1 – Instant Impact? Notre Dame’s third incoming transfer of the 2017 offseason will likely prove to be its most valuable as rising sophomore Alohi Gilman pledged Irish late Friday afternoon.
The former Navy starter joins wide receivers Freddy Canteen (2 seasons of eligibility as a 2017 Michigan graduate) and Cameron Smith (1 year left as an Arizona State alum) as part of the 2017 Irish.
If Gilman receives a waiver to play for the Irish this season as he and the coaching staff desire, he’ll immediately contend for a starting job as the most experienced – and productive – true safety on the roster upon arrival.
Kudos to the staff for reeling in Gilman (especially with USC a co-suitor). They identified a glaring weakness and found a potential quick fix – one doubly valuable in that he’ll be around awhile.
2 – Delayed Gratification: He won’t join All-American Bonzie Colson on the 2017-18 Irish front line, but incoming Connecticut transfer Juwan Durham provides a bridge after the senior do-everything “big man” departs South Bend next spring.
A victim of two ACL tears prior to joining the Huskies, Durham will sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules – and conveniently use the time to rehab and gain weight and strength.
Barring a setback, Durham will play the pivot position for a well-tiered rotation that includes highly touted incoming shooting guard D.J. Harvey (2017), top tier point guard recruit Prentice Hubb (2018), senior defensive maven Rex Pflueger, junior combo guard T.J. Gibbs, and some combination of big men John Mooney and Elijah Burns, plus promising swingman Nikola Djogo.
The losses of Colson and potential All-ACC point guard Matt Farrell will doubtless be felt following the 2018 NCAA Tournament – but Mike Brey’s roster appears on the upswing.
3 – Previous Additions: I know Mississippi State transfer Ben Hansbrough earned Big East Player of the Year honors, but for my money, here are the definitive transfer rankings for Irish head coach Mike Brey:
1A.) Ryan Humphrey, 1B.) Ben Hansbrough, 3.) Dan Miller, 4.) Scott Martin (would have been #3 if not for injury), 5.) Garrick Sherman, and 267.) Dennis Latimore…
4 – Flotsam, Jetsam, and a Potential Pitfall: It’s okay if you can’t name the nine transfers (six graduates) to leave the Irish program since January. At least seven of them were irrelevant to the 2017 roster’s health.
But as the only true center on the squad, BYU-bound center/guard Tristen Hoge was an important insurance policy – and due to the trickle-down effect of his early-June transfer, so too might have been graduating senior guard/tackle Colin McGovern, who first chose to attend Virginia but has purportedly decided not to enroll. (He will not return to Notre Dame, either.)
Hoge would have doubtless started this season in the event of a serious injury to center Sam Mustipher, who it should be noted played most of 2016 with a bad ankle.
Now it’s up to starting right guard Alex Bars to work as Mustipher’s backup at center. Should Mustipher be lost for an extended period, the insertion of Bars at the position theoretically (and logically) weakens two positions.
5 – Patience of a Saint: The following exchange between my 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son occurred after a trip to the South Bend Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning:
Declan: Charlotte, Daddy said don’t eat the candy bracelet until after lunch.
Charlotte: I know.
Declan: Charlotte, Daddy said we CAN eat it, just not now.
Charlotte: Yes, I know.
Declan: Charlotte, so don’t eat it. You can WEAR it, but don’t EAT it.
Charlotte: I know. I understand you.
Declan: (Short pause) I’m just saying, Charlotte, don’t eat it. The bracelet…
6 – The Annual Indispensables: There’s no such thing as an irreplaceable football player at a quality program. But considering positional depth and/or the talent of the players listed below, these are my dozen the 2017 Irish can least afford to lose for an extended period.
- QB Brandon Wimbush: I’m certain backup Ian Book could help the Irish win in any one-game situation. I’m equally sure that the term “hot seat” would accompany the head coach if Book or the other rookie backups were asked to win against a schedule with five road games and four viable visitors along the way.
