We are officially under one month until National Signing Day and while college football programs don't have to be at the 85 scholarship mark until the summer, trying to sort through the roster needs is always crucial this time of year.
Let's get to the numbers!
Out of Eligibility Following 2014 Season:
OL Lombard, DT Utupo, LB Moore, CB Riggs, S Collinsworth, RB McDaniel, TE Koyack, CB Atkinson, K/P Brindza
This list is the same as our last update back in October with the exception of Ishaq Williams being removed and placed into the 5th-year senior category as he works his way back from a year-long suspension. We also were not sure if Austin Collinsworth would be playing late in the season back then or trying to preserve a potential 6th-year of eligibility however the Irish captain did take the field and his career in South Bend is finished.
2015-16 Academic Classes
- 22 Verbal Freshmen Commits
- 23 Sophomores
- 22 Juniors
- 12 Seniors (includes Baratti)
- 17 Fifth-Year Seniors
96 Total Scholarships
Prior to our last update Notre Dame had just received commitments from quarterback Brandon Wimbush, linebacker Asmar Bilal, and defensive end Bo Wallace. In the near 3 months since then the Irish have only added two more prospects in linebacker Tevon Coney and safety Mykelti Williams. This brings the 2015 recruiting class to 22 bodies.
As of this writing Notre Dame has not suffered any attrition in any other academic classes.
List of 5th-Year Seniors
The above list has been rearranged based on the happenings since our last update.
We do know that senior captain Nick Martin will be coming back in 2015. There's no surprise with that decision and he was always a lock to come back anyway.
Nick Martin says he's returning for a fifth year and calls Harry Hiestand the best offense of line coach in the country.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) December 27, 2014
Next up is middle linebacker Joe Schmidt who is currently working his way back from an ankle/leg injury. However, he's expected to be back (and will be a candidate for captain) and although his injury was worse than previously thought his rehab seems to be going well so far.
Joe Schmidt says he can put full pressure on his injured ankle Jan. 10.— Andrew Owens (@BGI_AndrewOwens) December 31, 2014
Golson originally topped this list but my oh my how things have changed in recent months. There are still decent odds that the quarterback is on the roster (and even starting) next fall but those odds have fallen considerably since the middle of the 2014 season.
Reports of ND QB Everett Golson and other scenarios are simply UNTRUE. I've been in close contact with him & his family & he's a Domer!— George Whitfield Jr. (@georgewhitfield) January 6, 2015
There was some talk back then about leaving for the NFL but that doesn't appear to be a reality anymore. Golson can't transfer until he graduates in May which means he's very likely going to be a part of spring practice and vying for the starting QB position. We'll see how it shakes out.
I would expect Matthias Farley to be invited back and the same goes for Ishaq Williams who is serving a two-semester suspension and will be back in the summer.
Both Hegarty and Carlisle are players who are lining up to be very difficult decisions for the coaching staff. As of right now I'd lean toward neither coming back. I have no idea what the situation is going to be with DaVaris Daniels and hopefully we get some clarity there soon.
It appears unlikely than anyone in the Tier 2 and below will be coming back for 2015. Hanratty saw some action this season but would be a luxury with several more highly touted youngsters expected to see the field next fall. Four years later and Councell has suffered a major knee injury and been unable to crack the regular rotation. Hardy has been rumored to be seeking playing time at another school in 2015. That leaves Jarrett Grace who continues his slow and arduous recovery from an exploded leg.
Kelly said Jarrett Grace is taking contact in practice for the first time all year.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) December 20, 2014
The odds still aren't great but at least Grace isn't giving up. We've worked under the assumption that he'll ultimately be placed on medical scholarship but who knows.
Okay, let's do some math. Right now let's say Martin, Schmidt, Golson, Williams, and Farley become the 5th-year options next season. Let's also remove Nicky Baratti who may be placed on medical scholarship with a bum shoulder.
22 + 23 + 22 + 11 + 5 = 83 scholarships
Without any further attrition there would be room for 2 more recruits in the 2015 class. If Stanley goes pro that will allow Notre Dame to go to 25 players for 2015.
Roster (5): Golson, Fiessinger, Zaire, Kizer, VanGorder
Commits (1): Wimbush
There are still many questions that will not be answered until summer. Fiessinger received a scholarship this year but will not return in 2015, and we're still unsure what the situation is with Montgomery VanGorder's scholarship.
We may see 5 scholarship quarterbacks next year or as few as three if Golson leaves and VanGorder loses his aid.
Roster (3): McDaniel, Folston, Bryant
Commits (1): Adams
It's been over half a year and we're still staring at just three running backs for 2015. Obviously, the staff is going to pick up another recruit here. They just have to get it done. Now, the question is whether that player will be an immediate impact type of recruit or something less. If there was enough room (and who knows maybe there will be) a third back would be nice. It wouldn't surprise me to see C.J. Sanders moved to running back once he gets to campus in the summer.
