No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Clemson: Who, what, when, where, why and by how much?

Notre Dame Clemson
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WHO? No. 2 Notre Dame (10-0, 9-0 ACC) vs. No. 3 Clemson (9-1, 8-1).

WHAT? The Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. That’s right, the Irish are chasing conference hardware. This is what 2020 has driven us to.

More than that, this may be a play-in game for whatever will inevitably replace the Rose Bowl. Presuming No. 1 Alabama dispatches No. 7 Florida once and for all — and unless the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, consider it assured — then the ACC champion will end up No. 2 in the final Playoff rankings and not be heading to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Common sense suggests the winner will not head to Pasadena, either. Irish head coach Brian Kelly drew a line in the sand Friday: He has no intentions of quietly traveling to the West Coast (to face a team from no further west than Texas) to play in an empty stadium forbidding even the parents of his players from attending. Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney agreed with Kelly in every way but figurative volume.

“It would be really sad at this point to be in a Playoff game and these players’ families couldn’t be there,” Swinney said. “That would be a poor decision, and again, a year where everybody’s had to have flexibility and make adjustments along the way, that would be a mistake.”

The momentum of this reality had been building for a couple weeks before Kelly gave it a public voice Friday. Frankly, the momentum had been building for nine months and the pandemic’s surge in recent weeks sealed it, yet the College Football Playoff committee and its executive management opted to cross their fingers and hope things would resolve themselves. The federal government tried that approach for nine months; it clearly does not work.

So Kelly spoke up, and while he may not have the cache of Swinney or Alabama head coach Nick Saban, he has plenty thanks to the interlocking ND on his quarter-zip, and the Playoff committee will have little choice but to scramble to a solution before announcing the semifinal matchups on Sunday.

OKAY, BACK TO THE GAME: Well, hold on. Rose Bowl lunacy aside, this is a play-in game to avoid Alabama in the semifinal. If Notre Dame loses, it is presumably headed to the No. 4 seed (thus avoiding an immediate rematch of this rematch) and a date in New Orleans. While if Clemson loses, the Tigers may be out of the Playoff for the first time in six years and star quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s college career could be over. Their best-case scenario could be a controversial No. 4 seed and a shot at ‘Bama.

WHEN? 4 ET on ABC. In something of a 2020 oddity, every Irish game away from South Bend has been a late afternoon kickoff on the alphabet. If pondering a continuation of that theme, then know the Rose Bowl kicks off at 5 ET, while the Sugar Bowl will follow it at 8:45 ET. Admittedly, that order is to cater to Pasadena’s sunset, and that may no longer be a concern once the semifinal is moved to Indianapolis or Dallas or Phoenix, but the order of kickoff would likely remain the same.

WHERE? Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., where Notre Dame was scheduled to play Wake Forest this season before all plans were scrapped by the obvious. The stadium is allowed to hold 7 percent its capacity, 5,240 fans, just as it has for Carolina Panthers games to date.

That worries local health authorities, though, as the key difference between Panthers games and this conference title game is the vast majority, if not all, of those 5,240 Panthers fans come from the surrounding area.

“Would I prefer [the ACC title game] not be held? Yes, I would prefer not, because there are fans coming in from other parts of the country that are not part of our community, and I think right now is not the best time for that to happen,” said Gibbie Harris, the Mecklenburg County Public Health Director, to the Charlotte News & Observer. “… I don’t know that we’ve seen a lot of people traveling in for those (Panthers) games. So that’s what concerns me more about these two games, is the fact that it’s not local people coming in to see these games.

“We’re looking at folks from other states.”

Harris’ point is valid, and it is partly why Kelly and Swinney did not advocate for widespread fan attendance in the Rose Bowl or its replacement. They argued for the families of their players, families they will not see at Christmas as they focus on Playoff preparations. It may not be the ideal situation, but it is an understandable ask.

WHY? Why a rematch? Why play this game if both Clemson and Notre Dame could slide into the Playoff without it? When you have the chance to beat the best college quarterback of the decade and the current dynasty, there is no thought of skipping that opportunity.

“If we could play Friday, yeah, the guys would want to play Friday,” Kelly said. “… You get to that point where you’re like, can we get this on now? We know Clemson, they know us.”

On top of that, an us vs. them mentality is under the surface in this game, a version of which was missing in the instant classic, double-overtime thriller in November.

