Tracking seventh-year seniors and the rest of Notre Dame football's 28 transfers
Dillan Gibbons is the best feel-good story among the 28 Notre Dame football transfers who are currently playing out their college eligibility elsewhere.
The former Irish offensive lineman hopped into the transfer portal on May 6 — less than a week after ND’s spring practice concluded — made a commitment to Florida State four days later and earned a starting spot over the summer at left guard for the Seminoles’ season opener Sunday night against his former team.
No. 9 Notre Dame visits Tallahassee for the first time since 2014. Kick time on ABC is 7:30 EDT.
In between, Gibbons, a career backup at ND with a lone start in his final home game Dec. 5, made a heartwarming NIL (name, image, likeness) debut in July by using his platform for charity.
And now 18-year-old Timothy Donovan and his family are in Tallahassee to see Gibbons play, thanks to more than $51,000 raised through a GoFundMe page Gibbons set up.
Donovan, from Dayton, Ohio, suffers from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which affects nerves, and was born with VACTERL association, which affects many of the body’s systems. He has persevered through more than 50 surgeries.
The two struck up a friendship after a chance postgame meeting during the 2017 season.
Gibbons played in 29 games his four years at ND, but got jumped on the depth chart last spring by freshman prodigy Rocco Spindler.
“We wish Dillan the best,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said of facing a former player. “He was a hard-working guy for us. But once they kick it off, it's all about Notre Dame."
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Actually, Gibbons is one of four former Irish players who will get a chance to face their former team this season. Wide receiver Michael Young (Cincinnati), linebacker Jonathan Jones (Toledo) and safety Derrik Allen (Georgia Tech) are the others.
Also notable among the 28 transfers are two seventh-year players — members of the same recruiting class as former Irish safety Shaun Crawford — and four in their sixth seasons. One of them, Spencer Perry, is at his fourth school.
Sixteen of the 28 left ND in the past year. Only 12 have earned starting status so far for this season, with a 13th injured but expected to do so.
Here’s a rundown of the other 27 beyond Gibbons:
CLASS OF 2015
• Micah Dew-Treadway (Minnesota): The 6-4, 315-pound defensive tackle kicked off his seventh college season Thursday night as the Gophers threw a scare into visiting No. 4 Ohio State before succumbing, 45-31.
Treadway came to Minnesota in 2019 after four years as a seldom-used reserve at ND, and instantly became a starter with the Gophers. He recorded 13 tackles in 13 games in 2019, 10 tackles in six games in 2020 with two forced fumbles and a blocked field goal, and a single tackle in Thursday night’s 2021 opener, though in a reserve role.
• Elijah Taylor (Tulsa): The 6-3, 280-pound defensive tackle made his debut with his third college team Thursday night as the Golden Hurricane was upset at home, 19-17, by FCS school UC-Davis. Taylor had one tackle in a reserve role.
He played in 21 career games primarily as a starter in three years at FCS school Eastern Kentucky and had 49 tackles there. Taylor missed the entire 2019 season with an injury. All three of Taylor’s career tackles at Notre Dame came during one game, the 2016 season finale at USC.
CLASS OF 2016
• Jonathan Jones (Toledo): The 5-11, 230-pound linebacker grad transferred to Toledo in January of 2020 in search of playing time — and found it.
He played in all six of the Rockets’ games last year, starting one, and made 19 tackles — three more than he had cumulatively in four years at Notre Dame. Just one of his 16 tackles for ND came during his senior season (2019).
Jones started and was second on the team in tackles with six in Toledo’s 49-10 season-opening win Saturday over Norfolk State. The Rockets visit Notre Dame on Sept. 11.
• Deon McIntosh (Washington State): The 6-0, 200-pound running back is in his third season at his third school and was the No. 2 option at running back for the Cougars in their 26-23 come-from-ahead loss to Utah State in Saturday night's season opener.
McIntosh carried the ball four times for a net of two yards gained.
He had a strong 2020 in Washington State’s condensed four-game season, leading the Cougars with 323 rushing yards on 52 carries and three touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 30 yards. In 2019 he ran for 111 yards on 16 carries and a TD.
In 2018, 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). He 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 of 2018 for disciplinary reasons, after running for 368 yards on 65 carries and five TDs in eight games.
• D.J. Morgan (UConn): On Aug. 5, UConn became the first FBS school to cancel fall football for 2020 and the Huskies were only one of three schools who didn’t reverse course and opt back in. The other two were New Mexico State and Old Dominion.
