Each Slap the Sign contributor picked a Notre Dame football player to put their stamp of approval on ahead of the 2018 season.
“My guys” can be established studs or players looking to break out. They can be anyone on the roster. Inspired by one of my favorite fantasy football podcasts of the season, I decided to bring this idea to Notre Dame football.
As one would expect, many of our writers pick established players. I mean, who doesn’t want Te’von Coney or Julian Love as their “my guy”? Some of our contributors chose the breakout route. Either way, this is meant to be a fun piece with varying opinions on several players.
So…Let’s dive in!
Ben Belden: Miles Boykin
Miles Boykin is probably the Notre Dame receiver that has shown the brightest flashes in limited moments during his tenure in South Bend. Boykin’s most notable moment was his one-handed catch and run to the end zone to help Notre Dame win the Citrus Bowl against LSU. He’s on record that he doesn’t want that catch to define his college career, though, which why I expect him to take the next step in 2018.
Carlee North: Chase Claypool
We keep the wide receiver train rolling with another top notch talent looking to breakout.
I think this kid could be a top wideout in the NFL when he gets into the league in few years — that’s how special I think he is. His physical abilities are unmatched when I look at the Irish wide receiver room. Aside from Miles Boykin and true freshman Kevin Austin, there isn’t another player that can match his size and speed combo on the team. He’s what you would draw up if you wanted the perfect wide receiver traits. I’d bet it all on him to have a huge season for the Irish, and maybe even take over a game or two in the process. Good luck opposing corners.
Connor McJunkin: Alex Bars
Staying on the offensive side of the ball, we shift over to the offensive line.
Arguably the best returning offensive player on the team, Bars was named a second-team preseason All-American and made the Outland Trophy watch list. He will anchor this year’s offensive line along with fellow senior Sam Mustipher. His role on the line is even more critical, as he will provide veteran leadership next to first time starter Liam Eichenberg. There might be questions about Notre Dame’s runninng backs and quarterback, but the interior of the offensive line should be a bright spot all season long, due in large part to Bars.
J.P. Scott: Sam Mustipher
Experience and athleticism make him an elite center at the college level, and a very good pro prospect as well. I like Notre Dame’s offensive line to continue its high level of play, largely based on the work he’s going to do inside. He’ll be in everyone’s All-American discussions by the end of the year, and likely one of the first centers selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Mason Plummer: Julian Love
Finally, some love for the Notre Dame defense…
When your team has a guy that’s not only your best corner, but undoubtedly your best safety as well, how could he not be a “My Guy”?! Love is the best player the Irish secondary has seen since Harrison Smith, and he will prove that again in 2018. The guy can truly do it all, and there is no doubt in my mind that he have a third-straight All-American-caliber season.
Mychal Hunter: Tony Jones Jr.
Jones will get his first crack at the starting lead back spot with Dexter Williams likely suspended for the first four games, and I think he takes advantage. Michigan allowed over 120 yards rushing per game in 2017 and lost one of its best interior defenders in Maurice Hurst Jr. to the NFL Draft. In 44 attempts last season, Jones averaged over 5 yards a carry. I expect he will continue that trend in the opener, which will catapult him to a much better season than people are predicting.
Paul Walsh: Te’von Coney
Te’von Coney is fast, physical and dynamic. He led the Notre Dame defense in total tackles and tackles for loss while only starting 7 games in 2017. He always seems to be around whoever has the ball, and he closes gaps in the blink of an eye. His off-field issues are well chronicled, but I expect those to be a thing of the past and for him to make the most of his final season knowing full well it could have never happened at all. If I am banking on any player to provide an impact, Coney is my pick!
Sonny Martinez: Drue Tranquill
How could you not the bet the house on this guy being the heart and soul of the defense? He may not be as flashy as Te’von Coney, as quick as Troy Pride or as strong as Jerry Tillery, but he gets things done at the same high level. In my opinion, he’s the most valuable and dependable player on the defense.
Nathan Erbach: Troy Pride Jr.
Troy Pride Jr. has always had the size-speed combo to become a dynamic college football corner and high level draft prospect. Notre Dame offered him late in the process out of high school, and stole him away from his state school South Carolina — and boy are they glad they did.
Pride began showing flashes of his track speed and terrific length late last season, and that has transitioned into terrific Spring and Fall camps for the Irish. He’s becoming a leader of the defense, and is playing with a chip on his shoulder. Don’t be surprised if he leaps Julian Love as Notre Dame’s best corner. We might even see his name in some NFL scouting circles. Pride is “My Guy” and my pick to become this years Te’von Coney.
Jack Leniart: Cole Kmet
Kmet might not be the top tight end on the depth chart to start the season, but he may very well end up being the most productive in 2018. In year one of Chip Long’s offense, 25 percent of all receptions were made by tight ends. Without a clear-cut number one receiver, I expect that percentage to increase. Given Alize Mack’s inconsistent play over the past couple seasons, Kmet should have every opportunity to shine in the Notre Dame offense this season. He has the talent necessary to take advantage of that opportunity.