After an 11-2 season that saw the Notre Dame Fighting Irish finish outside the top 10 and completely out of the playoff picture for all of November, it’s not hard to get excited about the upcoming season — which is still seven months away. After the two disappointing losses, I am looking forward to see how the Irish improve and get over the hump that has held them back.
Naturally that leads to thoughts about the roster and the talent that is on hand in South Bend. Being me, and all the oddness that goes with that distinction, I am all over the map in that regard. Not only do I think about starting lineups, but also things like; depth, a good story, personal liking, and a wide range of other random stuff.
It’s what makes life interesting.
So, to that end, I have come up with my list of top five most interesting players before we head into spring. It comes with a caveat though... for right now. I imagine my list as a fluid entity and something that will certainly change over the coming months. I will update throughout the offseason as need be.
This is in no particular order, so alphabetical seems appropriate.
Bo Bauer, Linebacker
There’s just something about Bo Bauer that I can’t dismiss. Maybe it’s because he looks like a grizzly bear, or that he plays like a grizzly bear, or that I can say “Bear Bauer” or “Bo Bear” — he’s a god damn bear. While I am placing all of my trust in Clark Lea to fill out his linebacker depth chart in the best possible manner, I can’t help but wonder where Bo fits in. Does Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah stay at ROVER as a lot of people believe? If so, that still leaves the BUCK open for competition. Bauer backed up Drew White at MIKE last season, but can Bauer be moved to BUCK and can that move be a good one? I want more Bo Bauer on the field, and that may be the best possible way.
Brendon Clark, Quarterback
I love Ian Book and I think he is going to have a special kind of year in 2020. With that said... you still need a quality back-up quarterback should the need ever arise. With the transfer of Phil Jurkovec to the Boston College Eagles, QB2 now falls on the shoulders of the redshirt freshman from Virginia. What little I know of Clark — I absolutely love, and I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more of him this spring.
Houston Griffith, Defensive Back
What does Notre Dame do with Houston Griffith? The better question might be what is Houston Griffith going to do at Notre Dame — but it’s all one in the same. Griffith is entering his junior year, and I’m not sure what the Irish actually have with him. Is safety his best position, or is it cornerback? Notre Dame has hardcore needs at both this season, and Griffith might be the key for one or the other. We all saw the safety triumvirate of Jalen Elliott, Alohi Gilman, and Kyle Hamilton work really well — can the Irish get similar results with Griffith, Hamliton, and Ohio State Buckeyes transfer Isaiah Pryor? With the roster numbers the way that they are — this has to be the best case — right?
Jahmir Smith, Running Back
A lot of the running back talk lately revolves around incoming freshman Chris Tyree and rising junior C’Bo Flemister. The loss of Tony Jones Jr. to the NFL Draft and the uncertainty of Jafar Armstrong has forced this conversation, but I don’t think enough is being made of Jahmir Smith. Personally, I think Smith is the best returning running back on the roster and imagining a combination game of him and Tyree has me pretty excited for the running game in 2020. Smith has better vision than Flemister and runs just as hard — and overall appears to be a better all around back. The spring battle between the two is something I’m really looking forward to in the coming months (and what actually goes down with Armstrong who may be unfairly overlooked right now).
KJ Wallace, Cornerback
There is very little I know about KJ Wallace, but I do know that Notre Dame needs him AND Isaiah Rutherford to step up in a big way as sophomores. The Irish have two starters with Shaun Crawford and TaRiq Bracy, but they absolutely need one or two more for depth and rotation. Wallace is a guy that received pretty nice reviews in fall camp, and has a certain swagger that all great cornerbacks possess. Can he develop into that viable option for 2020?