When the Irish recruit players, the independent status is part of the pitch. Notre Dame brags about its national footprint, about ending every season in California, about facing opponents from at least three Power Five conferences every year. It becomes part of the mantra around the football program. So much as there is an ethos to be bought into, the players that do so also channel the value of independence.

“Join a conference? Be careful what you wish for.”

Meanwhile, the Tigers carry the mantle for the ACC. They may not be the most-liked conference member — a proclivity for stealing signs, five conference titles in a row, the overall spectre of dominance — but they are at least a member. If Clemson doesn’t win, Notre Dame will forever have a claim over the ACC. (Maybe not literally forever, but for any foreseeable future.)

In Brian Kelly’s 11-year tenure, the Irish have won as double-digit underdogs exactly once in six tries, beating Oklahoma in 2012 as 11.5-point underdogs. Go back a full 20 years, and Notre Dame is 4-19 in such moments (2007 UCLA; 2004 Michigan State; 2002 Florida State). Of course, there is a reason for that. Winning as a 10-plus-point underdog is hard, otherwise the spread would not be so wide.

Kelly is 3-3 against those spreads, and the Irish are 12-11 since the turn of the century.

Such trends are brought up to dash any misplaced trends narratives with Notre Dame a 10.5-point underdog against Clemson with a combined point total over/under of 59.5. A 35-24 result would be similar-scoring compared to November’s 33-33 regulation.

That may seem ambitious for the Irish, given they started their scoring six weeks ago with a 65-yard Kyren Williams touchdown run and needed a stellar defensive touchdown from senior linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to keep up with the Tigers while Notre Dame’s offense went 59 minutes without finding the end zone.

But replace those two big moments with fewer mistakes in the red zone — avoid a Michael Mayer false start on fourth-and-1 from the two; avoid a Mayer dropped pass inside the five on a third down; avoid Ian Book fumbling the ball into the end zone — and those two touchdowns can be quickly and reasonably replaced. The Irish left 15 points on the field in the red zone.

Neither Notre Dame nor Clemson played perfectly back in November. While freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei threw for more than 400 yards, the Tigers also needed him to, since their defense was compromised without tackle Tyler Davis and linebacker James Skalski.

Lawrence may play better in a clutch moment, perhaps evading back-to-back sacks in overtime, but his raw production is unlikely to match Uiagalelei’s. Davis and Skalski are back on the field, but Skalski’s actual health is still very much in question.

The point is, for every item in Irish favor compared to November, there is one against them. The same is true of Clemson. The spread may be double digits, but the precedent has been set: This will be close.

MATCHUP OF THE GAME: Speaking of Skalski and Davis, their health and effectiveness against Notre Dame senior Josh Lugg at center may determine Book’s success. Lugg has excellent reach and enough starting experience to not be cowed by the moment, but this will be only his second start at center, replacing sophomore Zeke Correll who was replacing junior Jarrett Patterson. If Lugg cannot hold up against Clemson’s No. 1 middle defenders, Book’s life will become magnificently more difficult.

“We have to do a better job in the trenches,” Swinney said Monday. “We have to do a much better job of containing this quarterback. He’s a great player, we have to make plays, we have to do a better job than we did in the first game. We have to fit the run better. We missed some tackles, and then we have to make some of the competitive plays.”

The Irish gaining push at the point of attack would keep the trenches in their favor, allow Book to freelance his way to a few “no-no-no-YES” moments that have become his trademark. Losing that would stymie Notre Dame’s ground game and thus allow the Tigers to focus their safeties on Mayer and fifth-year receiver Javon McKinley, rather than on run support. Irish offensive success can help set its defensive parameters, force Clemson to once again abandon Travis Etienne and its rushing attack to become one-dimensional.

As much a question of Lugg’s comfort as the fulcrum, this may depend on Skalski’s mobility and range. He missed three games in the middle of the season and made only seven tackles in the last two games, in fact barely playing at all at Virginia Tech, all due to a groin injury. Any limits to his aggressiveness now will stand out even more, with his backup Jake Venables out for the year with a broken arm.

BACK TO A PREDICTION: When Kelly revs up his engine like he did Friday — finding poetic strides like “We’re worshipping the ashes of tradition,” and “an absolute shame and a shame” — it usually indicates he has complete faith in his gameplan. That is not always the case. Sometimes the gameplan is not the vital key to a game, when facing downtrodden opponents like Syracuse or Virginia Tech. Sometimes Kelly knows the gameplan has holes, a la lacking speed at Georgia in 2019.

And sometimes he thinks his coordinators have found something.

