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Notre Dame Football: Recapping the Biggest 2016 Offseason News so Far

June 7, 2016

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Although the offseason can be a lonely time for college football fans, Notre Dame has kept its supporters entertained in 2016.

The Fighting Irish started off by signing their 11th straight top-25 recruiting class, and the coaching staff added more than a handful of prospects to the 2017 group, too.

During spring practice, several players returned to the field after missing most—or sometimes all—of last season due to injury. Others made strides toward locking up a starting role vacated by one of Notre Dame’s 13 NFL-bound talents.

 

Early Returns from No. 15 Class, Surge for 2017 and 2018

Head coach Brian Kelly and Co. secured another nationally respected haul that included 10 4-star prospects.

Headlined by a couple top-100 prospects in Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg, the Irish had the No. 15 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Five players enrolled early, but the highest-rated playerDaelin Hayes—was limited in spring practice. Instead, a couple of 3-stars stole the spotlight.

Kevin Stepherson has rare ability at wide receiver, Kelly said, per Nick Ironside of 247Sports. Also, Devin Studstill spent a majority of the workouts as the first-string free safety.

In the meantime, coaches turned their focus to the 2017 cycle. Since signing day, six players have committed to Notre Dame, which currently holds the No. 10 class in the country.

David Adams leads the group of new pledges—five of which announced their non-binding intentions after visiting South Bend, Indiana, in mid-March. Avery Davis, Pete Werner, Drew White and Kurt Hinish fit that bunch, while Isaiah Robertson committed in April.

But the biggest recruiting win happened in mid-May. Phil Jurkovec, a 5-star and the No. 9 overall player for 2018, gave his pledge to the Irish. Although that’s a long time to hold a commitment, Jurkovec is a terrific first addition.

 

Injury Updates

Last year, Notre Dame watched a significant contributor at nearly every position miss time because of an injury. Fortunately for the team, most were healthy for the spring.

Malik Zaire (broken right ankle) returned to the quarterback competition with DeShone Kizer. Running back Tarean Folston (torn right ACL) started his push to edge Josh Adams. Tight end Durham Smythe (torn right MCL, shoulder sprain) was cleared.

Defensive tackle Jarron Jones (torn right MCL) participated, though he played a bit tentative, Kelly said, per Mike Vorel of the South Bend Tribune. Safety Drue Tranquill (torn right ACL) and cornerback Shaun Crawford (torn right ACL) were available.

However, not every update brought good news—and as Kelly said according to ESPN’s Matt Fortuna, it’s not a problem of bad luck.

Wideout Corey Robinson’s football future is cloudy because of concussions, which offensive lineman Colin McGovern also battled.

Receivers C.J. Sanders (hip) and Miles Boykin (finger) missed some practices, as well as cornerback Nick Watkins (fractured left humerus). Linebackers Te’von Coney and Greer Martini were sidelined for the entire session.

Hopefully for Notre Dame, the trend of injuries doesn’t continue at this rate. But that seems highly unlikely.

 

Identifying Replacements for NFL Departures

Seven players from the 2015 roster heard their name called on draft day, including Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller in the first round. Six more signed contracts as undrafted free agents.

Although this transition won’t be easy, the Irish have a respectable understanding of who’s next.

Mike McGlinchey will replace Stanley at left tackle. Equanimeous St. Brown should step in for Fuller. Nyles Morgan (Joe Schmidt), Torii Hunter Jr. (Chris Brown) and Sam Mustipher (Nick Martin) all have clear paths to starting roles.

The list goes on with Sanders (Amir Carlisle), Folston or Adams (C.J. Prosise), Jay Hayes (Romeo Okwara), Jerry Tillery (Sheldon Day) and Crawford (KeiVarae Russell), just to name a handful.

Not every new starter will match his predecessor’s production—especially on defense. But having a clear-cut favorite at nearly every vacancy is a promising sign for the Irish.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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