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Notre Dame personnel matters: Kareem returns, Love likely

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Last offseason’s greatest Irish returnee questions waited and waited to make their decisions. Both Te’von Coney and Jerry Tillery pushed up to the NFL’s deadline to enter the draft before officially announcing their returns to Notre Dame for one more season. This time through the calendar does not look to hold that drama, thanks to at least one quick trigger.

Defensive end Khalid Kareem announced a return for his senior season late on New Year’s Eve. Kareem finished a breakout junior year with 42 tackles, including 10.5 for loss with 4.5 sacks and five pass breakups.

If Kareem is joined by consensus first-team All-American cornerback Julian Love, then the Irish offseason will be off to an excellent start. Social media is a fickle place, and Love’s comments on Instagram on New Year’s Eve should be taken with a grain of salt until the junior explicitly expresses an intention to return, but they echoed his comments following the 30-3 loss in the Cotton Bowl.

“Not the way to end it by any means, but this team and program has had a special 2018!” Love wrote. “13 wins in the calendar year is something to celebrate! The men on that field made tough decisions to get us on the main stage by the end of the season.

“Now time to aim even HIGHER in 2019. Blessed to be able to run around with my best friends everyday.”

Love, senior receiver Miles Boykin and junior defensive end Julian Okwara have until Jan. 14 to opt into the NFL draft, as does junior receiver Chase Claypool, in theory, though the likelihood of Claypool departing with eligibility remaining seems rather slim.

Presuming, at least for now, they all return, Notre Dame’s roster currently has 90 names expected for 2019, not counting either quarterback Brandon Wimbush or defensive tackle Micah Dew-Treadway, both of whom have confirmed intentions to transfer as graduate students, as long expected.

“I can’t begin to explain the feeling,” Wimbush wrote on Instagram on Wednesday. “There are no words to fill the void. There’s something this place, & these people, do to you that no one can garner the words to explain unless you’re a part of it. I guess Lou did say it best — ‘Those who know Notre Dame, no explanation is necessary. Those who don’t, no explanation will suffice!’

“I THANK YOU! I THANK YOU! I THANK YOU for what you’ve given me these past 4 years …”

The Irish could yet add two more names to that list of 90 during February’s signing period, still chasing consensus four-star defensive end Isaiah Foskey (De la Salle High School; Concord, Calif.) and consensus four-star linebacker Asa Turner (Carlsbad H.S.; Calif.).

Notre Dame will need to be down to 85 scholarship players before opening the 2019 season.