Notre Dame has pulled off the realistic best-case scenario this week in convincing players with NFL potential to return for another year of college. The Irish completed that stretch when senior center Jarrett Patterson announced Sunday he will return in 2022, leading a suddenly veteran, experienced and deep offensive line with a new, yet old, offensive line coach. Along with fifth-year offensive lineman Josh Lugg, senior receiver Braden Lenzy, junior defensive end Isaiah Foskey, senior defensive end Justin Ademilola and senior defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, the Notre Dame coaching staff completed a sweep in re-recruiting players with genuine draft debates to consider.
Patterson has started 34 games in his career, all at center, every game of the last three seasons except for the last four in 2020 after he suffered a foot injury. With his return, Notre Dame will now have 74 starts returning along its offensive line and four returning starters, not counting freshman tackle Blaker Fisher who did start two games this season.
In other words, the 2022 Irish offensive line could be one of vintage form from the season’s outset, particularly if reported hire Harry Hiestand instills the fundamentals he was known for in his first stretch as Notre Dame’s offensive line coach.
I cannot explain how grateful I am for the past three and a half years at this university and what it has done for me on and off the field.
So let’s do it one more time 🍀 pic.twitter.com/rj0oPuIBXk
— Jarrett Patterson (@jpattND) January 9, 2022
At first glance, the Irish offensive line alignment on Sept. 3 at Ohio State should be, from left to right: freshman All-American Joe Alt, Andrew Kristofic, Patterson, sixth-year Josh Lugg and Fisher.
At the moment, that line would also include guard Zeke Correll and tackles Michael Carmody and Tosh Baker as reserves with starting experience, not to mention current sophomore Rocco Spindler, who seemed to be knocking on the door for playing time last spring before Cain Madden transferred in from Marshall.
Fifth-year linebacker Isaiah Pryor declared for the NFL draft on Sunday, a knock to Irish depth but an understandable decision given Pryor’s professional prospects were unlikely to improve greatly with a sixth season in college, and six seasons in college is a lot to ask of any healthy player when even just a practice squad paycheck could await.
Pryor finished 2021 with 42 tackles, including three for loss, by far his most action since transferring from Ohio State before the 2020 season. Pryor hardly played besides special teams in his first season at Notre Dame, making just eight tackles, but new defensive coordinator, now head coach, Marcus Freeman found roles for Pryor in 2021.
He would have one year of eligibility remaining thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver.
Time to make dreams reality 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/lyqbazxRbT
— Isaiah Pryor (@isaiah_pryor10) January 9, 2022
NFL-bound with eligibility remaining: Safety Kyle Hamilton, running back Kyren Williams, receiver Kevin Austin, linebacker Isaiah Pryor.
Returning after pondering the NFL: Receiver Braden Lenzy, safety Houston Griffith, offensive lineman Josh Lugg, defensive end Justin Ademilola, defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, safety DJ Brown, defensive end Isaiah Foskey, center Jarrett Patterson.
Expected to transfer out: Safety Khari Gee, linebacker Shayne Simon, punter Jay Bramblett, linebacker Paul Moala, offensive lineman Quinn Carroll, cornerback Caleb Offord.