant. Smythe is a crucial player for 2016. He’s not there yet but it’s reasonable to assume he’ll appear much stronger and quicker after summer conditioning.
Nic Weishar (TE) – It’s hard to imagine Weishar earning time ahead of either Jones or Smythe. Could carve a niche as a red zone receiver in two tight end sets and as a third-down chain mover. (He was outstanding performing in the former last August.)
Status: Stagnant…I love the kid one-on-one, but Jones and Smythe exist, relegating him to third string. It was interesting to hear from Irish coaches that Weishar is still learning how to operate better in space.
Jacob Matuska (TE) – Will attempt to improve upon the 2015 blocking efforts of dual-transfer, solo act tight ends Tyler Luatua and Chase Hounshell.
Status: Ascending. Matuska was buried on the Irish defensive line and it appears he’ll contribute weekly next season for the offense.
Justin Yoon (K) – In Yoon’s case you can forget the spring (he will). Has connected on 12 consecutive field goals heading into 2016 after a 3-for-5 start to his career as a true freshman last fall.
Status: Stagnant – by his own admission. No matter, Yoon will likely be one of the nation’s best next fall.
Tyler Newsome (P) – Holy Moses.
Status: Ascending. His game, his punts, his status, his interview game…you name it. Dude can play, err, punt…
Scott Daly (LS) – One of four graduate students on scholarship for the 2016 Irish. Nothing to see here…go on with your lives.
Status: Hopefully none of his snaps ascend…
Run Teams: Not often discussed because of limited special teams viewing by the media during the spring are the projected regulars on the Irish “Run Teams” (punt and kickoff coverage and return).
Through conversations with Brian Kelly, his coaching staff, and Irish players post Blue-Gold, we gleaned the following names with many to follow in August:
-- Cole Luke, Devin Butler, Josh Adams, James Onwualu, Ashton White, Drue Tranquill, Equanimeous St. Brown, Nick Coleman, Greer Martini, Jacob Matuska, Justin Brent, Asmar Bilal, and Josh Barajas.
Return candidates in C.J. Sanders’ stead include Chris Finke, Kevin Stepherson, and Torii Hunter, Jr.