The Cupboard: Sophomores

IrishEyes wraps up its first look at new head coach Brian Kelly's first roster with a review of the sophomores-to-be for 2010.

Our final look at Notre Dame's returning players focuses on the 2009 freshman class and sophomores-to-be for next year.

For a review of the upper classes, begin here.

Returning starters and contributors

  • LB Manti Te'o: A No-Brainer returning starter regardless of the scheme if he decides to forgo his mission in 2010…briefly (in October) joined 5th-year safety Kyle McCarthy as the defense's most impactful player before tailing off in the season's final weeks…joins juniors-to-be Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph as Irish players to whom the "can't miss" label can be applied…three seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • WR Shaquelle Evans: Caught seven passes (all hitches or comebacks) between Game Two and Game Five then completely disappeared from the rotation…was reportedly ill during the practice week leading up to USC…was reportedly not in Coach Weis' doghouse thereafter…did not play in six of the team's last seven games (for those of you that grew up in the South: "That dog don't hunt)…three seasons of eligibility remaining thanks to the horrendous timing of his benching.
  • RB/KR Theo Riddick: Looked the part of a future feature back in a limited role…has the quickest feet on the roster and the ability to return to full speed after his first cut (your favorite beat writer compared him to ex-Hurricane and Cowboy Kevin Williams after watching his high school films)…surprisingly effective blocker as a true freshman…should be challenged throughout spring practice as he was a curiously average kick returner…three seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • WR Roby Toma: Earned a spot in the rotation after Floyd went down with injury and Evans went down with mystery…quick out of his breaks and purported to gave excellent hands…needs a year of strength training and size to hold up vs. FBS competition…probably should have been withheld from action last year…three seasons of eligibility remaining as he appeared vs. BC, WSU, and UConn (catching three/dropping one of the five passes thrown in his direction).
  • S/LB Zeke Motta: Seems to have the body to grow into an athletic, modern college linebacker but the Irish are a bit depleted at safety entering 2010…third on the squad with 166 special teams appearances…an extremely aggressive player could be one of the pleasant surprises of the spring…broke into the Dime defender role midway through the season (beating out 5th-year senior Ray Herring for just over 11 minutes of playing time…three seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • K Nicholas Tausch: A tale of three seasons: missed his first field goal at Michigan then a crucial PAT the following week vs. MSU; hit 14 consecutive field goals, a team record; followed with two key misses in 2-point loss to Navy and then was a late scratch at Pittsburgh and vs. UConn…ceded role to David Ruffer (5-5 field goals) for final three games…finished 14-17 on field goals including a 5-5 effort in the OT win over Washington…three seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • P Ben Turk: After losing a close competition in the spring, Turk beat out incumbent Eric Maust, twice, and finally held onto the job (punting well) over the season's final two weeks…nine of 26 kicks landed inside the 20-yard line (vs. two touchbacks) and booted three in excess of 50 yards…three seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • LS Jordan Cowart: Won and held the long-snapper role for 12 weeks as a true freshman and produced no poor snaps of note…next step is to add weight and strength in order to hold up as the team's short snapper on field goals and extra points…the only scholarship snapper in program history has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Waiting in the wings

  • NT Tyler Stockton: Plays the position of need but was wisely withheld from action as a true freshman…should challenge Hafis Williams, Brandon Newman, and possibly Sean Cwynar for a backup role in the spring…four seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • TE Tyler Eifert: Will receive medical redshirt due to neck injury…played in the season opener vs. Nevada after receiving heavy praise from Coach Weis in August…reportedly advanced as a blocker for a true freshman last year…four seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • RB Cierre Wood: Made a splash on freshman media day and reportedly challenged for the lead kick returner role late into camp...singled out by teammate Jonas Gray for his patience as a runner…fresh start No. 1 arrives in March as he challenges the established quartet of returning ‘backs for a role in the rotation…four seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • G Alex Bullard: Unlikely to challenge for a starting role as the Irish will be well-stocked at guard…noted by Weis to have impressed in August…four seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • TE Jake Golic: Purportedly physical blocker is likely a year away from competing for the No. 3 tight end role…should show up on special teams next season as he expressed an affinity and skill set for the role in August …four seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • T Zach Martin: Could challenge for a rotational role earlier than his classmates as the Irish lost both starting tackles to graduation…part of the advisory committed for athletics director Jack Swarbrick's search for a new head coach in early December…four seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • G Chris Watt: Most decorated of three freshman linemen entering last season but will have his hands full for an interior rotation spot entering the spring…four seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • CB E.J. Banks: Immediately becomes a member of the two-deep depth chart at CB if Jamoris Slaughter remains at safety, though he'll receive a challenge from incoming freshman at the position…four seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • LB Carlo Calabrese: Made early waves in camp as a hitter but the season of development off-the-field was certainly the right choice…should appear as a member of Irish special teams next year and will challenge for a role in the two-deep at LB…four seasons of eligibility remaining.
  • LB Dan Fox: Coordinated athlete (looked especially adept in pass-drop drills during the media practice viewing sessions) is still a bit undersized but has time to develop with a glut of LB ahead of him…four seasons of eligibility remaining.


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