Matt Cashore /

Grading Scale: Top 5 Notre Dame Freshmen

Tim Prister, Pete Sampson, and Tim O'Malley offer their lists of top five Notre Dame players – per class – for the 2016 season.


\As with the rest of the classes, each of us ranked the incoming freshmen with regards solely to the 2016 campaign, not with an eye toward their full collegiate careers. Seven players received votes with three making every list.

Of note, last year’s mentions (though they were pre-spring, not post-spring) included unanimous selections for Justin Yoon, Shaun Crawford, Alize Jones…and Josh Barajas.

Unanimous selections for 2016 were a trio of early enrollees, Daelin Hayes, Kevin Stepherson, and Devin Studstill.

1. Tommy Kraemer – Without a satisfactory option at right guard, Harry Hiestand turns to the true freshman as a power run blocker.

2. Devin Studstill – Conventional wisdom says Max Redfield takes his starting job back this fall. But the rookie free safety cannot be denied.

3. Kevin Stepherson – If you didn’t know better this spring, you would have thought Stepherson had been in the program already. He hits the ground running as a rookie.

4. Daelin Hayes – If he’s healthy, he’s an impact football player. A great summer gets him to where he needs to be to emerge as a pass-rush threat off the edge.

5. Jalen Elliott – Notre Dame’s issues on the back end of the defense continue. The true freshman helps alleviate some of those issues.

1. Kevin Stepherson – Did not see this one coming at all. Those who say they did probably majored in Revisionist History. But after his spring performance and opportunity for time, there’s no doubting Stephenson’s potential now.

2. Devin Studstill – I can’t think of the last time an early enrollee took reps off a senior starter in spring practice either. Forget Max Redfield’s inconsistencies, that’s a big, big deal for Studstill.

3. Daelin Hayes – Notre Dame is starved for a pass rush. Hayes is a granola bar of quarterback pressure. Not exactly filling, but nutritious enough to get the job done. If healthy, Hayes should be a future star.

4. Khalid Kareem – The Irish don’t have much defensive line depth and Kareem is a fine looking prospect. He’ll play. Maybe not a lot, but Kareem is good enough to steal reps this season.

5. Tommy Kraemer – Can a player expected to red shirt make the Top 5? Look for Kraemer to have a Quenton Nelson type freshman year, good enough to get real reps in training camp before the staff shuts him down for the season.

1. Devin Studstill – Yeah, I don’t trust the safety position in Brian VanGorder’s defense…

2. Jalen Elliott – Yeah, I don’t trust the safety position in Brian VanGorder’s defense…

3. Daelin Hayes – Fills a void. A gaping, massive, crippling, heretofore unfillable void. Hayes would be No. 1 on my list if you could guarantee a 99 percent healthy shoulder for the pass-rushing prospect entering August camp.

4. Kevin Stepherson – Notre Dame’s wide receiving corps is comprised of Torii Hunter and a bunch of unknowns. The reality that no second proven performer exists for a team that will throw 400-plus passes means an early enrollee such as Stepherson has a chance to be a weekly contributor on the perimeter.

5. Donte Vaughn – See No. 1 and No. 2 above…  

Irish Illustrated ranks its top 5 Irish players, class-by-class: Top Stories