Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard

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Listed measurements: 6-foot-5 ¼, 295 pounds.
2022-23 year, eligibility: A senior, Kristofic has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Depth Chart: Kristofic started the final seven games of the 2021 season at left guard, so until further notice, it is expected he will start there again when Notre Dame opens its 2022 season at Ohio State on Sept. 3 (in 96 days).
Recruiting: The Irish coaching staff first started pursuing Kristofic because it was devotedly recruiting his high school teammate, quarterback Phil Jurkovec. That gave Notre Dame a head start on the likes of Clemson, Ohio State and Wisconsin. By the time they were chasing the All-American and consensus four-star tackle, the Irish had been after him for quite some time.

CAREER TO DATE
Kristofic played in four games as both a freshman and a sophomore, none of the appearances particularly notable. Then halfway through the 2021 season, he stepped in for classmate Zeke Correll at left guard. The combination of Kristofic and then-freshman left tackle Joe Alt entering the starting lineup steadied the Notre Dame offensive line.

Then-head coach Brian Kelly repeatedly pointed to their size. Kristofic and Correll are both currently listed at 295 pounds, but Kristofic stands more than two inches taller, and Correll has long struggled to keep weight on.

QUOTES
Kristofic’s early-career cameos usually came at left tackle late in a blowout. His height, and respective length, combined with his quick feet appropriate for a high school basketball player all made him a prototypical future tackle.

But he was also moved around in spring and preseason practices to create a facsimile of depth along the offensive line. When a new look was needed at guard, Kristofic was clearly up to the task, not that he couldn’t have done it better.

Now, those reps at guard are exactly what Kristofic is using to improve his game at his newfound position.

“After playing guard for the second half of the season, it gave me a lot of things to work on at the end of the season,” he said in April. “Go back and watch the film of all the games I was in and really try to hone in the new position. Having time played in actual games now gave me a lot of good film to review.”

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
The continued lack of a deal with Bass Pro Shops for much of the Irish offensive line, more than a year after these delights first graced the internet, is one of the greatest failings of the early NIL era.

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“If he impresses this preseason, he could become the line-wide utility man, a role that Lugg embraced the last two years and then buoyed him into a starting role. …

“The bounty along Notre Dame’s offensive line is so thorough it comes at the expense of players like Kristofic. A four-star once pursued by the sport’s blue bloods and the No. 32 offensive tackle in his class, per rivals.com, Kristofic enters his junior year entrenched as no better than the fourth Irish offensive tackle. Sophomore Michael Carmody, junior Quinn Carroll and even freshman Caleb Johnson all loom as candidates who could leapfrog Kristofic when Lugg finishes his career. Not to mention, the runner-up of the Baker-Fisher competition to start at left tackle in 2021 will be in the mix to step forward at right tackle as Lugg’s successor.

“But Kristofic could also presumably start at most programs in the FBS.

“Program growth like this is a good thing, and transfers with immediate eligibility make it so that growth does not cost individuals their chances elsewhere.

“A potential Kristofic transfer would not come before the 2021 season, and his play as the utility man could change this entire conversation, but a transfer at some point in 2022 might not be too shocking. With four seasons of eligibility remaining currently, his possible years of service available would be appealing to most teams.”

2022 OUTLOOK
Perhaps a mid-year position change to find a new starter should not be viewed as a long-term plan. Kristofic’s entry into the starting line last season unquestionably helped Notre Dame chase a Playoff berth, but that was more a move out of desperation than it was thought out.

Returned offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is not one to do anything out of desperation. He will weigh all his options heading into the 2022 season in order to have his line ready in Columbus, one of the few spots on that field where the Irish should actually have an edge.

That could include Kristrofic starting. It could include fifth-year center Jarrett Patterson moving to guard and Correll starting at the fulcrum. Hiestand has options.

In the middle of the summer, it is difficult to figure which of those options is most likely and which has current traction because … it is the middle of the summer.

