Notre Dame’s Opponents: North Carolina & Sam Howell on the verge of national notice

Sam Howell
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North Carolina may have done Notre Dame a favor in 2020, one that will pay off in 2021. When the Tar Heels matched the Irish touchdown for touchdown in an explosive fourth quarter on last year’s Black Friday, Notre Dame needed to find some defensive help.

It brought in freshman cornerback Clarence Lewis for then-junior Tariq Bracy. North Carolina would not score another touchdown.

Lewis finished the year strong and will start on Labor Day Eve, a long-term defensive piece uncovered partly because the Tar Heels were so explosive. The same would have been said about linebacker Marist Liufau — another defensive substitute in that second quarter, one who interrupted North Carolina’s run-pass option reads — until he reportedly suffered a leg injury in practice this week, something that may sideline him deep into the season, if not for all of it.

With or without Liufau, the Irish will lean on Lewis this year, including and especially in primetime on Oct. 30 when Sam Howell & Co. arrive in South Bend.

2020 REVIEW
A decent amount was expected of the Tar Heels entering last season — at least as much could be expected from anyone leading into that uncertain season — and they simultaneously exceeded those expectations and fell short of them. Falling too far behind to stage a fourth-quarter comeback at Florida State cost North Carolina any hopes of greatness, but anyone watching knew the Tar Heels were the better team in that 31-28 defeat, two dropped passes on a late drive dooming them.

Playing Notre Dame close and disassembling No. 9 Miami in the regular-season finale — the 62-26 final score suggests that game was far closer than it was — showed what North Carolina was capable of at its peak, a peak that further raised expectations moving forward.

Then the Tar Heels showed up in the Orange Bowl without many of their top players. Running backs Michael Carter and Javante Williams and receiver Dyami Brown all sat out the game, knowing their NFL draft prospects were well established. Without them, North Carolina played Texas A&M respectably, losing 41-27.

For a season with no massive accolades, it built up the Heels moving forward. In the chaos that was 2020, that is hardly something to fault.

WHAT NORTH CAROLINA LOST
Obviously, that offensive quartet, and that is rather impossible to diminish. They were the sparks of an offense that averaged 41.7 points per game.

Carter: 1,245 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns with 267 receiving yards with 2 more scores.
Williams: 1,140 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns with 305 receiving yards with 3 more scores.
Brown: 1,099 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns.
Newsome: 684 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns.

Junior quarterback Sam Howell gets and deserves much praise, but in 2020, his success was as much his own doing as it was those skill position players’ excellence.

When they all opted out of the Orange Bowl, they did this year’s team a favor. Of the 22 players who started that night, 21 return.

The Tar Heels also lost their defensive leader in linebacker Chazz Surratt, who had 91 tackles and six sacks last year.

OFFENSIVE SUMMARY
If Howell is not the country’s best quarterback, he is behind only Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, the Heisman favorite. The two will almost certainly be the first two passers drafted in 2022.

Howell can do little more statistically — an ACC-record 68 touchdowns in his first two years along with 7,227 passing yards — but orchestrating this rebuilding offense will be its own challenge. He should be able to do it, partly because of those Orange Bowl auditions and partly because of the transfer portal.

The Air Raid offense does not ask too much of its receivers. The routes are simple and clear-cut, usually headed deep downfield. Speed and decisiveness can go a long way. Josh Downs showed as much as a freshman in the Orange Bowl, taking four catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Beau Corrales averaged 18.3 yards per reception last year and at 6-foot-3, he should continue that trend. Once upon a time a high school teammate of Howell’s, Gavin Blackwell enrolled early this past winter and roundly impressed. Sophomore Khafre Brown may be faster than his aforementioned brother, the one who averaged 20 yards per snag last year.

Howell will have options, presuming he has found chemistry with them, and he will have time to find them playing behind an offensive line returning fully intact with 112 starts throughout it.

The other beneficiary of that offensive line will be Tennessee transfer running back Ty Chandler. He ran for more than 2,000 yards in four seasons with the Volunteers, thus filling an anticipated hole in North Carolina’s attack.

DEFENSIVE SUMMARY
Giving up 29.4 points per game and then losing the keystone is not usually a reason to think a defense will improve the following year, but the Tar Heels defense may surprise a bit.

