2018 Notre Dame Football Position and Prospect Analysis: Cornerbacks
SOUTH BEND – There may be a lot of moving parts within the Notre Dame defensive secondary over the next six months and even beyond.
The Fighting Irish have depth and talent, and perhaps a touch too much versatility, as players that are penciled in at certain spots right now, may be in a different place come September.
That is what spring football and training camp are for.
News-Sentinel.com sports reporter Tom Davis has been writing on Notre Dame football for nearly two decades and will take a look at the various position groups for next season and how the incoming class of prospects could impact the success of the Fighting Irish.
Today’s position: Cornerback
Tariq Bracy, Joe Wilkins Jr., DJ Brown, Noah Boykin
Notre Dame is loaded with numbers at the cornerback position, as it returns every single defensive back that registered a tackle last year, plus a Navy transfer (Alohi Gilman) and seven recent signees for the defensive backfield.
“I don’t know from a defensive standpoint there are not many of these guys that we go and say these are projects,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said on National Signing Day in December. “These are guys that we think can play and academically have been given a thumb’s up in terms of the work that they’re doing.”
Veterans Julian Love and Troy pride Jr. both return and may start at corner, while Nick Watkins, Shaun Crawford, and Donte Vaughn also each bring a lot of experience.
As for the freshmen, a lot of stuff is in flux, such as where will Houston Griffith play.
Recently-hired Irish safeties coach Terry Joseph said last month that Griffith would begin his career this spring (he has enrolled early) at cornerback, but Kelly wasn’t so sure about that in December.
“I think Houston has the natural ability to play corner for us,” Kelly said, “but, you know, look, we are going to bring in young men that have the athletic ability to play at corner, but, you know, we’re going to develop them and as they progress in our program. We never close the door on where they can be best suited as they move through the program and look toward a career at the next level.
“He could be a corner, he could be, he may play nickel for us, could be a safety at the next level, but he certainly has the skill set to play corner for us.”
It is pretty safe to say that both Brown and Boykin will remain at cornerback, and both have potential to shine for Notre Dame at some point. However, both Wilkins Jr. and Bracy bring strong offensive skills to the table, as well.
In addition, all of these guys have the ability to contribute to special teams, as well.
“I think there’s great flexibility on this roster,” Kelly said last month. “Tariq Bracy, obviously, we all know is a very good running back, as well. Joe Wilkins was an outstanding receiver. So yeah, there’s the possibility there.
“I think it’s a little early for me to comment publicly, but we have some ideas internally that will augment that position, and I think as we get closer to spring, they’ll kind of show themselves and we’ll be able to talk about that. I’d prefer not to put that out there at this point because we’re still in shorts inside running around. But I think as we get closer to spring and it’s a spring practice, when you get a chance to see us, I think you’ll see some – probably some more additions at that position.”
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