May 27, 2024

Counting Down the Irish 2023: Others Receiving Votes

Tallying this year’s “Counting Down the Irish” ballots, an absence stood out more than anything else. Only four Notre Dame offensive linemen received any votes.

When asking nine Irish beat writers — well, eight beat writers and one media member who allows himself this one arena of overreactive fandom — who will be the 25 most impactful Notre Dame players in 2023, not a single one mentioned a fifth offensive lineman.

This article may be about to rattle off the “Others Receiving Votes,” but the most notable name is one not among them. Be it fifth-year Andrew Kristofic and his eight career starts or junior Rocco Spindler and his annual buzz, the lack of either name showing up on a single ballot stands out.

That could be the media members offering some uncertainty of who will start at right guard, but all summer the expectation was Kristofic had a strong hold on the gig. If Spindler had made a charge during summer workouts, then that hype would have sparked a ballot or two to include him.

Instead, crickets.

It would be one thing if the fifth offensive lineman was simply outside the top 25. That happened in each of the last two seasons, Josh Lugg appearing at No. 27 last year and Zeke Correll at the same spot in 2021. Tommy Kraemer came in at No. 26 in 2017.

Those kinds of drops were signs of other strong position groups. But complete silence around the fifth offensive lineman is a sign of doubt in him or them. (In 2018 and 2019, all five starters made the top 25. For furlough-related reasons, there was no “Counting Down the Irish” balloting in 2020.)

If Notre Dame has the strong run game one might expect when two tackles and a running back all end up highly ranked in this exercise, then the right guard may belong in the postseason conversation as an overlooked entry here. Frankly, it is hard to envision a successful season in South Bend where a starting offensive lineman is not among the 25 most impactful players. An offensive line weakness like that will lower the ceiling on Marcus Freeman’s second year in charge.

That absence stands out today.

Others Receiving Votes:
Fifth-year defensive end Nana Osafo-Mensah — 16 points, five of nine ballots, high of No. 21.
Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter — 16 points, three of nine ballots, high of No. 19.
Sixth-year safety DJ Brown — 14 points, four ballots, high of No. 21.
Junior receiver Deion Colzie — 14 points, three ballots, high of No. 19.
Sophomore defensive end Junior Tuihalamaka — 12 points, one ballot, No. 14.
Sophomore linebacker Jaylen Sneed — 6 points, three ballots, high of No. 22.
Sixth-year receiver Matt Salerno — 6 points, two ballots, high of No. 23.
Senior cornerback Clarence Lewis — 5 points, one ballot, No. 21.
Senior safety Ramon Henderson — 2 points, one ballot, No. 24.
Freshman running back Jeremiyah Love — 2 points, one ballot, No. 24.
Sophomore tight end Eli Raridon — 2 points, one ballot, No. 24.

Due to the Irish being able to start preseason practices earlier than any other team in the country — a perk of not only playing Week Zero but also having to head to Dublin days, plural, before the Aug. 26 kickoff — these ballots were due after Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman, defensive coordinator Al Golden and offensive coordinator Gerad Parker had all met with the media once last week. So a few quotes on those others receiving votes …

Golden on Carter: “For those guys that didn’t participate in the spring, there’s a little bit of a learning curve. We’ll settle in here. By the time we scrimmage, it will be like, ‘All right, I have to learn this,‘ and we can evaluate that. I’m pleased with those guys in general, and I’m glad he’s here.”

Golden on Sneed: “He has good get-off. He has length. He has excellent flexibility at the top of the movement. If he is engaged, he can dip and bend. He can counter back inside. He’s in the low 220s now, I think 220 (pounds). He’s making a lot of progress. Maybe he’ll be [225] here at some point, two months from now.

“How dynamic would that be if we had that guy in our defense that can rush the passer on the first third down but on the next third down, we’re in a different look and he’s moving around, or can blitz? That’s our goal for him.”

Freeman on Love: “Jeremiyah Love can fly. I mean, he can fly. It’s impressive to watch him run.”

The voters, generously giving of their time and insights in this annual exercise …

Michael Bryan, 18 Stripes
Greg Flammang, Irish Sports Daily
Tyler James, Inside ND Sports
Andrew McGuinness, The Observer
Tim Murray, Vegas Stats & Information Network, but more pertinent to this exercise, an irrational Notre Dame fan
Tom Noie, South Bend Tribune
Tim O’Malley, Irish Illustrated
Pete Sampson, The Athletic
Josh Vowles, One Foot Down

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