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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 5 Troy Pride, cornerback

Notre Dame v Stanford

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 25: Trenton Irwin #2 of the Stanford Cardinal catches a touchdown pass while covered by Troy Pride Jr. #18 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Stanford Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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Listed Measurements: 5-foot-11 ½, 185 pounds
2018-19 year, eligibility: A junior with two years of eligibility remaining.
Depth chart: Pride’s performance in the spring was impressive enough to put him ahead of fifth-year Nick Watkins in the starting conversation at field cornerback, leading in part to Watkins’ transfer to Houston. In theory, senior Shaun Crawford remains as Pride’s backup, but Crawford’s time is likely to be focused on nickelback duties.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, Pride left behind a litany of offers from the Southeast to choose Notre Dame, a listing including the likes of Clemson, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. considered Pride the No. 23 cornerback in the country.

In discussing the current juniors in the Irish secondary, a common theme arises about their freshmen seasons: Injuries and dismissals left Notre Dame very thin in its defensive backfield. That led to Pride (formerly No. 18, above) seeing time as a freshman, which then laid the groundwork for his breakout in the second half of 2017, starting each of the final four games, partly due to knee tendonitis limiting Watkins.

2016: Eight games, three starts; 12 tackles, one fumble recovery.
2017: 12 games, four starts; 22 tackles with one for loss and one interception and two pass breakups.

Pride also runs track for the Irish, setting new personal records at May’s ACC Outdoor Championships in both the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash, 10.50 seconds and 21.16, respectively.

Pride’s physical gifts cannot be disputed. The beauty of many Olympic sports, after all, is the brutal honesty of their clocks. (“It’s all there in black and white. … The numerals might as well be etched on my forehead,” Quentin Cassidy said in John L. Parker’s Once A Runner.) A 10.50-second 100-meter dash is within shouting range of world class. Pride’s understanding of the Notre Dame playbook has not been as fast, literally or figuratively. That proved costly in the regular-season finale a year ago, when his misplaced coverage gave up a red-zone touchdown to Stanford, which Irish head coach Brian Kelly used as a pertinent example when discussing how Pride could (read: should) improve in mid-March.

“Some of that stuff is just experience,” Kelly said. “Another spring gives him more of an opportunity to gain that knowledge which you need to be smart and savvy.

“I don’t think there’s anything from a skill piece that he’s missing. It’s experience, knowledge, film study and then a little bit more strength to continue to build that within his tackling.”

Within three weeks of those comments, Pride had already changed Kelly’s tune.

“He has taken the next step,” Kelly said. “… Troy Pride has probably, of all the corners, been as consistent as anybody out there. Really pleased with his physicality, his strength, his knowledge. … He is so much further along in those (mental) areas. I’m as pleased as anybody, but I know he is, too. I know he knows he’s playing really well.”

“A year ago, a large part of Pride’s playing time was due to the rash of defensive back injuries the Irish endured, including an Achilles injury suffered by Crawford on the second week. This season, Crawford’s return complicates Pride’s projection, but it certainly will not keep him off the field entirely.

“First off, assume Pride continues to contribute on special teams. He brings much more to the football field than just his undeniable speed, but he does have that speed and it is best utilized on coverage units.

“When it comes to the secondary, neither Pride nor Crawford will move past [now-junior Julian Love] in the pecking order, but one will establish himself as the primary nickelback while the other readies to fill in for Love whenever the starter moves to the secondary’s back-end as Kelly has implied will occur in particular passing situations.

“With that in mind, Pride could see double digit snaps as the field corner each week. That will be enough to keep the sophomore engaged and ready should an injury befall Love, Crawford or even boundary corner Nick Watkins. Given the nature of the position and recent history, perhaps that should might be better phrased as when.”

Praising Pride as a track star is easy. Seeing that top-end speed applied on the football field is another matter entirely. Senior running back Dexter Williams is praised for his speed with reason, yet when he broke loose for 72 largely-unimpeded yards in the Blue-Gold Game to conclude Notre Dame’s spring practices, Pride hardly broke a figurative sweat in tracking him down. As Pride came across the field, the tackle was clearly inevitable. (Jump to the 2:22 mark in the below video. Blame coding limitations for not setting the auto-play to begin there.)

Pride taking over the starting gig on the field side during spring practice was a bit of a surprise. Watkins was invited back for a fifth year, after all, and was a known commodity, so Pride surpassing him speaks more to his development than Watkins underperforming.

Thus, there is no reason to think Pride has not continued that progression through this summer and will do even more so in preseason practice. Logic understands Pride falling behind a touch in the past when devoting some springtime to the starting blocks. That same logic expects a grasp of the playbook and usual defensive responsibilities to strengthen when sprinting duties do not beckon.

That should lead to Pride starting 13 games this fall. He will undoubtedly be remembered for a couple touchdowns given up, as all cornerbacks are, but he suddenly presents as a pseudo-shutdown cornerback to complement Love’s All-American campaign. As far as Irish cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght is concerned, Pride’s success will include a few interceptions and a half dozen pass breakups along with 40-plus tackles. That may seem to be a leap given his 22 tackles, one interception and two pass breakups a year ago, but that jump is a safe one when factoring in a large portion of Watkins’ numbers (29 tackles, one interception and eight pass breakups). The two did split time much of 2017.