That is an abstract thought to pivot on, but in a rematch of a double-overtime all-timer, something abstract may well be the difference.

Notre Dame 31, Clemson 30.
(9-1 straight up, 5-5 against the spread, 5-5 over/under)

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Friday at 4: Jack Swarbrick’s time at Notre Dame marked by retained Irish independence, not by hires or construction

Notre Dame v Pittsburgh
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When Jack Swarbrick walks out of his Notre Dame offices for the last time at some point early in 2024, after nearly 16 years as the director of athletics, one thing will be beyond debate: Swarbrick will have left his mark at Notre Dame.

He took over after Kevin White left South Bend for the same role at Duke in 2008. While an athletic director has to worry about far more than football, Notre Dame’s athletic director will always be most judged by that program, and the Irish were coming off their losingest season ever, going 3-9 in 2007.

Charlie Weis would get two seasons under Swarbrick to try to right that ship, so it was not immediately realized the decade of checks the Irish athletic department was saddled with, but it was clear: Swarbrick inherited a football program, and thus an athletic department, that needed work.

He then hired the winningest football coach in Notre Dame history, navigated Brian Kelly’s surprise exit when 2021 Playoff hopes still lingered and instilled stability into the program in a moment that could have been absolute chaos.

Between those hires, Swarbrick oversaw the installation of turf at Notre Dame Stadium — it did not replace grass, it replaced literal dirt. He expanded the Stadium to include far more luxury suites and seats, perhaps a half-measure waiting for more work given the reality of who attends live sporting events nowadays. Swarbrick blessed the comedy of the visitors’ tunnel in the Stadium’s northeast corner and the return of night games beginning with the 2011 tilt against USC, though the piped-in audio playlist that October night was far from ready.

Add in the renovations to Purcell Pavilion and building Compton Family Ice Arena and those were the changes every fan noticed during Swarbrick’s 15 years-and-counting. Those along with hiring Brian Kelly and then Marcus Freeman, not to mention women’s basketball coach Niele Ivey (replacing Muffet McGraw after 33 years) and men’s basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry (replacing Mike Brey after 23 years), making Notre Dame one of two FBS schools with Black head coaches leading all three programs (joining Syracuse).

In the short-term, Freeman’s, Shrewsberry’s and Ivey’s success will determine how Swarbrick is remembered, and in that order. No matter how 2023 goes for Freeman and imported quarterback Sam Hartman, years 3-5 of Freeman’s tenure will alter how Swarbrick’s tenure is retroactively perceived. The stability he conjured in 2021 was the product of deft maneuvering, yet it largely dissipated when the Irish lost to Stanford last season. Freeman’s coming successes or failures will be remembered and tied to Swarbrick far more than a hyped week a couple of Decembers ago.

Yet, how Freeman fares should not be the top bullet point attributed to Swarbrick. His long-term achievement of keeping Notre Dame independent through the 2010s and now seemingly through the 2020s has been the singular task of Swarbrick’s tenure.

The partial membership with the ACC, announced in 2012 and beginning in 2014, staked the Irish position through the first round of modern conference realignment. As Maryland, Rutgers and Nebraska all joined the Big Ten and the Big East crumbled under ACC influence, Swarbrick found a position for Notre Dame to continue as a football independent without sacrificing viability in any other sports. If it seemed like he had the Irish straddling a line, one foot in a conference and one foot out, that is because the balance of setting up basketball, hockey and all other sports for success while keeping football in a position unique to Notre Dame required such figurative flexibility.

That allowed the NBC partnership to continue unabated. It allowed the Irish to continue facing USC every season. And it gave Mike Brey, Muffet McGraw and Jeff Jackson conceivable paths to national title contention.

Navigating that same balance the last couple of years while the College Football Playoff pondered expansion solidified Swarbrick’s long-term stamp at Notre Dame. The Irish are now positioned to be a perennial Playoff contender when it expands to 12 teams next year, all while remaining a football independent during this Big Ten and SEC arms race.

The hiring of NBC Sports Group Chairman Pete Bevacqua to succeed Swarbrick certainly suggests the Notre Dame-NBC relationship will continue. (Writer’s Note: Those conversations occur about a dozen levels above this scribe and no NBC information trickles down to this keyboard.) If/when that officially extends past 2025, Irish football should be again clearly independent for the foreseeable future.

The day may come when that independence ends, but the fact that it persisted through the 2010s and is unlikely to end in the 2020s is a testament to Swarbrick’s understanding of the national landscape.

