With the 2018 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football season behind us, we can start to look towards the future. Next up in the grand scheme of things is spring football. This series will provide a quick look at all the position groups for Notre Dame football as we enter winter workouts, and spring practice.
The Notre Dame defense was a strong unit last season — especially with its pass defense efficiency, where the Irish finished the year ranked #6 in the country. That ranking is due to strong overall defense, but it also required great cornerback play. With All-American Julian Love on one side and the improving Troy Pride Jr. on the other, the Irish had their best cornerback duo since Shane Walton and Vontez Duff (the similarities are striking).
The weakest link came at the Nickel. The Irish had an unfortunate loss there when Shaun Crawford went down in fall camp with a season-ending injury. We thought Nick Coleman would be able to fill the void, but it was mostly Houston Griffith that filled in at the position. (Griffith was talked about in the Safety Irish Eyes).
Imagine how much better this great defense would have been with a healthy Crawford at the nickel for the entire season. There was a severe lack of continuity at the position, but at the very least the void provided much needed experience for Griffith and Bracy.
DEPARTURES FROM 2018
Julian Love’s decision to forego his final year of eligibility for the NFL Draft was a massive blow to the Notre Dame defense. The possibility of returning the entire starting secondary that would include a consensus All-American and Thorpe Award finalist (screw job) — well hell yes that would have been ideal. There’s really no more we can say about that.
Departing CB Production From 2018
|27 Julian Love||13||63||3||0||1||16||1||0||3|
|24 Nick Coleman||12||16||0||0||1||4||0||0||0|
RETURNING FOR 2019
The Irish are, however, very fortunate to return Troy Pride Jr. this year. Pride has improved every year with his technique and his physicality. After Pride it does get a bit thin on returning production from last year.
Returning CB Production From 2018
|5 Troy Pride Jr.||12||47||1.5||0||2||10||0||1||1|
|35 TaRiq Bracy||12||18||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|8 Donte Vaughn||11||13||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Of course that doesn’t come close to explaining what actually returns in 2019. Shaun Crawford will be fully healthy by fall camp, and there are still two talented corners that were freshmen last year in D.J. Brown and Noah Boykin.
While Love’s departure is HUGE, there is still depth and talent on this team.
The Irish followed up a great 2018 cycle with a good one with two more additions:
- Isaiah Rutherford
- K.J. Wallace
Rutherford might be the biggest sleeper in the class, and could challenge for playing time next season. Wallace is a little more of a project, but he is blessed with the pure athleticism that we all desire for a corner.
Most likely, at least this spring, we will probably see Pride move over to the boundary from the field in place of the departed Julian Love. That would open up the field for Bracy — although a healthy Crawford could also step into that role. Crawford will also most likely be the leading candidate for the Nickel as he was the starter in fall camp in 2018.
There is still the possibility that Houston Griffith gets a look at corner this spring which would allow Pride to stay on the field side, or Griffith could own the Nickel with Crawford at the field corner and Pride over on the boundary.
Throw in the talented Boykin and Brown, and there should be a lot of strong competition in the secondary. It will be one of the more interesting positions to keep an eye on in the spring and in fall camp.
RANDOM RANDOMNESS TO PONDER
sorry Jim I already marked SA as Notre Dame territory pic.twitter.com/Mwth6k8gWI— Jessica Smetana (@jessica_smetana) February 20, 2019
How do you feel about ND’s CB situation in 2019?
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