I’m ready for football. Surviving off spring practice and recruiting nuggets only goes so far, but I guess I’ll have to make due. We’ll dive into the snap counts to help identify what to focus on this offseason, starting with the DL.
Below is a chart showing snaps through Notre Dame. Players highlighted in red moved on and those in green are returning. Year is what they will be this coming season.
As you know, the top 5 DL are gone. The silver lining is that all 5 are probably going to make it to the NFL with the top 4 likely picked in the first couple of rounds of the draft. For backups to get significant snaps, they had to be good. Xavier Thomas is good and kept getting better last season. We don’t need to worry about him. That leaves Foster, Rudolph, Henry, and Mascoll competing for the second starting spot. Foster with 168 snaps and Rudolph with 141 got some good experience last season. Add in both players hitting their third year and we should have a solid floor. Most teams would do awful things to have talent like this at DE.
DT is where you should be nervous. Pinckney will hit his fourth year in the program (that’s so hard to believe – time flies) and played 300 snaps, plus a good portion of the Alabama game, putting him very close to Huggins. While it may be a step back from Lawrence and Wilkins, we at least have one DT who can play. Jordan Williams only had 143 snaps last season, but he hits his third year in the program. Xavier Kelly was too light at 270 lbs. to hold up. Kelly is the player who needed to hit the weight room hard this offseason and the one I’m most interested in at the weigh in. He is talented, though.
Venables reporting Jefferies at 265 lbs. after a redshirt year is flat out alarming. I don’t remember reports of him injured or ill, and the staff called him out, and they put Davis ahead right off the bat. What a waste of an opportunity. Read up on The Kraken’s evaluation of Tyler Davis here. He called Davis impressive this spring.
Between Pinckney starting and Williams, Davis, and Kelly competing for the second spot, we’ll be ok. Just “ok” isn’t going to get far in the Playoff, which should be the expectation with FSU, Miami, and VPI being down, or for A&M kicking off the season (week 2). Expect DL development to continue throughout the season.
The competition at both DE and DT will continue into the season, getting the players to push each other. One good result of losing the established starters is avoiding complacency coming off the National Championship. The staff will spin the losses to push the team while holding them to a National Championship standard.