Personnel-wise, it has finally developed some defensive line depth to better support tackles Ray Vohasek (8.5 tackles for loss with 3.5 sacks last year) and Tomari Fox (6 tackles for loss with 4 sacks) and has three linebackers with enough experience to possibly compensate for Surratt’s departure.

Jeremiah Gemmel: 78 tackles last year with 2.5 sacks and seven more quarterback hurries.
Tomon Fox: 35 tackles with 7 sacks and seven more quarterback hurries, back for one more season courtesy of the universal pandemic eligibility waiver.
Eugene Asante: A reserve last season who made 10 tackles in the Orange Bowl as Surratt’s replacement.

Yet, North Carolina’s defensive strength will be its secondary, namely its cornerbacks. Junior Storm Duck played in only two games last year due to injury but was considered one of the best pass defenders entering the season. To the Tar Heels’ delight, reclassified freshman Tony Grimes emerged as an equal option at cornerback in the second half of the season.

If the two are not the best cornerback tandem in the country, they are near the top.

North Carolina defensive coordinator Jay Bateman joined head coach Mack Brown’s staff after spending five years at Army, where his defense hardly had to play opposite the Black Knights’ triple-option offense. There was some philosophical adjustment necessary to complement the high-octane offense led by Howell, but establishing depth in the front seven will make the defense and offense better fits.

2021 OUTLOOK
Howell alone makes the Tar Heels a top-tier team. For all his prolific numbers, perhaps the most impressive one may be that he has thrown only 14 interceptions in his career. A free-wheeling maverick at times, Howell rarely puts North Carolina in bad positions while frequently dazzling with how-did-he-do-that moments. The latter half of that thought applied to the likes of Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston, but their recklessness often caused problems, too.

Nonetheless, the Tar Heels will probably not score touchdowns on 43.4 percent of their possessions again (No. 6 in the country) or gain at least 10 yards on 30 percent of their snaps. Incorporating the new set of receivers may take some time.

That improved defense should provide that time, and thus raise North Carolina’s ceiling.

Hence, PointsBet sets the Tar Heels’ season win total over/under at a lofty 9.5, and the schedule sets up in North Carolina’s favor.

If it can get past Virginia Tech in the opener, it will have five weeks of routs to find a groove before facing Miami and traveling to Notre Dame in October. Somewhere in there, though, some fourth-quarter magic will undoubtedly be necessary. It has been a staple of Howell’s career.

In 2019, the Tar Heels went 3-6 in one-score games. That luck did not flip in 2020, only evening out to 2-2. Some fortune in a closing drive or two could be all the Heels need to dream bigger than the Orange Bowl.

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NOTRE DAME’S OPPONENTS
Despite influx of transfers, Florida State looking at another ugly season
With nearly the entire roster returning, Toledo set to rocket
Purdue’s 2020 slide a sign of worrisome trends
Wisconsin looks to recapture the magic of Mertz’s debut throughout 2021
Cincinnati’s Playoff hopes hinge on two trips to Indiana
Virginia Tech and Justin Fuente need to bounce quick to avoid a big change
Clay Helton remains on the perpetual hot seat at USC, despite offensive stars

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    Leftovers & Links: Transfer portal opens fast, but slow for Notre Dame … for now; Mayer & Foskey status TBD

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    The transfer portal is open.

    The difference between this year and the previous few years is that there is a set window for undergraduate players to enter the database better and more ominously known as the portal. And that window began today, Dec. 5.

    There was uncertainty about how this opening day would go. Like the first moments of National Signing Day, with announcement after announcement after announcement? With a trickle throughout the day and the week? Would players be out of the portal (again, it’s just a database) as quickly as they entered it?

    Through half a day of it, the answers are all somewhere in between.

    For Notre Dame’s concerns, only two players have jumped into the portal thus far today: junior quarterback Drew Pyne, as expected since his announcement on Friday, and freshman cornerback Jayden Bellamy. More will assuredly follow in the coming month, likely this week if not even yet Monday night.

    “We’ve had individual meetings with a lot of our players,” Irish head coach Marcus Freeman said Sunday night. “Really just talked to them about taking it a little bit at a time to kind of figure out their plans for the transfer portal, for playing in the bowl game and other decisions they have to make.”

