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kapron lewis-mooreCan you smell it? Spring ball is rapidly approaching and a new era will finally begin under the Golden Dome. Like every new coach in the history of mankind, Brian Kelly will have to make the most of this time to find out what he has in his arsenal. Subway Domer rarely tries to predict the outcomes of the roster for the new year- before Spring has ended, but like the new coaching staff, it is time to put the ducks in a row.

There is a lot to cover and this may be one of the most competitive springs in recent memory- even more so than Charlie’s first year. We will take a look at each position group and identify who The Subway Domer considers Major and Minor players in the depth chart. This is a Spring look; meaning that I will not waste time and include freshmen that have yet to even arrive on campus.

* Quick note: Just because a player may be listed as a “Minor” doesn’t mean that a large contribution will not be coming from the said player- only that the “Major” players are the ones most likely to start and provide a vast majority of minutes. It’s baseball season, so think of it as Major League players and Minor League players that need a year or two. That’s better.

We begin…


Above all else, the biggest question marks and the biggest Spring battles will be on the defensive side of the ball. After a horrific year in 2009, where a lot of blame for the losses can rest squarely on the shoulders of this unit, it could be the most important issue going into and coming out of the Spring. A lot of changes could be made especially with a philosophy change from a base 4-3 to a 3-4. We have seen this before, but that was with virtually the same staff. This time, it will be an entirely different staff that will oversee this transition. Probably for the best.

ethan johnsonDefensive End

Majors: Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ethan Johnson, Kerry Neal
Minors: Emeka Nwankwo, Sean Cwynar

You can probably bank on KLM and Ethan Johnson starting opposite each other at DE. I believe the depth that Notre Dame has at linebacker will force Kerry Neals hand on the ground and he could be part of a heavy rotation with the DE’s. Neal could use a few more pounds as he is still basically a tweener, but he lacks the quickness needed at the OLB position. Emeka Nwankwo is my sleeper ( and it should be noted that he is now the reigning “People’s Champ” at Subway Domer following the graduation of Sergio Brown- more to come later in March). Nwankwo has all of the physical tools to get the job done, but I think he was shunned by the previous regime. Sean Cwynar could be another rotator, but there is a possibility that he could see some time at nose tackle.

ian williamsNose Tackle

Majors: Ian Williams
Minors: Tyler Stockton, Hafis Williams, Brandon Newman

Ian Williams is the man MOFO holding down the anchor of the defense. There is no question as to how much of an important role he will play in this 304 scheme. The big question is, “Who is going to give him a breather?” Seriously. He can’t be expected to play every down- and he shouldn’t. Of the three minor names, no one has given any proof that they could claim that second spot. It is very obvious, however, that someone is going to have to reach that level before Louis Nix arrives on campus.

darius flemingOutside Linebacker

Majors: Darius Fleming, Steve Filer
Minors: David Posluszny, Dan Fox

Now we start swimming in dangerous waters. Fleming is probably the lone “lock,” but I think that Filer makes that next step and owns the other side. After Filer and Fleming, sit two unproven guys. Poz would be making a bit of a change to the outside and Fox redshirted last year. There is a scenario where you could see either Kerry Neal or Brian Smith become factors if Filer doesn’t pan out. That scenario would also call for a guy like Anthony McDonald to step up as an inside linebacker and / or Emeka Nwankwo turning himself into a big time player in the rotation at defensive end.

manti te'oInside Linebacker

Majors: Manti Te’o, Brian Smith
Minors: Anthony McDonald, Carlo Calbrese

Again, things could get interesting if the minor talent rises up and makes some noise. Manti Te’o will be inside- but will it be at the Mike or Jack? I’m betting as the Mike, but I am not extremely familiar with DC Bob Diaco’s style just yet. Hey Brian Smith haters, I am here to tell you that he will be a starter in 2010, despite your bullshit. Whether or not that his position will be inside or out may still be up in the air. Smith is a better fit on the outside, and if McDonald can bring his “A” game, Smith could be used on the outside. Calabrese is probably a year away, but he could be formidable in short yardage or goaline situations.

gary grayCornerback

Majors: Darrin Walls, Robert Blanton, Gary Gray
Minors: Lo Wood, Spencer Boyd, Jamoris Slaughter

