Notre Dame signed a massive class of 27 freshman for 2018 and just completed an undefeated regular season in which only 4 players were used on any consistent basis outside of special teams. That’s an amazing feat. With the new 4-game rule instituted by the NCAA it’s projected that 20 of the ’18 freshmen will retain a year of eligibility following this season.
This is quite a change from the past. As far back as I can recall, Notre Dame has burned eligibility on roughly 50 to 60% of the freshmen class. Only doing so for 25% of this class puts the staff in an interesting position if they want to continue bringing in larger recruiting hauls in the future.
Here’s a brief breakdown of the freshmen following the regular season:
12 Games Played
LB Bo Bauer, 19 snaps, 10 tackles
Only one freshman participated in every game and it’s Erie’s own Bo Bauer. That would be a big deal if we didn’t see building hype for Bauer during fall camp only to see him relegated largely to special teams. In fact, Bauer only played actual linebacker in one game (Wake Forest). Experience on the field is experience nonetheless but he’ll head into 2019 largely as an unknown.
11 Games Played
DT Jayson Ademilola, 184 snaps, 17 tackles, 0.5 TFL
We can chalk this up as a successful freshman season for Ademilola as he cracked the rotation and was able to do some good things with minimal playing time. The injury to MTA was a bit of good fortune for Ademilola as he was probably on track to play this year and finishes with 150 additional snaps towards his development.
10 Games Played
CB TaRiq Bracy, 122 snaps, 18 tackles
Someone at corner from this class needed to come in and give quality playing time. Once Nick Watkins transferred we knew this was going to happen. Bracy has largely struggled as a small corner playing on the outside but his trial by fire this season should pay off in the coming years.
S Houston Griffith, 185 snaps, 14 tackles, 2 PBU
Most freshmen aren’t ready to fill starting roles and once Shaun Crawford went down with injury again it put Griffith in a tough spot. He’s been beaten a lot as a nickel, and like Bracy, is out there learning as he goes picking up experience that hopefully propels him to greater heights in 2019.
WR Kevin Austin, 119 snaps, 5 receptions, 90 yards
Austin was on track to play in every game this season until #traits left him on campus and off the travel roster for the trips to New York and Los Angeles. Imagine not being able to wear those Yankees uniforms? How can Austin sleep at night? At any rate, this is still a lot of snaps for a freshman who missed 2 games–more than projected summer starter Michael Young.
7 Games Played
LB Shayne Simon, 17 snaps, 4 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 PBU
When Owusu-Koramoah went down with a foot injury it thrust Simon into the backup Rover role and presumably meant a lot of seasoning for 2018. Well, that didn’t happen. Simon was able to get some special teams run but otherwise never got a chance to be a true backup to Asmar Bilal.
S Paul Moala, 10 snaps, 1 tackle
Moala is an interesting case because he went from someone completely buried on the depth chart at safety and a sure redshirt to participating in the final 7 games of the regular season. He’s supposedly highly valued by the coaching staff and will be someone worth keeping an eye on in the upcoming spring.
3 Games Played
DE Justin Ademilola, 30 snaps, 7 tackles
With his twin brother playing a larger role and burning a year I thought the staff would be a little more liberal with Justin Ademilola who began getting some snaps in the middle of the season. However, he has been shut out since then and is unlikely to burn a year now with the playoffs coming up.
2 Games Played
QB Phil Jurkovec, 10 snaps, 0 of 2 for 0 yards, 2 carries, 9 yards
Not a whole lot to show for the season but more than we’d normally see thanks to the new 4-game rule.
RB C’Bo Flemister, 3 snaps, 1 carry, 0 yards
As the one back who didn’t enroll early a redshirt appeared highly likely from the beginning.
RB Jahmir Smith, 11 snaps, 6 carries, 28 yards
With a sketchy running back rotation early in the season it seemed like Smith was definitely going to head into 2019 as a true sophomore in eligibility. With Armstrong being banged up it would’ve been nice to see more development from Smith but alas.
WR Joe Wilkins, 10 snaps
A late position switch from corner to receiver actually got him on the field a couple times.
OT Jarrett Patterson, 15 snaps
Already the favorite among the freshmen offensive linemen, Patterson should have a big advantage moving in to the spring.
1 Game Played
CB DJ Brown, 3 snaps
In an ideal world, one of the other true freshman corners made an impact at a position that really needed more depth.
DT Jamion Franklin, 5 snaps
Franklin’s season ended after 5 snaps in the Wake Forest game due to a quad injury.
0 Games Played
WR Micah Jones
WR Braden Lenzy
WR Lawrence Keys
TE George Takacs
TE Tommy Tremble
OL Luke Jones
OL John Dirksen
OL Cole Mabry
LB Jack Lamb
DE Ovie Oghoufo
CB Noah Boykin
S Derrik Allen
Over a decade ago when I first started tracking the scholarships and eligibility for players the reaction from readers was much different. People did not want to hear about transfers. No way would this player leave! Why would that player leave! His family knows the value of a Notre Dame degree! Even though players have transferred all the time since the beginning of college football there was this strong naivety that existed in which it was reckless and irresponsible to even think about someone leaving the program.
The Brian Kelly tenure seems to have almost completely wiped out this way of thinking. “There will always be room” is a last vestige from this belief system which, if taken literally in the slightest, would mean we could go back to the Knute Rockne days, recruit 200 players each spring, and let them fight it out for first and second-team reps. Let the chips fall where they may!
Today, it’s a simple math problem. Will there be room for that one extra kid several months from now? Yes, there will be. But, there’s a cold hard fact staring the coaching staff in the face heading into the 2020 recruiting cycle. Take the incoming freshmen and the 2019 kids who preserved a year and you have 41 players who will each have 4 years of eligibility remaining. With one or 2 more verbals likely for 2019 that could mean almost half of the scholarships will be tied up in players with freshmen eligibility.
This isn’t sustainable, unless you want a Stanford-esque class full of 11 players in one of the coming recruiting cycles.
This is a long way of saying we will see transfers from the above list of freshmen who did not play in 2018. If I had to bet, there will be at least 3 who will leave Notre Dame before the start of fall camp next August. Such is life in this world of college football.