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Imagining What Notre Dame's Starting Lineup Will Look Like in 3 Years

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Stanford on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Stanford, Calif. Stanford won 27-20. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Connor KillorenSenior Analyst IFebruary 11, 2014

When Notre Dame formally announced head coach Brian Kelly's five-year contract extension following the Irish's 2013 season-opening victory against Temple, an eye was cast toward the future.

While the NFL will come calling with each impressive season in South Bend, Ind., under the direction of Kelly, the foundation has been poured for long-term success for the Fighting Irish. It's impossible to forecast just how long Kelly may remain at Notre Dame, though the foreseeable future appears bright.

Now that the Irish's 2014 class has officially become part of the program, it's possible to peer down the road, with three years being the farthest distance possible of gazing.

What will Kelly's program look like three years down the road?

In terms of football seasons, that would be the Irish's 2016 season.

Compared to what the 2015 depth chart is slated to look like, the 2016 edition would appear drastically different, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

Projected 2016 Offensive Depth Chart
POSITIONNAMEYEAR
QuarterbackMalik Zaireredshirt junior
Running BackTarean Folstonsenior
Wide ReceiverCorey Robinsonsenior
Wide ReceiverWill Fullersenior
Wide ReceiverTorii Hunter Jr.redshirt junior
Tight EndDurham Smytheredshirt junior
Left TackleSteve Elmersenior
Left GuardJohn Montelusredshirt junior
CenterTristen Hogeredshirt freshman
Right GuardMark Harrellredshirt senior
Right TackleRonnie Stanleyredshirt senior
BlueAndGold.com

 

Quarterback

Beginning at quarterback, Notre Dame would be entering the first year of the post-Everett Golson era. Golson, who led the Irish to the 2013 BCS National Championship Game, redshirted the 2011 season, meaning that the 2015 season would be his final season of eligibility despite having missed the 2013 season after being expelled from school.

Thus, Golson's absence would give way to Malik Zaire, who would be a redshirt junior during the 2016 season.

The Kettering, Ohio, native has drawn rave reviews since enrolling early as a freshman during the spring semester of the 2012-13 academic year. Zaire's impressive football acumen would leave the Irish in good hands at quarterback, even with a faction of the fanbase fretting Golson's departure.

 

Running Back

At running back, Notre Dame would be in terrific shape should Tarean Folston decide to return to school for his senior season. The Cocoa, Fla., native would be a senior in 2016 and would be paired with redshirt junior Greg Bryant in the Irish backfield.

In terms of depth, the remainder of the depth chart at running back remains unclear due to the Irish coaching staff failing to sign a running back in the 2014 class. However, Kelly and Co. are in hot pursuit of a number of elite running backs in the 2015 class. Should the Irish nab a few running backs in those two classes, depth would cease being a concern.

 

Wide Receiver

Thanks to Notre Dame's outstanding group of receivers who arrived in the 2013 class, the Irish will boast a plethora of options at the position in 2016 despite the departures of DaVaris Daniels and Chris Brown.

Leading the way will be the quartet of Corey Robinson, Will Fuller, James Onwualu and Torii Hunter Jr., though by 2016, Justin Brent and Corey Holmes—2014 signees—should be consistent pieces within the rotation.

Another name to keep an eye on going forward is C.J. Prosise, who played well in limited action during the 2013 season.

 

Tight End

Notre Dame might boast the nation's best group of tight ends during the 2016 season. 

The quartet of Durham Smythe, Mike Heuerman, Nic Weishar and Tyler Luatua will be battling it out for reps and spots on the depth chart. In Kelly's spread offense, the edge would appear to go to Smythe and Weishar, the two best pass-catching tight ends on the roster. 

However, that's not to say Luatua and Heuerman would be left out of the mix.

 

Offensive Line

By 2016, Notre Dame's starting offensive line will consist of Steve Elmer (left tackle), John Montelus (left guard), Tristen Hoge (center), Mark Harrell (right guard) and Ronnie Stanley (right tackle).

Yet the depth of this group will be the most impressive. Colin McGovern, Mike McGlinchey, Hunter Bivin, Alex Bars and Quenton Nelson will also be in the mix to earn reps along the offensive line, which would be tremendously aided by the presence of offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.

Projected 2016 Defensive Starting Lineup
POSITIONNAMEYEAR
Defensive EndIsaac Rochellsenior
Nose GuardJarron Jonesredshirt senior
Defensive EndAndrew Trumbettijunior
Outside LinebackerJaylon Smithsenior
Inside LinebackerNyles Morganjunior
Inside LinebackerMichael Deebredshirt junior
Outside LinebackerDoug Randolphredshirt junior
CornerbackCole Lukesenior
CornerbackNick Watkinsjunior
SafetyMax Redfieldsenior
SafetyNicky Barattiredshirt senior
BlueAndGold.com

 

Defensive Line

Perhaps more than any other position group, defensive line is the most difficult to forecast due to the Irish's ability to play three- and four-man fronts.

For now, we'll assume Jarron Jones and Daniel Cage will be competing for reps at the nose guard position, while they would be flanked by Chase Hounshell, Isaac Rochell, Jacob Matuska and Andrew Trumbetti on the edges. Grant Blankenship and Jay Hayes will also be in the running for reps along the line.

 

Linebackers

The unquestioned leader of this position group will be Jaylon Smith, barring a decision to forgo his senior season and enter the 2016 NFL draft.

Joining him at the outside linebacker position will be Kolin Hill, Doug Randolph, Jhonathan Williams and Jonathan Bonner. At the run-stuffing position of inside linebacker, Nyles Morgan, Michael Deeb, Greer Martini and Nile Sykes will be doing damage.

 

Secondary

With the departure of KeiVarae Russell, the cornerback position will be manned by a solid quartet of Devin Butler, Cole Luke, Rashad Kinlaw and Nick Watkins. However, depth remains a concern, which the Irish coaching staff will address in the 2015 and 2016 classes.

Joining those four in the defensive backfield will be a solid trio of safeties: Nicky Baratti, Max Redfield and John Turner.

Drue Tranquill could pan out at this position, though the staff may move him to a hybrid linebacker position.

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