Notre Dame is in an interesting position roster-wise heading into the 2018 college football season. A recent SBNation.com article indicates that no team returns more defensive production than Notre Dame. Since the Irish fielded a top-50 defense in 2017, playing time for new players on that side of the ball may be hard to come by.
The piece also shows that Notre Dame ranks 98th in returning offensive production, meaning the 13 offensive members of their most recent recruiting class — along with those redshirts from the 2017 group — will have a better chance of seeing the field. Still, there are some defensive prospects that are too good to keep on the sideline.
Here are five newcomers to keep track of as we inch towards the start of the season.
Kevin Austin, WR
Oregon product Braden Lenzy may get a chance based on his pure speed. But with an overall ranking of No. 82 in 247Sports’ Composite Rankings, Austin is the highest ranked wide receiver to sign with the Irish since Michael Floyd in 2008. He has the size at 6-foot-3, 198 pounds and just enough speed to stretch the field vertically. With Equanimeous St. Brown and Kevin Stepherson no longer a part of the program, Austin will get a chance and receiver is a position where freshmen can compete right away.
Houston Griffith, DB
Griffith was listed by the recruiting services as a corner, but some experts feel that his ceiling is even higher as a safety. Notre Dame’s highest rated 2018 prospect enrolled early and will combine with fellow freshman Derrik Allen and Navy transfer Alohi Gilman to give the Irish depth at a position at which they struggled in 2017. Griffith also could begin at corner but either way his versatility should make him a valuable commodity.
Phil Jurkovec, QB
When he enters Notre Dame, Jurkovec will be at best third on the depth chart behind Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book. But considering the current state of the quarterback position, coupled with Jurkovec’s immense talent, everyone will be closely watching the former Pine-Richland High School star from western Pennsylvania. He is undoubtedly the quarterback of the future, but when will that future begin?
Shayne Simon, Rover
The one area where Notre Dame lost defensive bodies was at linebacker. As a result, head coach Brian Kelly recently expressed a desire to move Drue Tranquill from rover to buck linebacker. That would create a vacancy at Tranquill’s old position, one that Simon would love to fill. The St. Peter’s Prep (New Jersey) product has the skill set, but he will have competition from redshirt freshman Jeremiah Owusu-Karamoah.
Jahmir Smith, RB
Smith was not among the highest ranked players in this class nor does he possess the breakaway ability that the Irish are lacking at the position. But with the unexpected departures of Deon McIntosh and C.J. Holmes, a third running back needs to emerge behind Dexter Williams and Tony Jones Jr. Smith enrolled early and will participate in spring drills, which gives him the edge over fellow freshman C’Bo Flemister.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.