On Aug. 28 Morgan and the Huskies played in their first game since 2019 and got pummeled at Fresno State, 45-0. The 6-foot-2, 226-pound linebacker had six tackles. On Saturday, Holy Cross upended the host Huskies, 38-28, and Morgan played but did not record a tackle.
In 2019, Morgan’s first season as a grad transfer, he amassed 49 tackles, including seven for losses with two sacks, to go along with three pass deflections, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
Morgan came to Notre Dame as a safety and eventually morphed into a linebacker. However, he found minimal playing time at either spot (two career games) and left after three seasons without ever having recorded a statistic in a game.
• Spencer Perry (Alabama A&M): The 6-3, 200-pound safety hoped to make his debut at school No. 4 Saturday against fellow FCS school South Carolina State, but he did not see action in winning A&M's 42-41 thriller.
It’ll be the 24-year-old’s second college season in calendar year 2021, having played in four of Northern Iowa’s seven games, and making 11 tackles, in its delayed/abbreviated seven-game spring season.
In 2019, Perry played in all 15 games, starting five, for a UNI team that reached the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs. He had 39 tackles, including two for losses, and an interception.
Perry spent the 2018 season at South Alabama, where he played in eight games — all but two as a reserve. He totaled 19 tackles. In his lone season at Notre Dame (2016), Perry played in six games, mostly on special teams, without recording a tackle or any other statistic. He sat out 2017 after transferring to South Alabama to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.
CLASS OF 2017
• C.J. Holmes (Kent State): The 6-1, 215-pound backup safety for Kent State started his career at Notre Dame in 2017 as a running back.
Holmes played in eight games as a freshman backup before being dismissed from the program in January of 2018. When he transferred to Penn State that summer, he did so as a walk-on.
Holmes then sat out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements, during which time he flipped to safety. He played primarily on special teams for the Nittany Lions in 2019, making two tackles.
Holmes collected eight tackles in Kent State’s condensed four-game 2020 season. The Golden Flashes opened their 2021 season Saturday night at No. 6 Texas A&M, and Holmes matched his 2020 season total with a career-high eight tackles in a 41-10 loss.
• Michael Young, Cincinnati: The 5-10, 195-pounder reunited with former Irish offensive coordinator/receivers coach Mike Denbrock at Cincinnati and finished 2020 as UC's leading receiver with 29 catches for 332 yards and three TDs. He had a catch in every game.
Young was in the starting lineup and made one catch for eight yards in Cincinnati's 49-14 waxing of rival Miami (Ohio) in Saturday's opener. The eighth-ranked Bearcats visit Notre Dame on Oct. 2.
Young graduated from ND in May of 2020, a month after selecting Cincinnati as his landing spot coming out of the transfer portal. He played in all 26 games of his first two seasons at Notre Dame (2017-18). He caught 11 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns combined as a freshman and sophomore. Then he broke his collarbone in August of 2019 and missed the first three games of the 2019 season.
He returned Sept. 28 against Virginia, started the next week against Bowling Green, then played in a reserve role Oct. 12 against USC. He had a combined six catches for 21 yards in that stretch. Young’s reduced role coaxed him into the transfer portal.
• Jafar Armstrong (Illinois): After injuries ravaged a promising career at ND, the 6-1, 220-pound wide receiver made his Illinois debut as an injured bystander on Aug. 28 as the Illini bounced Nebraska, 30-22. His injured status didn't changed in Saturday’s 37-30 loss at home to UTSA.
Armstrong is one of 21 super seniors, players who cashed in a COVID exemption for an extra season, on the Illinois roster. That’s the most of any FBS school.
Armstrong spent all but the very start and very end of his ND career as a running back, and at times topped the depth chart at that position. He arrived and departed as a wide receiver.
Armstrong earned a bachelor’s degree in business from ND, and is now majoring in recreation, sport and tourism at Illinois.
• Kofi Wardlow (Charlotte): The 6-3, 250-pound defensive end entered the transfer portal on Nov. 20, five days before the Irish knocked off No. 1 Clemson, 47-40, in overtime.
He started for the 49ers in Charlotte’s 31-28 upset Friday night of visiting Duke, which has former Notre Dame nose guard Ja’Mion Franklin on its roster. Wardlow had three tackles, including two for loss with a sack, in the 48ers' first-ever win over a Power 5 team. He saw action in three games as a reserve over four years at ND with one career tackle.
• Jordan Genmark Heath (UCLA): The former Irish safety and linebacker made his UCLA debut Aug. 28, starting and making two tackles in the Bruins’ 45-0 rout of Hawaii. He followed that up with four tackles in UCLA's toppling of 16th-ranked LSU at home on Saturday night.
