Matt Cashore / Irishillustrated.com

Arresting Development

Examining how likely suspensions for six Irish players arrested over the weekend would impact the squad’s depth chart.

MAX REDFIELD
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The only clear-cut starter among the transgressors, Redfield was lauded by Brian Kelly a week ago for his improved play during training camp. The head coach offered the term “Elite” to describe Redfield’s play of late, though it was anything but in three seasons of previous action on Saturdays.

Suspended for the Fiesta Bowl for a violation of team rules, the senior was nonetheless among the most experienced – and fastest – players in the Irish secondary.

Likely replacements include Devin Studstill, an early enrollee freshman that had his spring progress stagnated in August due to a hamstring strain, and sixth-year strong safety Avery Sebastian. The latter shined in a recent practice viewing, though he, like starter Drue Tranquill, is better equipped to play close to the line of scrimmage.

Prediction: Tranquill shifts to free safety and starts against Texas in Redfield’s stead while Sebastian starts at strong safety. This one-game scenario puts less pressure on Studstill to open the season in charge of the back line in front of nearly 100,000 rabid Lone Star fans.

Should Redfield’s expected suspension be extended (or permanent), true freshman Jalen Elliott will be pressed into varsity action as could classmate D.J. Morgan.

DEXTER WILLIAMS
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Technically behind Tarean Folston and Josh Adams in the pecking order, but Kelly and running backs coach Autry Denson planned to use the threesome throughout contests, then play off the hot hand.

Freshman Tony Jones, Jr. ascends to the third runner role and will likely receive far fewer snaps than would have Williams. One caveat to that scenario: Josh Adams’ health remains in question after missing the bulk of contact periods during camp as a result of a hamstring strain.

Prediction: Justin Brent, currently sidelined indefinitely after summer LisFranc surgery, now becomes a potential game day backup down the line. In the short term, X receiver Deon McIntosh, a running back in high school, could move to the offensive backfield to lend practice depth as he was likely to redshirt this fall, regardless.

TE’VON CONEY
Matt Cashore / Irishillustrated.com

Likely the backup Will linebacker to junior Greer Martini, Coney was singled out on Media Day by defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder as the position group’s best run defender – an observation that suggests the sophomore would have seen time in the opener against run-heavy Texas.

Redshirt-freshman Asmar Bilal would ascend to a true No. 2 role in Coney’s potential absence.

Additional Impact: Coney was expected to occupy a starting role on at least two of the Irish “Run Teams” (kickoff/punt coverage/return) as he did last season. Ample candidates are at coordinator Scott Booker’s disposal in his absence including redshirt-freshman Josh Barajas and true freshman Jonathan Jones.

KEVIN STEPHERSON
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Appeared to earn the No. 2 role behind Torii Hunter, Jr. at the X receiver position. His potential absence would likely shift junior Corey Holmes from his No. 2 slot role to backup Hunter on the perimeter – and thus move capable No. 3 slot Chris Finke up in the pecking order. None among the Stepherson/Holmes/Finke trio has caught a collegiate pass with only Holmes playing in a game – as a freshman in 2014.

Prediction: Projected starting W receiver Equanimeous St. Brown will also see backup time behind Hunter at the X, allowing more snaps at the W (boundary) position for his closest competitor, Miles Boykin.

ASHTON WHITE
Matt Cashore / Irishillustrated.com

Showed well in training camp as a backup right cornerback (behind Cole Luke) but the secondary is suddenly well stocked with rookie corners that appear capable of lending a hand. White’s potential absence would be felt most on special teams, an area in which he was slated for multiple starting jobs according to Booker.

Prediction: True freshman Troy Pride, Jr., will be listed on the opening two-deep behind Luke on the right side. Other candidates include classmates Julian Okwara, who often works at the Nickel in practice, and Donte Vaughn, who appeared to settle in on the left side after initially working at RCB.

DEVIN BUTLER
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Far removed from the field after winter and spring foot surgeries, Butler was likely out through the squad’s Week Seven bye, anyway. Now a potential redshirt and subsequent fifth season in South Bend seems unlikely, especially in the eyes of the faculty board. 

Butler would only have played from scrimmage this fall if injured junior Nick Watkins (broken arm in the spring) failed to make it back by mid-season and thus pursued a medical redshirt. The left side is loaded with Shaun Crawford, Nick Coleman, and Watkins all capable of starting.

Prediction: Though scrimmage impact would have been negligible, Butler would have started on one or more of the Irish Run Teams if he returned in good health. That door could open to a true freshman such as Elliott, Vaughn, or Pride, all of which now have a heightened opportunity for varsity action.


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