However Freeman, Ivey and Shrewsberry fare, whatever anyone thinks of the expanded Notre Dame Stadium, Jack Swarbrick keeping Notre Dame football independent of a conference in two decades of massive changes to college football is the landmark accomplishment of his 16 years as Irish athletic director.

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 74 Billy Schrauth, sophomore left guard, likely starter

Clemson v Notre Dame
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-4 ½, 304 pounds.
2023-24 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Schrauth has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Schrauth pushed through a crowded field this spring, a position competition including senior Michael Carmody and junior Rocco Spindler, to emerge as the leader at left guard when preseason practices begin.
Recruiting: The No. 3 offensive guard and No. 68 overall recruit in the class, Schrauth’s recruitment will be best remembered for being the first task for Marcus Freeman after he was named Notre Dame’s head coach. Freeman quite literally went from his introductory press conference straight to Fond du Lac, Wis. Less than a week later, the consensus four-star had joined the Irish class rather than heading to his homestate power.

Schrauth did not play in 2022, at least in part due to a left-foot surgery when he first arrived at Notre Dame, the result of an injury that he played through in the final month of his senior season of high school.

Schrauth keeps a low profile in terms of social media and such, but Notre Dame’s in-house social media team gave away his progress a couple times this spring. While the Blue-Gold Game featured fractured offensive lines, an intrasquad scrimmage in Notre Dame Stadium a week earlier offered better looks at the tiered units. At the 27-second mark of this video, spot Schrauth lined up alongside preseason All-American left tackle Joe Alt, Schrauth taking on a rush from senior defensive tackle Rylie Mills while Alt squares off with senior end Jordan Botelho.

Only the imagination tells how the snap ended, cut off in the video’s edit, but those three other names are all clear-cut starters, which makes it apparent Schrauth likely will be, too.

That same week, a social-media video with a mic on new offensive line coach Joe Rudolph showed Schrauth lined up between Alt and fifth-year center and three-year starter Zeke Correll at least three times, as well as a fourth moment of those three in conversation with Rudolph.

In a starting role along an offensive line looking to return to Joe Moore Award-status, some name, image and likeness rewards should quickly flow Schrauth’s way.

The quote that will stick to Schrauth for years to come will be, quite simply, “It’s about hitting guys. I just like hitting guys.”

Schrauth said that with crutches at his side in his first media availability last winter as an early enrollee, and that mentality obviously fits the exact ethos wanted from an offensive lineman.

RELATED READING: Foot surgery can’t slow the roll of ND freshman O-line prodigy Schrauth

Rudolph saw that mentality, as well, when he arrived in South Bend this winter.

“What is different about Billy is he’s got an edge,” Rudolph said in mid-April. “He’s got an edge that truly brings a feeling of physicality, a toughness, a grit.”

“Schrauth played through a left foot injury in his senior season of high school. No further damage was done, but it was enough of a concern that he had surgery on the foot within a week of arriving on Notre Dame’s campus.

“Thus, Schrauth’s spring lifting was done largely one-legged. He missed all of spring practices.

“He may have garnered praise similar to Spindler a year ago, seen as a worthy contributor if the offensive line needed him. Instead, the focus is now on Schrauth getting fully healthy.

“A 300-pound teenager on a stressed foot warrants caution. There is no need to rush Schrauth back. Even if he could be listed on the two-deep, Notre Dame will have options at guard. From (Josh) Lugg, Carmody and Spindler, there is also fifth-year center Jarrett Patterson. Some speculation already expects Patterson to move to guard (and senior Zeke Correll to start at center). If so, that is another body ahead of Schrauth in that pecking order. If not, any long-term injury at guard would immediately reignite such speculation, again dropping Schrauth down the pecking order.

“For 2022, Schrauth may be out of the mix, but that should pay off for him in terms of health.”

Schrauth worked his way into the starting lineup in the spring, and establishing cohesion among that first-team unit will be an August priority after Notre Dame’s offensive line opened each of the last two seasons sluggishly. Thus, preseason tinkering should be kept to a minimum.

Rather, the Irish should drive forward with the look of, from left to right, Alt – Schrauth – Correll – fifth-year Andrew Kristofic – junior Blake Fisher.

Since his freshman year, Alt has been lauded for his presnap communication. Back then, Jarrett Patterson was starting at center, and he regularly commented on how Alt would be blunt and loud in what he saw before the snap, and that played a part in the Notre Dame offensive line finding form as the season progressed.

