Freshmen Eligibility Ahead of the Playoffs

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.

By |2018-12-05T12:41:09+00:00December 5th, 2018|Football|61 Comments

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irish_bandit_10Coyote1985Clay Cossé fka MouthBrendan RMikeyB Recent comment authors
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hooks orpik
hooks orpik

I was a bit disappointed given the hype of Allen and Lenzy that neither got to see the field. Oh well. I would have thought pre-season that slightly bigger things ahead for Kevin Austin too. Hopefully the “traits” descriptor gets dropped by spring and he’s ready to be more a part of the offense.

Are you saying you think freshmen will leave before the 2019 season? Or one more go ’round?

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

Could any of these freshmen surprise and play an increased role in the playoffs after 4 more weeks of practice and not worrying about their red-shirt situation?

MDIRISH
MDIRISH

Isn’t this similar to Davaris Daniels in 2012/13 NCG? I remember him seemingly coming out of nowhere but maybe he was more involved during the regular season.

KG
KG

I’d hazard the guess that “oh now we can play them without burning their redshirt” is about #10 in the top 10 reasons any given freshman is or isn’t playing against Clemson.

Meaning, if a kid is good enough that you think he’s going to make a difference against a Clemson, he’d likely already be playing AND saving a year isn’t a major concern because he’d be NFL material anyway. Honestly, from a program perspective, it’s kind of pointless to worry about redshirts for guys who are skill position starters, because if those guys are good enough to play early, they’re not staying 5 years (and might not stay for 4), and if they aren’t good enough to play early, sure they might develop but you ought to be recruiting someone in the next cycle that would beat them out. There are always exceptions who might have raw talent but need some time/conditioning/whatever who become really good players in their 4th/5th years, but in general if a guy like Phil Jurkovec’s 5th year status matters then he wasn’t really meeting expectations anyway. It’s a depth move, not anything that keeps a top-level starter around longer.

Put another way, if Lenzy was (strong/fast/knew the offense/freakish) enough that he’d make a significant difference against Clemson, he’d have seen the field in one of our 12 previous games. You play the players who can win you games, and you worry about their redshirt only if they can’t make an immediate impact.

I’m not saying you should just play kids who aren’t ready because 5th years don’t matter–we shouldn’t be stupid about it. But especially for skill position players, it’s more likely that you’re doing the kid a favor and saving them a year they can use to transfer and play somewhere else. Which, if you’re a coach who is genuinely interested in the well-being of your players, is a good thing. RS a kid, then if he graduates on time and has an extra year and isn’t a starter for you, pat him on the back and wish him well as he takes MA-level basket weaving at Miami of Ohio or whatever to get an extra year on the field.

That does NOT apply (in my opinion) for linemen, who generally need more time to physically develop and be ready for the college level. I’m way more concerned if we burn an OL or DL redshirt because that’s generally a bad sign for our line depth.

KG
KG

On that note…did Jay Hayes do anything for UGA this year? Wonder how he feels having transferred from a playoff team to a non-playoff team? (evil laugh)

Edit: 2 tackles against Middle Tennessee and 1 against Ga Tech. But at least he had better weather.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

I agree KG if a player would be good enough then he would have been playing already in general and that it wouldn’t make sense that just because of the red-shirt rule now he could be playing. I always thought with the additional bowl practices that sometimes there is a little more practice time for the young guys and that with the additional reps in practice (since there’s 3-4 weeks to prepare for the game) that THAT might be the reason a guy might step up into a higher role. In general, probably unlikely, but I wondered about the particular situation here.

KG
KG

Yeah, hypothetically I could see someone like Austin getting a package as a weapon or something, since they know he can play and contribute. The problem with that specific scenario is that Austin doesn’t really bring anything different than Boykin or Claypool at this point. If Lenzy or whomever were close enough that we’d be putting them in for a special package (the freshman-year Golden Tate/Chris Brown vs. Oklahoma “just run a go route, we’ll chuck it deep” package), we’d have seen them on the field at least once or twice. My larger point above (which you got) is that the redshirt rule doesn’t change any of that, really.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

“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.”

