Tracking Kevin Stepherson and Notre Dame's other football transfers

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Included in the fourth-highest passing total in Jacksonville State football history on Aug. 29 was a benign three-yard connection between Gamecocks quarterback Zerrick Cooper and a receiver named KJ Stepherson.

It was Stepherson’s only contribution to a 414-yard passing total in a 35-14 upset loss of the then-No. 6 team in FCS football, to Southeastern Louisiana.

That last time the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder had caught a pass in a game, he was listed as Kevin Stepherson, wore a Notre Dame uniform and corralled a 16-yard toss from quarterback Brandon Wimbush late in the fourth quarter in the 2017 regular-season finale at Stanford.

The last time he made a significant headline was for his chronic legal entanglements for multiple arrests on a variety of charges.

And the time before that and the time before that, all of which ties into why he was suspended for the Jan. 1, 2018 Citrus Bowl and was purged from the Irish program for good in the days that followed.

The Jacksonville, Fla., product has found a second chance in Jacksonville, Ala. Provided he makes the best of it, Stepherson has one more season of college eligibility after this one.

Jacksonville State, ranked 17th after the opening loss, is back in action Saturday at home against Chattanooga.

There are lots of other Notre Dame transfers to track. Here’s a snapshot of all those on college football rosters in 2019:

Class of 2014

• Jhonny Williams (Grand Valley State): It’s taken six seasons and three different schools, but the former Irish defensive end from Benton Harbor, Mich., has become a college starter.

The 6-5, 270-pound Williams, who goes by Johnathon these days, is penciled in at the top of the depth chart for the 12th-ranked Lakers’ season opener with Edinboro (Pa.) Saturday night.

He was projected to be a starter last year in preseason for the Division II power, where ND’s Brian Kelly started his head coaching career, but Williams ended up in a reserve role.

In eight games in 2018, Williams collected 18 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss with 3.5 sacks, and two quarterback hurries. He missed four games because of injury.

Williams transferred in the spring of 2015 before ever seeing the field at ND, then headed to Toledo, before landing at GVSU.

Class of 2015

• Micah Dew-Treadway (Minnesota): The 6-1, 315-pound defensive tackle made his first collegiate start and matched his career tackle total in the Gophers’ 28-21 survival of South Dakota State in their Aug. 29 opener.

Included among his two tackles against the FCS Jackrabbits was a tackle for a loss of three yards. Dew-Treadway played in 21 games in a reserve role during his four years at Notre Dame and amassed two tackles, both in 2018.

Minnesota visits Fresno State on Saturday night.

• Tristen Hoge (BYU): The former Irish center is in his second season as a starting offensive guard for the Cougars.

The 6-foot-5, 310-pound redshirt junior from Pocatello, Idaho, and his BYU teammates play at Tennessee on Saturday night. They opened the season at home Aug. 29 with a 30-12 loss to then-No. 14 Utah.

• C.J. Sanders (SMU): The grad senior wide receiver emerged from the first week of college football as the nation’s No. 4 kickoff returner, with a 44.3-yard average. That included a 98-yard return for a touchdown.

He had three such kickoff returns for scores while playing for Notre Dame for three seasons.

The reigning AAC special teams Player of the Week did not catch a pass in SMU’s 37-30, season-opening loss at Arkansas State on Aug. 31. The Mustangs host North Texas on Saturday night.

The 5-9, 183-pound Sanders is listed as a second-string wide receiver and top option on punt returns, though he didn’t return one in the opener. Former Texas QB Shane Buechele threw for 360 yards in SMU’s opener.

• Elijah Taylor (Eastern Kentucky): The fifth-year senior started at defensive tackle for the FCS school but didn’t record any stats in a 53-7 rout of Valparaiso on Aug. 29.

In his first season with the Colonels (7-4), the 6-3, 280-pound defensive tackle started eight of 11 games and recorded 24 tackles. He had four QB hurries, with 1.5 tackles for loss, including 0.5 sacks.

EKU visits Louisville, ND’s season-opening opponent, on Saturday night.

• Mykelti Williams (Northern Illinois): Williams is a third-year starting safety for the Huskies and had three tackles in 24-10 win over Illinois State on Aug. 31. He was an All-Mid-American Conference second-team selection in 2018.

Williams redshirted his freshman season at ND, then left the university before his sophomore season. He resurfaced at Iowa Western Community College in 2016 and committed to transfer to Syracuse after his lone JUCO season.

But in August of 2017 he was denied admission into Syracuse. He then surfaced at Northern Illinois.

The Huskies visit 13th-ranked Utah Saturday, looking for their first non-conference victory over a ranked team since taking down 21st-ranked Alabama, 21-16, in 2003.

• Brandon Wimbush (UCF): The grad transfer improved his record as a starting quarterback to 14-3 in his debut for the Golden Knights, a 62-0 rout of Florida A&M on Aug. 29

Wimbush, one of three former Irish players on the Golden Knights’ roster, was 12-of-23 passing for 168 yards and two TDs without an interception. He rushed for a net of 20 yards on eight carries.

No. 18 UCF plays at Florida Atlantic on Saturday night. Lane Kiffin is FAU’s head coach, and Charlie Weis Jr. is the team’s offensive coordinator.

