Irish add graduate transfer as Jones, Gilman announce departure
Observer Sports Staff | Thursday, January 2, 2020
The Notre Dame football team continues to see roster changes as senior running back Tony Jones Jr., as well as senior safety and captain Alohi Gilman, have elected to forego their final season of eligibility and enter the NFL draft.
Jones Jr., who sat out his freshman season as a scout team contributor, saw action in at least 12 games every season thereafter. He served as a backup for former running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams in 2017 and 2018, respectively. As both a running and receiving threat, he recorded 624 yards and six touchdowns on the ground as well as 12 receptions for 169 yards receiving prior to this season. His lone receiving touchdown came in 2018 on a 51-yard catch-and-run against USC, which sealed Notre Dame’s spot in the College Football Playoff.
With junior running back Jafar Armstrong going down in the season opener against Louisville this season, Jones had a breakout year as the starter in the backfield. He doubled up his career highs for rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and receptions in a season, racking up 15 receptions for 104 yards and one score while also running for 857 yards and six touchdowns on 144 carriers.
His career-best carry came in his final Irish game on Saturday, when Notre Dame defeated Iowa State 33-9 in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando. The Florida native rumbled off an 84-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the second half, setting a record for the longest score in Camping World Bowl history.
Gilman joined the Irish in 2017, but was forced to sit out that year as a transfer from the United States Naval Academy. The Laie, Hawaii, native was named a captain this season after recording 95 tackles, three of them for loss, and two interceptions his junior year. He followed that performance with one interception and three forced fumbles this season, one of which he recovered against Louisville. Had Gilman returned for another year, it would have been his sixth since leaving high school, having gone through a prep year for Navy.
While the Irish suffer from the loss of Gilman and Jones Jr., they also benefit from a new addition. Northwestern wide receiver Bennett Skowronek has announced in a tweet sent out on New Year’s night his intention to graduate transfer and join the Irish for his final season of eligibility.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder out of Fort Wayne, Indiana, was a two-year starter for Northwestern and named a team captain this season. Coming into his senior season, Skowronek had recorded 98 receptions, including 45 apiece in his junior and senior years, for 1,276 yards and eight touchdowns. However, after recording 12 receptions for 141 yards through three games this season, he suffered an undisclosed injury that required surgery.
Skowronek said in his tweet the surgery was successful but the injury hindered his NFL prospects and he thus contemplated a graduate season, eventually entering the transfer portal on Dec. 2. Because he only played in three games this season, Skowronek took advantage of the new four-game redshirt rule implemented by the NCAA prior to the 2018 season. He will add to the ranks of a talented but inexperienced Notre Dame receiving corps that is losing two wide receivers, senior Chase Claypool and graduate student Chris Finke.