- LT Mike McGlinchey: Potential starting right tackles Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg would doubtless have a tough assimilation to college football Saturdays if asked to step in for the mountainous Irish captain on the left side. Would starting right guard/backup center Alex Bars be asked to give it the old college try? Would All-American left guard Quenton Nelson kick out one space? Would fifth-year backup Hunter Bivin step in for more than one game? Would they ask a freshman such as early enrollee Robert Hainsey or true tackle Josh Lugg to join the fray?
Better not to find out.
- LG Quenton Nelson: The best football player on the team.
- Center Sam Mustipher: See Musing #4 above.
- Mike LB Nyles Morgan: I don’t mind junior Te’von Coney as a fill-in, but Morgan’s will and toughness are as essential as is his skillset to the defensive equation.
- NT Jerry Tillery: He needs to be at his best for backup Daniel Cage to be at his.
- NT Daniel Cage: He needs to be at his best for starter Jerry Tillery to be at his.
- Drop End Daelin Hayes: Though the tag “potential” remains essential in any preview concerning Hayes, it’s nonetheless true the sophomore represents the defense’s best hope for a one-on-one pass-rusher.
- CB Julian Love: The Irish appear loaded at cornerback, but Love is the best of the bunch…and he might be the best safety on the squad. And he is probably the second-best Nickel…and one of the best defenders of the option…and at covering kicks and punts…and at stopping opposing gunners on the punt return team. You get the picture…
- TE Alizé Mack: A true difference-maker at a position that can make a difference.
- WR Equanimeous St. Brown: Sometimes we forget about givens in deference to the tantalizing unknowns.
- RG Alex Bars: Because he’s started as a right tackle (2016), at left guard (2015) will start at right guard (2017) and might have to at center.
*With due respect to the talent and leadership of junior running back Josh Adams, I think the Irish running backs (and a healthy offensive line) could find enough to replace him in the aggregate.
7 – The Annual Opposing QB Conundrum: Six of Notre Dame’s 12 foes (Miami, MSU, UNC, Stanford, BC, and Wake Forest) were listed among Athlon’s “Top QB Battles/Others to Watch.”
That’s good news on paper, but it’s relevant to note that last year’s slate included uncertainty behind center at Texas, Nevada, Michigan State, Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina State, Stanford, Navy, Virginia Tech, and USC – not only at this point in the summer months, but through August Camps.
Notre Dame took advantage of just two of those questionable quarterback situations – yet prevailed over the purported No. 1 QB on the schedule, Miami’s Brad Kaaya.
The lesson? Don’t overvalue the quarterback in a one-game situation, neither Brian Kelly’s nor the opponent’s.
8 – From Relative Obscurity: Tyler Eifert in 2010, Jonas Gray in 2011, KeiVarae Russell and Danny Spond in 2012, Will Fuller in 2014, DeShone Kizer and Josh Adams in 2015, Julian Love in 2016 and…?
None of us listed those above as players of impact in June of their respective breakout seasons. Who’s on tap for 2017?
9 – Prediction No. 9: Predicted to date:
- The 2017 Irish will break the program scoring record (37.6 ppg)
- The tight ends will catch 67-plus passes (after just 12 last season), the highest total of the Kelly Era
- Eight of Notre Dame’s 12 regular season games will be decided in the fourth quarter
- Notre Dame will be favored in nine of 12 regular season games this season
- Alizé Mack will score at least 7 touchdowns to set the single-season record at the position (as detailed in Musing #1 above)
- Notre Dame will have a losing road record (5 true road games) this season
- Notre Dame will win six of its seven home games in 2017
- Senior Rover Drue Tranquill will lead the team in defensive *big plays this fall. (*Big plays include TFL/Sacks, interceptions, passes defended, forced fumbles and recovered, blocked kicks and of course, touchdowns.)
-- And No. 9 of our summer series: USC at Notre Dame will rank as the highest scoring contest of the season. As always, “highest scoring” is defined as the most points scored by the losing team. (Thus, 69-0 is not “higher scoring” than 35-33.)
Until next week, Irish fans…