    Some players already have homes — most notably, Phil Jurkovec may finally get his return to Notre Dame Stadium next season, date to be determined, having already committed to Pittsburgh — while others are piling up. The quarterbacks draw the most attention, and understandably so, with North Carolina State’s Devin Leary joining the fray on Monday, perhaps a name for Irish fans to note.

    The possibility of Leary, of course, is presumably part of why Pyne is transferring and not playing in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 30 against No. 19 South Carolina (3:30 ET; ABC). Along with names like Texas’ Hudson Card and Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong (though the Syracuse rumors around Armstrong are noticeable and logical), Freeman has quarterback candidates to chase and intends to do so.

    “We had a conversation this week, myself and Drew, as well as many of the other players that we have on our team in terms of our intentions, my intentions into certain positions, look for transfers,” Freeman said. “I’m always looking for ways to enhance our roster. I always want to be up front and honest, and I was with Drew, told him that we would possibly look at taking a transfer quarterback.

    “I did not want him to leave, but he made the decision to enter the portal, and I definitely respect his decision.”

    With the quarterback carousel moving at lightning speed — Michigan’s Cade McNamara to Iowa and Jurkovec to Pittsburgh already underscoring how quickly that specific position will develop each offseason; Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei is widely expected to land somewhere on the West Coast — Pyne skipping the Gator Bowl makes sense. He needs to secure his next position now, not in January.

    “What he has done for our program, the ability for him to step in week 2 and throughout the season, he did a tremendous job,” Freeman said.

    In Pyne’s stead, Freeman said sophomore quarterback and initial 2022 starter Tyler Buchner is “full go.” Now, let’s add in this space’s continued disclaimer that coaches are almost always more optimistic publicly about injury timelines than they should be, and all initial expectations for Buchner’s return from a serious shoulder sprain, one that necessitated surgery, ruled out a bowl game. But, Buchner has participated in Notre Dame’s two practices this week.

    “We still have three quarterbacks on the roster,” Freeman said. “You have Tyler Buchner, Steve Angeli and Ron Powlus. All have been practicing the past two days that we practiced and could see any of the three play. They’ll all be ready to play.”

    Neither junior tight end Michael Mayer nor senior defensive end Isaiah Foskey partook in those practices, something Freeman said was intentional as Notre Dame gears some of its bowl prep toward developing younger players. It also gives the two biggest NFL draft candidates on the Irish roster a chance to consider if they’ll play against the Gamecocks.

    “We had a plan to sit out some guys as recovery for these last two practices of development and trying to really focus on the younger guys and developing the younger guys on our team,” Freeman said. “So I told both of those guys just take the week and take a couple of days to really think about what they want to do for their future.”

    Freeman outright acknowledging the possibility of Mayer and/or Foskey skipping the bowl game represents both the changing of the times and the program’s understanding of the logic to such a decision.

    “We will discuss it sometime this week, probably early this week.”

    ON JAYDEN BELLAMY
    Bellamy was one of three cornerbacks signed by Nore Dame last recruiting cycle, and while the other two blossomed into starters — Benjamin Morrison snagging five interceptions in the final two Irish home games and Jaden Mickey stepping in for Cam Hart at USC — Bellamy never saw the field.

    With Hart returning next season, though missing the bowl game due to a shoulder injury, Notre Dame’s top three cornerbacks for 2023 are established, and there remain three sophomores on the depth chart for Bellamy to compete with and five defensive backs committed in the recruiting class that should sign on the dotted line on Dec. 21, when the early signing period commences.

    RELATED READING: Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 23 Jayden Bellamy, early-enrolled freshman cornerback

    UPDATE: ON Osita Ekwonu
    Senior defensive end Osita Ekwonu joined Bellamy and Pyne in the portal late Monday, finishing his Irish career with six tackles in 16 appearances, two of those tackles coming on Senior Day against Boston College, his only defensive snaps in his Notre Dame career. In his previous 15 games, Ekwonu had appeared on only special teams.

    An Achilles injury sidelined Ekwonu in 2021, costing him some traction on the Irish depth chart amid its most talented position group.

