Explaining the picks: Top Notre Dame players, 15-11

Explaining the picks: Top Notre Dame players, 15-11

July 17, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Over at Inside the Irish, NBC partner Keith Arnold began rolling out his annual top 25 Irish players series this week, with eight panelists "voting" on the rankings. I had the pleasure of taking part in the list this year, of which Keith revealed Nos. 15-11 on Wednesday.

Head over to Inside the Irish to see how the panel voted. My picks are below:

[Top Notre Dame players: 20-16]

No. 15: Matthias Farley (S, junior)

Jamoris Slaughter's season-ending injury vaulted Farley into a starting role by Week 4, and he handled the jump well. He had excellent games against Stanford and USC, quickly growing into a role that was unfamiliar to the natural wide receiver. A smart player, Farley should only continue to grow under the tutelage of safeties coach Bob Elliott this year.

No. 14: T.J. Jones (WR, senior)

If I could have one do-over on this list, it'd be to rank Jones higher than this (an emphasis on defense pushed him down here). Jones has steadily improved his game every year he's been on campus, and caught 50 passes for 649 yards last year. While undersized, he's a crisp-route runner and has good chemistry with Tommy Rees, from whom he caught the game-winning touchdown against Stanford last October. He's also focused on becoming one of Notre Dame's senior leaders, and if the coaching staff goes with four captains as they did last year, he'd be a solid candidate to get a 'C' on his jersey.

[Top Notre Dame players: 25-21]

No. 13: Carlo Calabrese (ILB, graduate student)

Calabrese's ability to shift between both inside linebacker positions in Notre Dame's 3-4 defense adds plenty of value here. He has loads of experience -- 36 games, to be exact -- which could come in handy as he rotates in with Jarrett Grace at mike linebacker. He's one of the more physical presences on Notre Dame's defense, too -- something George Atkinson was reminded of in the Blue-Gold game, when Calabrese delivered a massive hit on the junior running back.

No. 12: Sheldon Day (DE, sophomore)

Day played in all 13 of Notre Dame's games last year, showing flashes of his four-star potential while backing up Kapron Lewis-Moore and Stephon Tuitt. As Tuitt and Louis Nix will get most of the attention along Notre Dame's defensive line, Day could sneak up on opposing offenses that don't game plan for him as much. Notre Dame coaches rave about his talent, and he looks like he's on track to become a solid contributor to an excellent defense in 2013.

No. 11: Jarrett Grace (ILB, junior)

Heading into his first year as a starter, Grace has the burden of replacing Manti Te'o at mike linebacker. In talking to him and those around him in spring practice, he seems up to the challenge, but it'll be a different weight on his shoulders when he hits the field on Saturdays this fall. But Grace has a solid understanding of the mike position, and with the added strength he put on in the offseason should grow nicely into his role.