Pride’s emergence over the last six months sets him up to be the secondary’s star in 2019. Love may jump to the NFL (and will at least consider it) and the safeties on the roster are, at best, beneath the radar. Barring a disappointing season from Love or a breakout from early-enrolled freshman Houston Griffith, Pride may be the most-accomplished defensive back entering 2019.

That should put him a position to shine. Notre Dame will supposedly attempt to set up its cornerbacks with more press opportunities this season, something Pride could capitalize on as the isolated cornerback of focus next year. Not to sound cliché, but his sprinter’s abilities and outstanding first step (the quickest on the roster, per Kelly) would be ideal for such a moment. Breaking on an out route works best when the commitment is as delayed as possible.

In other words, Pride’s current trajectory includes a breakout senior season, one deserved after playing as a freshman largely due to others’ missteps, literal and figurative.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle, senior
No. 98 Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 97 Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle, senior
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 94 Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 91 Ade Ogundeji, defensive end, junior
No. 89 Brock Wright, tight end, sophomore
No. 88 Javon McKinley, receiver, junior
No. 87 Michael Young, receiver, sophomore
No. 86 Alizé Mack, tight end, senior
No. 85 George Takacs, tight end, early-enrolled freshman
No. 85 Tyler Newsome, punter and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 84 Cole Kmet, tight end, sophomore
No. 83 Chase Claypool, receiver, junior
No. 82 Nic Weishar, tight end, fifth-year senior
No. 81 Miles Boykin, receiver, senior
No. 80 Micah Jones, receiver, early-enrolled freshman
No. 78 Tommy Kraemer, right guard, junior
No. 76 Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 75 Josh Lugg, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 74 Liam Eichenberg, starting left tackle, junior
No. 72 Robert Hainsey, right tackle, sophomore
No. 71 Alex Bars, left guard and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 70 Luke Jones, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 69 Aaron Banks, offensive tackle, sophomore
No. 68 Jarrett Patterson, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 60 Cole Mabry, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 57 Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman, senior
No. 57 (theoretically) Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 56 John Dirksen, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 55 Jonathan Bonner, defensive tackle, fifth-year senior
No. 54 John Shannon, long snapper, junior
No. 53 Khalid Kareem, defensive end, junior
No. 53 Sam Mustipher, center and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 52 Bo Bauer, linebacker, early-enrolled freshman
No. 47 Kofi Wardlow, defensive end, sophomore
No. 45 Jonathan Jones, linebacker, junior
No. 44 Jamir Jones, defensive end, junior
No. 42 Julian Okwara, defensive end, junior
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 40 Drew White, linebacker, sophomore
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, kickoff specialist, sophomore
No. 34 Jahmir Smith, running back, early-enrolled freshman
No. 33 Shayne Simon, linebacker, incoming freshman
No. 31 Jack Lamb, linebacker, early-enrolled freshman
No. 30 Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, linebacker, sophomore
No. 29 Ovie Oghoufo, linebacker, early-enrolled freshman
No. 28 Nicco Fertitta, safety, senior
No. 27 Julian Love, cornerback, junior, second-team All-American
No. 25 Braden Lenzy, receiver, incoming freshman
No. 24 Tommy Tremble, tight end, incoming freshman
No. 24 Nick Coleman, defensive back, senior
No. 23 Drue Tranquill, linebacker, two-time captain, fifth-year senior
No. 22 Asmar Bilal, rover, senior
No. 21 Jalen Elliott, safety, junior
No. 20 Shaun Crawford, nickelback, senior
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, running back, incoming freshman
No. 19 Justin Yoon, placekicker, senior
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, defensive end, incoming freshman
No. 18 Joe Wilkins, cornerback, incoming freshman
No. 17 Isaiah Robertson, safety-turned-rover, sophomore
No. 16 Noah Boykin, cornerback, incoming freshman
No. 15 D.J. Morgan, safety-turned-linebacker, junior
No. 15 Phil Jurkovec, quarterback, consensus four-star incoming freshman
No. 14 Devin Studstill, safety, junior
No. 13 Lawrence Keys, receiver, incoming freshman
No. 13 Paul Moala, local safety, incoming freshman
No. 12 DJ Brown, cornerback, incoming freshman
No. 12 Ian Book, quarterback, junior
No. 11 Alohi Gilman, safety, Navy transfer
No. 10 Tariq Bracy, cornerback, incoming freshman
No. 10 Chris Finke, receiver, senior, former walk-on
No. 9 Daelin Hayes, defensive end, junior
No. 8 Jafar Armstrong, running back/receiver, sophomore
No. 8 Donte Vaughn, cornerback, junior
No. 7 Brandon Wimbush, quarterback, senior
No. 7 Derrik Allen, consensus four-star safety, incoming freshman
No. 6 Tony Jones, running back, junior

No. 35 David Adams, linebacker, sophomore

No. 11 Freddy Canteen, receiver, outgoing transfer

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