Kristofic will get his fair shake, though. That is what has changed for him since August of 2021. Back then, there was never any thought of Kristofic as a starter. Now, the idea of him as a starter is one that Notre Dame is nothing worse than comfortable with.

DOWN THE ROAD
A year ago, the concept of a transfer was pondered at some point in 2022. That phrasing was deliberate, to suggest it could come following either the 2021 season or the 2022 season. Kristofic’s starting role last year ruled out the former, but the uncertainty heading into the 2022 season keeps the thought afloat that he may leave after this year.

There would be no harm in that, for him or for the Irish. Notre Dame has future guards, namely sophomore Rocco Spindler and early-enrolled freshman Billy Schrauth. Offensive line recruiting never slipped during Hiestand’s four years elsewhere.

If Kristofic looks at 2023 and doubts he will start, then he should transfer. It will be best for him, and he already has a degree in hand. He will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

The numbers crunch very much still coming as players like Kristofic have an extra year of eligibility thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver will make some of those transfers more valuable for the programs welcoming the players and more needed for the programs saying farewell. The concept of a former starting offensive lineman heading to play somewhere else may make fans uneasy, but it is best for the players to have that option. Notre Dame will be alright; there is plenty of talented offensive line depth to enjoy.

However, if Kristofic starts in 2022, returning to do so in 2023 could set him up to be an NFL draft pick, simply because multi-year starters along the Irish offensive line are de facto draft picks.

NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 89 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77* Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery

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    The lull of National Signing Day underscores need to move the early signing period

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    The early-morning chaos of today’s National Signing Day did not disappear with the implementation of the December “early” signing period in the 2018 recruiting cycle. It just moved six weeks earlier.

    In 2014, waking up at 6:45 a.m. ET to be logged on and publishing at 7 a.m. led to noticing one expected recruit had not yet signed with Notre Dame by 8 a.m. Pointing that out and reminding the world Michigan State was making a late push led to an Irish media relations staffer reaching out to quietly say something to the extent of, “Just letting the young man have his moment at school.”

    In 2017, less than two weeks after taking over this gig, waking up at 3 a.m. CT to churn through 2,000 words before signings could begin becoming official eventually led to napping through Brian Kelly’s Signing Day press conference.

    Nothing changed 10 months later. That December, the afternoon of Dec. 22, the Friday before Christmas, was spent waiting for receiver Braden Lenzy to officially choose Notre Dame over Oregon. Sitting at your parents’ kitchen table not helping your niece make a gingerbread house because recruiting-obsessed fans harassed a player through two de-commitments is not a strong way to conjure up holiday spirit.

    Coaches across the country advocated for the earlier signing period, claiming it would allow high-school seniors to make their collegiate decisions official earlier on in their senior years, particularly when the prospects had already made up their minds on where to play football at the next level. That was all optics, if even that.

    These high schoolers now make their decision official just six weeks earlier. In the preps football calendar, those six weeks are meaningless. Both the December signing period and today, the traditional National Signing Day, come well after the high-school seasons have ended.

    The truth was, coaches across the country did not want to tend to their solid commitments over Christmas and New Year’s, particularly not amid bowl prep. It was self-serving at best and short-sighted at worst.

    First of all, when the December signing period became reality in 2017, one-time transfers were not yet allowed without losing eligibility the following season. Secondly, no one predicted the early signing period would lead to the coaching carousel beginning earlier and earlier in the season. September firings used to be the result of only off-field scandals, not outright expected from half a dozen programs each fall. Athletic directors now want that headstart on hiring a new coach so he can have time before the December signing period commences.

    Exhibit A: Notre Dame may have ended up with Marcus Freeman as its head coach after Brian Kelly’s abrupt departure following the 2021 season, but if the primary signing date had not been lingering just a few weeks away, Kelly likely would not have jumped to LSU before the College Football Playoff field was set, and Irish director of athletics Jack Swarbrick would have taken more time in choosing his next head coach, more than the 48 hours he used last December. After all, Swarbrick took 10 days in hiring Kelly in 2009.

