How good will Notre Dame be in 2016? How good would the Irish be if a comparable player from Notre Dame’s past were at Notre Dame and in his prime?
After Irish Illustrated completed its ND A-to-Z series last week, looking of each of the scholarship players throughout the summer, we compiled a list of the former Irish players we compared them to during the process.
Some of the original comparisons have been adjusted in an effort to find a more accurate likeness. There’s plenty of subjectivity to these comparisons that allows for, in some instances, a more accurate similarity. More astute Irish fans will likely think of an even more accurate comparison that didn’t occur to us.
Keep in mind that next year’s comparisons will be vastly different in some instances than this year’s comparisons, just through the natural evolution of the players’ careers. It will be interesting next summer to see how the comparisons among the returning players have changed.
As the opening of camp looms less than three weeks away, we take one of our last looks back as the present moves to the forefront. (Note: Freshmen that didn’t participate in spring drills were not included in our ND A-to-Z series.)
We start with the offense today. Look for the defensive comparisons on Tuesday, July 19.
• DeShone Kizer (Brady Quinn 2003-06) – Kizer’s first-year numbers actually blow Quinn’s out of the water.
• Malik Zaire (Jarious Jackson 1996-99) – Like Zaire, it wasn’t until later in Jackson’s time with the Irish that his career took off. Remains to be seen if Zaire gets a similar opportunity.
• Brandon Wimbush (Kevin McDougal 1990-93) – Wimbush is a better athlete, but McDougal showed his skills after a QB-in-waiting role, playing national-championship level football.
• Montgomery VanGorder (Pat Dillingham 2002-04) – Dillingham was a capable former walk-on, although Irish shouldn’t have to call the DC’s son into action as Tyrone Willingham had to with Dillingham.
• Tarean Folston (Armando Allen 2007-10) – Injuries -- Allen’s in high school, Folston’s as junior with Irish -- curtailed effectiveness. Still plenty of time for Folston to rebound.
• Josh Adams (Jerome Heavens 1975-78) – Darius Walker (2004), Autry Denson (1995) and Heavens (1975) had freshman seasons comparable in terms of impact.
• Dexter Williams (Willie Clark 1990-93) – Speedy Clark, who eventually switched to the secondary, had to wait his turn but averaged 6.3 ypc. as a sophomore.
• RB-Josh Anderson (John Lyons 2006) – Former walk-on who battled to get on field and got only carry as a senior. Anderson landed scholarship last year.
• RB-Justin Brent (Deion Walker 2009-11) – The comparison is to that of another highly-touted receiver that couldn’t crack the lineup.
WIDE RECEIVER (X)
• Torii Hunter Jr. (Tony Smith 1989-91) – Late-blooming wideout emerged as ND’s top receiver (42 catches) in final season with Irish.
• Kevin Stepherson (TJ Jones 2010-13) – If this Irish rookie produces like ’10 early-entry wideout, he will be a steal.
WIDE RECEIVER (W)
• Equanimeous St. Brown (Bobby Brown 1996-99) – At 6-foot-2, a long wideout back in the late ‘90s, Brown caught just two passes in rookie season, but emerged as Ron Powlus’ go-to guy (45 catches, six TDs) as sophomore in ’97.
• Miles Boykin (Malcolm Johnson 1995-98) – Neither Boykin nor Johnson played as rookies, but the latter used talent, length to finish with 110 snags, 10 TDs.
WIDE RECEIVER (Z)
• Corey Holmes (Matt Shelton 2002-05) – Take-the-top-off WR caught just four passes first two years; 48 with six scores last two seasons.
• C.J. Sanders (Clint Johnson 1991-93) – Johnson, a receiver/return threat, used blazing speed in dual role with Irish.
• Chris Finke (Robby Toma 2009-12) – Comparable size, comparable speed and plenty of savvy.
• Durham Smythe (John Carlson 2004-07) – Carlson caught just 13 passes first two years, but 87 over final two seasons with Irish. Smythe has similar capabilities.
• Alizé Jones (Derek Brown 1988-91) – A long TE with WR skillset, Brown excelled in era of limited passing game under Lou Holtz. Can Jones be a first-rounder like Brown?
• Nic Weishar (Joel Williams 1983-86) – Williams eventually emerged as starter as a senior after sitting behind block-first tight ends.
• Tyler Luatua (Marcus Freeman 2003-06) – Block-first tight end Freeman managed to finish Irish career with 14 grabs, pair of TDs.
• Jacob Matuska (Chase Hounshell 2011-15) – No better comparison than a couple of former defensive linemen moving to tight end.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE (LT)
• Mike McGlinchey (Ronnie Stanley 2012-15) – From the tremendous size to the right-to-left tackle switch to first-round talent, the similarities are striking.
• Jimmy Byrne (Mark Harrell 2012-present) – Talent-rich Irish offensive line makes it difficult for both current players to crack lineup.
OFFENSIVE GUARD (LG)
• Quenton Nelson (Aaron Taylor 1990-93) – From ferocious play to guard/tackle capabilities, the comparisons are inevitable and striking. No surprise if Nelson is first-round pick, too.
• Trevor Ruhland (Mike Golic Jr. 2009-13) – Lacking in bulk, much like Ruhland, it took a few years before the Irish legacy emerged.
• Sam Mustipher (Braxston Cave 2008-12) – Both arrived overshadowed by fellow offensive line recruits, but eventually rose to the top.
• Tristen Hoge (Mike Heldt 1987-90) – Heldt, a former linebacker, took a completely different rout. But technique, savvy won out in the long run.
OFFENSIVE GUARD (RG)
• Hunter Bivin (Ron Plantz 1982-85) – As Gerry Faust era came to a close, father of former RB walk-on Tyler emerged as a starter at center before Chuck Lanza’s ascension.
• Colin McGovern (Andrew Nuss 2008-11) – Always knocking on the door and a threat to emerge as starter, Nuss became perennial first-OL-off-the-bench, a la McGovern.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE (RT)
• Alex Bars (Mike Rosenthal 1995-98) – Rosenthal emerged earlier, but also played guard before moving to tackle and performing at standout level. Bars has many of the same tools.
• Mark Harrell (Casey Robin 1999-2001) – Promising guard/tackle prospect couldn’t get past gargantuan Brennan Curtin.