The 6-1, 225-pound native of Sweden finished up his degree work at ND last fall but didn’t play for the Irish.
He did play in all 39 games of his first three years at Notre Dame. His role was mostly limited to special teams with one start at linebacker coming against Northwestern in 2018 when starter Drue Tranquill was laboring with an injury.
Genmark Heath recorded 42 tackles and one sack in his Notre Dame career.
CLASS OF 2018
• Derrik Allen (Georgia Tech): The former four-star safety will get to face his former team for the second time when the Yellow Jackets visit Notre Dame Stadium on Nov. 20, Senior Day.
Allen didn’t record a statistic in a reserve role when the Irish went on the road and beat Tech, 31-13, last Halloween.
Allen left the Irish roster five days into training camp in August of 2019 and announced his intentions to play for Georgia Tech three days later. After sitting out the 2019 season, the 6-2, 208-pounder made 13 tackles in a reserve role last season,
He’s expected to be a backup again this season. That was the case Saturday night as Tech opened the season at home with a 22-21 loss to Northern Illinois. Allen played in a reserve role but had an empty stat line.
• Noah Boykin (UMass): The now 6-2, 185-pound cornerback did not play as a freshman at Notre Dame in 2018 and had to sit out 2019 at UMass to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. But he’s been a starter ever since.
He had 15 tackles, one tackle for loss, three pass breakups and a forced fumble in UMass’ mini four-game season in 2020. The Minutemen opened Saturday with a 51-7 loss at Pitt, with Boykin making two tackles. UMass next faces Boston College and Boykin’s former ND teammate, QB Phil Jurkovec, on Sept. 11.
• Luke Jones (Arkansas): The 6-5, 310-pound guard played in a backup role in the Razorbacks’ Saturday opener against Rice, a 38-17 Arkansas romp.
After not playing as a freshman center at ND in 2018 and sitting out the 2019 season at Arkansas to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Jones finally got his first college snaps (4) last Sept. 26 in a 37-10 home loss to Georgia.
Originally, ND and the Razorbacks were to meet Sept. 12, 2020, at Notre Dame Stadium in the Irish home opener, but the game was scratched because of revised scheduling policies brought on by COVID-19 concerns. Notre Dame instead hosted Duke that day.
• Phil Jurkovec (Boston College): This is the transfer on whom a lot of Irish fans will fixate — as they did last season. For the record, ND 2020 starting QB Ian Book had the much better game head to head, albeit against a banged-up Jurkovec. He also finished 13 spots ahead of his former backup in the national pass-efficiency ratings for the entire 2020 season (33rd to 46th).
But this now becomes about perceived ceiling, and Jurkovec has been projected as a possible first-rounder in next spring’s NFL Draft. Book went to the New Orleans Saints in round 4 this past spring.
In his first season at BC, the 6-5, 226-pound Jurkovec started in all 10 games. His 2,558 passing yards over his first 10 starts were the most by any BC quarterback in school history. He was also the first player in BC history to total four 300-yard passing games in his first five career starts at quarterback and the first BC quarterback with four or more 300-yard games in a season since Matt Ryan (2007).
in Saturday's 51-0 dismantling of Colgate, Jurkovec's 2021 debut included 303 yards and three TDs on 16-of-24 passing. He led the Eagles in rushing, too, with 61 yards on five carries.
The former top 100 and four-star prospect completed 12 of his 16 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 22 times for 156 yards in action against New Mexico, Bowling Green, Michigan, Duke, Navy, Boston College and Iowa State in his last season in an Irish uniform (2019).
• Ja’Mion Franklin (Duke): The 6-1, 310 redshirt junior is still trying to find some traction for playing time. He was listed as a third-team defensive tackle for the Blue Devils’ Friday night season opener at Charlotte and did not play in the 31-28 loss. Franklin played in six games in a reserve role over three seasons at ND with two career tackles.
• Colin Grunhard (Kansas): The 6-1, 295-pound former Irish backup center started at left guard Friday night in the Jayhawks’ 17-14 season-opening survival of the South Dakota Coyotes of the FCS. The son of former ND standout center Tim Grunhard came to the Irish as a walk-on and earned a scholarship in 2020. He played in 13 games as a reserve during his ND career.
• Micah Jones (Illinois State): A top 200, four-star prospect per Rivals.com coming out of high school, the 6-5, 225-pound wide receiver is still looking for his first career reception.
Jones is listed was a backup for Illinois State’s Saturday season opener against visiting Butler and did not record a catch in the 49-7 Redbirds win.
He saw action as a reserve in five games while at ND.