    His transfer can illustrate some of the folly around transfer portal discourse, something this space somewhat and regrettably encouraged with an embedded tweet on Monday. When pointing out only half — give or take — of portal entrants eventually find homes, it is too easy to ignore that many entrants are former walk-ons looking to elongate their playing careers or graduates who would have needed to transfer following their undergraduate careers all along, including long before terrifying concepts like a “transfer portal” existed. Ekwonu would have transferred 10 years ago, too, but his next stop always would have been uncertain.

    Those numbers also neglect to remember there are more players than ever eligible thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver. The vaguest of math suggests it is up to 20 percent more than usual roster size allocates for. As a result, some players are inevitably not going to have homes even if they want to keep playing.

    Maybe that will not be Ekwonu; the intention here is not to suggest his career is over. The intention is to remind that Ekwonu would have been transferring somewhere as soon as graduate students were allowed immediate eligibility after a transfer, a rule instituted in 2006.

    RELATED READING: Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury

    ON TIMING
    This outgoing roster flux will continue for a week or two, and then there may be a few more departures immediately after the bowl game, though most players will want to get a head start on the transfer process.

    Freeman is in communication with all those weighing options, so few possibilities should catch him completely off-guard, but he is not pressuring players to decide today or tomorrow.

    “We haven’t set a firm date, deadline, but we told them, … we need to kind of have an idea of what the future plans are for certain guys,” Freeman said. “For our guys that are deciding if they’re going to play or opt out for the NFL draft, they understand the sooner the better. I just didn’t want them to have to rush into a decision.”

    Players debating the NFL draft or another season at Notre Dame are more likely to make that decision following the bowl game, completing the second wave of outgoing decisions.

    The timing of incoming transfer possibilities will reveal much about what Freeman has or has not been able to accomplish in working with the academic side of the University in the past year. The greatest struggle for Notre Dame admitting many incoming transfers has not been their academic standing, although that itself is a clear hurdle, but the delay in academic decision-makers communicating the academic standing to potential transfers.

    Traffic in the portal moves fast; making highly-sought playmakers wait to hear if they will lose one semester of academic progress or two if they transfer to Notre Dame is a sure way to lose those players.

    So if a receiver or a quarterback — undergraduates, to be clear — commits to the Irish this week, even if there is no official Notre Dame welcome, that would indicate Freeman has made headway.

    INSIDE THE IRISH
    Notre Dame will face South Carolina in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 30
    Drew Pyne to transfer from Notre Dame; Tyler Buchner reportedly a bowl possibility
    Notre Dame adds a fourth receiver commit to recruiting class, helping a roster need
    CB Cam Hart out for Notre Dame’s bowl game, but will return in 2023
    Things We Learned: Notre Dame’s offensive shortcomings again highlighted by an explosive counterpart
    Chris Terek’s flip from Wisconsin gives Notre Dame five OL commits in third straight class
    Highlights: USC 38, Notre Dame 27 — Arm, legs and foot of Caleb Williams too much for Irish upset bid
    USC defense, Caleb Williams’ Heisman-worthy performance never give Notre Dame an opening

    OUTSIDE READING
    College football’s transfer portal window is open. Buckle up for a frantic 45 days
    Several Stanford players set to transfer as search for David Shaw’s replacement continues
    Transferring Western Michigan D-lineman Fiske set to visit Notre Dame
    Inside Luke Fickell’s move to Wisconsin, why he decided to leave Cincinnati now

    Notre Dame will face South Carolina in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 30

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    Notre Dame and South Carolina will meet for the first time in nearly 40 years in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on Dec. 30 at 3:30 ET (ABC). The Irish and Gamecocks have not played since 1984, a South Carolina win in South Bend. That was part of Notre Dame’s struggles (going 12-11 in 1984 and 1985) that led to Lou Holtz being hired; Holtz, of course, went on to coach the Gamecocks for six seasons after he left the Irish.

    Though the No. 21 Irish (8-4) finished the season strongly, including competing gamely at USC a week ago in a 38-27 loss, a driving storyline over the next month will be wondering if head coach Marcus Freeman can handle this bowl game better than the second half of the Fiesta Bowl faceplant last year in his first game as Notre Dame’s leader.

    No. 19 South Carolina (8-4) enjoyed an even more impressive finish to the season, knocking both Tennessee and Clemson out of the College Football Playoff in its final two games of the season. Not that gambling spreads mean anything on the football field, but to give an idea how unexpected those two wins were, realize the Gamecocks were expected to lose them by a combined 37.5 points and instead won them by a combined 26 points.

