The predominant storyline of ND football spring has to be player development

SOUTH BEND, Indiana — Perhaps a bit lost in the more dazzling storylines on day one of Notre Dame’s spring football practice Wednesday morning will be a rude and necessary reminder that follows Friday’s Practice No. 2 at the Irish Athletics Center.

In the form of Notre Dame Pro Day and what it implies about the state of the program.

This means that player development is still important. A tonne.

And estimate how head coach sophomore Marcus Freemans between now and Spring Closing – the blue-gold game on April 22nd – is a more than worthwhile endeavor to determine the program’s trajectory that not even the NIL/Transferportal cocktail can dilute.

Once a cornerstone of the former head coach Brian Kellys After 12 seasons as Notre Dame’s most consistent and successful football coach, player development appears to have faltered near the end of his run, based in part on the two-man NFL draft class in 2022 and the prospect of those being so small in April could be three depending on how Friday’s Pro Day goes.

“Five in two years? It’s almost embarrassing,” says the longtime recruiting analyst tom lemming, Editor of the Prep Football Report. “As recruiting analysts, we look to NFL drafts as a measure of, ‘Am I right about a particular player?’

“I’ve been doing this for 45 years. And sometimes you don’t meet a guy. But what these potential smaller back-to-back classes are telling me is that something was wrong at the end of the Kelly era. Maybe it was the judging, maybe it wasn’t about making enough difference in recruiting or getting offers early enough Brian Polian was recruitment coordinator. Maybe it’s player development.

“I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus, but perhaps this is confirmation that Brian Kelly has only been able to get the program in pursuit of a national championship.”

Rivals250 rankings are loosely based on the eventual draft ability of prospects in each national recruiting tier, with the top 32 – five-star – being the predicted first round finishers. Indeed, 259 players will be drafted for this spring’s seven-round affair, April 27-29 in Kansas City, Mo.

That equates to a total of 17 draft decisions, which should come from the top 10 250 Irish players in their 2018 class and the seven in the 2019 group. So far they have actually produced one – security Kyle Hamilton.

And none of the 16 others — with a handful yet to play out their eligibility — are a slam dunk to join him. Defensive tackle Jayson Adelilola — training in front of NFL scouts, coaches and staff types at Pro Day on Friday after being snubbed for the NFL Combine — probably has the best odds among those, including players who graduate from other schools.

Security Houston Griffithin the current draft pool, was the highest rated prospect from these two classes – No. 43 in 2018.

“Notre Dame wants to be like Georgia, Alabama,” Lemming said. “You don’t get there that way, you miss evaluations or developments. I think you’ll see a difference in the guys who make it when Marcus’ guys are draft-eligible in a few years.

To Kelly’s credit, the Irishman produced 56 draft picks, including 10 first-rounders, in the 12 drafts he presided over. In the 12 drafts that preceded him, those numbers were 46 and two, respectively.

Of the Kelly Era’s 56 draft picks, 35 of them were Rivals250 players who came out of high school, and 21 weren’t and overachieved. The Kelly Era’s 56 drafts total 4.7 drafts per year.

Given that there are 36 former Rivals250 players in the current roster, that would result in an average of 7.2 per draft class, knowing that some might not make it and some non-Top 250 players likely to be confiscated.

The positional group with the most former Spring Top 250 players are offensive tackles (6), followed by wide receivers (5) and linebackers/rovers (5). Notre Dame’s offense has 22 of the 36 on their side of the ball.

Security is the only position group without at least one. The top three players in this pre-spring position group are two converted cornerbacks (DJ Brown, Ramon Hernandez) and a converted wide receiver (Xavier Watts).

It’s also one of the positional groups most in need of player development alongside the defensive end.

How the quarterbacks and offensive line develop will be compelling given new coaching positions Gino Guidugli And joe rudolph, respectively Both have a strong recent history in this regard.

Jan book (fourth round, 2021) and DeShone Kizer (second round, 2017) are the only two Irish QBs drafted in the Kelly era.

Nine offensive linemen were selected during this period, including four first-rounders.

“The difference Marcus makes when it comes to recruiting is that he’s the lead recruiter for each prospect and he’s hiring people much sooner,” Lemming said. “Notre Dame would lose a third of every potential class if they waited too long.

“I think this spring you’ll see that Marcus Freeman has an equally effective plan when it comes to turning those top recruits into top players and eventually drafting prospects.”

Former Rivals Top 250 prospects in the Notre Dame roster for 2023 ranked by position group:

QBs (2): Tyler Buchner, Kenny Minchey

RBs (4): Chris Tyree, Audric Estimé, Jadarian Price, Jeremiyah Love

WRs (5): Lorenzo Styles, Deion Colzie, Jaden Greathouse, Rico Flores Jr., Braylon James

TEs (2): Kevin Bauman, Eli Raridon

OTs (6): Tosh Baker, Michael Carmoday, Joe Alt, Blake Fisher, Ty Chan, Aamil Wagner

OGs (2): Rocco Spindler, Billy Schrauth

CS (1): Zeke Correll

DEs (4): Jordan Botelho, Joshua Burnham, Aiden Gobaira, Brenan Vernon

DTs (3): Rylie Mills, Gabe Rubio, Tyson Ford

LBs (5): Prince Kollie, Jaylen Sneed, Junior Tuihalamaka*, Drayk Bowen, Jaiden Ausberry

SFTs (0): None

CBs (2): Jaden Mickey, Christian Gray

*Note: Tuihalamaka could switch from linebacker to defensive end full-time this spring.

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