Couldn’t this get worked out if many aren’t invited back for a 5th year? Because having them transfer doesnt help get older players. It becomes an issue when because of the older players you would have a small freshmen class.

So assuming a couple transfer along the way, we could still be left with 15-16 elegible for a 5th year and they have to decide to keep like 7 (which I think is the most we have kept in the last few years) so you arent left with such a small class.

It seems we’ve allowed back guys who wanted to come back for a 5th year but at that point we may be pushing guys out the door more or selling on the fact they won’t have much of a role.

Part of the issue is the freshmen class is one of our biggest classes that we’ve had at 27 coupled with the new red-shirt rule. I wonder if the new red-shirt rule will make it so 5th years are treated a little differently because it will be easier to red-shirt.

juicebox
juicebox

Pretty insane per snap production for Justin Ademilola and Bo Bauer. Assuming about 700 snaps for a starter at LB, we can conservatively project Bauer to have 300 tackles once he is a full time.

Orlok
Orlok

Because I’m totally heartless: why can’t we force out some of the guys you’ve detailed who appear to be not going anywhere on the field (eg a former four star DT now being moved to offense)? Sure, I get the need for attrition from the freshman, but it would seem even more optimal to generate it from the guys who have been here 2-3 years and not done anything. Some of the freshman *might* be late bloomers.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Turns out those guys have been injured this whole time!

/winks

(But yes I agree we should be discovering some “injuries” for some of those upperclassmen and any clearly going-to-not-be-productive freshmen, and if they decide they want to play through the “injury” then they’re welcome to transfer.)

MikeyB
MikeyB

Probably because we promised these players that instead of paying them to generate revenue for a $100 million program, we’d give them a 4 year degree with a small possibility of parlaying their experience into an NFL career. It would be pretty shitty to beat up on these guys every day in practice for 2-3 years, only to then tell them to gtfo before upholding ND’s end of the bargain (the degree). ND prides itself on generating true “student-athletes.” It would be nice if we didn’t just turn around and tell those guys to screw off. We’re not Bama on the football field, but I certainly hope we never become Bama off the field.

KG
KG

I agree with you in spirit. However, I don’t think the suggestion was kicking them out of school. The whole “undisclosed medical issue” is a cover to continue giving a kid a scholarship to finish their degree without having them take up roster space. So the suggestion isn’t telling them to screw off or gtfo, it’s more thanks for your efforts, we want you to finish your degree, but we both know you’re not going to end up playing significant minutes, so let’s open that up to a younger player.

I’m not sure if I feel that much better about that, to be honest–it’s still a very Bama thing to do that I think is kind of gray area and not sure I want to touch. But I just wanted to clarify that it’s different than completely kicking a kid to the curb.

irish_bandit_10
irish_bandit_10

I hope like hell no physician associated with ND would falsely diagnose a player with a medical condition simply so the football program could drop that player from the roster while maintaining his scholarship.
(I didn’t downvote, btw)

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

The graduate transfer market 3 years from now is going to be exciting.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

Exactly. Now players at all schools have a lot more motivation to graduate in 4 years. In a way, transferring in the normal route is or can be a slightly higher penalty because before you could only play 4 years now you can play 4 years + 4 games. So if you transfer and sit out a year you potentially miss the 4 games.

Brendan R

I know we always wonder about how this will work out, but… Here are the guys eligible for a fifth year in 2019:
Spot Is Held: Boykin, Finke, Ruhland, Bilal, Crawford
Nice to Have: Wimbush
Moving On: Mack, MDT

I don’t see how any of the “spot is held” guys could possibly be turned away (assuming health, of course). Crawford would be our 3rd corner (or 2nd if Love leaves), and everyone else in that group would be a starter. I expect 21 in the incoming recruiting class (one more than we have now and counting Bertrand as a PWO); with all fifth years returning, that would put us at 93. Mack, MDT, and BW moving on would get us down to 90.

