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Which Notre Dame Freshmen Will Play in 2013: Offense

Examining the incoming freshmen and categorizing them based on who is most likely to see the field this fall.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

If you're a regular around these parts you know in the winter and spring we like to examine the freshmen who didn't play the previous fall and project their role in the program for their second season. Today, we'll look at the incoming freshmen on offense and discuss which youngsters will have a role in 2013 and which will be given a redshirt.

Let's do some crap shootin'.

The Candidates:

QB Malik Zaire

RB Greg Bryant

RB Tarean Folston

WR James Onwualu

WR Corey Robinson

WR Will Fuller

WR Torii Hunter

TE Mike Heuerman

TE Durham Smythe

OL Steve Elmer

OL John Montelus

OL Hunter Bivin

OL Colin McGovern

OL Mike McGlinchey



No Doubt: Bryant, Elmer

  • In a recent interview Greg Bryant stated that he had no plans to redshirt this fall. Typically most freshmen have the confidence to say such a thing but with Bryant it's very believable. I could see a scenario where he doesn't play as much as projected but completely sitting out the season has to be out of the picture. His skills and skill-set plus his size combined with the questions at running back paint a fairly clear picture in my mind that Bryant will be an impact freshman.
  • It might be a little bit of a stretch to put Elmer in this category just because he's not going to be a starter and he plays a position where in an ideal situation you'd let him redshirt and not burn his eligibility with garbage minutes. But this isn't an ideal situation. Elmer is already on the 2-deep and could be one play away from seeing the field with an injury to either tackle---even more so if Stanley becomes a starter. Also, the coaching staff LOVES Elmer so much that I had to use caps to get the point across. Maybe there's a chance that the line stays healthy like it did last year and Elmer saves eligibility but I'd bet on him taking reps in 2013.

Most Likely: Folston, Onwualu, Robinson, Zaire

  • If we're to rank this next group of freshmen it's clearly Folston who is the most likely to see the field. In fact, I've got no qualms if you think he should be up above with Bryant and Elmer. There are opportunities at running back and slot and Folston is going to fight for playing time in the return game as well. However, it wouldn't be outrageous if he didn't play this season. It happened to Cierre Wood, DaVaris Daniels, and plenty of other highly rated kids coming out of high school. Still, bet on Folston playing.
  • I originally had Onwualu in the lower category and was convinced to bump him up. He had a great spring for a rookie, he's physically ready to play, and there are likely some opportunities on special teams. My original reasoning was that Onwualu is behind at least 4 outside receivers (Jones, Daniels, Brown, Smith) on the depth chart and could be behind as many as 3 others (Carlisle, Folston, Prosise) if we're including the slot. With a terrific fall camp maybe Onwualu moves up to the 5th option at receiver? I have him as the 3rd option to play on special teams coverage behind Jaylon Smith and Redfield so that is a much more likely route to playing as a freshman.
  • I was pretty adamant that Robinson wouldn't play as a freshman (too skinny, played high school in a weak league in Texas, far too raw) but he's definitely turned enough heads to have me reconsider my position. I still have my doubts that he'll be this big red zone weapon in the fall but I'll concede he has a decent shot at seeing the field in some capacity with his height and athleticism. I could see a season a lot like Chris Brown's last year.
  • We've already talked about Zaire a lot. I still think the coaching staff really prefers to redshirt him but it just might not be feasible. Whether it's garbage minutes or injuries thrusting him into a new role Zaire is probably not taking a redshirt. Or he might.

Probably Not Likely: Bivin, Fuller, Heuerman

  • Bivin is one of the players I nearly moved up a category. I know he's supposed to be training at center---and probably won't sniff playing time behind Martin and Hegarty---but I love his versatility and he has the size to contribute if need be. Now, does the team need him to play this fall? Probably not, but with some injuries at this position to fellow classmates I wouldn't be upset if Bivin worked his way onto the 2-deep at guard and found some playing time in preparation for a possible starting gig in 2014.
  • There may be no bigger mystery in this class than Will Fuller. I'd probably lower him a category except for the fact that he plays a position where an outstanding fall camp could rocket him up the depth chart. He also has some return capabilities as well. I don't know if he's big enough to help out on special teams or be on the 2-deep at receiver but there's always a chance I suppose.
  • Heuerman has been with the team since January but with 3 healthy tight ends there's no need to put him in the lineup for 2013. I still have concerns about his long-term abilities as a traditional tight end (re: blocking) in Notre Dame's system and because of that I just don't see him getting playing time as a freshman---there are other options to work a bigger target in the slot that won't burn Heuerman's redshirt.

Very Doubtful: Hunter, McGlinchey, McGovern, Montelus, Smythe

  • Torii Hunter, Jr. was an athlete I thought could play as a freshman but his broken femur put those plans on the backburner. He recently suffered a setback with his leg (or rather he won't be ready for camp as he had hoped, that's different and never seemed realistic anyway) and is about as close to a lock for a redshirt as anyone in this class.
  • McGlinchey is going to have to blow the doors off Harry Heistand in order to see the field. He might be raw and full of a ton of potential but the team appears set with 4 tackles heading into the season.
  • McGovern had knee surgery months ago and might be available at some point this season. Still, I thought he was the most raw of the offensive linemen in this class and he could use a full healthy year in a college program.
  • A while back I mentioned that in my opinion at least 1 more freshman linemen would play this season along with Elmer. I had my money on Montelus being that guy but his shoulder injury has still been lingering. He hurt it back before National Signing Day and doctors said he didn't need surgery. As of an update last month it was looking like he might need surgery after all. Had he had an operation earlier this year he might be ready for fall camp but if he goes under the knife this summer he's definitely taking a redshirt.
  • Durham Smythe has more size than his classmate Heuerman but with the depth at tight end and without a spring to get acclimated I highly doubt Smythe is burning eligibility this season. If he was a little more explosive the door might be open but I don't think he's that type of athlete.