It didn’t take long this spring for Notre Dame to pare its football scholarship chart down to the NCAA maximum 85 by August.
The announced transfer on Wednesday (May 31) of junior reserve linebacker Josh Barajas to Illinois State put the Fighting Irish right at 85, by our count. The number had been reduced to 86 on April 6, or midway through spring drills, when sophomore rover Spencer Perry announced via Twitter that he too would transfer at the end of the spring semester.
Here is the update of the current scholarship breakdown:
• The Irish have only three fifth-year seniors: left tackle Mike McGlinchey, tight end Durham Smythe, both starters, and reserve guard/tackle Hunter Bivin.
Notre Dame originally had 10 fifth-year candidates this year, but they either opted to use their fifth season as a graduate transfer elsewhere — a la offensive linemen Colin McGovern and John Montelus to Virginia, and potentially quarterback Malik Zaire to Florida, among others — try out for the NFL (running back Tarean Folston) or Major League Baseball (Torii Hunter Jr.), or be finished with football (tight end Jacob Matuska) altogether.
• 17 fourth-year seniors with the departures this year of three members.
Quarterback DeShone Kizer turned pro after his junior season and was a second-round pick of the Cleveland Brown.
Wideout Corey Holmes and running back Justin Brent, who enrolled as a receiver, plan to graduate from Notre Dame later this summer, and Holmes will be eligible this fall as a graduate transfer at Purdue, with two years of eligibility. Brent was an early enrollee at Notre Dame in January 2014.
On the flip side, among the 17 seniors included are Michigan graduate transfer receiver Freddy Canteen, who also has two years of eligibility left and basically is the replacement for Holmes.
• 21 juniors after the departure of Barajas. This includes former walk-on receiver Chris Finke, who finished last season by scoring touchdowns against Virginia Tech and USC.
• 23 sophomores, with 13 having played as freshmen, mostly at defensive back (5) and receiver (3).
• 21 incoming freshmen signed in February.
After 2016 Signing Day, Notre Dame’s scholarship number stood at 87. Yet by the start of the season, the figure was down to 83 — and that was after adding Finke to the scholarship chart, plus the return of tight end Tyler Luatua, who had been planning before the spring to transfer to Brigham Young but changed his mind.
That’s because the Irish lost six players from February-August 2016 for various reasons: seniors Corey Robinson (receiver) and Doug Randolph (defensive end) had medical issues that precluded them from playing football anymore, thereby transferring their football scholarships to a University-paid medical expense. Another senior, starting guard Steve Elmer, opted to graduate after three years and move on to a career beyond football.
Reserve defensive end Grant Blankenship, suspended from football activities at the time, decided to transfer to Oklahoma. Finally, safeties Mykelti Williams (now at Syracuse) and Max Redfield were dismissed from the team.
This is not even including the 2016 academic suspension of top tight end Alize Mack (who remained on scholarship while enrolled in school and working with the scout team), plus the disciplinary suspension of senior cornerback Devin Butler (now using his fifth season at Syracuse), and an injury to projected starting cornerback Nick Watkins in the summer that would lead to a medical redshirt.
While the ouster of senior starter Redfield couldn’t have been predicted, the staff likely was cognizant of the other attrition and planned the numbers accordingly. The same holds true any other year with overall numbers.