Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 17 Isaiah Robertson, safety
Listed Measurements: 6-foot-1 ½, 208 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Early-enrolled freshman with four years of eligibility remaining including the 2017 season
Depth chart: Robertson should back up sophomore Jalen Elliott at boundary safety to start summer practices, but by no means is Elliott firmly established as the starter. It would be a surprise to see Robertson make that leap to begin the year, but it is within the realm of possibility by season’s end.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, Robertson committed to the Irish the day before the 2016 Blue-Gold Game, robbing his recruitment of much drama. Notre Dame was a frontrunner from the outset of Robertson’s decision-making process, despite his father having played at Wisconsin. The Badgers, Penn State and Vanderbilt also pursued the No. 18 safety in the class, per rivals.com, who rated Robertson as the No. 4 recruit in Illinois and No. 202 overall player in the country.
While measuring expectations, Irish coach Brian Kelly praised Robertson’s development toward the end of spring practice.
“[Robertson] started at a level of really not knowing much and he’s grown considerably over the last few weeks,” Kelly said. “He’s done a nice job of picking things up. We’re making progress there. We’re going to need more time, but I’m pleased.”
With the entire safety depth chart a list of unprovens, Kelly acknowledged a combination of players — perhaps including Robertson — will most likely have to rotate in at the position to satisfy all its needed components.
“I don’t know that anybody is going to walk in the door that’s 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and can run a 4.5 anytime soon,” Kelly said. “We know who our guys are. We think there’s some flexibility coming and with the players that we have, we’ll be able to come up with a really good solution by the time we kick it off against Temple.”
Especially considering Kelly’s praise of Robertson from National Signing Day, the freshman has an opportunity to work his way into competitive situations sooner than later.
“His reach is really incredible in terms of what we were able to see in our testing,” Kelly said. “A guy that we think can play the safety position for us at a high level.”
WHAT KEITH ARNOLD SAID UPON ROBERTSON’S EARLY ENROLLMENT
“Robertson is a multi-dimensional player with some positional flexibility, though he’s believed to start his career at safety. With [senior] Drue Tranquill entering his final [two] season[s] of eligibility and [sophomore] Devin Studstill having an up-and-down freshman season, there’s room for someone to come in and compete for a job, especially with new coordinator Mike Elko.”
Robertson excelled at receiver as well as defensive back in high school. He will not see the offensive side of the ball this season, but he should have a chance to display that athleticism on special teams units from the season’s outset.
If he is already using a year of eligibility on that front, then it makes sense to surmise Robertson will be given at least an August chance to break into the safety rotation. Elliott showed glimpses of a consistent performer last year, but the opportunity is still there for Robertson. By the sounds of it, junior Nick Coleman will start the season leading the way at field safety, which means sophomore Devin Studstill could also be given a shot at boundary safety.
Wherever Robertson lands on the depth chart entering the season, there are not enough options at safety to prevent him from seeing defensive action as a freshman.
DOWN THE ROAD
The perk of an unproven positional grouping is its inherent youth, which in turns means plenty of time to grow into the responsibilities before careers conclude. Such is true for all the safeties, especially when considering one of the elder statesmen of the group, Coleman, only switched to safety this offseason. His window to learn the position may be shortest, but his learning curve will also likely be the steepest.
Robertson will have a chance to be a multi-year starter at safety if he can progress at the position at a slightly faster pace than Elliott or Studstill. Despite the sophomores having a season’s head start, they are not far ahead of Robertson at this point.
Navy transfer sophomore Alohi Gilman presents the complicating factor. He has started a season of college football as a productive safety. Though he is unlikely to be eligible this season, he will be in the mix in 2018 and could quickly establish himself as a presumptive starter if Robertson, Elliott or Studstill does not flash reason otherwise in 2017.
2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2 (May 12)
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
No. 95: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 92)
No. 94: Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 95)
No. 93: Jay Hayes, defensive end
No. 92: Jonathon MacCollister; defensive end (originally theorized as No. 46)
No. 91: Ade Ogundeji, defensive end
No. 89: Brock Wright, tight end
No. 88: Javon McKinley, receiver
No. 87: Michael Young, receiver (originally theorized as No. 84)
No. 86: Alizé Mack, tight end
No. 85: Tyler Newsome, punter
No. 84: Cole Kmet, tight end (originally theorized as No. 90)
No. 83: Chase Claypool, receiver
No. 82: Nic Weishar, tight end
No. 81: Miles Boykin, receiver
No. 80: Durham Smythe, tight end
No. 78: Tommy Kraemer, right tackle
No. 77: Brandon Tiassum, defensive tackle
No. 76: Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman (originally theorized as No. 65)
No. 75: Josh Lugg, offensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 73)
No. 75: Daniel Cage, defensive tackle
No. 74: Liam Eichenberg, right tackle
No. 72: Robert Hainsey, offensive tackle
No. 71: Alex Bars, offensive lineman
No. 70: Hunter Bivin, offensive lineman
No. 69: Aaron Banks, offensive lineman
No. 68: Mike McGlinchey, left tackle
No. 67: Jimmy Byrne, offensive lineman
No. 58: Elijah Taylor, defensive tackle
No. 57: Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman
No. 56: Quenton Nelson, left guard
No. 55: Jonathan Bonner, defensive lineman
No. 54: John Shannon, long snapper
No. 53: Sam Mustipher, center
No. 53: Khalid Kareem, defensive lineman
No. 48: Greer Martini, inside linebacker
No. 47: Kofi Wardlow, defensive end
No. 45: Jonathan Jones, inside linebacker
No. 44: Jamir Jones, linebacker/defensive lineman
No. 42: Julian Okwara, defensive end
No. 41: Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle (originally theorized as No. 94)
No. 40: Drew White, linebacker
No. 39: Jonathan Doerer, kicker (originally theorized as No. 52)
No. 38: Deon McIntosh, running back/receiver
No. 35: David Adams, linebacker
No. 34: Tony Jones, Jr., running back
No. 33: Josh Adams, running back
No. 32: D.J. Morgan, safety
No. 30: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, rover
No. 29: Kevin Stepherson, receiver
No. 28: Nicco Fertitta, safety
No. 27: Julian Love, cornerback
No. 26: Ashton White, safety
No. 25: Jafar Armstrong, receiver (originally theorized as No. 87)
No. 24: Nick Coleman, safety
No. 23: Drue Tranquill, rover
No. 22: Asmar Bilal, rover
No. 21: Jalen Elliott, safety
No. 19: Justin Yoon, kicker
No. 18: Troy Pride, cornerback