    Lastly, with a 12-team Playoff coming in 2025, December will become only more hectic.

    Those head coaches who wanted a little less stress over the holidays will then have to deal with, in chronological order:

    — Keeping their own jobs.
    — Securing their recruiting classes in the days immediately preceding Christmas.
    — Preparing their teams for bowl games.
    — Preparing their teams for up to four games if in the Playoff.
    — Re-recruiting any players considering entering the transfer portal before the winter window closes.
    — Winning a bowl game.
    — Retaining their coaching staffs.
    — Oh, and celebrate the holidays with their families, as was their want when they hollered for the early signing period.

    Most of those tasks are immutable and inherent to the sport.

    But one can move. It already has once.

    The logic is too clear. Nothing was gained in moving up the primary signing date by six weeks. And sanity was lost.

    This is, of course, a sport that prefers to ignore logic, but usually that is charming. A mustard bottle on the field is quirky; lacking a worthwhile voice of authority is stubbornly stupid.

    So the early signing period may not move as soon as it should (now), but it will move. There are no anti-trust worries tied to it, fortunately.

    And aside from the logic, cramming more content into December costs the media, too. Spreading out that context through the vacuum of mid-January to mid-March will be much appreciated.

    Leftovers & Links: An early look at Notre Dame’s seven commits in the class of 2024, including QB CJ Carr

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    The traditional National Signing Day is this Wednesday, and for yet another year, Notre Dame has no intentions of inking any high-school recruits on the first Wednesday of February. The recruiting calendar has so changed that the Irish have not signed a recruit in February since 2021, when running back Logan Diggs pondered a late LSU push before doubling down on his Notre Dame commitment. Before that, not since 2019, when defensive end Isaiah Foskey publicly did so in order to be a part of his high school’s ceremonies.

    Notre Dame turned its focus entirely onto the class of 2024 following December’s early signing period, when it inked a class of 24 players that ranks No. 9 in the country, per rivals.com.

    Now with nearly 10 months to go before the next decision day to influence the narrative around Irish head coach Marcus Freeman’s recruiting focus, he already has pledges from seven players in the class of 2024. Class rankings this early in the cycle are rather meaningless, but for the sake of thoroughness, the Notre Dame class of 2024 is currently ranked No. 2 in the country, behind only Georgia with nine recruits pledged to date.

    One player stands out among the early Irish seven. He stands out to such a degree this space broke from usual form when he committed in early June. To pull from that opening,

    “This space has a general rule to not report on recruiting developments classes ahead of time. Worrying about the thoughts of high school seniors is enough of an oddity; focusing on juniors and underclassmen is outright absurd.

    “But exceptions exist to prove rules, and Notre Dame landing the commitment of the No. 3 quarterback in the class of 2024 — prospects entering their junior years of high school — is such an exception.”

    Consensus four-star quarterback CJ Carr is now only the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the class and the No. 14 recruit overall, but he is the kind of key piece to a recruiting class that the Irish lacked in 2023, despite Freeman’s continued excellence hauling in defensive prospects. Carr has been an active and vocal recruiter on his own for Notre Dame, not an unusual occurrence from an early commit but a habit the Irish have not garnered out of a quarterback in quite some time. Even Tyler Buchner, due to both the pandemic and his own soft-spoken nature, was not the loudest campaigner among his peers.

    RELATED READING: Notre Dame beats out Michigan for Lloyd Carr’s grandson, QB CJ Carr

    At 6-foot-3, Carr looks the part of a prototypical quarterback, and his arm strength fits in line with that thought. He has downfield touch that would open up Notre Dame’s playbook in a way entirely unseen in 2022.