• Ovie Oghoufo (Texas): The head-scratcher in last offseason’s transfer crop, Oghoufo secured a starting strongside linebacker spot for 21st-ranked Texas, which opened with a 38-18 win Saturday over No. 23 Louisiana.
He had seven tackles, including 1.5 for a loss with one sack, in his Longhorn debut. Oghoufo is also the primary backup at one of the defensive end spots, the position at which he was a rotational player for the Irish.
Oghoufo played in 11 games as a junior and totaled 10 tackles, two pass breakups, 1.5 sacks and one quarterback hurry. He popped into the portal four days after ND fell to Alabama, 31-14, in a College Football Playoff semifinal on Jan. 1.
He’s one of nine incoming transfers for the Longhorns and one of six on the defensive side of the ball.
• Jack Lamb (Colorado): The former top 100 prospect, who battled back from a serious hip injury, began his time in Colorado as a backup strongside linebacker in the Buffaloes’ Friday night opener with Northern Colorado.
He was credited with a tackle in the 35-7 Colorado victory.
One of eight transfers on the Colorado roster, the 6-4, 220-pound Lamb in 2020 played in all 12 games for the Irish. He amassed 13 tackles, most of which came on special teams.
• Jahmir Smith (Appalachian State): The 5-11, 200-pound running back has struggled to climb the depth chart at his new school. He didn’t play at all in Appalachian State’s 33-19 season-opening win Thursday night over East Carolina and was listed as the third or fourth running back option going into the game.
He finished his Notre Dame career with 223 yards on 53 carries with two touchdowns in 13 games played.
The last of those 13 came in the 2020 Irish season opener with Duke, in which he rushed five times for 15 yards in a backup role. He then opted out of the rest of the season, citing mental health concerns.
CLASS OF 2019
• Kendall Abdur-Rahman (Western Kentucky): The 6-0, 190-pound wide receiver recorded his first college statistic of any kind Thursday night with a reception against Tennessee-Martin in a 59-21 season-opening victory for WKU.
It turned out to be his only catch of the night and went for minus-5 yards for the reserve wideout.
The former high school QB enrolled early at Notre Dame in the spring semester of 2019, then redshirted that season, bouncing between wide receiver and running back in practices. His only game action at ND came last season in a 52-0 blowout of South Florida on Sept. 19.
• John Olmstead (Lafayette): The 6-6, 290-pound offensive lineman saw no action as a freshman, then announced his intention to transfer a month before his sophomore season at ND was to have started.
Lafayette, an FCS school, opened with a 35-14 loss at Air Force on Saturday, but Olmstead actually made his debut during Lafayette’s delayed 2020 season this past spring, seeing action in all three games that the Leopards played. He was listed as the starting right guard for Saturday’s opener.
• Isaiah Rutherford (Arizona): The 6-1, 195-pounder started at cornerback for the Wildcats’ in their opener against BYU on Saturday night in Las Vegas. He had one tackle in a 24-16 loss, the first of his career.
Rutherford is one of 17 transfers first-year head coach Jeff Fisch brought in.
He played in three games for ND in the 2020 season, without recording a statistic, after not seeing action as a true freshman in 2019. Rutherford hit the transfer portal two days after the 2020 season ended.
CLASS OF 2020
• Jordan Johnson (UCF): The former five-star prospect is still looking for his first career catch after UCF’s wild rally from 21 points down Thursday night/Friday morning to edge Boise State, 36-31.
The 6-2, 185-pound redshirt freshman was listed as second or third team going into the Knights’ lightning-delayed season opener in Orlando, Fla. Two players with the surname Johnson combined for seven receptions in the game. Jordan Johnson did not get off the bench.
The St. Louis product transferred this past spring after seeing action in just two games in 2020 for the Irish.
• Jay Brunelle (Yale): The 6-1, 200-pound wide receiver didn’t play in a game as a freshman after enrolling early and starting his Notre Dame career with surgery to repair a separated AC joint in his right shoulder in January of 2020.
Yale doesn’t play until Sept 18, when it opens against Holy Cross. The Elis were picked to finish second in the Ivy League, to Princeton, in a preseason media poll.
CLASS OF 2021
• Devin Aupiu (UCLA): The 6-5, 237-pound linebacker did not see action in UCLA’s 45-0 win over Hawaii on Aug. 28 or the Bruins' 38-27 upset of No. 16 LSU on Saturday night.
Aupiu enrolled early, in February, and left very, very early — after just one semester in South Bend — to enroll at the school he initially had committed to, UCLA, in his home state of California.
Aupiu was recruited to play defensive end, but was moved to linebacker for spring practice by Irish first-year defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman.
Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @ehansenNDI