One thing that is interesting about the recruiting season is how the rising sophomores are virtually forgotten at this point. Because they did not play a significant role in their first season as Notre Dame Football players, they are dead to Irish fans. Okay, maybe not to that extreme. But, fans seem to be focused forward when they look at their team. They want to look at the 2014 recruits before they want to review Notre Dame’s roster and say, “Hey, this guy could contribute next year!”
Last year, Matthias Farley gave Notre Dame Fans an example of why they should be looking at the current roster as opposed to the incoming recruits. In 2012, Notre Dame signed 4 Safeties (Elijah Shumate saw reps at the Nickelback position). Nicky Baratti played sparingly in the 2012 season, even picking off a pass in the Red Zone against the Wolverines. But, Farley, who only played on the scout team the prior year, played the majority of snaps at the Free Safety position.
Now, Notre Dame brings in its 2013 class. Fans cannot wait to see Jaylon Smith, Eddie Vanderdoes, Greg Bryant and Max Redfield take the field. But, as fans learned last year, maybe that is not where fans should be looking. Here are five sophomores who could make an impact next season:
Jarron Jones-The former 4-star Defensive End recruit from New York needed time to reshape his body. Notre Dame’s latest depth chart has Jones listed at 6-5 299lbs. At that size, Jones could be a dominant force similar to Stephan Tuitt. Jones could be battling to back up Sheldon Day and get significant playing time instead of 5-star recruit Eddie Vanderdoes.
Will Mahone-The power back could be an excellent compliment to George Atkinson III. Mahone currently weighs in at 211lbs. At the same height as Theo Riddick, Mahone weighs 11lbs. more. With a year practicing in Notre Dame’s Offense, he could be a better option to run the ball. He might not be as talented as Folson and Bryant. But, he has taken the reps to know where to cut and how to pick up the blitz.
Mark Harrell-Notre Dame will need a Center for the 2013 season. Notre Dame has several candidates who each have their issues. Nick Martin was probably Notre Dame’s 6th best Linemen last year. He has some experience snapping the ball. But he could be used at Right Guard. Matt Hegarty was the Center to be before his medical issues this season. Those could hold him back from claiming the position. Harrell could jump in and claim the spot.
Justin Ferguson-Ferguson played early on Offense for Notre Dame. He caught 1 pass for 9 yards. Ferguson is an extremely talented Wide Receiver who could back up DaVaris Daniels. He has a skill set that many Notre Dame Wide Receivers do not have except for DaVaris Daniels. He has the size, weight and ball skills to be a top-line, go-to Receiver.
Ronnie Stanley-Brian Kelly has raved about Ronnie Stanley. If Notre Dame thinks that they would be better off with Lombard at Right Guard, Stanley would be the guy to move in at the Right Tackle position. In addition, if anything happens to Zack Martin, Stanley would step in at the Left Tackle position.