Yesterday in Part 1 we talked about Notre Dame recruiting going forward and how that might affect the roster going forward. Today we look at the crop of potential fifth-year players and just how many and who could come back.
Looking at the roster there are 58 players in the freshman, sophomore, and junior classes. Add in the 21 current commitments to give you 79 scholarship players right now for 2013. That leaves six spots available for fifth-year players. However Notre Dame looks like it will take maybe 2-3 more players thus eliminating slots that could go toward a fifth-year player.
Of the 15 seniors still on the Notre Dame roster, nine have a fifth-season of eligibility remaining. They are running back Cierre Wood, tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jake Golic, offensive linemen Zack Martin and Chris Watt, defensive tackle Tyler Stockton, linebackers Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese, and kicker Nick Tausch. Right away you can eliminate Golic and Stockton. I think the coaches would bring back Tausch if they had plenty of room just to keep depth, but he’s not coming back. Also, Eifert isn’t coming back. He passed up the NFL once. He won’t do that again.
That leaves Wood, Martin, Watt, Fox and Calabrese giving the Irish room for one more incoming freshman while still bringing back all five of these guys. But if ND takes 2-3 more players, one or two of these potential fifth-years will not have room to return. So who comes back or not?
I think Zack Martin and Chris Watt are locks to return for two reasons: 1) You can’t teach experience and these guys are multi-year starters with tons of experience, and 2) You already are losing Braxston Cave and Mike Golic Jr from the offensive line and you’d rather not break in four brand new offensive line starters when you can only break in two.
Same might go for Cierre Wood as well. You know Theo Riddick is gone and bringing back a 1,000-yard rusher to go with youngsters like George Atkinson III, Amir Carlisle, Cam McDaniel, Will Mahone, and Jamel James would help. But, this is only if Wood wants to return. Conventional wisdom said Wood would leave after this season, but with his slow start to the season, will his draft stock be high enough to leave?
That leaves us with Fox and Calabrese. I’m sure the coaches would love to bring them both back because they have each played and started multiple seasons. Plus you’re losing Manti Te’o and having to replace two middle linebackers is not desirable. You just wonder if there is room.
If I had to rank them I’d put Martin first followed by Watt, Wood, Fox and Calabrese. We’ll just have to see how this recruiting class closes before we can try to figure out who will be back for a fifth year.
Of course the roster is a fluid situation and none of this take into account potential transfers, dismissals or other roster moves which would open up spots.