As the Notre Dame football team heads into their spring game this weekend, let’s take a look at the top three positional battles to focus on this weekend.
After losing starting quarterback Tommy Rees along with Everett Golson returning to practice for the Irish this spring, many people assumed Golson a lock to become the starter. Given the numbers from his freshman year and the team’s success with him at the helm, this appears to be a reasonable assumption. However, Brian Kelly has not yet named a starter. Part of this is due to Golson returning to Notre Dame after a year away from the team to a different set of receivers than he had in 2012. The talent of sophomore quarterback Malik Zaire also appears to be one of the main reasons for this.
Everett Golson took all the first-team reps at QB, but Malik Zaire got plenty of work. In terms of open field quicks, edge to Zaire.
— Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals) March 19, 2014
Zaire’s tremendous athletic ability and intangibles are some of the main reasons for the heated quarterback competition. One advantage he has over Golson comes from his ability as a runner. Running an option-offense in high school allowed him to display his speed and prowess running the football.
Brian Kelly’s offense focuses on an option-read attack. Due to Zaire’s advantage as a runner and past success engineering an option offense, he will give Golson tough competition to earn the starting job.
Even with Zaire’s running ability, it appears that Golson will be the starter come August 30th when the Irish play Rice. His arm strength and past success as a starter for Notre Dame give him the nod for the starting job right now.
Notre Dame lost two of it’s top three receiving targets from 2013 in T.J. Jones and Troy Niklas. The only remaining player from these targets, Davaris Daniels, currently faces suspension for the spring semester. The Irish have a hole at the receiver position, and the spring game presents a great opportunity for someone to solidify themselves as a starter.
Outside of Niklas, Daniels and Jones, Chris Brown leads the team in receptions and yards from 2013. He finished last season with 15 catches for 209 yards and a touchdown. Brown has practiced with the first-string during the spring, and the spring game this weekend could prove he is ready to contend for the top receiving spot.
Sophomore receiver Corey Robinson’s spring impressed many at Notre Dame including Brian Kelly. Robinson, son of former Spur standout David Robinson, only caught nine passes last season for 157 yards and one touchdown. However, due to the loss of veteran receivers, he stepped into a leadership role this spring explaining routes to younger, inexperienced receivers. After a strong spring look for Robinson to have a breakout season in 2014.
Corey Robinson impressing Notre Dame the right way – Corey Robinson has stepped up this spring — so much so that… https://t.co/QW35I9fQjs
— Big Shoulder Sports (@ShrugSports) March 23, 2014
Look for sophomore William Fuller and senior Amir Carlisle to compete for a top receiving spot as well.
The most competitive position battle the Irish see this spring could be for the safety position. There are five legitimate candidates competing two spots. Austin Collinsworth, Max Redfield, Nicky Baratti, Elijah Shumate and Eilar Hardy are all battling for the two safety positions.
Austin Collinsworth brings experience to the table. Playing in all 13 games last season and starting 11 of them he recorded 48 tackles, three interceptions and forced one fumble. Collinsworth played in all thirteen games the last three seasons for Notre Dame. This experience gives him a clear-cut advantage in the battle for the safety position.
Max Redfield looks like a top candidate for a starting position. Rivals.com ranked him the third best safety in the 2013 class.
Redfield did not see much time on the field in 2013, but got the start in the Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers. Also, shifting Matthias Farley to cornerback and John Turner to linebacker opens the door for Redfield to be a starter this season. Given his talent, if he can carry the momentum from the Pinstripe Bowl throughout this offseason look for a big season from Redfield.
Given the lack of experience at the safety position Baratti, Shumate and Hardy all have a chance to use this offseason to earn one of the starting safety positions as well.