On paper this could be a solid group- and deep. There is a solid trio of frontline corners in; Darrin Walls, Robert Blanton, and Gary Gray that will battle to earn the top two spots. The thing is… the odd man out will be the Nickleback, and that ain’t so bad. Gray was the most consistent CB in 2009. Behind the “Triumvirate,” will be a couple of freshmen with Spencer Boyd and Lo Wood. One of those two will play some in 2010- the other will likely redshirt. ( They are being mentioned, as freshman, because they are already on campus for Spring ball). I’m throwing Jamoris Slaughter’s name in here, but he may see a fulltime switch to safety and / or be a Nickleback or Dimeback. One name, noticeably absent for some, is that of EJ Banks. Banks may never fully recover from his knee injury that he suffered in HS. His speed and movement are suspect right now, and will probably fall into more of a safety category.

zeke mottaSafety

Majors: Harrison Smith, Zeke Motta, Jamoris Slaughter
Minors: Chris Badger, Dan McCarthy, EJ Banks

Probably the biggest question marks for the defense revolves around the safety positions. Will Harrison Smith become a more viable option with the new coaching staff? Will Jamoris Slaughter make the transition? I see Motta coming out as the clear winner for one slot at safety, and in the end, I see Smith locking coming out as the other safety. McCarthy could make it interesting, and is being touted by quite a few people as a “starter” but I’m not so sure. Badger and Banks (if he is moved to safety) will be on the outside looking in when it is all said and done. There is more than enough uncertainty here.


The defensive players aren’t the only ones facing a new system. The offense will be expected to continue its high level of play without Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate- and in a new spread system. The good news is that the offense should have plenty of capable playmakers, but the man under the center (or in this case- behind the center about 5 yards) suffered a major knee injury in the season and would be the only scholarship QB with game experience in the spring. Uh-oh…

dayne cristQuarterback

Major: Dayne Crist
Minor: Tommy Rees, Nate Montana, John Goodman (?)

A true legend has left Notre Dame, in Jimmy Clausen. Dayne Crist is fully expected to pick-up the slack on offense- and then some. How much Dayne will be able to do this spring is still a large question looming over everything that concerns the 2010 season. Tommy Rees has an unbelievable opportunity to make a big charge for the number two spot on the depth chart and ensure a place in the future of the program. Although Nate Montana is a preferred walk-on, I suspect that the lack of QB depth this spring will allow Kelly to have Montana participate in all Spring events. John Goodman is a bit of a wildcard. He may be asked to help out at the QB spot this spring, but he is also in the running for a frontline spot at wide receiver.

robert hughesRunning Back

Major: Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, Theo Riddick
Minor: Jonas Gray, Cierre Wood

Sometimes lost in the fact that Kelly brings to South Bend his pass-happy spread offense, is that he has had good success with his run game production when used. Armando Allen is the perfect fit for this type of offense and I foresee Allen continuing to play better and better as he has done since his freshman year in 2007. Robert Hughes is the perfect compliment to Allen and should most likely be used as a bruiser for short yardage situations and on the goaline. Theo Riddick is another back that , like Allen, is a perfect fit for this offense and he should see quite a bit of snaps relieving Allen at running back- or even in the slot as Kelly suggested in January. Jonas Gray may still have to wait one more year to see his number of carries increase, and Cierre Wood is another “slot” type player that Kelly has referred to in the recent months. Wood could also see a move to safety, but that is just more talk from the ND media and fanbase rather than anything that has been suggested by the current staff.

Michael FloydWide Receivers

Major: Michael Floyd, Duval Kamara, Shaquelle Evans
Minor: John Goodman, Deion Walker, Roby Toma, Tai-ler Jones

Michael Floyd is All-Life. End of story. In this new spread, we will see 3,4,and 5 wide sets quire a bit. Someone, besides Floyd, will have to step up after the departure of Golden Tate to the NFL. Kamara could be primed for a big senior season and become a bigger threat. I fully expect Shaq Evans to rise above the rest and cement a “top 3” spot at wideout. There will be plenty of competition from Deion Walker, John Goodman, and Roby Toma to get some major playing time. As mentioned earlier, Goodman may have to split time with the QB’s. Spring will be a huge litmus test for all of these guys. Tai-ler Jones make make a move upwards in the depth chart as the freshman is enrolled and will participate in Spring ball. Jones was one of the crown-jewels of the 2010 class, and he could make an impact early.

kyle rudolphTight End / H-Back

Major: Kyle Rudolph, Mike Ragone
Minor: Bobby Burger, Steve Paskorz, Jake Golic, Tyler Eifert

This position grouping has a lot of questions because of the new offense. Questions about, use- not talent. Kyle Rudolph is All-Life, and Brian Kelly should have a lot of fun using Kyle as a major weapon. The H-back role should have a trio of guys competing for playing time with Mike Ragone (the most likely to fill the spot) followed by former walk-on, Bobby Burger and, possibly, the nomadic Steve Paskorz. Burger should see a lot of reps behind Ragone as Ragone will be asked to fill in for Rudolph when necessary. Paskorz could be moved- once again. Jake Golic and Tyler Eifert are both, most likely, another year or two away from really contributing. This is one of the more intriguing situations on the offensive side of the ball this Spring. Keep a close eye on what unfolds.

dan wengerCenter

Major: Dan Wenger,
Minor: Braxton Cave, Mike Golic Jr.