Roster (8): Carlisle, Brown, Prosise, Fuller, Robinson, Hunter, Brent, Holmes
Commits (3): Boykin, Guyton, Sanders
If Carlisle does not come back and the Irish add someone like Equanimeous St. Brown there will be 11 receivers on the roster. That will give the staff a lot of flexibility to move someone, hence my thought that Sanders could help out at running back with his body-type, toughness, and speed.
Roster (5): Koyack, Smythe, Heuerman, Luatua, Weishar
With Koyack leaving this is going to be a very young group in 2015. Talented, but young.
Roster (2): Martin, Hegarty
Commits (1): Hoge
It's always good when the country's No. 1 center is coming to town. It'll be interesting to see if Hoge takes the field as a redshirt freshman but that is some time away.
Roster (7): Lombard, Elmer, Hanratty, Harrell, Montelus, Mustipher, Byrne
Commits (1): Ruhland
We aren't worrying too much about the placement of players at guard vs. tackle as there's always been a lot of flexibility between those positions. Either way, there should be a three deep on the interior for practice.
Roster (6): Stanley, McGlinchey, Bivin, McGovern, Nelson, Bars
Commits (1): Tillery
We'll wait until spring ball to see if Tillery really does move to defense. Until then he's a tackle prospect. If he does move and Stanley takes off for the NFL the depth moves from loaded to perfectly fine.
Roster (9): I. Williams, Okwara, Hounshell, Rabasa, Trumbetti, Blankenship, Bonner, Hill, J. Williams
Commits (1): Wallace
If Ishaq Williams is able to return from his suspension that will leave only Hounshell and Rabasa as the players removed from this list. Only taking one end looks bad on the surface but at least Bonner and Jhonny Williams were able to redshirt this past year. That'll help even out the numbers but defensive end should be near the top of priorities for the 2016 class, for sure.
Roster (8): Day, Jones, Utupo, Rochell, Matuksa, Hayes, Mokwuah, Cage
Commits (3): Taylor, Tiassum, Dew-Treadway
While a lack of a good pass rush off the edge is still concerning the staff has set about re-stocking the interior rather nicely over the past year. While it stunk to burn Hayes' redshirt late in 2014 the Irish only lose Utupo and may even add Jerry Tillery for even more depth.
Roster (5): Grace, Schmidt, Moore, Deeb, Morgan
Commits (1): Barajas
Moore and Grace will both be gone if the latter cannot recover from his injury. That will still leave 4 bodies at the very least, although Deeb's inability to see the field with all the missing players this year is a little concerning.
Roster (3): Smith, Randolph, Martini
Commits (1): Bilal
The talk is already beginning of moving Jaylon Smith to Sam next year so that the defense can get both Schmidt and Morgan on the field together. I'm not on board with that just yet. Keep an eye on Randolph as he's another redshirt freshman who was unable to make an impact with so few bodies available.
Roster (4): Councell, Turner, Onwualu, Tranquill
Commits (1:) Coney
Notre Dame relied on so many nickel packages that this position still has long-term question marks. Any of Turner, Onwualu, and Tranquill could move to safety if need be most especially if Jaylon Smith gets moves outside in the off-season.
Roster (9): Russell, Luke, Riggs, Butler, Farley, Cavalaris, Brown, Atkinson, Watkins
Commits (4): Coleman, Crawford, Fertitta, White
We know Riggs, Cavalaris, Brown, and Atkinson will be gone next year. If Farley comes back for a fifth year that'll give the Irish 5 bodies with experience on top of the incoming freshmen. That's okay depth but not ideal. There's going to be a lot of playing time available in 2016.
Roster (5): Collinsworth, Redfield, Shumate, Hardy, Baratti
Commits (2): McKinney, Williams
Notre Dame pretty much has to do two things from now until the summer. One, add another safety to the class. Two, move a veteran from another position to safety. If they can do that things won't be so terrible with a starting combo of Redfield/Shumate backed up by a veteran and one freshman.
Roster (3): Brindza, Daly, Newsome
Commits (1): Yoon
Yoon looks like a certified baller at kicker and God willing will have a very nice freshman season.
Remaining Priority Targets for 2015:
Notre Dame should be able to fit 3 more players into the 2015 class without a problem. There's not exactly a ton of room mind you, but the numbers game has eased up a bit as it always does the closer we get to National Signing Day, and especially since our last update.
However, we are still working under the assumption that several current/former starters will not be coming back for a fifth year which is significant. We've been saying for months that these difficult decisions would have to be made and as things stand right that hasn't changed.
If we see Stanley go pro, Baratti's career is over, and there's a transfer or two then some breathing room opens up for someone like Amir Carlisle.