Class of 2016

• Parker Boudreaux (UCF): The guy who pulled a school bus to reveal his initial college choice a little more than four years ago finally made his first college start on Saturday, against Florida A&M.

The 6-foot-4, 301-pound Boudreaux had to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements after being denied a waiver for immediate eligibility. He then played in a reserve role for UCF in 2018.

• Deon McIntosh (Washington State): The redshirt junior carried the ball one time for one yard in Washington State’s 58-7 season-opening victory over New Mexico State last Saturday, McIntosh’s debut for his third college.

The Cougars host Northern Colorado this Saturday, and McIntosh is listed as a backup option at running back.

Last season McIntosh played for NJCAA national champion East Mississippi Community College and rushed for 1,150 yards on 200 carries (5.8 per carry) for the Lions (12-0).

McIntosh ranked second in the NJCAA with 17 rushing touchdowns. He also had 19 catches for 113 yards in 2018.

McIntosh redshirted as a freshman at ND, bounced around between wide receiver and running back in the spring of 2017, then was a surprise performer in the fall of 2017 at running back. He was dismissed from the program by Irish coach Brian Kelly in January, after running for 368 yards on 65 carries and five TDs in eight games.

• D.J. Morgan (UConn): In his UConn debut, Morgan led the Huskies with eight tackles in a 24-21 win over FCS school Wagner on Aug. 29.

They were Morgan’s first statistics of any kind in his college career and his first game action since the 2017 season. He played in two games in a reserve role that year at Notre Dame, and those were the only two games in which he saw the field in three seasons at ND.

The 6-foot-2, 224-pound linebacker, who came to ND as a safety, is slated to start Saturday against Illinois. The grad transfer has another season of eligibility after this one.

• Spencer Perry (Northern Iowa): Perry started at safety last Saturday and made six tackles in UNI’s 29-26 triple-overtime loss to Iowa State. The Panthers moved up in the FCS rankings from No. 18 to No. 11 after the close setback.

The 6-3, 210-pound Perry is at his third school, having spent the 2018 season at South Alabama, where he played in eight games — all but two as a reserve.

• Devin Studstill (South Florida): The grad transfer strong safety with two seasons of eligibility left made his first start Aug. 30, since his freshman season at Notre Dame (2016).

His five tackles in his USF debut, a 49-0 loss to then-No. 19 Wisconsin, was one off his career high set in 2016 in an Irish loss to Duke.

He’s one of 12 Power 5 transfers on the USF roster, nine of whom are in the two-deeps. Former Irish verbal commitment Blake Barnett is USF’s starting quarterback after unsuccessful stints at Alabama and Arizona State.

After recording 38 tackles while starting nine of 12 games in 2016, Studstill made 18 in 11 games in 2017 and four in five games last season at ND.

Class of 2017

• C.J. Holmes (Penn State): Holmes is still waiting to make his Penn State debut after standing on the sidelines in the Nittany Lions’ 79-7 romp over Idaho last Saturday.

The 6-0, 216-pound redshirt sophomore enrolled as a walk-on at Penn State in the summer of 2018 after being dismissed from the ND program by coach Brian Kelly in January of that year.

He worked out as a running back last season, the position he played in eight games in a reserve role as a freshman at ND. But Holmes is now a safety and is not listed on the depth chart, which goes three deep.

Penn State, ranked 15th, hosts Buffalo on Saturday night.

• Jonathon MacCollister (UCF): Boudreaux’s high school teammate (Orlando Bishop Moore) and college teammate now at two schools is eligible to play this season after sitting out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements.

The 6-3, 247-pound former Irish defensive end, who redshirted a freshman at ND, has switched positions and is now a tight end but didn’t play in UCF’s opener and is not listed on the two-deeps for Saturday’s game at Florida Atlantic..

Class of 2018

• Noah Boykin (UMass): The 6-1, 180-pounder is sitting out the season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules after redshirting at cornerback in his only season at Notre Dame.

The Minutemen opened with a 48-21 loss at Rutgers on Aug. 30, and host FCS school Southern Illinois on Saturday.

• Luke Jones (Arkansas): The 6-5, 295-pound center is still hoping to avoid sitting out the season per NCAA transfer rules, but hasn’t heard a final decision on his waiver to play immediately.

Jones redshirted last season as a freshman at ND, then decided to transfer in the spring to the school he originally verbally committed to in the recruiting process.

Arkansas opened last Saturday night with a 20-13 win over FCS school Portland State. The Razorbacks visit Ole Miss on Saturday night.

The Irish play Arkansas in their 2020 home opener.

Former Notre Dame wide receiver Kevin Stepherson scores a touchdown during the ND-Navy  game, Nov. 18, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium.
Former Notre Dame receiver Kevin (KJ) Stepherson made his debut last weekend for Jacksonville State.
Florida A M UCF FootballCentral Florida quarterback Brandon Wimbush (3) hands off the ball to running back Adrian Killins Jr. (9) during a UCF win over Florida A&M on Aug. 29.
South Florida defensive back Devin Studstill (8) started for the Bulls on Aug. 30 in a 49-0 loss to Wisconsin.