    The other six early commitments to the Irish in the class of 2024 …

    Consensus four-star running back Aneyas Williams (Hannibal High School; Mo.), ranked as the No. 1 all-purpose running back and No. 106 recruit in the class, per rivals.com: There will be many comparisons to former Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams when Aneyas Williams arrives on campus, and though they are from the same state, there is no relation. The younger Williams can do a bit of everything while his 5-foot-10 frame carries plenty of punch. He lacks truly elite speed, as Kyren did, but obviously that did not kept the elder Williams from cracking 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

    Consensus four-star receiver Cam Williams (Glenbard South H.S.; Glen Ellyn, Ill.), ranked as the No. 11 receiver and No. 102 recruit in the class: The Chicagoland product visited Iowa a handful of times and took looks at Michigan and Wisconsin, seemingly intent on staying in the Midwest. Williams has all the fundamentals wanted of a receiver, 6-foot-2 size combined with a comfort catching the ball. Time will reveal what part of his game, if any, develops into his specialty.

    Consensus four-star tight end Jack Larsen (Charlotte Catholic; N.C.), ranked as the No. 7 tight end and No. 187 recruit in the class: Whether Larsen will be the next piece of “Tight End U” or not is a premature thought, but at 6-foot-3 and an ability to snag passes downfield over defenders, Larsen already looks the part. Credit a basketball background for that aerial ability.

    Four-star offensive guard Peter Jones (Malvern Prep; Penn.), ranked as the No. 4 offensive guard and No. 99 recruit in the class: Jones plays tackle in high school, nearly an absolute requirement for any offensive line prospect chased by Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, but his playing style suggests a future on the inside of the line.

    Consensus four-star defensive tackle Owen Wafle (Hun School; Princeton, N.J.), ranked as the No. 10 defensive tackle in the class: Pronounced like playful, not waffle, Wafle should add weight to his 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame as he grows from a high-school junior into a college player. That may seem obvious, but the quality of that weight he adds in the next 20 months will be what most determines how quickly he can contribute in South Bend.

    Consensus three-star cornerback Karson Hobbs (Archbishop Moeller; Cincinnati): Anyone committed right now has made a decision relatively early in the recruiting cycle, yet Hobbs was committed to South Carolina for three months before he flipped to Notre Dame in early November. Seeking out a committed three-star more than a year before he can officially sign may strike one as foolish, but Irish cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens has earned some leeway in his evaluations, given the early impacts of Benjamin Morrison and Jaden Mickey in 2022.

    INSIDE THE IRISH
    Ohio State, Clemson & Pittsburgh hurt most by early NFL draft entrants among Notre Dame’s opponents
    40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part I: Notre Dame’s rushing offense hid many early struggles
    Part II: Notre Dame’s upset losses should have been expected from a first-year head coach
    Part III: Notre Dame’s November far from the expected disappointment
    Part IV: Notre Dame’s 2022 ended where it was always expected to

    OUTSIDE READING
    How QB Sam Hartman found trouble with turnovers in 2022
    College QB Austin Reed got transfer portal offers comparable to late-round NFL draft picks
    I requested my Notre Dame admissions file
    Boston College, offensive coordinator John McNulty parting ways after 2022 struggles
    Hamlin’s injury highlights precarious position of many young N.F.L. players
    On the Broncos’ head-coaching finalists
    Bally Sports RSNs headed for bankruptcy
    Auditor: LSU overpaid Brian Kelly by more than $1M in 2022

    40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part IV: Notre Dame’s 2022 ended where it was always expected to

    TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - Notre Dame v South Carolina
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    Notre Dame did not get there in any way expected, but the Irish season ended about where anticipated in the preseason. Psychological studies could spend hours disagreeing if it would have been better for Notre Dame to go 10-3 with its three losses coming to three top-10 teams or if a 9-4 season with a top-10 upset is better for Marcus Freeman’s program in the long-term.