It’s “Back in the Saddle Again,” for Dan Wenger. the 5th year veteran should return to his starting job in the middle of the line. That leaves Braxton Cave, and Mike Golic Jr. to battle it out for the spot behind Dan Wenger, yet again. Golic was listed as the number three center last year after Dan and Cave was listed as a guard on the depth chart. Despite that last fact, I think Cave may surge ahead and possibly compete against Wenger for the starting job. The problem with Cave, was that his shotgun snaps were reported to be suspect. Golic had a little edge there.


Major: Chris Stewart, Trevor Robinson, Andrew Nuss
Minor: Alex Bullard, Chris Watt

The strength of the offensive line falls here. Trevor Robinson and Chris Stewart are going to beat you up and take your Boston Baked Beans. They could be as good of a guard tandem as you will be able to find in the country. Andrew Nuss will be a high quality backup to both of these guys and Nuss should push both to perform. Nuss could also be an option at one of the tackle spots, so he may do a little cross-training this spring. Alex Bullard and Chris Watt may have to wait one more year, but they should both see minutes. Both Watt and Bullard have a lot of potential, and the depth in front of them will help them in the future.

taylor deverTackle

Major: Taylor Dever, Matt Romine
Minor: Zach Martin, Lane Clelland

As bad as Paul Duncan played at times in 2009, and for of the shit thrown Sam Young’s way… the offensive tackle spots are thin and inexperienced. Mat Romine and Taylor Dever probably lead the list of candidates and are “veterans, ” but both have been known to be a little injury prone. Zach Martin and Lane Clelland follow Romine and Dever, but I have heard rumors of Lane Clelland being moved over to defensive end. (Not sure how valid that may be). Of course, Andrew Nuss could also be an option here as stated earlier. It should be noted that although the position of “left tackle” is still very important, the use of the shotgun in the spread helps diminish the need of excellence a bit. With good coaching, this group should be fine.

Special Teams

Most people would either gloss over, or ignore the special teams all together when discussing the roster for the spring… not Subway Domer. This is an extremely important part of a team, and Brian Kelly has made it perfectly clear that he will seek to dramatically improve the special teams play.

nick tauschKicker

Major: Nick Tausch
Minor: David Ruffer, Brandon Walker

Tausch had a very good year coming off of the bench early in the season and becoming the main guy… as a freshman. Usually, kickers that play early, have a good chance of becoming pretty good. Behind Tausch, is Aussie import David Ruffer who filled in for Nick while injured. Kind of cut and dry here.


Major: Ben Turk
Minor: ?

Ben Turk had a very up and down season (mostly down) in 2009. He showed a lot of promise at times, so hope is there. What isn’t there, is a solid guy behind Turk to push him. Turk could be the one man show this spring. That’s cool- as long as it works.

theo riddickKick Returner

Major: Armando Allen, Theo Riddick
Minor: Barry Gallup Jr.

Armando Allen should be put back into a returner role. He has the skill-set to do it and Kelly has shown in the past that he is not afraid to put his stars on special teams. Theo Riddick is another no-brainer for kick returns. If he is paired up with Allen, it could be a pick your poison kind of deal. Finally Gallup is mentioned… he could work himself into a returner role with Riddick if Allen doesn’t, but i doubt that we will know much this spring.

Punt Returner

Major: Theo Riddick
Minor: ?

Again, this is a role that should be reserved for a major playmaker, and Riddick could be exactly that. I’m not sure who else would fill this role, but names like Gallup and Cierre Wood come to mind. We still won’t know very much this spring, because of the way the Spring Game works, but perhaps something will leak out.


Well, there you have it. As it is with coaching changes, Spring ball will give us a better look at what we might be able to expect. Just a look, mind you. What could be more interesting is how Kelly uses the Spring. Weis kept things very guarded, and it was basically a borefest. Looking for some god damn excitement people!!!

About The Subway Domer

Warlord and Emperor of the Subway Alumni... also, I do this "dad" thing pretty damn well.