Blue and Gold Illustrated

June/July 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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34 JUNE/JULY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY BRYAN DRISKELL A t the conclusion of spring practice, here is how we see the position groups — ranked in order of strongest to weak- est — heading into the summer: 1. Linebacker/Rover — This unit has everything you want in a position group: experience, talent and depth. Four different players return with at least nine career starts, and they performed cohesively all spring with three team captains among them. Senior Nyles Morgan emerged as the leader of the defense and as a playmaker, and he is poised for a superb final season in South Bend. Junior Te'von Coney was solid in his first season as a starter, but he was beat out at Buck by senior Greer Martini even though Coney had a good spring. Martini and senior rover Drue Tranquill were highly im- pactful under the staff on defense. 2. Offensive Line — A year ago, the Irish line was considered a talented but inexperienced group that had just 27 career starts. At the conclusion of this year 's spring practice, the unit remains talented but now boasts 76 career starts and better strength. Fifth-year senior left tackle Mike Mc- Glinchey and senior left guard Quen- ton Nelson are centerpieces, while senior Sam Mustipher quickly locked down the center spot. Senior Alex Bars moved inside to right guard and acclimated well to his return there. The one ques- tion mark is at Bars' old position of right tackle, where a pair of highly rated soph- omores — Liam Eichenberg and Tommy Kraemer — are battling for the final starting spot. 3. Running Back — Junior Josh Adams continued to improve as a runner, and the Warrington, Pa., na- tive has put himself in position for a true breakout season. He has always been a slashing back with big-play ability, but during the spring he dem- onstrated a physicality that could take his game to a whole new level. Classmate Dexter Williams contin- ues to display some home run poten- tial, but the emergence of sophomore Tony Jones Jr. is what really vaulted the running back roster up the rank- ings. Jones uses his 224-pound frame to pound between the tackles, but his vision and ability to make quick cuts allowed him to make a number of big plays consistently. 4. Cornerback — If not for a lack of numbers, this position would be higher on this list. It was bolstered appreciably by the return of senior Nick Watkins, who was a standout. Sophomore Julian Love entrenched himself as a starter opposite Watkins, but classmates Donte Vaughn and Troy Pride Jr. will get every opportu- nity to work their way onto the field in the fall, and will sooner or later. The health concerns about junior Shaun Crawford hurt the overall depth outside. 5. Wide Receiver — Junior Equa- nimeous St. Brown is the only proven commodity after leading the Irish in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches in 2016. He con- tinued his quality play, but questions abound behind him. Players such as junior Miles Boykin and sophomore Chase Claypool el- evated their game significantly, but the pair has just a combined 11 career receptions and one score. 6. Tight End — The return of junior Alizé Mack has greatly enhanced a unit that combined for a disappoint- ing 12 catches last season. Mack began the spring at the bottom of the depth chart, but he quickly moved to the top, along with veteran Durham Smythe. Adding Mack and freshman Brock Wright gives this position a much brighter outlook. 7. Defensive Line — Depth isn't an issue for the Irish with 18 scholar- ship players at four spots. What they lack is proven pro- duction, and ques- tions remain about who will emerge as the playmakers. Sophomore end Daelin Hayes has elite ability, but he has to prove he can stay healthy for a full season. Seniors Andrew Tr u m b e t t i a n d Jay Hayes were steady during the spring, while junior Jerry Tillery took major steps forward. Senior Jonathan Bonner is an un- known factor, and the depth behind him remains a question mark. 8. Quarterback — There is no doubt what the depth chart will be in the fall. Junior Brandon Wimbush is the starter and sophomore Ian Book is the backup. Wimbush is supremely talented, possessing a rocket for an arm and POSITIONS OF STRENGTH BGI takes a guess at Notre Dame's depth chart heading into the summer Senior Drue Tranquill performed well all spring while making a smooth transition to the new rover position in the Irish defense. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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