    But either scenario was going to end with the Irish in the Gator Bowl, a likelihood as far back as August.

    To finish this recap of 40 preseason predictions

    32) “A freshman defensive back will intercept a pass this season, becoming just the second freshman to do so” since 2017. Notre Dame’s defensive backfields have been far from liabilities during this resurgence since the 2016 faceplant, but they have lacked young playmakers, Kyle Hamilton aside.

    Enter Benjamin Morrison and not one, not two, not three … but six interceptions in his freshman season. Unfortunately for your prognosticator, that does not equal six correct predictions. (15.5/32)

    33) “The spread when the Irish visit the Trojans will be more than a field goal but less than a touchdown.” And indeed, USC was favored by four when Notre Dame visited the weekend after Thanksgiving, in what may have been the last visit the weekend after Thanksgiving. Logic says the Irish and Trojans will continue playing regularly, but USC’s joining the Big Ten in 2024 could change the timing of the meetings, and NCAA rule changes have removed Notre Dame’s want to be on the West Coast that particular week.

    The Irish used to disperse their coaches from Washington to Arizona to recruit the Pacific time zone immediately after the season-ending game in California. In a literal sense, it saved those coaches 12-24 hours to not have to travel to Seattle or Phoenix from South Bend, particularly vital in a crucial recruiting window.

    But now, the days after Thanksgiving are a dead period, so the coaches cannot make those visits. They flew back with the team this year.

    Combine that with the Big Ten flux and perhaps Notre Dame starts heading to USC at a different point in the calendar in 2024. (16.5/33)

    34) “USC will not make the College Football Playoff.”

    Between this, suggesting Ohio State would make the Playoff and mistakenly thinking Clemson would, as well, these preseason predictions accurately predicted the season conclusions for two of the three biggest Irish opponents in 2022. Already suspect the 2023 version will include none of the three making the Playoff. (17.5/34)

    35) Sophomore receiver Lorenzo Styles’ disappointing 2022 — 30 catches for 340 yards and one touchdown — cost him any semblance of NFL draft buzz a year before he is eligible for the draft. A breakout 2023 would obviously change that, but that was not the prediction. (17.5/35)

    36) Blake Grupe fell two makes short of the predicted 80 percent field-goal rate, finishing at 73.7 percent on 14-of-19. A career 74.4 percent kicker before he arrived at Notre Dame, the Arkansas State graduate transfer’s 2022 fell in line with his career. (17.5/36)

    37) Arguing Notre Dame would score fewer than 32.8 points per game in 2022 was based on the lack of depth at receiver, subsequently underscored by Styles’ struggles. Expecting the Irish to slow things down made a lower-scoring season a strong thought, though perhaps not as low as the 31.4 scored per game in 2018, the low of the last six years.

    Notre Dame threaded that needle with 31.8 points per game, a number buoyed, though not shockingly, by the punt-block unit and Morrison’s contributions. (18.5/37)

    38) The Irish had gone 54-10 in Brian Kelly’s final five years in South Bend, winning at least 10 games each year. Predicting a sixth season of double-digit wins was a mistake largely thanks to Audric Estimé’s fumble in the fourth quarter against Stanford. (18.5/38)

    39) This final stretch of predictions focused on hitting a few tight windows. The spread against USC, the exact scoring average and … where Notre Dame would play in a bowl game.

    “Notre Dame will play in Florida before New Year’s.”

    As complicated as bowl scenarios get during the season and then even the week of selections with the Holiday Bowl in San Diego reportedly campaigning hard for the Irish, sticking with initial expectations would have been a smart travel-planning strategy. (19.5/39)

    40) 

    (20.5/40)

    40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part I: Notre Dame’s rushing offense hid many early struggles
    Part II: Notre Dame’s upset losses should have been expected from a first-year head coach
    Part III: Notre Dame’s November far from the expected disappointment

    40 Preseason Predictions Revisited, part III: Notre Dame’s November far from the expected disappointment

    Clemson v Notre Dame
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    Recapping these preseason predictions bit by bit has emphasized how much of a see-saw Notre Dame’s 2022 was. They expected decent Irish success at Ohio State to open the season, which was realized. They then plainly assumed Notre Dame would continue to wallop overmatched opponents as Brian Kelly made the default.

