Last Friday, Notre Dame’s Sports Information Director Michael Bertsch posed the following question on Twitter upon the release of USA Today’s Freshman All-America team for 2015: “Did Tyler Newsome and/or DeShone Kizer get considered for FR AA? Both freshman eligibility but listed academically (so So.)”
It’s a more-than-fair question, for it highlights a major problem with these postseason polls. Notre Dame lists its athletes by academic year. This seems to be held against them. Is this simply a case of the pollsters not being able to crack Notre Dame’s enigmatic code? Or, are they deliberately using Notre Dame’s practice against the Irish in a deliberate conspiracy to deny them their share of national recognition?
The truth is out there.
Consider the case of Justin Yoon. To the outside world, this is what Justin looks like:
Justin is in his first year at Notre Dame. He is thus listed by the football team as a freshman. He finished the season with an eye-popping 89.47 field goal completion-percentage (15/17). This puts him like three one-somethings behind John Carney (17-19, .895, 1984) in the ND record books for field goal percentage for a season. His fifty-two yarder against Navy is the second-longest in ND history. On extra points, Justin was 46-for-48 for a 95.83 completion-percentage.
USA Today’s Freshman All-America place kicker, however, was Clemson’s Greg Huegel. To the outside world, this is what Greg looks like:
Next, consider the case of Josh Adams. To the outside world, he looks like this:
After starting his collegiate career with a touchdown against Texas, and making us all gasp against Wake Forest, Josh put together a pretty remarkable season. He carried the ball 102 times for 760 yards, an average of 7.45 yards per carry. He scored five touchdowns and averaged 63.33 yards per game.
Warren carried the ball 227 times for 1,339 yards, an average of 5.9 yards per carry. He, too, scored five touchdowns. He too was in college when the Notre Dame player was in high school.
So do Notre Dame “redshirts” get similar treatment? Consider the case of DeShone Kizer. Perhaps you’ve seen him on Showtime’s fantastic embed program A Season With. Or, perhaps you remember him from such Saturday thrillers as The Last Play of the Virginia Game or That Other Time He Hit Will Fuller In Stride. To the outside world, this is what DeShone looks like:
Because he is in his second academic year at Notre Dame, he is listed as a sophomore. On the season, his first according to the NCAA-eligibility rules, one in which he did not see action until the second half of the second game, Kizer finished with 2,596 yards passing (19 TDs, 9 INTs), 499 yards rushing (9 TDs), and a quarterback rating of 151.77. Kizer completed 188 of 297 passes for a 63.3 completion-percentage.
All-America honors went, instead, to an academic freshman at UCLA, Josh Rosen. Rosen finished the season with 3,350 yards passing (20 TDs, 9 INTs), 27 yards rushing, and a quarterback rating of 133.19. Rosen completed 266 of 447 passes for a 59.5 completion-percentage.
Finally, consider the case of Tyler Newsome. To the outside world, Tyler looks like this:
For real. That’s really his hair. Tonsorial criticisms aside, Tyler booted 79 kickoffs this year for 4,856 yards, an average of 61.47 yards per attempt. Nineteen went for touchbacks. Five went out-of-bounds. As a punter, he boomed 49 for 2,157 yards, an average of 44.02 yards per punt.
But the All-America award went to Missouri’s Corey Fatone, a true freshman. Corey kicked off 43 times for 2,700 yards, an average of 62.79 yards per attempt. Eighteen were touchbacks. One went out-of-bounds. He punted a remarkable 81 times for 3,477 yards, an average of 42.93 yards per punt.
These aren’t perfect comparisons. For example, Josh Adams was not the featured back in the way Mike Warren was. Tyler Newsome didn’t have to punt as much as Corey Fatone because Missouri was an offensive dumpster fire. Justin Yoon was… what? Korean?
Whatever the case, the pollsters seem to be having it both ways against the Irish.