Who’s the new guy?
That’s the likely response from casual Irish fans this fall when Notre Dame graduate student and former California Golden Bears safety Avery Sebastian makes his first play wearing the real blue and gold.
After transferring from Berkeley following graduation, Sebastian missed all but one half of Notre Dame’s 2015 season, breaking his foot against Texas in last year’s season opener. He likewise missed the same portion of his junior campaign (2013) by the Bay, tearing his Achilles tendon in the first half of the Bears opening win against Northwestern.
Throw in six missed games due to a quadriceps injury as an otherwise productive senior in 2014 and Sebastian has watched all but seven of the 37 football games played by his teammates over the last three seasons.
Notre Dame’s first “sixth-year” senior is the subject of today’s A-to-Z preview of the Irish roster.
That’s the first step for Sebastian, last year at this time a potential starting safety in Brian VanGorder’s defensive backfield, but today more of a hopeful piece of the defensive puzzle (pun intended).
Sebastian can best aid the Irish as the unit’s third safety, spelling strong safety starter Drue Tranquill and perhaps filling in when the latter moves to the Dime linebacker position in VanGorder’s preferred sub packages. Sebastian’s likely first step to meaningful contribution is as a presence on the Irish kick and punt coverage units.
13 games of consistent contribution – that’s all that can realistically be asked of Sebastian’s injury ravaged wheels.
I think that’s clear.
But when he’s in relative health, Sebastian is adept at attacking the line of scrimmage, and he flashed that form during the 2016 Blue Gold Game last April.
Hope springs eternal…
Is there one? Not at Notre Dame, where the subject of a fifth year of school much less a sixth is still curiously treated as a Cloak and Dagger operation.
(For the sake of comparison, Michigan State has three sixth-year seniors returning for 2016 – convenient if they need to rent a car for younger teammates.)
Perhaps Notre Dame graduate and soon-to-be sixth-year senior Chase Hounshell, now a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes would suffice? Hounshell missed all of the 2012 and 2013 seasons due to shoulder surgeries. He then peaked as a graduate student last season, contributing in all 13 games as a blocking tight end and will play his sixth and final season in Columbus.
Injury comparisons are inevitable regarding Sebastian, and as such, I’ll leave you with this:
One long-time Notre Dame scribe offered of prize recruit Alvin Miller, the inaugural (1982) Parade Magazine Player of the Year, “If he even looks at Astroturf, he tears his ACL.”
A similar reality apparently applies to Sebastian vis-à-vis college football season openers. But if Sebastian can stay on the field in ’16, the affable graduate student can conclude his playing career with a relevant Notre Dame program first: a sixth-year senior that made an impact.
DEVELOPMENT VS. RECRUITING RANKING
Sebastian was the nation’s 68th ranked player per ESPN, No. 159 per Rivals.com, and was awarded three-star designation per Scout.com.
A veteran of six starts and 33 games played, Sebastian’s career has played out more in line with Scout.com’s projections, though any incremental ascent he might have enjoyed was clearly stunted by injury.
SEBASTIAN AT HIS BEST
The scrimmage-attacking safety notched 10 tackles with an interception against Northwestern – in the first half alone – before losing the rest of his 2013 season to the aforementioned Achilles injury. He likewise posted a 14-tackle evening against Arizona State in 2014, one that included nine unassisted stops during his final season for the Golden Bears.
The latter is most relevant as it occurred more than a year after Achilles tendon surgery.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“Max (Redfield) has done some good things in the past week or two that we’re really pleased with. We hope that trend continues. We all know what (Devin) Studstill has done. Sebastian has done some really good things. (Drue) Tranquill has been really, really good. We’ll hopefully continue to grow in that position. It’s a huge position for us as you know. The safety position at every BCS football team is crucial.” – Brian Kelly when asked about the progress of his safeties during the spring.