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Six players officially applying for fifth year

Harrison Smith

After weeks of guesswork and number-crunching, Notre Dame announced the members of the football team that will officially apply for a fifth year of school. The six members of the roster are:

Harrison Smith, Safety
Gary Gray, Cornerback
David Ruffer, Kicker
Taylor Dever, Tackle
Andrew Nuss, Guard
Mike Ragone, Tight End

We already knew that Ruffer was getting a scholarship and Smith being named a captain all but confirmed those two returning. The same logic applied to returning starters Gray and Dever, two front-line players that had a season of eligibility remaining. But the decision to bring back Ragone and Nuss, two veteran reserves, were the only wildcards left on the board.

Head coach Brian Kelly announced last week that all ten seniors that had a season of eligibility available would formally apply, but kicker Brandon Walker, defensive end Emeka Nwankwo, linebacker Steve Paskorz and offensive tackle Matt Romine will not return next season. Of those seniors, only Romine played significant minutes, filling in when Dever went down with an injury late in the season.

There’s still a chance -- a very small one -- that the players applying won’t actually return for another season, but it’s incredibly remote. Rather, the finalization of an 85-man roster has all but taken place, with the final few spots likely to be determined by the final recruits waiting to make a decision next Wednesday.

As it stands now, with five recruits enrolled, 18 more committed and three still in play (Troy Niklas, Savon Huggins, and Bryce Haynes) the Irish are one scholarship over the 85-man limit, a situation that will likely be remedied by the start of fall camp.