Leftovers & Links: Notre Dame’s offensive depth chart entering spring practices

Braden Lenzy
ACC Media
1 Comment

Notre Dame’s recent surge in recruiting should not take away from the progress it has made as a “developmental program” these last four years. That was former-and-now-again recruiting coordinator Mike Elston’s phrase on National Signing Day, and it is meant as a compliment to the backbone of the Irish program and its 43-8 record since the 2016 debacle.

Combining a renewed four-star focus with that development should yield even better results. And when Drew Brees calls those home games down the line, he may be someone to whom the development particularly resonates.

When asked last week if Notre Dame showed him any interest coming out of high school during the Bob Davie era, he made it clear the Irish did not and he did not fault them for that.

“There was nothing memorable about me as a high school quarterback, or certainly nothing that would have jumped off the page,” Brees said. “… I wasn’t really recruited by anybody. I was recruited by Purdue and Kentucky, and then I’d say the only reason I was recruited by those guys is because they had two brand new head coaches.”

Two aspects of that 24-year-old recruitment remain relevant. One, the development, and two, Brees caught Joe Tiller’s eye at Purdue and Hal Mumme’s eye at Kentucky because they both ran spread offenses. More than showering additional expected praise on Brees’ arrival in the ND on NBC booth, this is meant to highlight in the most extreme of terms how development can accomplish as much, if not more, as recruiting.

The players Notre Dame has about finished developing will showcase their raw measurables in a pro day on March 31, and it will be broadcast on NBCSN at 11 a.m. ET. While perhaps enhanced and emphasized by the coronavirus pandemic (and thus the lack of an NFL combine), the televised pro day was a topic first mentioned a couple years ago. Keep next Wednesday’s lunch hour clear if wanting to watch a few spandex sprints from Ian Book, Liam Eichenberg, Aaron Banks, Tommy Kraemer, Robert Hainsey, Tommy Tremble, Brock Wright, Javon McKinley, Ben Skowronek, Daelin Hayes, Ade Ogundeji, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Nick McCloud and Shaun Crawford.

Now who will replace that quarterback, two receivers, tight end and four offensive linemen this spring? A best guess, as of the week before spring practice commences, at a three-ish deep depth chart …

Quarterback: Graduate transfer Jack Coan, sophomore Drew Pyne, junior Brendon Clark, early-enrolled freshman Tyler Buchner.
Running back: Junior Kyren Williams, sophomore Chris Tyree, senior C’Bo Flemister.

Field receiver: Senior Braden Lenzy, sophomore Jordan Johnson, sophomore Jay Brunelle.
Boundary receiver: Senior Kevin Austin (foot), senior Joe Wilkins.
Slot receiver: Graduate student Avery Davis, senior Lawrence Keys, sophomore Xavier Watts, early-enrolled freshman Lorenzo Styles.
Tight end: Sophomore Michael Mayer, senior George Takacs, sophomore Kevin Bauman.

Left tackle: Senior Jarret Patterson (foot), junior Andrew Kristofic.
Left guard: Graduate student Dillan Gibbons, early-enrolled freshman Rocco Spindler.
Center: Junior Zeke Correll.
Right guard: Junior Quinn Carroll, senior John Dirksen, early-enrolled freshman Blake Fisher.
Right tackle: Graduate student Josh Lugg, sophomore Tosh Baker, sophomore Michael Carmody, early-enrolled freshman Caleb Johnson.

Admittedly, much of that offensive line alignment is speculation. As much as the Irish need some receivers to step forward and live up to some version of expectations (Lenzy, Austin though injured, Johnson, Styles), settling on a reliable and cohesive offensive line will be the dominant priority this spring.

But spring practice does not begin until the weekend. Between now and then, another eight second-round basketball games today (Monday) followed by a week of hyping up a Saturday and Sunday filled with more basketball. We glamorize this tournament — there are just as many absurd moments in college football in September, but they do not hold the mass appeal — and yet it lives up to that billing.

Rutgers’ collapse was riveting, Oregon State’s dominance unexpected and Ohio State’s no-show comical. Did some of these lead to a weekend light on reading around here? Yes, yes they did, and given the last 54 weeks, I do not apologize.

Hopefully, today’s eight games bring just as much a distraction.

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