clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Notre Dame Football Positions and Coaches: Two Sentences and a Grade at Midseason

This report card isn’t going up on the fridge...

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 UNLV at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re over halfway through Notre Dame’s regular season, so these aren’t literally “mid-season” grades. But it’s close enough.

So, without further ado, here are two sentences and a grade on each of Notre Dame’s positions and position coaches. No more, no less. Here goes nothing.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 UNLV at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Marcus Freeman: D+

This is giving the greatest possible benefit of the doubt to a first-time head coach. His preparation/evaluation of his personnel is borderline atrocious, and that’s really the heart of the issue.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 UNLV at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Quarterback: C-

Drew Pyne is what he is and Tyler Buchner never showed enough to get a solid read on what he could be. Buchner’s season-ending injury grants some grace to a position where failings in recruitment and development have come home to roost.

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

Tommy Rees: D+

Mark my words: one day Tommy Rees will make a quality NFL position coach and/or offensive coordinator. He can’t prepare college players worth a damn, but his ingenious playcalling might actually work if he has NFL talent with which to run it.

Syndication: South Bend Tribune Michael Caterina / USA TODAY NETWORK

Running Back: A-

Audric Estime’s three fumbles notwithstanding, the Irish have a reliable three-headed monster coming out of the backfield. No more than two backs have played well in the same game against a competent defense, but Logan Diggs has quickly become a revelation.

Deland McCullogh: A

He’s made do and then some with a position that dealt with injuries all offseason and has developed two true sophomores into quality backs. Figure out Estime’s butterfingers and we’re in A+ territory.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 23 Notre Dame Spring Game Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Wide Receiver: D

The only reason this isn’t an “F” is because Braden Lenzy keeps getting open but is overthrown by all the quarterbacks. Lorenzo Styles’ drops, Deion Colzie’s lack of growth and Tobias Merriweather’s lack of a prominent role more than negate Jayden Thomas’ emergence.

Chansi Stuckey: C-

Stuckey’s No. 1 priority must be overhauling the recruiting operation at his position, and things seem on the right track there. But development, especially of young players, is still at an unacceptable level.

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

Tight End: A++

Michael. Mayer.

Gerod Parker: A+

He has Michael Mayer, which is basically like having the answers to the exam ahead of time. But he gets bonus points for Kevin Bauman’s pre-injury emergence and Mitchell Evans’ direct-snap prowess.

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

Offensive Line: B

A group that needed to start faster than it did this season has nevertheless been a strength. But the position’s score is knocked by disappointing performances in the first two games plus unreliability on third-down/red zone runs.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 23 Notre Dame Spring Game Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Harry Hiestand: B+

If only he could’ve gotten his group clicking earlier in the year. There are still issues (like short-yardage situations), but Zeke Correll is finally delivering on his recruiting promise and the tackles continue to produce.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Notre Dame at Ohio State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Defensive Line: B-

Not great against the run and susceptible to any quarterback whose legs work. Better statistical numbers of late don’t make up for no-shows at the most important time against Ohio State and Marshall.

Al Washington: C+

His group started the year as the second- or third-most heralded position and pretty much fell on its face. Attrition has hurt, but Isaiah Foskey has played nothing like an All-American/future first-round NFL Draft pick and pressure keeps failing to get home.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 Cal at Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Linebacker: C-

All the cerebral skills in the world can’t make up for the kryptonite of playing outside the hash marks. The position needs to compensate for its weaknesses by forcing turnovers but has generated none through seven games.

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

Al Golden: C-

He needs to stop blitzing the safeties, get stout in the red zone and figure out a way to force more turnovers. Despite perplexing lapses in the defense’s play, they still rank 35th nationally in scoring defense, which is fine, but it should be better.

Stanford v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Cornerbacks: B+

Holding stout against Ohio State — one safety blitz notwithstanding — earns a lot of good will, as does having two freshmen breakout stories. But the nickel shouldn’t be far and away the best player at the position, nor should he have the group’s lone interception through seven contests.

Mike Mickens: B-

In a perfect world, true freshmen Benjamin Morrison and Jaden Mickey shouldn’t BOTH be beating out sophomores Ryan Barnes, Philip Riley and Chance Tucker. And there need to be a LOT more havoc plays on the back end of the defense.

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

Safeties: C-

Stop blitzing them. Like quarterback, recruiting and development have come home to a roost, and a headline transfer hasn’t lived up to the billing.

Chris O’Leary: C

Keep Peyton Bowen and Adon Shuler in the 2023 recruiting class and you’re fine. Get Brandon Joseph to start playing like an All-American again and you’re in business.

Brigham Young v Notre Dame Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Special Teams: A-

Kick return remains an enigma, but the kicking, punting and punt block units are things of beauty. It’s sad that this is the only unit that doesn’t instill crippling fear in the fan base.

Brian Mason: A+

He’s responsible for all of the above, but even the kick return struggles are more on execution than flaws in design. It’s still on Mason to make sure they execute, but how much should Notre Dame really be demanding out of its special teams coach?

NCAA Football: Notre Dame Spring Game Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Balis: C+

Notre Dame’s defense got gassed at the worst possible times in the first two game of the season, and two captains’ knees have been destroyed in practice. You can debate how much is attributable to Freeman’s practice’s being too physical, but it’s Balis’ job to bulletproof the players.