I think, like Eric says, you’ll probably see a couple of freshmen transfer, although I couldn’t begin to guess who it might be. I will say that I think some of the fan base’s more frequent assumptions – like Allen – are pretty far off base. We’ll see. Something else to keep in mind, and perhaps why the staff is willing to be so aggressive in recruiting, is that a number of juniors who are buried on the depth chart will get their degree soon. It’s very possible that you’ll see more upperclassmen leave than we’re used to.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

Do you know which juniors are graduating soon? How are so many Juniors graduating?

KG
KG

Because they take classes each summer, and generally I’d expect football players aren’t taking classes over and above what they need to graduate.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

So all/most of ND’s players graduate after their JUNIOR year? That doesn’t seem right.

Or is it that they graduate after summer classes – which makes it tight to show up for August practice at another school if they wanted to transfer with 2 years of eligibility remaining?

Clearwall
Clearwall

If I’m not mistaken that’s one of the major challenges ND football has over Stanford. ND requires the same type of course load but requires their players to graduate in 3 whereas Stan allows for 4.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

No I think the challenge is that ND requires you graduate in 4 years to get the 5th year while Stanford allows 5 years to graduate.

MikeyB
MikeyB

ND requires you to take a full course load as a student athlete, including summer classes. Unless you take too many electives or fail a class (or change majors), odds are you will have enough credits to graduate after summer courses after your junior year. So graduating in 3.333ish years. It’s not rare for that to end up being a December senior year graduation too. Or 3 years flat is possible for early enrollees.

But technically, the requirement is to be on course to graduate in 4 years. So if you do take way too many electives and miss that 3.333 schedule that most players get, you have to be on track for a 4 year plan.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

That’s very helpful and makes sense now. So there are two requirements: (1) in order to get a 5th year you must graduate in 4 and (2) when you are enrolled you must take a full load.

Apparently that includes a full load even in summer semesters (which seems a little odd since normal students don’t take classes over the summer).

Either way, that makes sense of many being able to graduate after the summer semester and also of why some many not graduate until Christmas (because they change majors or want to take a few extra electives, etc.).

When does the summer semester end btw? I’m wondering how easy it is to transfer after that and play football the following year.

KG
KG

…? I never said ND *requires* players to graduate in three years. I explained why/how it’s *possible.”

Edit: MikeyB explains the specifics in more detail, but the idea I was getting at is that with taking summer courses and full loads, you *can* finish in 3~31/2 years, depending on the major. If you’re taking a basic business degree and take the minimum classes necessary to get it with no “gosh, I really want to take Prof. KG’s course on 16th century warfare in Japan just for the hell of it” then it’s entirely possible.

Clearwall
Clearwall

Do we not have a scholarship Center in the entire Jr or Sr class this year? Am I right on that? I think we need to BEG Ruhland to stay

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

There must be someone else in line to play center, but I’m not sure who that is. Right now it’s Musiphar and Ruhland so I’d expect Ruhland to start at center next year unless there is someone else more talented we’ve been grooming all along that I haven’t heard about. Is there a 3rd string center at the moment?

Coyote1985
Coyote1985

I can’t recall, who it is, but I believe the lineman from Arkansas is a center prospect. I think his dad played center, too, if I remember correctly (too lazy to look it up right now.)

Coyote1985
Coyote1985

OK, I checked and that was Luke Jones, but he’s listed as a tackle, so I may be thinking of someone else.

Irishchamp23
Irishchamp23

I’ve seen Luke Jones projected as a center by someone for next year. So you are probably thinking of the right guy even though right now he is listed as a tackle – not sure if it’ll stay that way or not.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

I don’t believe there is a 3rd string center at the moment, or one that gets a lot of work in anyways. I thought all along pretty much the plan everyone was on board with is that Ruhland is the starting center next season.

After that, who knows, but the ND o-line has enough talent I’m sure they’ll groom some 4* guy who probably has a shot at an NFL future for it.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Poor Jamion. We know his thighs are proportionally of equal length to everyone else on the roster, so I just don’t know what possibly could have caused his quad injury. Certainly not disproportionately short legs….