On Saturday 21 seniors and 6 fifth year players will run out of the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium. With a handful of exceptions it will be the last time that they do so.
Of the 21 Seniors, 14 are eligible to apply for a 5th year of eligibility but we have already discussed the fact that only a handful of them will be able to do so.
I am personally partial to this class for many reasons, the most obvious being that this highly touted class signed with the Irish in the darkest of times following the 2007 season. They believed that they could get the program back on track, and in many ways they have.
This class lived through the struggles of 2008 and the frustration of 2009. They played key roles in the transition between coaching staffs. As individuals their contributions vary. As a group they leave the program much better than they found it. For that we are forever grateful.
The entire staff here at OFD wanted to pitch in and say thanks to this group of seniors this week so we decided to do this round table style. We are looking forward to your thoughts on this class in the comments.
The seniors after the jump.
Seniors with a # symbol after their names will be eligible to apply for a 5th year.
10 Dayne Crist #
I sat next to him once in the dining hall the summer he arrived on campus and he told me a story about how he and his grandfather had an account they had started together for college and when it was evident that he would get a scholarship it changed to a car fund- then he explained how he was actually happy that he wasn't allowed to bring a car to campus (school policy) because that gave him another semester to save. He smiled and left after saying it was nice talking to me. He was genuine and everything I hoped he would be. In that moment, I was convinced I had met the savior of our football program. Here's to hoping Coach Kelly lets him start and lead the first drive against BC #5StarInOurHearts (4 Point Shooter)
25 Jonas Gray
Before the season I pegged Jonas as the most likely recipient of the Corey Mays award for the upper classmen primed to come out of nowhere. Damn it feels good to be so right so often. This is my favorite type of pick to make, because I just sit back, let Jonas do all of the hard work, and show up at the end of the season to collect the adulation of my peers, off of the sweat of his brow. My wife likes how after he scores a TD, JG does the two-footed jump-stomp, followed by the single-fisted chest pound. So do I, if I'm honest. Jonas Gray struggled a lot in his first three years with injuries, and fumble problems. With four games left in his career, he wrested control of the starting spot from a very talented Cierre Wood, and has likely made himself a second-round NFL draft pick. I inextricably bound my fate to Jonas's at the season's outset, and I couldn't be happier. Jonas has made me look good so far, so here's another prediction: Jonas Gray will break 1,000 yards in Notre Dame's final two games. Make me look good again, Jonas. #JumpStompChestPound (MotS)
I dubbed thee the Thoroughbred, but all you did was score touchdowns in an Irish uniform. There was one slip up there, but we watched you dominate like no receiver in school history, and more importantly, grow up right before our eyes. We'll miss you, it seems so long ago that you were just a freshman. Now time to make us proud in the League. #Thoroughbred4Eva (Eric)
81 John Goodman #
Clear mind, full heart, reliable hands. Sorry you got buried on the WR depth chart, but we will always have the Alamo Dome #faircatchmachine (Jim)
1 Deion Walker #
I recall watching as he picked the ND hat at the UA Bowl, and here is to hoping you channel your inner Kamara on Saturday #1teamcheerleader (Jim)
52 Braxton Cave #
You anchored the middle of the line even while trying to learn a new offense. This season was cut short but I have no doubt you'll be back next year in your usual spot. #
57 Mike Golic Jr #
I always thought you were the team clown, preparing yourself for a life in television and simply along for the ride. Then you came in and started at center---shoving all that crap right in my face. And I respect that. #5thYearDecisionsCanBeDifficult
T-Rob has had an up and down career, struggling with injuries. This year Trevor appears to have found the right combination of weight and strength. His mental approach to the game must be right, too, as he's been calling out the protections for the whole line. Trevor chose an excellent time to peak and he is a large reason why this offensive line has become the best Irish offensive line since a little guy with some funny glasses and speech impediment roamed the sidelines. Trevor deserves a special place in the fans of Notre Dame fans' hearts for the role that he's had in establishing the first dominant ground game that Irish fans have seen in 15+ years, and in making the Notre Dame quarterback's vertical-ness once again sacrosanct. Trevor, Notre Dame fans will remember you as a smart offensive linemen and a tough S.O.B. What nice compliments for a right guard. #ThanksNebraska (MotS)
73 Lane Clelland #
Lane was grinding away on the offensive line depth chart in 08' and 09' then got a little ink shortly after Coach Kelly took over when he temporarily jumped over to defensive end during the spring of 2010. Clelland quickly bounced back over to the offensive line where he was expected to be in the rotation this fall until he suffered a season ending injury in fall camp. #WeHardlyKnewYe (Whiskey)
89 Kapron Lewis-Moore #
KLM remains one of my favorite players in this class. The big Texas defensive end has been a fixture in the front seven these last three seasons and was teetering on the brink of full beast mode when he suffered a season ending injury against USC. I fully expect to see KLM back in the rotation and wreaking havoc next fall. #BeastModeBeardGame (Whiskey)
