The opportunity to build quality depth is something every coach covets. So far Notre Dame has been able to get some critical snaps for many of the reserves in three out of their fives games thus far. Those snaps will likely come into play in the future.
I'm kind of one of those strange guys that gets just as excited (if not more) when the second team comes into the game. I'm always a future guy and I suppose that's why I love recruiting so much. At any rate, I wanted to give my thoughts on a few players who've caught my eye in "mop up duty."
The first player that has kind of stood out in person and jumped off the screen to me so far has been freshman safety David Bruton. I can certainly see why Bruton was one of the first freshmen to see the field.
Bruton can run…man, can he run. Being at the game allows you to see the whole field and I often watch Bruton on special teams. He's almost always the first player down the field and he throws his body around like all the great special teams players do.
We finally got a chance to see him play some extended snaps at safety and he showed plenty of speed and made a crushing hit last Saturday. I'm just in awe of his natural athletic ability. He looks to be one of the best pure athletes on the team. Seeing his desire to throw his body around, combined with his speed and natural athletic ability, I think we'll be hearing a lot from David Bruton in the future.
Scott Smith is another freshman that has stood out for two reasons. He's a 100 percent effort, pursuit guy, and he can also run. One can't forget his pursuit chasing down a speedy receiver earlier in the year.
I watched Smith on Saturday as well and he looked like a player thinking too much out there, which is obviously going to be the case, but he shows a nose for the football and surprising speed.
We all knew Smith loved to hit, but we didn't know if he had the speed to play linebacker. I'd say he has plenty. Keep an eye on Smith as he's already moved into the No. 2 spot behind Corey Mays and middle linebacker.
Another linebacker who stood out to me on Saturday was Joe Brockington. Joe has always been somewhat undersized, but he's starting to look more and more like Brandon Hoyte out there, but Joe also did an excellent job in pass coverage.
Brockington chased down a number of plays on Saturday, but his pass coverage skills are what really stood out to me. He made a number of plays and seemed to be in the receiver's hip pocket on every play. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Brockington in the future.
Turk and Duncan impressed me because both had that nasty attitude out there. I watched the film over and over to watch these two as I believe their progress will be essential to the future of ND football.
Turkovich was fighting to the whistle and maybe a little bit after, which is always a good sign. He got a pancake and made a number of nice blocks and effort blocks.
Duncan actually lined up against Ray Edwards a couple of times and did a very nice job on him. It was Duncan and Mattes who cleared the way for Travis Thomas' 10-yard TD run to score Notre Dame's final points on Saturday.
I hadn't seen a hole that size for a long time as both Duncan and Mattes dominated their guy and went to find some linebackers seven yards down field. ND also ran behind the duo often with good success.
I've also been very impressed by David Grimes in the little we've seen of him. I love Grimes as a return man because he fully understands north-south running. To be a great return man you have to get up field, and he's got excellent quickness and a great burst to chew up yards in a hurry. I can't wait to see what Weis does with Grimes in the passing game in the future.
Terrail Lambert also impressed me on Saturday as well as his play in other games this season. Lambert was in position and made a number of plays in the passing game, but he also got out of position a few times--likely the reason he's not playing more. However, he showed excellent speed and ball awareness. Some players just have that ball awareness and he seems to have that in the limited minutes he played so far. If he can limit the mental mistakes, he could be pushing for more playing time in the future.
Obviously Travis Thomas has impressed me, as he has with most Notre Dame fans, but most of us expected to see that. I fully understand Weis' reasoning for rejecting the running back-by-committee notion, but the good news is Notre Dame definitely has a solid backup at half back if something were to happen to Walker.
I'm sure there have been a number of other players who have shined in mop up duty, but I only have two eyes and these are the players that have really stood out to me so far. Hopefully Irish fans will be seeing much more of these players in the future.