Compare the first Reviewing the Redshirts post on the offense from last week with today’s look at the defense and Notre Dame essentially saved eligibility on an entire recruiting class heading into 2019.
While there were 13 players who took a redshirt on offense and just 7 featured today on defense one could argue there are far more opportunities for these defenders due to the personnel losses with 5 starting positions opening up on that side of the ball.
Let’s check in on these young defenders early in 2019.
My grade was a bit lower than others last year for Franklin due to bad vertical balance (long weight-carrying torso, short legs) which made me skeptical of his ability to hold up physically as a nose guard. Sure enough, just a few snaps into his first career game against Wake Forest he was double-teamed, lost leverage, got bent backwards, and tore a quad muscle in his leg.
Franklin’s game–with good burst and quickness–is better suited to being a penetrating 3-tech on the interior but at 306 pounds as a true freshman I don’t know how realistic it is for him to be truly effective there. If he’s healthy for spring I’m curious to see how he holds up physically and how he’s deployed by the staff.
Only one player went up to the 4 games played limit and that was Justin Ademilola who got a few snaps in the College Football Playoff semi-finals. Thus far, he’s outperforming his grades from all of us at 18 Stripes. I know I pictured a smaller and slower version of his brother Jayson, and yet, Justin actually looked svelte as a 246-pound defensive end with good length and quickness. We might not see him blossom fully until 2020 when the depth chart completely opens up but chalk this up as a positive development for a 3-star recruit.
Nearly everyone expected Jack Lamb to be a factor in 2018 as he was highly touted and enrolled early. No one saw him being a complete non-factor which is what transpired. Looking back, I glossed over his skinny frame believing he’d add good weight beginning last January and move forward with his career. Even this fall he looked better but still really thin and at 226 pounds on a 6’4″ frame needs a lot of work in the weight room.
Granted, if he does pack on good weight he could completely transform into a different player. He was moved from Mike to Buck which is normally a downgrade in size type of move. Yet, if there’s room for 40 more pounds Lamb could be a weak-side end sooner rather than later–which is a position some saw him growing into anyway. Bottom line, the defense really could use him bursting on to the scene as a Mike linebacker and that is definitely to be determined.
Oghoufo is kind of in the same boat as an under-developed skinny linebacker. At 6’3″ 223 he was moved from Buck to Rover which is a little curious except it might just be to create more practice reps. There are rumors he’s growing into and/or moving to weak-side end, as well.
In the wake of losing Julian Love a year early the call to the young corners came loud and clear. It’s now time to shine. With news of Donte Vaughn having shoulder surgery it’s even more of an emergency mode to get these guys ready as soon as possible.
To be honest, I see Boykin and Brown almost as twins. Similar last names, close jersey numbers, they went to high school 30 minutes from each other, and kind of look similar in appearance. We definitely need spring football to separate them in terms of talent, if not as humans. They are going to get an enormous amount of work when practices begin and I’d say a massive part of success in 2019 is seeing at least one of Boykin or Brown emerging as a starter-level player by the end of spring.
Here’s one of the more curious cases on the roster this year. Allen was completely nowhere to be found either during camp or during the season which is weird without something like an injury being public knowledge. Our scouting reports last February all but screamed out that Allen’s floor was really high but we didn’t think his ceiling was quite as high as the services believed. You’d think with a really high floor he could’ve made more (some?) noise as a freshman but he didn’t enroll early and did break his hand during his senior season.
Allen at 6’2″ 213 pounds was already the tallest and heaviest safety on the roster as a true freshman. Like most at his age he looks plenty capable of packing on another 10 to 15 pounds easily. A lot of people thought he would grow into a Rover but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at any of the linebacker spots relatively soon. His athleticism might be best suited for an inside linebacker, anyway.
After writing this and looking over my intro again I would stop myself in believing these redshirts have a ton of opportunity in 2019. The big exception will be at corner where Love’s absence looms large. Vaughn had shoulder surgery, Crawford is coming off another knee injury, and that leaves the 2018 freshmen as the lone scholarship players for spring along side senior Troy Pride.
No one else really has a clear path to playing time simply due to attrition. Arguably, Franklin does but I already mentioned my concerns plus it seems like there will be snaps available for some of the ends to work inside so a trio of Hinish-MTA-Ademilola will get the majority of the work at tackle.
There are so many linebackers that who knows what the future holds for the young players. All I know is typically taking a redshirt as a freshman generally isn’t a great sign for the future. This past season the only contributors who took a freshman year redshirt were Asmar Bilal, Jonathan Bonner, and Ade Ogundeji.