Notre Dame went to the Fiesta Bowl short-handed in multiple areas, and the Fighting Irish were pounded by defending national champion Ohio State most of the afternoon.
Instead of proving they have progressed since being beaten by Alabama in the national championship game in 2012, the Irish looked like a squad still not ready for primetime while losing to the Buckeyes 44-28.
Coach Brian Kelly’s team will go through the typical offseason attrition every college team faces with graduation and early departures to the NFL, but Notre Dame can look forward to the return of a bunch of starter-quality players — mostly veterans — who missed all, part or most of the 2015 season.
UHND.com runs down the list of injured players who missed most or all of 2015 and can help next year. The list is a lengthy one that includes offensive lineman Alex Bars, cornerback Devin Butler, safety Drue Tranquill, wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, running back Tarean Folston, defensive lineman Jarron Jones (played sparingly against Ohio State), tight end Durham Smythe (played against Ohio State) and quarterback Malik Zaire.
A handful of players from Notre Dame’s top 10-rated 2015 recruiting class contributed this fall, but another five who were four-star recruits have yet to see the field: linebacker Asmar Bilal, wide receiver Miles Boykin, cornerback Shawn Crawford, linebacker Josh Barajas and offensive lineman Tristen Hoge.
Crawford was in line to play in the secondary before suffering a knee injury in the preseason.
Also missing the Fiesta Bowl because of suspensions were Max Redfield, a safety who started 11 games, and Jerry Tillery, a defensive tackle who started three, while star linebacker Jaylon Smith missed most of the game with a knee injury.
While Redfield and Tillery should be back in 2016, Smith was thought to be headed to the NFL early. He has yet to announce if his injury means he will stay in South Bend for another year.