One Foot Down's Top 25 Players Ballot

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Yours truly participated in Keith Arnold's Top 25 Players collaboration as this year's OFD representative - here's the ballot we submitted.

First off: long time no see y'all.

If you are a well versed Irish fan - and considering you're reading this very post right now it's safe to say that you are - you've probably seen Keith Arnold's Inside the Irish blog reveal the 2013 version of the Notre Dame blog network collaboration of the Top 25 players list. If you haven't do check it out here.

Despite my roundball moniker I was this year's OFD rep at the table and here is my ballot with a brief explanation. But before we go on any further, the guys that just missed the cut:

Tony Springmann - DL, Junior
Greg Bryant - RB, Freshman
Steve Elmer - OT, Freshman
Ben Koyack - TE, Junior
Ronnie Stanley - OT, Sophomore
C.J. Prosise - WR, Sophomore
Ben Councell - LB, Junior

We'll go 5 at a time from here on out:

25. Kyle Brindza - K/P, Junior
24. Jaylon Smith - LB, Freshman
23. Mathias Farley - S, Junior
22. Max Redfield - S, Freshman
21. Jarrett Grace - LB, Junior

Other than Brindza and Farley the other three players are based purely on projections - some based on talent and recruiting rankings (in the case of Smith and Redfield) and another based on need (in the case of Grace walking into Te'o's shoes at MLB). Brindza could make a big impact because despite our best hopes Notre Dame will leave some points on the field and Brindza will have plenty of opportunities to mitigate the occasional (and hopefully rare) red zone stymies.

20. Ishaq Williams - LB/DE, Junior
19. George Atkinson III - RB, Junior
18. Elijah Shumate - CB/S, Sophomore
17. Amir Carlisle - RB/WR, Junior
16. Carlo Calabrese - LB, Graduate Student

There are still so many questions about Ishaq Williams and we've covered some of those questions in posts and in our most recent podcast, but the talent is still unquestionable. Coaches have hinted that Williams could be positioned with his hand on the ground in pass rushing situations and the opportunity will be there to take the next step - just don't expect a Jonas Gray or even Theo Riddick-like leap. I have Carlisle over Atkinson if only because I think Carlisle's pass catching ability will make him a more dynamic and versatile offensive player. Health is still a question with Carlisle but if he can stay on the field for most of the 12-13 games, it's tough to imagine him not making a big impact.

15. Dan Fox - LB, Graduate Student
14. DaVaris Daniels - WR, Junior
13. Tommy Rees - QB, Senior
12. Troy Niklas - TE, Junior
11. Keivarae Russell - CB, Sophomore

The Fox/Calabrese combo at the Will Linebacker spot has been more of a positive than not for the Irish the past two seasons so there's no reason to think that the positive trend won't continue this season. Rees will have a shot at becoming a top 10 player around halfway through the season if he's not making too many mistakes and while 11 may be slightly high for Russell, I believe a guy with his work ethic coupled with the natural talent and ability we've already seen from him on the field will justify this spot at the end of the day. Lo Wood getting healthy and pushing him will only make Russell better.

10. Sheldon Day - DL, Sophomore
9. Danny Spond - LB, Graduate Student
8. Christian Lombard - OL, Senior
7. T.J. Jones - WR, Senior
6. Chris Watt - OG, Graduate Student

I project Jones will have a very productive season and nice connection with Rees from the get-go and Lombard and Watt are as trusty as they come. Spond will hold his own at the Dog LB (cue the meme's yo) and provide the necessary leadership in the backer corps. I'm realizing now that I may have ranked Day a bit higher than he probably should be at this point, but playing all those snaps next to Nix and Tuitt will only help him take that next step into elite player territory in the years to come.

5. Bennett Jackson - CB, Senior
4. Prince Shembo - LB, Senior
3. Zack Martin - OT, Graduate Student
1a. Louis Nix III - DT, Senior
1. Stephon Tuitt - DE, Junior

Four of the Irish's top 5 players are defensive players and that bodes well for sustaining the defensive dominance that the squad showed last year. It's a testament to Bobby Elliott, Kerry Cooks and Bob Diaco that a former WR like Jackson has turned into one of the best CBs in the country. He's also known as one of the leaders on the team and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see #2 named as one of the captains this season. Nix, Tuitt and Martin are all proven entities that are the cornerstones of this year's squad (and frankly, last year's squad too) and to have them back bodes well for the Irish despite the losses of the likes of Eifert, Te'o and Golson. It is my (and all of our) hope that the number 1 player in this group - and the only one eligible to return next season - will be on this ballot defending his slot next year around this time as well.

So that's my Top 25 - What's yours? Who did I underrate/overrate? Feel free to discuss below- and folks we're just about four weeks away from football season.
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