That should now come at Schrauth’s benefit, lining up between a pair of three-year starters. It will not just be Alt’s ability to set an edge and Correll’s willingness to stick his head into a blitzing linebacker that will set up Schrauth for success, but also their preparation before those pass rushers even begin their assaults. If Schrauth is in the right position and understands his assignment, his physical skills should take care of the rest. That is one thing in practice — where Rudolph admitted Schrauth still has growing to do — but an entirely different thing in games. Having veterans like Alt and Correll next to him may elevate Schrauth from a learning sophomore into a distinct offensive asset.

Schrauth needs to take advantage of those tutors in 2023 because Alt should not be around in 2024 and Correll may well not be, either. With Kristofic a fifth-year veteran already, though having eligibility through 2024, and it not being beyond possibility that Fisher could join Alt in the NFL draft, Schrauth might be Notre Dame’s only returning offensive lineman in 2024.

That is unlikely but not impossible.

Either way, the left side of the line will need to replace Alt, and part of that process will be Schrauth repaying the presnap perks he enjoys this season.

The summer countdown begins anew, Rylie Mills to Deion Colzie
No. 99 Rylie Mills, senior defensive tackle, moving back inside from end
No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, junior defensive tackle, one of three Irish DTs with notable experience
No. 95 Tyson Ford, sophomore defensive tackle, up 30 pounds from a year ago
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a senior defensive tackle now ‘fully healthy’ after a 2022 torn ACL
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, sophomore defensive end, former four-star recruit
No. 90* Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90* Boubacar Traore, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, the next starter at ‘TE U’
No. 86* Cooper Flanagan, incoming freshman tight end, four-star recruit
No. 85 Holden Staes, sophomore tight end, up 20 pounds in a year
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, senior tight end coming off a torn ACL
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, junior receiver, probable No. 1 target in 2023
No. 79 Tosh Baker, senior tackle, again a backup but next year …
No. 78 Pat Coogan, junior interior offensive lineman
No. 77 Ty Chan, sophomore offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, first-team All-American left tackle
No. 75 Chris Terek, incoming freshman offensive lineman, four-star recruit
Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter gives Notre Dame desperately needed backline depth
Penn State RB transfer Devyn Ford gives Notre Dame newly-needed backfield depth, experience

Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick to step down in 2024, to be succeeded by NBC’s Pete Bevacqua

Ball State v Notre Dame
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Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick will step down in early 2024 after more than 15 years in the role, the University announced Thursday morning. NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua will succeed Swarbrick, first joining Notre Dame this July as a special assistant to University President Fr. John Jenkins, focusing on athletics.

Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde first reported these plans.

“It speaks volumes about Notre Dame and Father Jenkins’ leadership that we can implement such a well-conceived succession plan and attract someone of Pete’s talent and experience,” Swarbrick said in a statement. “I have worked closely with Pete throughout his time at NBC and based on that experience, I believe he has the perfect skill set to help Notre Dame navigate the rapidly changing landscape that is college athletics today and be an important national leader as we look to the future. I look forward to helping Notre Dame’s student-athletes and coaches achieve their goals in the months ahead while also helping Pete prepare for his tenure as athletics director.”

Swarbrick took over the role in the summer of 2008. Since then he hired football head coaches Brian Kelly and Marcus Freeman, as well as women’s basketball coach Niele Ivey and men’s basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry, navigated Notre Dame’s partial entry into the ACC and kept the Irish actively engaged with the twice-expanded College Football Playoff.

Swarbrick told Sports Illustrated he would “love to do one more thing in the industry,” suggesting this is not an outright retirement for him, but it was important to him for Jenkins to choose the next AD.

“There’s a sense that it’s the appropriate time,” Swarbrick said. “It’s important for Father John to make the selection of the next AD, because I don’t know how much longer he’s going to go.”

A 1993 alumnus of Notre Dame, Bevacqua has worked at NBC since 2018, securing a Big Ten partnership that goes into effect this summer, as well as extending NBC’s deals with the NFL and the PGA Tour.

SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio At 2018 PGA Merchandise Show - Day 2
Pete Bevacqua, left, with former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz in 2018. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

“This is an unbelievable honor for me and a dream come true,” Bevacqua said in a statement. “With the exception of my family, nothing means more to me than the University of Notre Dame. As a Notre Dame alum, I have a keen understanding and deep appreciation of the lifetime, transformational benefit our student-athletes receive in a Notre Dame education, one that is unique and unlike any other institution in the world.”