    Instead, Marcus Freeman stubbed his toe twice as first-year head coaches are wont to do, rendering that stretch of predictions largely flawed.

    Now, the predictions tilt into early November, expecting little from the Irish. Of course, that was exactly when Freeman delivered the defining moment of his debut campaign.

    21) “Notre Dame will top last year’s 41 sacks, which was a Kelly Era high. The Ademilola twins, junior defensive end Rylie Mills and at least one linebacker will each make at least three sacks.”

    The first part of that fell inarguably short, 38 clearly less than 41. But the next sentence held more merit. Defensive end Justin Ademiloa and twin brother tackle Jayson Ademilola each had three sacks while Mills added 3.5. No linebacker reached three unless willing to still count Jordan Botelho as a linebacker with his 4.5 sacks. Given two of those came in the Gator Bowl when Botelho was clearly a defensive end, that would be generous grading. Instead, this entire prediction should be considered wrong, alas. (12/21)

    22) Did this space continue publishing as planned after the Minnesota Timberwolves home opener? The running content calendar says a “Leftovers & Links” column ran on Oct. 20, the day after. Take the wins where you can find them, especially as a Timberwolves fan. (13/22)

    23) The Irish had won 25 straight regular-season games against ACC opponents entering the season. Predicting that would reach 27 meant predicting Notre Dame would beat North Carolina and Syracuse. Check and check. (14/23)

    24) That did not push the Irish into the top 10 of the initial College Football Playoff rankings, as predicted, thanks to the mishaps against Marshall and Stanford. (14/24)

    25) And here comes a stretch of predictions predicated in pessimism, focused on how Notre Dame would fare against Clemson. The Irish had won 16 straight games in November entering the 2022 season. Suggesting that would end at 16 was suggesting Notre Dame would lose to Clemson on the first weekend of November.

    Rather, that was the win in Freeman’s first season that will be long remembered. (14/25)

    26) That expected loss was based on Clemson’s defensive front holding Notre Dame’s ground game in check. There was no expectation the Irish would dominate there with 264 rushing yards on 46 carries after adjusting for a single one-yard sack. Logan Diggs ran for 114 yards on 17 carries while Audric Estimé took 18 rushes for 104 yards. (14/26)

    27) That loss did not knock Clemson out of the College Football Playoff. The Tigers messing around and finding out against South Carolina did that. But regardless, predicting Clemson would return to the Playoff was ill-fated. (14/27)

    28) Notre Dame was 30-1 in its last 31 home games entering the season. Predicting that would reach 35-2 in step with suggesting the Irish would lose to the Tigers was wrong in all sorts of ways, most notably in that the stretch is now 34-3 after Notre Dame went just 4-2 at home last season. Again, Marshall and Stanford. (14/28)

    29) Boston College receiver Zay Flowers did not have the predicted 40-yard catch on Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium. He had a long of 39 yards on a snow-covered field playing with a backup quarterback.

    The spirit of the prognostication was valid, but alas. (14/29)

    30) Former Irish tight end George Takacs did not catch a touchdown in his return with the Eagles. No one did. (14/30)

    31) And former Notre Dame quarterback Phil Jurkovec did not have a “perfectly adequate day in his return to South Bend, not dramatic enough in any regard to confirm or deny anyone’s expectations for him that day.”

    Jurkovec did not play at all, so let’s call this wager a push. He did, however, make some headlines from the sideline.

    There is a strong chance this prediction is rerun in its entirety in 2023 with Jurkovec and Pittsburgh heading to South Bend on Oct. 28. (14.5/31)