Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Toledo at Notre Dame
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-3, 295 pounds.
2022-23 year, eligibility: A senior, Correll has three seasons of eligibility remaining, only the 2021 season counting against his clock thus far.
Depth Chart: Correll will either be Notre Dame’s starting center or backup left guard. That much appears clear, though that binary uncertainty is obviously unclear in its own way.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star prospect, Correll was rated the No. 6 guard in the country, per rivals.com, fitting with where he spent his high school career. The Under Armour All-American narrowed his decision to Notre Dame, Clemson, Ohio State and Stanford.

CAREER TO DATE
Correll spent his freshman season trying to add weight, a consistent need of his last three years, appearing in only four uncompetitive moments. By 2020, he had worked his way into being Jarrett Patterson’s backup at center, which mattered when Patterson suffered a foot injury in November.

Correll took over … for a week. A mild ankle injury then gave the Irish coaching staff reason to ponder Josh Lugg’s ability at center. Lugg did not excel at the pivot, meaning Correll stepped back into the starting role in the College Football Playoff loss against Alabama.

Correll showed enough in his two starts to be considered a priority starter heading into 2021, moving to left guard to accommodate Patterson at center. He started there for six games before classmate Andrew Kristofic replaced him, Notre Dame seeking more size to help an uneven line. The combination of Kristofic and then-freshman Joe Alt at left tackle buoyed the Irish, though one could fairly wonder if their success was mostly about the quality of opponents on the second half of the 2021 schedule.

NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS

QUOTES
Correll understands the expected talking point that he does not have a preference where he plays, be it center or left guard. Of course, he privately does, but the senior knows better than to voice that.

Nonetheless, he would prefer Notre Dame decide on his role early in preseason practices.

“Wherever you get more reps at is where you’re going to be more comfortable currently,” Correll said in early April as he worked at center all spring with Patterson sidelined by a torn pectoral. “I’ve been working at center (in spring practices), so I feel comfortable at center right now, but I can play either.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“To say someone has never been faulted is facetious and lazy, but the faults have not yet been found with Correll. He spent more than 18 months diligently adding 20-25 pounds, in the appropriate manner, to be ready for the collegiate game. Even before that process was complete, he was a scout-team headache for the starting Irish defense.

“Continuing such a trend line would bode very well for Notre Dame. The very real possibility of starting two freshmen and a junior with four seasons of eligibility remaining suggests the Irish offensive line could be a force in 2022 and 2023.

“That would be the end of the expected road for Correll, but he could return in 2024, technically speaking. A dominant offensive line, however, would increase his professional possibilities. (Rocco) Spindler’s and (Blake) Fisher’s success will stem from a steady fulcrum and thus boost that fulcrum.”

2022 OUTLOOK
Another piece of Correll’s “99-to-0” entry from a year ago warrants mention now. To describe his depth-chart standing, “Irish head coach Brian Kelly spent all of one weekend casting doubt on Correll’s starting status this spring. Exactly one week later, Kelly acknowledged Correll would once again be Notre Dame’s starting center.”

The more things change, perhaps the more they stay the same.

Spring and summer rumors of Correll’s need at center are nothing new at Notre Dame. A year ago, the transfer of right guard Cain Madden from Marshall changed the equation, allowing Patterson to return to his best position. This season, something less tangible could again alter the decision-making process.

Perhaps Kristofic returns in August closer to his November form than his supposed lackluster spring look. Perhaps Patterson quietly expresses a desire to remain at center, where he is widely projected as the No. 1 draft-eligible player and possible All-American. Perhaps all of this is merely fodder to fill idle time.

That said, moving Correll back to the second-string would hardly mean a lost 2022 for him. An injury to Kristofic or Patterson would move Correll into the starting lineup, and from a pure likelihood standpoint, that is probably nearly as likely as not.

Correll’s greatest struggle in his early years at Notre Dame was adding and keeping on weight. He appears to have pulled that off, now consistently at 295 pounds. He is a viable starting center, and he may be a very good one. …

RELATED READING: Notre Dame’s man in the middle — for now — focused exactly on that

DOWN THE ROAD
… But he may have to wait until 2023 to prove that.

Patterson’s best position is center. Moving him from there could be construed as a disservice to the player, though a two-time captain would take that adjustment in stride.

Correll’s best position is also center. When he does start there, he will almost assuredly impress. It may take a full season of highlights to garner any NFL draft considerations, but do not rule out that possibility, either. This is a highly-touted recruit who has forced his way into the starting conversation for three seasons now at Notre Dame. That version of persistence bodes well, as it speaks to what coaches see in Correll no matter who is ahead of him on the depth chart.

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
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65* Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59* Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 57* Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter
No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’

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