    There may be some rough parallels between South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer and Freeman, though Beamer is a year ahead in his head-coaching career.

    Beamer was an unexpected hire in Columbia in 2021, never having been a head coach before and most recently the associate head coach and tight ends coach at Oklahoma for three seasons. The Gamecocks went 7-6 in his first year, his head-coaching inexperience perhaps rearing its head as they lost their first three games against Power-Five competition and four of their first five, the exception coming against worse-off Vanderbilt.

    Thus, the surge to end the 2022 season stands out, particularly since it again took until October to notch a win against a Power-Five opponent, losing to both Arkansas and, more understandably, Georgia in September.

    South Carolina found its most success this season through the air, led by former Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler. He averaged 230.5 yards per game and 7.9 yards per attempt while completing 66.6 percent of his passes. The Gamecocks managed just 123.3 rushing yards per game and 3.8 yards per attempt.

    Their rushing defense is one of the worst in the country, which could play right into the Irish offensive strength. Opponents gained 0.194 expected points per rush attempt against South Carolina, the No. 123 ranking in the country, per cfb-graphs.com.

    Notre Dame fell to Ohio State, 21-10, to open Freeman’s genuine tenure, a worthwhile loss though one quickly diminished when the Irish fell to Marshall just a week later. Of course, the Buckeyes’ relied on that season-opening win to successfully burgeon their Playoff résumé today.

    The Irish already know they will be without both senior cornerback Cam Hart and junior quarterback Drew Pyne in the bowl game. Hart announced last week he will return for a fifth season at Notre Dame, but a shoulder injury will sideline him this month, while Pyne announced Friday he intends to enter the transfer portal, presumably when it officially opens tomorrow.

    Star tight end Michael Mayer will almost certainly opt out of the bowl game, his top-20 draft stock assured, and senior defensive end Isaiah Foskey could logically, as well.

    Notre Dame nearly ended up in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 28, per reports. The ACC could place the Irish in any of three bowls, the top tier of ACC-affiliated bowls below the Orange Bowl, with some input from the bowls and from the University. That give-and-take seemingly delayed the announcement for a stretch of Sunday.

    Drew Pyne to transfer from Notre Dame; Tyler Buchner reportedly a bowl possibility

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    Notre Dame may start its third quarterback of the season in its bowl game after junior Drew Pyne announced he will transfer from the program on Friday. A graduate, Pyne has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

    ESPN’s Pete Thamel first reported Pyne’s intention to transfer, with Pyne soon thereafter taking to Twitter to confirm as much.

    “One of my proudest honors is to have been a student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame,” Pyne wrote. “… It’s time for me to take on a new challenge, and I will be entering the transfer portal.”

    Pyne took over as the Irish starter after sophomore Tyler Buchner suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the second week of the season. Pyne went 8-2 as a starter, completing 64.6 percent of his passes for 2,021 yards and 22 touchdowns this season.

    His final action at Notre Dame may have been Pyne’s best game of his career, throwing for 318 yards and three touchdowns at USC while completing 23 of 26 passes, the second-most accurate game in Irish history.

    He appeared in two games in 2021, stepping in for Jack Coan when he struggled against Wisconsin and Cincinnati. Keeping Pyne to minimal appearances in 2021 was intentional, preserving a season of eligibility for him.

    That eligibility will now be used elsewhere.

    Without Pyne, Notre Dame will have freshman Steve Angeli and possibly Buchner available in the bowl game, a location and opponent to be announced on Sunday. Football Scoop’s John Brice reported Friday afternoon that Buchner will play in the bowl game, though perhaps that optimism should be measured throughout practice this month.

    Regardless, the Irish are expected to pursue an incoming transfer quarterback this month. With names like Texas’ Hudson Card and Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong already in the transfer portal, Notre Dame will have a few options to chase.

    That is why Pyne’s transfer makes sense, even if he spoke earnestly about the bowl game following that 38-27 loss in Los Angeles.

    “I think we have a lot to play for,” he said. “We’re going to be in a bowl game, I want to send all the seniors out the right way. We have a lot to play for. We have another game, I’m going to prepare as hard as I can for that and finish the season off on a positive note.”

