Last week we examined which true freshmen have the best shot at playing this fall. Up today are the defenders.
DL Jacob Matuska
DL Isaac Rochelle
OLB Jaylon Smith
MLB Michael Deeb
MLB Doug Randolph
CB Cole Luke
CB Rashad Kinlaw
CB Devin Butler
S Max Redfield
WILL THEY PLAY?
No Doubt: Smith, Redfield
- Is it possible that an athletic freak and the second best recruit in the country can be flying under the radar before fall camp? Probably not. Nevertheless, there should be plenty of eyeballs on Jaylon Smith when August practice begins in a few weeks as we seek answers to a few questions surrounding the Fort Wayne native. There's no doubt that he's going to make an impact as a freshman---but where? Special teams is a given, right? Can he handle a jack-of-all-trades role at his age which his body and athleticism practically demand? Jaylon has mentioned he'll play at Cat LB but most expect him at Dog LB and maybe even in some nickel corner situations. Can he handle all of those roles or will he be confined to just one?
- A recent article by the South Bend Tribune reiterates that the door is still open for Max Redfield to play a little bit on offense. That's fun, but he'd have to do so without DaVaris Daniels on the field as they both will be wearing No. 10 this fall. I don't know about Redfield playing on offense---despite kind of wanting him there this past NSD---but I'd imagine he'll be in the running for return duties. Actually, I'd really like to see what he can do as a kick returner. On defense I still see Redfield settling into the full-time nickel corner role as a freshman because I think that's how he gets on the field the most in 2013.
Most Likely: Rochelle, Deeb
- I'm conflicted about having Rochelle in this group. I really don't want him here but the depth chart almost demands that he see some snaps this season. There's always a chance Isaac just isn't physically ready to contribute, yet his use might depend upon what the defense can get out of Utupo and Jarron Jones. If those two are bringing something to the table Rochelle can take a redshirt.
- Deeb was one of the lowest rated kids in this class so why is he going to be one of the few who see the field this season? First, he's a football player's football player---just lifting weights and eating grilled chicken all day, every day. Second, he's the proto-typical middle linebacker from a mental standpoint---don't underestimate this. Third, he's physically ready and I don't know if there's anyone more committed to Notre Dame than this kid. Add all of that up and I think he's, at minimum, cracking some heads open on special teams and possibly getting some garbage minutes at middle linebacker.
Probably Not Likely: Randolph, Luke, Butler
- Doug Randolph is taller, more athletic, and more highly touted than Deeb but I think his transition to middle linebacker might take a while. Heck, who knows if he's even playing middle linebacker this year---although he definitely should be with the way the depth chart looks. From a talent standpoint I'd like to bump Randolph up to the next level yet I think he's going to sit out and have a really strong redshirt freshman season in 2014.
- Cole Luke is another player who probably should be another level higher. No doubt he's an excellent and polished corner and in most other years that would mean some playing time on defense. My issue is that I don't see the need to play him---unless he blows the doors off the competition and is legitimately pushing Jackson and Russell in August---with the way the depth chart looks. There are 3 established corners on the team, plus Luke will have to fight the likes of Atkinson and Brown for playing time. He certainly could pass those latter players but I don't know if that means he's burning a redshirt in the process.
- I view Devin Butler a lot like Will Fuller on offense, nearly mirror images of each other in a lot of respects although I like Butler's potential a little more. He's one of those 6 or 7 players I'm really intrigued to watch when camp opens but the numbers are so deep at corner it's going to be tough for him to break through as a freshman.
Very Doubtful: Matuska, Kinlaw
- I haven't seen an update on Matuska in months but he was listed at 240 pounds as a senior in high school. Even with considerable off-season gains since the start of the year he's probably too small to make an impact on the defensive line. That was the outlook last year and it remains the same today.
- I'm just excited to see Rashad Kinlaw play some football! He'll be a project but I really like his size and athleticism. Out of all the freshmen coming in this August that might switch positions I'd put Kinlaw up at the top of the list.