Notre Dame's top players: 21-25

Notre Dame's top players: 21-25
August 5, 2014, 9:15 pm
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Inside the Irish's Keith Arnold began unveiling the annual Notre Dame top 25 poll on Tuesday with Nos. 21-25, a poll in which I had the pleasure of participating again this year.

Before looking at how my rankings stacked up against the group, an admission: I failed to include Kyle Brindza in my top 25, which was a major oversight. Brindza should've been somewhere in the 15-19 range for me, given the impact he has on games as a reliable fourth-quarter placekicker while also handling punting and kickoff duties.

Anyways, here's how the group voted:

No. 25 Will Fuller
No. 24 Joe Schmidt
No. 23 Chris Brown
No. 22 Jarrett Grace
No. 21 Malik Zaire

My ballot:

No. 25 Romeo Okwara
No. 24 Joe Schmidt
No. 23 Nyles Morgan
No. 22 Mike McGlinchey
No. 21 Chris Brown

First thought

Jarrett Grace's up-in-the-air status knocked him down in the poll, though I had him at No. 13 given the skill, leadership and experience he'll bring to the front seven when he's ready to return. While Grace didn't participate much in Notre Dame's first preseason practice Monday, he was in a helmet and coach Brian Kelly said the senior could be close to being cleared sometime near the beginning of the season.

[MORE: Emptying the notebook from Notre Dame's first day of practice]

We'll see how Grace fits in with Joe Schmidt, Nyles Morgan and Jaylon Smith as part of the inside linebacker equation, but he showed plenty of promise before his injury a year ago and should wind up being an important part of Notre Dame's defense.

Upon further review

Notre Dame left spring practice with Mike McGinchey as its starting right tackle, but when practice opened Monday the sophomore was relegated to the second team offensive line. In retrospect, it's not too surprising -- Notre Dame really liked how Matt Hegarty progressed toward of 2013 and into the offseason, and with Nick Martin on the shelf he filled in at center during spring practice. Steve Elmer is a natural tackle, and with Hegarty able to slide over to guard it allows Notre Dame to move Elmer to right tackle. That left McGlinchey as the odd man out, at least on Monday.

[MORE: Notre Dame's offensive line does a 180 from 2012]

Nothing is settled yet in terms of a starting offensive line, but if McGlinchey isn't part of that first team he wouldn't be a top-25 guy despite his talent and high ceiling.

Breakout candidate

Nyles Morgan was the only true freshman I ranked in the top 25, a nod to his elite talent and ability to work his way on to the field this fall. The Mike depth chart isn't an easy one to crack with Grace and Schmidt ahead of him, but if the talent he showed in high school translates to the college level it'll be difficult for Notre Dame to keep him off the field this fall.

Be sure to keep up with the top 25 rankings and all of Keith Arnold's analysis over at Inside the Irish.

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