With just a handful of games remaining in the 2019 season (my goodness does every single college football year fly by or what?) we have a clear picture on the use of the current Notre Dame freshmen and how that will affect the roster shape in the next couple campaigns.

As we’ll discuss below, something has changed for Notre Dame and giving someone a redshirt. We’ve seen a 20-25% spike in the number of true freshmen sitting out in recent years compared to Brian Kelly’s early tenure. Is the roster much more well-rounded now? Is it random? Are transfers happening in places where holes are easier to plug? Has there been a rise in freshmen who are more raw and less ready to play even as early entrees increase? Have we reached a point where roster management is operating at peak efficiency? Does the new 4-game rule allow greater flexibility than ever before?

Games Played by the 2019 Freshmen

8 Games: S Kyle Hamilton, P Jay Bramblett
7 Games: DT Jacob Lacey
4 Games: CB K.J. Wallace, LB Jack Kiser, RB Kyren Williams, LB Marist Liufau
3 Games: DT Howard Cross, CB Cam Hart
2 Games: LB JD Bertrand, QB Brendon Clark, OT Andrew Kristofic, DT Hunter Spears, DE Isaiah Foskey, K Harrison Leonard
1 Game: CB Isaiah Rutherford, DE NaNa Osafo-Mensah, S Litchfield Ajavon, DE Osita Ekwonu, OG Zeke Correll
0 Games: WR Kendall Abdur-Rahman, OG John Olmstead, OT Quinn Carroll

Yes, as of right now only 3 players have used up their freshmen eligibility. It’s quite astonishing.

Brian Kelly has already mentioned that they would like to redshirt Kyren Williams who played the first four games and has been shut down since. I think he should be playing but whatever. It’s interesting that Liufau has played in 4 out of the last 6 games but it would be shocking to use up a year for special teams work.

Whether Wallace and Kiser burn a year for special teams work remains to be seen. I wouldn’t think it will happen with the latter as Kiser played in the first four games and hasn’t been used since. Wallace is a tricky one, arguably he would benefit from being in the mix and carrying some momentum over into the spring where he could challenge for real playing time at corner. Yet, it would feel like wasting a year just to trot him out there on special teams once and a while.

No one else seems likely to use a year, except a drastic case of Jonathan Doerer losing confidence and/or being injured.

I don’t really get moving Cam Hart to corner at 6’2″ 1/2 weighing 208 pounds as a true freshman but I guess we’ll see how that goes. I have to imagine another position switch may be in the cards further down the road.

I find it a bit weird that Abdur-Rahman hasn’t touched the field at all. Although, that might be due to strength concerns at 189 pounds.

Redshirts for Freshmen 2016-19

18/22 (2019) 81.8%*
20/27 (2018) 74.0%
12/21 (2017) 57.1%
12/23 (2016) 52.1%

*Projecting Wallace to continue playing.

These numbers are kind of startling, right?

Of course, you can still use a redshirt after a freshman year which happened to defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (2017 class, injured in 2018) and Daelin Hayes (2016 class, injured this year) which boosts the numbers even further.

I’m interested to see how this overwhelming amount of redshirts moving forward affects the redshirt freshmen each cycle. So far for the large 2018 class we have the following players making an impact (in order):

TE Tommy Tremble
WR Braden Lenzy
WR Lawrence Keys
RB Jahmir Smith
RB C’Bo Flemister
LB Jack Lamb
QB Phil Jurkovec

That’s a nice little group for the future but nothing overwhelmingly positive in their second year on campus. Next year we should see a whole lot more from this group.

What about the 2020 class coming in?

12/17 (2020 projected) 70.5%

Right now, it’s a small class and we don’t know if more bodies will be added. If they are it’s likely to be safety projects who will definitely redshirt.

Based on this projection we’d expect the following to use a year of eligibility for 2020:

RB Chris Tyree
WR Jordan Johnson
TE Michael Mayer
DE Jordan Botelho

That’s four players, plus let’s throw in one of the currently 3 committed corners to get action. Also, it’s possible current redshirt junior long-snapper John Shannon doesn’t come back and incoming freshman Alex Peitsch handles those duties from year one on campus.