    Reversing course from those words is understandable given they came minutes after a competitive game, and the last week has shown Pyne how quickly the quarterback transfer market will move.

    In the game of musical chairs that is quarterbacks moving across the country, Pyne waiting until after the bowl game to transfer could serve only to leave him with fewer destinations as options. Not that Pyne may have been looking at Iowa, but the fact that one Power Five starting gig appears to have already been filled by Michigan transfer Cade McNamara presumably underscored the rapid nature of this process.

    Understandably, Pyne needs to make the most of this opportunity, coming off a strong season as Notre Dame’s starter but knowing he is unlikely to start for the Irish in 2023. Depending on the level of transfer joining the Irish and Buchner’s health, it was distinctly possible Pyne would be Notre Dame’s third quarterback next year.

    For someone who grew up as a Notre Dame fan, specifically a Brady Quinn fan, assuredly this decision was not an easy one for Pyne.

    He had a lengthy and notable offer sheet coming out of high school, but Pyne at his best this season would not draw interest from the likes of Texas A&M, Alabama and LSU as he did three years ago. It may be more pertinent to point out he is a Connecticut native, so schools in the northeast could be most logical for his landing spot.

    The Irish should also have quarterback commit Kenny Minchey in the pecking order this spring, expected to sign with Notre Dame on Dec. 21 when the early signing period begins.

    RELATED READING: Notre Dame’s QB room creates a friendly trust that has been crucial to Pyne’s success
    Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 10 Drew Pyne, junior quarterback

    Notre Dame adds a fourth receiver commit to recruiting class, helping a roster need

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    Notre Dame is addressing its most glaring roster deficiency with a numbers approach. The Irish had only five true scholarship receivers for much of this season, a number they will nearly match in next year’s freshman class alone after adding a fourth receiver commitment on Thursday. Consensus three-star receiver Kaleb Smith (Rick Reedy High School; Frisco, Texas) announced he will join Notre Dame’s class, and he should sign with the Irish on Dec. 21 when the early signing period begins.

    Smith was committed to Texas Tech for more than nine months before he backed off that pledge in early November. Marcus Freeman does not welcome official visitors who are committed to other programs, so if Smith wanted to take an official visit to South Bend to watch Notre Dame play Clemson, he needed to open up his recruitment.

    The Irish 35-13 win against the then-No. 4 Tigers assuredly helped tip the scales away from his homestate Texas Tech.

    Otherwise, Smith has hardly been recruited by anyone. The only other Power Five program to chase him was Baylor when current Notre Dame receivers coach Chansi Stuckey was there.

    Listed at only 6-foot and 168 pounds, it is easy to pencil in Smith as a slot receiver, but he is also willing to go up in the air to get the ball. His highlight footage features him repeatedly and astonishingly open.

    His size, or lack thereof, will make Smith unique among the quartet of incoming signees. By snagging four receivers in this class, the Irish are proactively fixing an undeniable roster problem. In last year’s Fiesta Bowl, Notre Dame had only four receivers available. Through most of this season, in part due to injuries to Avery Davis and Joe Wilkins, the Irish had a total of six receivers available, including former walk-on Matt Salerno.

    While Braden Lenzy will not return for the Irish in 2023, current sophomores Jayden Thomas, Deion Colzie and Lorenzo Styles should all come back, along with current freshman Tobias Merriweather. With these four commitments, a position group of eight may allow Notre Dame to have a genuine two-deep.

    If signing four receivers in a class and seven in two years seems like an unsustainable influx, keep in mind two things. First of all, the Irish desperately need to find receiver depth. Lenzy was famously and admittedly exhausted at the end of that Fiesta Bowl faceplant 11 months ago. One more injury this season would have further crippled Notre Dame’s passing game in 2022. Secondly, the one-time transfer allowance will make departures from the program both more common and more alluring to the players. Natural attrition will occur.

    RELATED READING: A third four-star receiver commitment, Jaden Greathouse, elevates Notre Dame’s class of 2023 from good to Great
    Four-star receiver Rico Flores Jr.’s commitment gives Notre Dame some receiver hope for 2023
    Four-star Texas receiver Braylon James gives Notre Dame needed offensive piece in class of 2023