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Notre Dame Football: Saying Goodbye The Incoming Class Of 2013

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It’s been a long and twisting road for the Notre Dame seniors.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Texas Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Senior day for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is just a few days away, and once again we say goodbye to the members of the senior class as they play in Notre Dame Stadium for the last time.

This class has seen a little bit of everything outside of a coaching change, and if you include the fifth year guys we are also talking about a run at the national title.

Let’s take a quick look at the class of 2013, as we prepare to say our goodbyes.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Southern California Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Bryant #1

First and foremost, we must mention Greg Bryant. Bryant, you will remember, was once an Oklahoma commit and shortly after Notre Dame beat Oklahoma in Norman, Greg decommitted from the Sooners and pledged his signature to the Irish. Bryant was an immense talent at running back that was underused, and after the departure of Tony Alford, he lost his way a bit at Notre Dame. Bryant found himself at a JuCo, and then at UAB. He was shot and killed in Florida, in May of this year. He was only 21.

R.I.P. Greg.

Now, for the rest of the class, there has certainly been a lot of attrition from freshman year up to now.

Medical Hardships

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Notre Dame vs Ohio State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Doug Randolph DE / OLB
  • Mike Heuerman TE
  • Michael Deeb LB

Football is a brutal sport and sometimes even the toughest players aren’t able to continue their careers because of a freak injury, or a long-term continuation of an injury. There is a reason that Notre Dame sells the “40 year decision” thing so hard while recruiting kids. Randolph, Heuerman, and Deeb will all graduate with a Notre Dame degree and have an extra step in life.

Academic Casualties

Notre Dame v Florida State Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
  • Steve Elmer OG
  • Corey Robinson WR

Sometimes, an academic casualty isn’t a bad thing. For Elmer and Robinson, both passed up playing their senior years despite playing significant minutes since their freshman year and were sure starters going into the season. Elmer chose to begin his next step in life and start getting his career as an analyst in order, and Robinson felt that the number of concussions he had sustained at Notre Dame were a few too many, and wanted to save his brain for something else in life.

As much as you would have liked to see both of these guys on the field- good for them for knowing exactly what they want out of life.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Legal Issues

  • Devin Butler CB
  • Max Redfield S
  • Rashad Kinlaw DB

We know the sad story already. Both Redfield and Butler were arrested on the same night, but for two different things and in two different locations. Butler was suspended indefinitely from the football team, but remained enrolled at Notre Dame. Redfield was kicked off of the team and then out of the university. Kinlaw was kicked off the team for a violation of team rules, but the persistent rumor was that it was because he was stealing from other players (regardless of how much truth to that there is I’m lumping him in here).

Three players that got into trouble and all three were defensive backs. At some points this season, Notre Dame has put out 4 freshman defensive backs in a game. If it weren’t for these troubles, we could have seen four seniors instead with Kinlaw and Redfield at safety and Cole Luke and Butler at corner. Ouch.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Stars

  • Jaylon Smith LB
  • Will Fuller WR

Two of the greatest players to ever play at their positions at Notre Dame left for the NFL after their junior year. Jaylon Smith was an incredible once in a generation athlete and won the Butkus Award his junior year- despite Brian VanGorder scheming about half of Jaylon’s potential away. Smith suffered a horrific knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round. Smith was considered by many to be the best prospect in the entire draft, and had he not been injured in the bowl game, he very well could have gone #1 or #2 overall. Fuller was absolutely dynamic and one of the best playmakers Notre Dame has had in the past 30 years. He belongs right next to guys like Rocket, Golden Tate, Tim Brown, and Ricky Watters. Fuller was drafted by the Houston Texans and has wowed the NFL already in his rookie year.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Notre Dame vs Ohio State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Probably Coming Back Next Year

  • Mike McGlinchey
  • Durham Smythe
  • Colin McGovern
  • Tori Hunter Jr.

We have four guys listed here that we think will probably return for a fifth year, but Mike McGlinchey and Durham Smythe are the only sure bets. McGlinchey was a captain this year and will most likely be one again in 2017. He was thought by many to be a first round draft choice this spring, but he has struggled with the move to the left side and another year would probably do him a lot of good. Starting linemen that aren’t labeled as high draft picks usually return and that’s why I have McGovern listed here. Tori Hunter Jr. is a bit more of a toss up. Hunter just got married so I could see him leaving to start his new life, but then again, I have a hunch he will be back (not a strong hunch however).

NCAA Football: Stanford at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Not Coming Back For A Fifth

  • Tarean Folston
  • Malik Zaire
  • John Montelus
  • Hunter Bivin
  • Jacob Matuska

Everyone and anyone close to the program will tell you that Malik Zaire is not coming back next year regardless of DeShone Kizer’s decision to return or not. Tarean Folston is in that same category as Tori Hunter. Folston could easily leave, and probably should with the mileage and injuries he has already suffered. John Montelus never panned out after battling injuries during his career. Bivin and Matuska will most likely transfer to use up their remaining year of eligibility.

It’s strange to think about how much hope we all had in Zaire and Folston, and really, just how little we have seen them play.

NCAA Football: Miami at Notre Dame Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Rest

  • Cole Luke
  • Isaac Rochell
  • James Onwualu

All three of these guys have been Notre Dame workhorses throughout their careers. They played as freshmen, and all three were playing huge roles or starting by their sophomore year. Cole Luke has done a great job this year once Notre Dame got rid of Brian Vangorder. Isaac Rochell plays just about every snap there is on defense and has shown incredible stamina as he just keeps playing and playing. James Onwualu is a captain this year and everything he does- whether that’s with his hard play every down, or helping out with the underclassmen, proves that the “C” on his chest is well deserved.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Texas Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

All In All

This class was ranked as high as number 3 on signing day- a signing day that included a signature from five star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes. Of course Vanderdoes flaked out and ended up at UCLA. The thing is though... this class got the fans jacked up on signing day. It was only a month after Notre Dame lost to Alabama in the national title game, and as filthy as that beatdown was, the fact that the Irish went 12-0 in the regular season and then signed this incredible class had fans flying high and throbbing with hope for the future.

What happened next will blow your mind (shit, I hate those headlines). Seriously though, the next four years weren’t exactly what we had hoped for. Of the 24 that signed on signing day for scholarships (sorry Bon Jovi), only 12 are on the team. Even if Jaylon and Fuller had stayed, that still would mean that just 58% of the class made it four years.

They gave us plenty of excitement, and we shared in their despair. Thanks for the effort boys, and go beat Southern Cal (but please beat Virginia Tech first).