Brian Kelly dismisses Kevin Stepherson, three others from Notre Dame football team

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — The end of sophomore wide receiver Kevin Stepherson’s tumultuous run as part of the Notre Dame football program, Tuesday, was hardly a surprise.

The fact that three other players were dismissed on the same day by Irish head coach Brian Kelly was a bit unexpected.

Notre Dame spokesmen Michael Bertsch confirmed Stepherson, freshman running back C.J. Holmes, sophomore running back Deon McIntosh and junior nose guard Brandon Tiassum are no longer part of the team.

All four were still enrolled at Notre Dame as of Wednesday afternoon.

This was not a university decision, run through the school’s disciplinary arm. This was Kelly drawing a hard line about standards.

Stepherson and Holmes had been suspended indefinitely by Kelly on Dec. 20 and did not travel to Orlando, Fla., for ND’s Citrus Bowl matchup. While at the bowl site, McIntosh was sent home and suspended for the bowl due to a violation of team rules.

Tiassum did make the travel roster but did not play in ND’s 21-17 victory over LSU on Jan. 1.

Stepherson and Holmes were arrested on Dec. 15 for allegedly shoplifting at University Park Mall in Mishawaka. The two were later each charged with conversion, a Class A misdemeanor.

It came to light the day after that arrest that Stepherson had been charged separately with possession of marijuana, a Class B misdemeanor, as well as speeding and driving without a valid driver's license, stemming from an incident that occurred on Dec. 14 — the day before his shoplifting arrest.

Stepherson was previously arrested for possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor, in Fulton County in Aug. 2016. He pleaded guilty and was granted a conditional discharge in June.

From a purely football dynamic, Stepherson’s departure would appear to be the most difficult to remedy, though deleting Holmes and McIntosh from the roster leave the Irish with only three scholarship running backs.

The Irish still have plenty of numbers at the wide receiver position, but not many players who can match the speedy Stepherson’s skill set.

Even with missing the first four games of the season for disciplinary reasons that Kelly never precisely detailed, the 6-foot, 185-pound Jacksonville, Fla., product finished the season as the team’s third-leading receiver (19 for 357 yards) and its most dangerous deep threat.

His five TD receptions led the team and his 18.9 yards per catch were second only to Citrus Bowl MVP Miles Boykin’s 21.1 ypc.

Michael Young, who just completed his freshman season, and recruit Braden Lenzy, who signed with the Irish on Dec. 22, would appear to be the most likely options to fill Stepherson’s role.

The 5-11, 193-pound McIntosh was ND’s fourth-string running back, but consistently its most healthy. And in part because of that, the Pompano Beach, Fla., product finished the season as ND’s third-leading rusher (368 yards on 68 carries, 5 TDs, 5.7 average), despite playing in only eight of the team’s 13 games.

The 6-1, 208-pound Holmes logged action in eight games, mostly as a special teams player. The Hamden, Conn., product carried the ball eight times for 32 yards in 2017.

With junior and leading rusher Josh Adams electing to go pro, the Irish are down to junior Dexter Williams, sophomore Tony Jones Jr. and early enrolled freshman Jahmir Smith in the running back corps before any depth chart engineering takes place.

Smith started classes Tuesday.

Tiassum — a 6-4, 305-pound Indianapolis product, was a career reserve on the defensive line, with two career tackles in three career games — all this season.

The departures knock ND’s roster down to 84 scholarship players, one below the NCAA maximum, with the Irish still looking to add three commitments before the late signing day, Feb. 7

Notre Dame's Kevin Stepherson (29) runs in a touchdown during the Notre Dame-Navy game, Nov. 18 at Notre Dame Stadium. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)