Today marks the day as the first official spring football practice for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The team gets 15 of these practices, with the last one being the annual Blue Gold Spring Game. There are starting spots up for grabs and a lot of players fighting for these jobs. With three new coordinators, everyone has a chance to prove to the new coaching staff that they are deserving of more playing time. These are the five players that I think have the most to prove this spring and deserve to have our attention.
1. Asmar Bilal
Asmar Bilal was a highly ranked recruit out of Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is entering his junior season without much action on the field the last two years. He redshirted his freshman season. Bilal played in all 12 games this past season as a sophomore but only recorded 29 tackles as a backup linebacker. With Mike Elko as the new defensive coordinator, Bilal is a perfect fit for the new “rover” position. Asmar Bilal is a great athlete and needs to take the next step this spring.
2. Nick Watkins
Nick Watkins would have been the leader to land the other starting cornerback spot alongside Cole Luke this past season if it weren’t for an arm injury that lingered and kept him out the whole season. It is important that Watkins can get back to form and secure a starting cornerback spot. He only has one college start, being the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State, but he is the oldest corner competing for a starting spot. For Notre Dame to be at their best next season, a healthy Nick Watkins will contribute.
3. Dexter Williams
The junior to be running back is halfway done with his college career. Dexter Williams had a lot of hype and potential coming to Notre Dame. It is time that he pushes Josh Adams for the starting running back spot. He has all the tools you could want in a back. This spring he needs to put tools to work and show he is going to be a real difference maker on the field come September.
4. Alize Jones/Mack
At this point I am not sure what his last name is going to be. I do know that he has a lot to prove this spring. The coaching staff wants to see him go out there and take the starting position at tight end. He also needs to stay ahead in school as he was ineligible last fall academically. If he gets on the field in the fall, he will prove to be the best offensive weapon on the team.
5. Daelin Hayes
Notre Dame has been desperate for a consistent pass rusher for a while now. This spring, fans should pay attention to seeing if Hayes can take the next step. Of all the defensive lineman, he is the best bet to make the leap to rush end. The defense could be very good with a player who consistently gets pressure on the quarterback. The cornerbacks are stacking up to be a strength of this team. Nyles Morgan will be a great player and leader for the linebackers. I believe that a good pass rush will change this team into a playoff contender next year.
There are a lot of players that you could make an argument for needing a big spring. These are the players I will be paying close attention too. If these five players improve and fill their designated roles, Notre Dame will be a good football team in 2017.