Who figures that a swimmer from Oregon will become a mean bastard, run-stuffing Midwest 3-4 defensive end, and all around bad man? If only EJ had found weight-lifting before his senior year. But alas, parting is such sweet sorrow, especially when it comes to one of the most important cogs in the finely-tuned Irish run-stuffing machine to which Irish fans have been treated over the last two seasons. We've missed you the last couple of weeks, EJ, but we're glad to have you back. Torch the Tree, big man. Show those West Coast pansies how we play ball. I heard that Stanford has this thing where they think they're tougher than everyone else because of this coach they used to have. Soooo, I don't know. Just sayin... You may want to do something about it. #FirstYearInTheSameSystem (Mots)
98 Sean Cwynar #
Cwynar is a curious case. He has held his own in the rotation at NG for the last two seasons behind Ian Williams and Louis Nix III despite being built more like a defensive end. I expect that we will see Cwynar in the rotation with Irish Chocolate again next fall but in the event we don't a hat tip is in order. #DontCareAboutProfile (Whiskey)
94 Hafis Williams #
Added solid depth to the DL rotation over the past two seasons. Tom Hammond still isn't sure how to pronounce your first name #otherwilliams (Jim)
99 Brandon Newman #
The Louisville Slugger. We never saw much of Brandon Newman on the football field, but we all enjoyed the tour he gave us of the Gug. Good luck in life, big fella. #Depth (MotS)
36 David Posluszny #
You lived on my floor your freshman year and I ran into you in the hallway once as we both went to the showers. I felt inadequate. You never managed to crack the depth chart but there's no shame in that when you're playing behind Manti Te'o. #DillonHall #GoBigRed (Burger)
54 Anthony McDonald #
I had high hopes for you a few years ago but the injury bug kept jumping up to bite you. But you've been solid as a backup and for that we thank you. #WhatCouldaBeen (Burger)
You came in as part of the Chicago dynamic duo, but established yourself as a star in your own right. About as underrated of a defender as you'll find on this team. Under-sized perhaps, yet 30+ starts speak to the size of your heart. #SoGoodHeNeeds2Numbers (Eric)
46 Steve Filer
The other half of the Chicago dynamic duo was the baddest linebacker recruit that the Irish had landed in quite some time until some kid named Te'o came along the next season. Filer's career primarily consisted of being a fixture on special teams and spot duty on the edge of the front seven until he suffered a season ending injury in practice last week. Best of luck with a speedy recovery Steve! #ICanJumpOutOfASwimmingPool (Whiskey)
You showed up as a 124 pound freshman and made plays from day one. You got lost in the coaching transition for a bit, but now you're making a case for defensive MVP. We all thought you were pure athleticism and look at you now: making tackles like a linebacker, bringing physicality and swag to your side of the ball. #CarolinasFinest (Eric)
15 Dan McCarthy #
Special teams stalwart-Irish fans were hoping for the 2nd edition of big bro, but sorry the injury bug got in the way #sayhitokyleforus (Jim)
26 Jamoris Slaughter #
Honey Badger who? Finally healthy, he has flown under the radar in '11 and become the Swiss Army knife of the secondary #seeyounextyear (Jim)
*17 Matt Mulvey (Walk On)
Signal caller extraordinaire, captain of the red hat brigade and king of the kneel down. You thoroughly entertained us this year and the Dane Cook "Super F-U" will never quite mean the same thing for us anymore #IMightHaveToGetARedHat #
Current 5th Year Players
83 Mike Ragone
You always seemed to play second fiddle to Rudolph and Eifert, but you were invaluable as a blocker in the running game. It's a shame your career ended the way it did, but rest assured, you will be missed. #BooACLs #WhatIsThisPurdue? (Burger)
76 Andrew Nuss
I got a little worried when Kelly said you were neck-and-neck with Chris Watt for the LG during spot during the summer but after seeing you play admirably as the backup I know it's because you elevated your game and pushed Watt. #Competition (Burger)
75 Taylor Dever
Some have called you the weak link on the line, I might have too. Still, no one expected you to play this well for two straight years and hold down the starting spot at right tackle. And for that we are eternally grateful. #NotSamYoung (Eric)
Irish fans will remember Gary Gray as an excellent tackler and a tough cornerback, two words that often seem as though they should not go together. Gary really has played very well the last two years. He overcame injury early in his career to become a stalwart in the first two iterations of Bobby D's D's. Gary Gray has always carried himself with class and done everything asked of him by the coaching staff. Like many of this year's seniors, he has overcome a lot of adversity in his time at Notre Dame, and he's helped to lay the foundation for future success. Gary has been a pleasure to have in our program for the past 5 years, and a fine representative of the University. #WishURedshirtedIn08 (MotS)
Saw you go from incompetent LB to one of the best safeties in America and the solo captain of the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Team. One of those guys we felt we grew up with, we'll miss you Harrison #CaptainForever (4 Point Shooter)
97 David Ruffer
As a walk on you turned into the best kicker in the land and then you hit a 52 yarder in an NFL stadium for good measure. You even had a few yards to spare on that last kick and hopefully I can one day add you on my fantasy team in the last round #GrozaOneMoreTime (4 Point Shooter)