Notebook: Taking stock in the new redshirt rule and how it's affecting Notre Dame

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND

For a rule that seemed universally to make college football coaches happy, there didn’t seem to be a consensus on exactly why it did.

One of the more popular theories about best leveraging the new NCAA redshirt rule — allowing players to play up to four games and still preserve a year of eligibility — was the notion of being able to restock the roster with fresh bodies for the November stretch run.

That’s unlikely to happen, by choice, for AP third-ranked Notre Dame (10-0), which technically hosts AP No. 12 Syracuse (8-2) Saturday in Yankee Stadium in the ninth-ever Shamrock Series game (2:30 p.m. EST; NBC-TV).

The 12 members of ND’s 27-man freshman class that have yet to see game action this season will likely finish the season not having played in a game.

And the eight players who have played in at least one game, but fewer than the four-game limit, likely won’t hit the five-game mark that effectively ends the redshirt possibility for this season.

“I think we had it tiered into three categories,” Kelly said during his weekly Tuesday press conference. “Those guys that were ready to play and we’re going to play anyway; those guys that we’re going to try to keep them no more than four; and those that wouldn’t play. And I think we’ve probably hit those.”

If everyone stays in those tiers, Notre Dame will end having the highest percentage of redshirts — and resoundingly so — in the past five years.

Twenty freshmen (74.1 percent) will end up preserving a year of eligibility if no one new joins the seven who have played in five games or more.

Eight potential redshirted freshmen would have burned this season of eligibility under the old rule, though defensive lineman Jamion Franklin likely would have been able to get his back by applying for a medical redshirt.

Here’s a look at the redshirt percentages of the other four classes that still populate the roster:

• 2017: 21 players, 11 redshirts (52.4 percent redshirted).

• 2016: 23 players, 10 redshirts (43.5 percent redshirted).

• 2015: 24 players, 11 redshirts (45.8 percent redshirted). That includes a medical redshirt for Shaun Crawford, a player who otherwise would not have redshirted if it weren’t for an injury. One player, Bo Wallace, left the program before enrolling.

• 2014: 23 players, 10 redshirts (43.5 redshirted). One player, Nile Sykes, left the program after enrolling in the summer.

Looking back on the four previous freshman classes, only four players in those classes combined would have benefitted had the rule been in place during their freshman seasons: Defensive end Khalid Kareem in 2016, QB Brandon Wimbush in 2015 (though he redshirted as a sophomore), and wide receiver Corey Holmes and defensive lineman Jay Hayes in 2014.

Like Wimbush, both Holmes and Hayes redshirted as sophomores.

Here’s the current count of games played by the 2018 freshman class:

• 10: WR Kevin Austin, LB Bo Bauer.

• 9: DT Jayson Ademilola, CB TaRiq Bracy, Nickel Houston Griffith.

• 8: Rover/LB Shayne Simon.

• 5: S Paul Moala.

• 3: DE Justin Ademilola, OT Jarrett Patterson

• 2: RB C’Bo Flemister, QB Phil Jurkovec; RB Jahmir Smith; WR: Joe Wilkins Jr.

• 1: CB DJ Brown; NG Jamion Franklin.

• 0: S Derrik Allen; CB Noah Boykin; OG John Dirksen, C Luke Jones; WR Micah Jones; WR Lawrence Keys III; LB Jack Lamb; WR Braden Lenzy; OT Cole Mabry; DE Ovie Oghoufo; TE George Takacs; TE Tommy Tremble.

Special teams stalwart Moala is the only player to recently cross into non-redshirt status, doing so while playing Saturday night against Florida State, a 42-13 Irish rout.

“I think he’ll be an impactful player,” Kelly said of the Penn High School product. “What position does he play eventually? You know how we roll here. I mean, he starts at the back end and maybe gets closer to the line of scrimmage — who knows? But right now he’s a safety that can play safety for us.

“He’s a physical kid. He’s done a great job in the weight room, and he’s got a really good sense for football. The game comes pretty easy to him. So I think he’s got a bright future here at Notre Dame.”

Snap judgment

At 82.2 offensive snaps per game, Saturday’s opponent, uptempo Syracuse, ranks fourth nationally in terms of offensive play volume.

For Notre Dame, at least it’s not a novelty facing it. The Irish have already played three other teams ranked in the top eight this season, and the Irish have faced fewer snaps each time: 97 vs. Ball State to 92 vs. Wake Forest to 69 against Northwestern.

“From a scheme (standpoint), they’re different than those other teams,” Kelly said when asked how the experience against uptempo teams might help the Irish prepare for the Orange. “Tempo, I think Wake was faster.

“We have a system in place to handle the tempo, but tempo is still something that you have to practice and be on top of. They do a good job with their cadence, trying to get you offsides, which gives them a lot of free shots, so you have to be disciplined. You have to have great communication at all three levels.”

Syracuse is by far the highest-ranked team Notre Dame has faced in total offense (482.2 yards per game). The next closest is their own offense — in practice — at 26th. The only two top 50 total offenses ND has played in 2018 are Wake Forest (31st) and Virginia Tech (44th).

However, in terms of offensive yards per play, Syracuse is a modest 60th, at 5.87 yards per play. Pitt (20th), Stanford (27th), Michigan (29th) and Virginia Tech (59th) are the ND opponents averaging more than that.

ETA on MTA

The original prognosis on sophomore defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa’s return from a broken foot was a chance perhaps to play Saturday against Syracuse.

The timetable has shifted, though not dramatically so. But it is enough of a delay that the Ewa Beach, Hawaii, product, won’t play during the regular season. The key defensive line reserve suffered the injury in the Sept. 1 season opener with Michigan and underwent surgery two days later.

“We’ll condition him next week,” Kelly said. “He won’t be ready to play for USC (on Nov. 24). He’ll be ready to condition, get back in football-related activities, but he’ll be (back for the) postseason.”

Tagovailoa-Amosa will benefit from the new redshirt rule and be able to save this season of eligibility and still play in the postseason.

The old medical redshirt rule allowed players to see action in up to three games and still apply, but none of those games could take place in the second half of the regular season or in a bowl game.

Squibs

• Pro Football Focus unveiled its college pass-rush grades on Tuesday, and Notre Dame was purported to have the third-best pass rush nationally, with a grade of 84.1. Clemson topped the list at 89.9, with Alabama second (87.3) and Ohio State fourth (83.7).

The pass-rush grade goes well beyond sacks. It also figures in quarterback hits and QB hurries.

• While Notre Dame has an impressive 17-6-3 record (.711) all-time at Yankee Stadium (including the vacated Pinstripe Bowl win over Rutgers), Syracuse has been even better in the Bronx.

The Orange are 7-1 all-time (.875) at Yankee Stadium, and that includes a 14-7 win over Notre Dame in 1963.

• Notre Dame’s 75 offensive plays Saturday night against Florida State without any lost yardage is believed to be the first time the Irish have been able to get through a game without any negative yardage since at least 1964, Ara Parseghian’s first year as head coach of Notre Dame.

The Seminoles came in averaging 6.4 tackles for loss per game.

Notre Dame’s Paul Moala (13) takes photos with fans after the Notre Dame-Northwestern NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois.

WHO: No. 3 Notre Dame (10-0) vs. No. 12 Syracuse (8-2)

WHEN: Saturday, 2:30 p.m. (EST)

WHERE: Yankee Stadium; New York

TV: NBC

RADIO: WSBT (960 AM, 96.1 FM), WNSN (101.5 FM)

LINE: Notre Dame by 10