Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2018

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

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16 DECEMBER 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY BRYAN DRISKELL N otre Dame brought back six fifth-year seniors in 2018, and that group proved highly impactful. All four of Notre Dame's team captains were gradu- ates, Drue Tranquill was one of Notre Dame's top players and, until he was injured Sept. 29, left guard Alex Bars was the top player on offense. The Irish are hoping to get simi- lar leadership and impact produc- tion from the next group of fifth-year players, but just how many it can bring back remains uncertain be- cause numbers on the current roster are tight. Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, the scholarship breakdown looked like this: • Eight seniors with an extra year of eligibility remaining • 20 juniors • 18 sophomores • 27 freshmen • 21 commitments • 94 total Notre Dame would like to add two more players to the 2019 recruiting class, so the total is likely to grow between now and National Signing Day. Notre Dame's staff will face many decisions between now and Sept. 2, when the 2019 season begins at Lou- isville, to pare the scholarship num- ber down to 85. Like every year, there will be attrition, and that will largely determine how many fifth-year se- niors the Irish can bring back. ON THE WAY OUT Notre Dame loses some major tal- ent from its current roster. Bars, Tran- quill and four other fifth-year seniors — center Sam Mustipher, defensive lineman Jonathan Bonner, tight end Nic Weishar and punter Tyler New- some — are all gone. Six seniors are also out of eligibil- ity: defensive lineman Jerry Tillery, linebacker Te'von Coney, running back Dexter Williams, kicker Jus- tin Yoon, and defensive backs Nick Coleman and Nicco Fertitta. SET TO RETURN One of the top surprises of the 2018 season has been senior slot receiver Chris Finke, who emerged as a con- sistent playmaker on offense and special teams. Finke went into the final weekend of the season with 40 catches for 461 yards, and he ranked 23rd nationally with a 10.4-yard average as the punt returner. He has been a vital weapon for junior quarterback Ian Book on third and fourth down due to his prowess as a route runner and his strong hands. If this discussion was held prior to the season, the odds were strong that Finke would not return for another campaign. However, his consistency this fall has made him a valuable ele- ment to the attack. While Notre Dame has a bevy of young receivers — four in the fresh- man class — it would be a bit of a surprise if Finke doesn't return. With Mustipher gone, the odds are SCHOLARSHIP CRUNCH Tight numbers will largely determine how many fifth-year seniors return in 2019 ELIGIBLE FOR A FIFTH YEAR LB Asmar Bilal WR Miles Boykin CB Shaun Crawford DT Micah Dew-Treadway WR Chris Finke TE Alizé Mack OL Trevor Ruhland QB Brandon Wimbush A breakout 2018 campaign by senior wide receiver Miles Boykin will make returning for the 2019 sea- son a difficult decision. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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