While Notre Dame lost safety Kyle Hamilton and running back Kyren Williams to early entry into the NFL draft, both expected and understandable departures, it can be argued at least two of the 2022 Irish opponents lost more to underclassmen jumping to the professional ranks.
Ohio State, North Carolina and USC lost exorbitant amounts of production, particularly those latter two, the types of which cannot be replaced by an All-American transferring in from Northwestern or a committee of capable running backs.
Of course, this list is not the end-all, be-all it used to be. It is comprehensive in terms of young players heading to the NFL now that the deadline for early entry has passed, but the combination of the universal pandemic eligibility waiver and immediate eligibility upon transferring have made roster turnover a year-round conversation. Nonetheless, this list still highlights most of the greatest talents leaving a team. Successful players transferring are still rare, if not also headline material. (See: USC’s quarterback situation this month and especially this week.)
But the rhythms of roster construction have not been entirely abandoned, and when a player heads to the NFL early, he typically leaves behind a hole. The coaching staff welcomes that jump, because it means the player was so successful in his time on campus, but when planning years in advance, most coaches pencil players in for four-year stints, not three. And rarely does someone like Brandon Joseph fit into a Hamilton-sized hole so well.
Those opponents’ losses …
— Receiver Garrett Wilson: 70 catches for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns this season after tallying 43 receptions for 723 yards and six touchdowns in just eight games last year.
— Running back Master Teague: Averaged 5.3 yards per carry in seven games this season after becoming the Buckeyes’ bellcow last season with 104 rushes in seven games. The NFL listed Teague among those granted “special eligibility” to enter the 2022 NFL draft, though he played four seasons at Ohio State, suggesting the list of 73 players is a bit more comprehensive than usual due to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver.
— Offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere: The No. 1 tackle in the recruiting class of 2018 and once pursued aggressively by Notre Dame. Petit-Frere played in 22 games across the last three seasons.
— Quarterback Sam Howell: Threw for 92 touchdowns in his three seasons at Chapel Hill, the player who most contributed to the Tar Heels’ quick return to respectability. Howell averaged 9.2 yards per pass attempt across the last three seasons, and added another 17 touchdowns with his legs.
— Defensive back Kyler McMichael: Garnered the most attention last season with six passes defended in just seven games, the kind of shutdown corner that is then often avoided by opposing quarterbacks his entire junior season.
— Guard Joshua Ezeudu: Started 28 games across the last three seasons and earned All-ACC honors each of the last two years.
— Running back Tyler Allgeier: Took 276 carries for 1,601 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, only two years after he spent most of the season at linebacker. Allgeier finishes his BYU career with 37 total touchdowns.
— Receiver Justyn Ross: Missed the entire 2020 season due to a congenital fusion condition in his neck and spine that required surgery and nearly ended his career before he responded with 46 catches in 2021 for 514 yards and three touchdowns. The consensus about the 6-foot-4 Ross is that he has much more talent than that injury and then Clemson’s offensive struggles this year allowed him to showcase.
— Defensive back Andrew Booth: Three interceptions and 14 passes defended in the last two seasons.
— Tackle Tyler Vrabel: Three-year starter, mostly at left tackle, with All-ACC honors each of the last three seasons. Son of Mike Vrable, Tennessee Titans head coach. Vrabel’s decision leaves Boston College with only one returning starter on its offensive line.
— Receiver Drake London: 15 catches for 171 yards against Notre Dame in October, an intentional allowance by the Irish, as they simply tried to keep London from making big plays. London finished 2021 with 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games.
— Linebacker Drake Jackson: A pass-rushing threat since his freshman season, Jackson finished his collegiate career with 12.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss.
— Defensive back Isaac Taylor-Stuart: 39 tackles, one interception and three passes broken up in 2021.
— Defensive back Chris Steele: 33 tackles, two interceptions and three passes broken up in 2021. Between Taylor-Stuart and Steeler, the Trojans will need to replace two starting cornerbacks.
— Punter Ben Griffiths: Yes, you read that correctly, the Australian punter is entering the NFL draft after only three seasons of college football.
huge. and i hope this inspires others (and i hope they’re given opportunities) https://t.co/yx4GoaOSQO
— mike taddow (@MikeTaddow) January 23, 2022