Junior cornerback Bennett Jackson will be a vital figure in the rebuilding Irish secondary.
Notes: Sophomores Hounshell and Springmann were sidelined this spring while recovering from winter shoulder and back surgeries, respectively, but both added 10 pounds to their frame and are primed to compete this August for plenty of action with the graduation of Ethan Johnson and Sean Cwynar, plus the transfer of 2011 Freshman All-America Aaron Lynch (South Flordia).
While a minimum of a six-man rotation is projected along the line, the position that is expected to get the most equal number of reps is the demanding nose guard spot with Schewenke and Nix.
“I don’t know that one player could play the whole game for us (at nose guard),” head coach Brian Kelly said. “So we’re going to get as many guys in the game that can play at the highest level.”
Freshman Day and Jones likely won’t see the volume of action that Tuitt and Lynch did as freshmen last season, but Kelly doesn’t expect them to be just spectators, either. Day had a quality spring while adding 11 pounds, and on the first day of fall camp, the superbly built Jones knocked down two passes in 11 on 11 drills, according to Kelly.
Notes: Utopo had worked on the inside in the past but is stationed along the perimeter now, where he also has the frame to play defensive end in the 4-3 at the hybrid Cat posiion.
Shembo had surgery last April for turf toe but is back in action at his natural position after playing Dog last year. Kelly said even if Williams takes control at Cat, Shembo is projected to remain at Cat because against spread or option teams, because fifth-year senior safety Jamoris Slaughter can always line up at Dog to provide more speed and better coverage along the flanks. In 4-3 schemes, it might not matter anyway because Shembo and Williams could be on the field at the same time as the ends.
No. Mike ILB Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig.
5 Manti Te’o 6-2 255 Sr./1
59 Jarrett Grace 6-3 240 So./4
or 8 Kendall Moore 6-1 242 Jr./3
Notes: With Calabrese serving a one-game suspension in the Sept. 1 opener, preferred walk-on Joe Schmidt might have an opportunity to see his first game action, but the Mike and Will positions are basically considered interchangeable to defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.
“We’ll rotate in Kendall Moore,” said Kelly of the Mike linebacker whose eight tackles (five solo) in the spring game led the team. “We’ll rotate in Joe Schmidt and Jarrett Grace. There will be five inside linebackers that will prepare for Navy.”
No. Strong Safety Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig.
26 Jamoris Slaughter 6-0 200 5th/1
24 Chris Salvi 5-10 190 Sr./2
16 Chris Badger 6-0 193 Fr./4
22 Elijah Shumate 6-0 198 Fr./4
34 C.J. Prosise 6-2 208 Fr./4
31 John Turner 6-2 207 Fr./4
No. Free Safety Ht. Wt. Cl./Elig.
17 Zeke Motta 6-2 215 Sr./1
15 Dan McCarthy 6-2 205 5th/1
4 Eilar Hardy 5-11 185 So./4
41 Matthias Farley 5-11 200 So./4
29 Nick Baratti 6-1 206 Fr./4
28 Austin Collinsworth 6-1 202 Jr./2
Notes: No position on the team is replete with more bodies than safety, although Collinsworth’s labrum surgery was a setback. He was expected to be part of a three-man rotation at safety with Slaughter and Motta, especially with Slaughter’s skill sets allowing him to play Dog linebacker against spread teams. A best-case situation for Collinsworth’s return is late October, unless he takes a medical red-shirt.
First-year safeties coach Bob Elliott will have an extremely busy August evaluation phase.
Notes: The 2011 starting corners Gary Gray and Robert Blanton graduated after taking the lion’s share of snaps. The standout at corner this spring, Jackson, took only 65 snaps on defense, or an average of five per game, which is why the cornerback position is easily the top question mark on defense, if not the entire team.
“That’s what college football is about,” Kelly reasoned. “People graduate and it’s the next guys chance.”
On the first day of practice, Wood played opposite Jackson for the first unit, but it’s going to be an open battle beyond Jackson. Freshman running back/athlete recruit KeiVarae Russell should have a far better chance of playing at cornerback this season than on offense.
“We’re going to have two new corners, so getting them part of the unit so there is one heartbeat on that side of the ball is very, very important,” Kelly summarized.
Notes: Tausch won the placekicking duties and has converted 15 of 18 career field goal attempts, while Turk begins a fourth season as the punter with Cowart long snapping with Daly … Brindza is the top backup at kicker and punter, and will also handle most kickoffs.