NBC has broadcast every Notre Dame home game since the 1991 home opener with the current deal running through the 2025 season.

Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 75 Chris Terek, incoming freshman offensive lineman, four-star recruit

Chris Terek Notre Dame

Listed measurements: 6-foot-6, 295 pounds
2023-24 year, eligibility: An incoming freshman, Terek has all four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Terek will come nowhere near Notre Dame’s two-deep this season, needing to focus more on strength and conditioning while also getting a better feel for the idea of a move to an interior, something the Irish will at least consider with Terek.
Recruiting: A long-time Wisconsin commit, Terek reconsidered his college destination when the Badgers abruptly and rather surprisingly fired Paul Chryst. The four-star joined Notre Dame’s class right about the exact same time Wisconsin was announcing the hiring of Luke Fickell.

“Notre Dame, they’ve got a pretty crazy track record,” Terek told Inside ND Sports. They do very well with their O-linemen. (Former Irish offensive line) coach (Harry) Hiestand is awesome. And they seem like they’re really building something there.”

“His massive lower body — which Notre Dame strength and conditioning coordinator Matt Balis should enjoy molding — gives Terek ample power, something that Hiestand could turn loose on many Irish running plays. …

“Give Terek some time to develop physically before locking him into the two-deep anywhere.”


Do not expect to hear Terek’s name again until the spring. That is not a knock on him, not in any regard. Rather, it is an acknowledgment of what to expect from most freshmen offensive linemen and, in particular, what to expect from them when Notre Dame has 17 scholarship offensive linemen on the roster.

Five of them are freshmen, and while early enrollee Sam Pendleton could perhaps crack the paper version of a three-deep at center, none should press for playing time in 2023.

Terek, perhaps more than the others, will need the year with no expectations. He played right tackle in high school, and the Irish are likely to try him out on the interior. At 6-foot-5, he is not yet too long to play inside, but much more vertical growth could change that.

Learning the interior footwork will be enough of a task for Terek as a freshman, along with the usual strength and conditioning work.

With 17 scholarship offensive linemen knocking around, and three already committed in the next class, position competitions will be the norm moving forward, though there will naturally be front runners.

Current sophomore Billy Schrauth and fifth-year Andrew Kristofic should emerge as the starting guards this season. If Kristofic spurns his final year of eligibility in 2024, current junior Rocco Spindler should get next crack at a starting role.

Both Schrauth and Spindler could be around in 2025, with current junior Pat Coogan supplementing them if he has not grabbed hold at center. Only then can names like Terek, classmate Joe Otting and sophomore Ashton Craig begin to be considered.

All of which is to say, Notre Dame is in an enviable position. Offensive line talent is scarce on the transfer market. Individual players need to be staring at uphill trajectories like this if the program wants to be a genuine contender instead of just the 10th team into the expanded Playoff.

WHY No? 75?
Terek wore No. 77 in high school, but current sophomore Ty Chan owns those digits in the Irish locker room. With offensive linemen largely focused on numbers in the 70s, 75 is one of just two available numbers (along with No. 71).

Perhaps Terek drops to No. 67, but for this penciling him into the content calendar, 75 fits well enough.

The summer countdown begins anew, Rylie Mills to Deion Colzie
No. 99 Rylie Mills, senior defensive tackle, moving back inside from end
No. 98 Devan Houstan, early-enrolled four-star defensive tackle
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, junior defensive tackle, one of three Irish DTs with notable experience
No. 95 Tyson Ford, sophomore defensive tackle, up 30 pounds from a year ago
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a senior defensive tackle now ‘fully healthy’ after a 2022 torn ACL
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, sophomore defensive end, former four-star recruit
No. 90* Brenan Vernon, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90* Boubacar Traore, incoming freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, the next starter at ‘TE U’
No. 86* Cooper Flanagan, incoming freshman tight end, four-star recruit
No. 85 Holden Staes, sophomore tight end, up 20 pounds in a year
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, senior tight end coming off a torn ACL
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, junior receiver, probable No. 1 target in 2023
No. 79 Tosh Baker, senior tackle, again a backup but next year …
No. 78 Pat Coogan, junior interior offensive lineman
No. 77 Ty Chan, sophomore offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, first-team All-American left tackle
Rhode Island transfer safety Antonio Carter gives Notre Dame desperately needed backline depth
Penn State RB transfer Devyn Ford gives Notre Dame newly-needed backfield depth, experience